TOK Essay Writing Guide
What is a TOK Essay
TOK stands for Theory of Knowledge. The TOK essay was conceptualized by the International Baccalaureate. The essay is to be between 1200 and 1600 total words, and is written on one of the topics that the IB has established. These are also known as titles. If you are in an International Baccalaureate program at your school, achieving a good grade on the TOK essay is imperative if you wish to graduate with this endorsement on your diploma.
The paragraphs that follow will help you to select the best title, master the TOK essay format, do your research, take notes and create an working outline, and even guide you to some useful writing samples. We hope these guidelines will help to answer any questions you have, and that you will be able to formulate a plan for success.
You know that IB students have advantages that include being highly sought after by colleges and universities and having a greater chance at becoming successful during and after the college years. By mastering the TOK essay format, you will truly be helping yourself.
TOK Essay Title Selection
Unlike other essays, you cannot simply choose from an unlimited number of topics. Your essay must be selected from one of the prescribed titles created by the International Baccalaureate Organization for 2020. Then, your essay must meet additional criteria. Specifically, it must be related to one of the eight areas of knowledge that have been defined by the IB.
Selecting TOK Essay Titles: Areas of Knowledge
Here are the eight areas of knowledge that a student in an IB program must master:
- The Arts
- Religious Knowledge Systems
- Human Science
- Indigenous Knowledge Systems
- Natural Science
Choosing TOK Essay Titles: Understanding The Questions
Each year, a new set of questions are created for students to cover in their essays. These can be easily found online as the IB makes these public. What’s more important is to understand exactly what you need to do when writing about these topics. These aren’t the same as your standard custom writings.
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Understanding The Purpose of TOK Essay Topics
Let’s Take a Look at Some TOK Essay Topics From Previous Years
Here are some sample essay topics that are loosely based on some of the titles established for 2020. We’ll discuss exactly what information is being sought in each of these examples. Remember that each essay should in some way establish your understanding of knowledge and the learning process itself. This gives your instructor the opportunity to conduct a thorough assessment of your critical thinking skills.
1. Explore The Human Nature of Pattern Seeking
a. Suggested Areas of Knowledge: There’s a lot that could be explored here with regard to perception and expectations. Science and religious knowledge systems could be two potentially interesting areas to dig into further.
b. What to Cover: The dangers of relying on perception instead of examination. The ways in which pattern seeking impacts our ability to obtain new knowledge and to vet information we receive.
2. Explore Knowledge Traditions And Various Methods of Correcting Knowledge
a. Suggested Areas of Knowledge: Ethics and natural science are definitely two areas where tradition and developing means of correcting the knowledge that informs or is informed by traditions.
b. What to Cover: Traditions are difficult for people to let go of, especially when they are associated with religion or culture. How do you encourage corrective action without insulting traditions.
3. Write About Facts And Theories And How They Relate
a. Suggested Areas of Knowledge: Human or natural science combined with indigenous or religious knowledge systems really seem to fit here. However, History would be an excellent addition to this.
b. What to Cover: Theories are ideally based in fact, however many people using correlation rather than causation to draw conclusions. The result is faulty theories. Then there is the problem with poorly vetted facts. Explain how outdated or incorrect information impacts the development of theories.
4. What Happens When Subject Matter Experts Don’t Agree With Each Other?
a. Suggested Areas of Knowledge: With this topic, any of the areas of knowledge could be excellent for potential exploration.
b. What to Cover: When building their own knowledge, people turn to experts. How do they discern what to believe when the experts themselves disagree on important matters? Can external influences change the way that experts view or spin the truth? Climate change would be a great topic to use as an example for this question.
5. Looking at Historic Events With The Benefit of Hindsight
a. Suggested Areas of Knowledge: History, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Religious Knowledge Systems, and Ethics are all very good topics for an essay on this subject.
b. What to Cover: It’s easy to judge the actions and behaviors of citizens, religious leaders, and political leaders when we have the benefit of historical perspective. However, by doing so we can prevent ourselves from gaining full insight into the way that situations impact human behavior. Maybe explore how to write historical text in a more sympathetic way.
6. Write About The Knowledge And The Difficulty of Producing Knowledge
a. Suggested Areas of Knowledge: Because this is such a broad question, once again all areas of knowledge could be subject to exploration here.
b. What to Cover: The idea here is that the harder you have to work to obtain knowledge the more you will value it. Do you agree or disagree? You might address the topic of privilege here.
How to Know Which TOK Essay Topics Are Best For You
So, how do you pick the right topic? Look at each extended example above. As an IB student, you are familiar with all of the areas of knowledge. You might also consider looking at an exemplar online for each question that you are considering. Just google tipstok essay example, and you will likely find something.
Mostly, you should pick a question that speaks to you, and apply the areas of knowledge that you can best show your academic and personal development.
Planning Your Essay
First and foremost, study the rubric that your teacher provides for you. This will be an amazing guide. Unfortunately, it is not complete. You may have to follow up and get more information on the standards for marking your essay. Here are the criteria by which your essay will be assessed.
- You must show that you have developed the ability to think critically. Focus on demonstrating self-awareness, and consider multiple perspectives on the issues you are addressing. Use concrete examples.
- The structure that you use is very important. It must have a logical flow. References must be cited. Factual accuracy is of utmost importance. Don’t make a declaration on any page without backing it up.
- Show the mastery that you have developed with regard to the knowledge issues.
- Your format is important. However, it is even more important that you demonstrate an adequate depth of knowledge and insight.
Starting Your Essay
As you begin writing your introduction, keep in mind that you have a limit of 1200 to 1600 words. Your thesis and introductory paragraph will really drive the length of your essay. If your focus is too narrow, you will struggle to meet the word count that you need. If your focus is too broad, you will go over the limit.
You should probably spend at least 50 percent of your essay writing on creating your thesis statement. It is truly the foundation of what you are going to present to your instructor. Be sure that it is very well thought out, and that you can back up your thesis with plenty of evidence as well.
Tips For Success
Here are some tips that can help you to succeed:
- While you need to backup your statements of fact with sources, remember that this is a reflective essay. Here, you can share your thoughts and opinions.
- Don’t be afraid to use examples that are meaningful to you.
- Remember that MLA is the preferred citation format.
- Remember that The Phrase ‘How do You Know’ Should be Your Guide
- Run your essay through a text to speech translator. That will show you how it reads.
- Essay and punctuation are still important.
Self Care During The Essay Writing Process
You have worked very hard, and accomplished a lot to get to this point. The theory of knowledge essay is very important. You will need to put in many hours of hard work. This will be intense, so remember to take good care of yourself.
- Don’t make the essay the center of your life. Enjoy your friends and keep other academic priorities in mind.
- Find a physical activity. Walking is amazing.
- Eat healthy foods and get enough rest.
- Ask for TOK Essay help when you need it.
- Connect with students who have already written their TOK essay.
You can do this! All you have to do is consider which question is best for you, follow the instructions, and know the standards that will be used to evaluate your writing. Take good care of yourself, and you are certain to do well.
Author: Amanda Sparks