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 2017. 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 2017: 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.
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 2017. 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
Written on December 10th, 2008 by Oliver Kim
TOK Essay Checklist
Categories: Internal Assessment, TOK Essay
Here is a short checklist of points to watch out for when writing the TOK Essay.
Here is a short checklist of points to watch out for when writing the TOK Essay. Over the years I have proof-read uncountable essays, and there are often similar issues that appear. Many of these issues are addressed below:
- Introduction: You must give it a clear introduction that allows the reader to understand in which direction the essay is going. The introduction must also contain your thesis statement (“knowledge issue”). What is the problem of knowledge? You must answer the essay title and not modify it. As there are several ways to answer the essay title, you must make it clear in the introduction which way you are going.
- Terms: You must define the terms of the essay question, but do not simply give dictionary definitions! How do you interpret these terms? If you do use dictionary definitions, then you must critically reflect on them to get points.
- Structure: The essay must be divided into separate paragraphs, each paragraph must relate to the point that you make. The paragraphs answer should directly answer your thesis and the title question.
- Paragraphs: Each paragraph must deal with one aspect. Every paragraph must include an introductory sentence a body and conclusion. There must be a proper transition between the paragraphs. Make sure that each paragraph clearly answers the prescribed title!
- Critical thinking: You must include counter arguments and demonstrate critical thinking.
- Generalizations: As a rule, don’t use generalizing words, such as “all”, “none”, “everyone”, “no one”, “since the beginning of humankind”, “it has always been known…”, “Everyone knows”….. Chances are good that your statement will not be correct.
- Stereotypes: Be careful that you do not use stereotypes when addressing cultural issues!
- Conclusion: The conclusion must not address new points. It should round off the essay. Do not squeeze new ideas into the conclusion that are best left for a separate paragraph.
- TOK Issues: You must include TOK theory, but you must also apply this theory to answer your title question. A summary of theory alone is not enough.
- Areas of Knowledge and the different Ways of Knowing: Did you include and compare them? Some prescribed titles have a strong focus on only one Area of Knowledge or Way of Knowing. In this case it is not necessary to force yourself to include other areas as well, but a short comparison, if relevant, can never hurt. In any case, the essay should reflect a broadness in ideas.
- Examples: Support your arguments with relevant examples. Do not include examples that are not explained. Include specific relevant examples from your personal life. Do not just summarize examples from your teacher.
- Word count: If you need to stretch your essay in order to meet the word count, then you have not spent enough time thinking about your topic. Sentences without content are irrelevant and a waste of time. You will not get points for them. Word count is 1200-1600 words. Do not exceed.
- The Assessment Criteria: Have you written the essay with the assessment criteria next to you? If not, then I do not understand why you chose to make the task of writing the essay more difficult than necessary. The criteria should help you.
Check List (based on the assessment criteria)
- Are the problems of knowledge recognized? Do you refer to the problems of knowledge throughout the essay?
- Does critical reflection take place (counter arguments, etc.), or are there sweeping generalizations?
- Are different Ways of Knowing and different Areas of Knowledge addressed? Are they properly linked?
- Is the essay properly structured into paragraphs? Does each paragraph answer the title question?
- Are relevant examples (from different sources) given and explained? Did you also include personal examples?
- Are the statements and claims factually correct? Sweeping generalizations are very risky. They show a lack of critical reflection and are factually often not correct as well.