Written on December 10th, 2008 by Oliver Kim
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.