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Starting and Planning the TOK Essay


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Structuring the TOK essay is an essential component for obtaining many points on the essay. This post illustrates the first steps.

More info can be found here: TOK Essay and Presentation Help

You just received the list of the ten prescribed TOK essay titles. What are the next steps?

  • Read all of the prescribed titles: do this several times and take your time. You may not understand every title yet and you may not be certain on what the quesdtion asks you to do. You need to take your time to understand the titles.
  • Choose one prescribed title: Select one title based on your personal interest and previous knowledge on the issue. Be careful – you already may think that you know an answer to the title. Be aware that you have to answer the title question in a balanced way. Do not limit your options by focussing on one answer too early.
  • Highlight the relevant terms in the title: What are the key words of the title? What does the question ask you to do?
  • What do the terms mean? You need to interpret the terms in the introduction. Do not provide a dictionary definition.
  • Identify a problem of knowledge. Are there different views of a situation/term? Let’s have a look at the prescribed title “Can a machine know?”. One possible problem of knowledge could be: Is the word “know” is used differently in different areas and can it be that we tend to ascribe human qualities to non-human devices and machines?
  • Answer the title question in one line. This is your thesis statement. What are you going to show in the essay? Give a balanced answer. In the rest of the essay you will support and provide evidence for your answer. If you are not able to answer the title question, then there is the danger that your essay will lack a clear structure and coherence. The answer of the title question/thesis tells the reader what to expect in the essay.
  • Identify AOK, WOK that are relevant to the topic: You have to include examples from different Areas of Knowledge and Ways of Knowing, and compare them. Which areas do you intend to address in the essay?
  • Write an outline. This will help you structure the essay and provides evidence that you yourself have written the essay. It is easier to correct and modify an outline than full paragraphs. If you start writing the essay right away, then there is the danger that your essay will not be sufficiently “streamlined”, chaotic and difficult to understand. There is also the danger that not every paragraph will answer the title question.

Outline

For those students who have real problems strucuing their ideas, the following outline can serve as a help. DIfferent students may choose to structure the essay differently. The different sub-points do not have to be in this particular order, of course. Be aware that some prescibed titles focus only on very few Areas of Knowledge or Ways of Knowing. In this case is may not be appropriate to dedicate a separate paragraph to a different Area of Knowledge.

I. Introduction
A. Explanation and interpretation of the title question and clarification of key terms (no dictionary definition)
B. Answering of the title question (thesis sentence). What are you going to show?
C. Explaining and identifying of the knowledge issue/problem of knowledge.
C. Areas of knowledge, ways of knowing covered in the essay, eg. science, history, arts, ethics…

II. Paragraph 1: Science
A. How does science answer the title question?
B. Supportive example
C. Explanation of the example
D. Counter example/counter argument/limitations of the example
E. Comparison to other Areas of Knowledge, Ways of Knowing
F. Application of TOK theory

III. Paragraph 2: History
A. How does history answer the title question?
B. Supportive example
C. Explanation of the example
D. Counter example/counter argument/limitations of the example
E. Comparison to other Areas of Knowledge, Ways of Knowing
F. Application of TOK theory

IV. Paragraph 3: Math
A. How does math answer the title question?
B. Supportive example
C. Explanation of the example
D. Counter example/counter argument/limitations of the example
E. Comparison to other Areas of Knowledge, Ways of Knowing
F. Application of TOK theory

IV. Paragraph 3: etc.

V. Conclusion
A. Summary of the main ideas
B. Answering of the title question and their limitations/counter arguments

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