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TOK Essay FAQ


 

Sea shells
This post addresses several Questions in relation to the TOK Essay.

Disclaimer: The following advice is my personal advice to my students and not approved by the IB (or by anybody else). TOK examiners may have a different opinion on these issues. Use the information at your own risk.

1. Can I use the word “I” in the essay? Can I write the essay in first person?
The TOK essay is a personal essay. Yes, you can use the word “I”, but you do not have to. As a matter of fact, this may even be useful if you give personal examples. Still, do not forget that the TOK essay is a formal essay. Do make sure that the essay uses a formal language nevertheless.

2. Do I have to do research? Do I need a bibliography?
No, research is not required according to the criteria, but it may be helpful. The TOK Essay is not a research essay, it is an argumentative essay. You will not get points for only summarizing other people’s ideas. You get points for analysis and for understanding of these ideas. If you do use quotes or other people’s ideas, then you must give a proper bibliography, of course (as a matter of fact, points will be taken off otherwise).
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TOK Essay – The First Steps: Identifying Knowledge Issues


 

Flying sparks
Some prescribed TOK essay titles may require you to find a knowledge issue or a problem of knowledge which relates to the title. Sometimes there are several hidden issues. How can you find them? This edition should motivate you to play with ideas to find a possible hidden knowledge issue.

The identification of a problem of knowledge in the prescribed TOK essay title is probably one of the most important first steps. But it may also be one of the most difficult tasks. What is the problem of knowledge that is implied in the title? How can one identify it? It may not always be necessary to identify an implied problem of knowledge in the prescribed title, but it may be helpful in structuring the essay.

“[Mathematics] is a creative art because mathematicians create beautiful new concepts; it is a creative art because mathematicians live, act, and think like artists; and it is a creative art because mathematicians regard it so” (Paul Richard Halmos)

– To what extent can this view of art, beauty and creativity be applied to other areas of knowledge? Continue reading »

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TOK Essay Marking Critieria – Introduction


 

Chocolate cake
The TOK Essay is marked against 4 criteria (A-D). I will explain these criteria to sensitize you on what to look out for when you write the essay.

In this edition I will give you a brief introduction into the marking criteria for the TOK essay.

A. Understanding knowledge issues

  • Depth and breadth of understanding: Are you considering different ways of knowing and areas of knowledge and do you explore them in sufficient depth? Are you comparing them?
  • Careful: Is the knowledge issue relevant to the prescribed title?

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TOK Essay: Common Problems


 

Gothic tower
There are some common, recurring problems with the TOK Essay. The prescribed title question is not answered explicitly, the examples are not explained, the essay is not organized, the….. Here is an overview of the most common problems.

The following audio files should give some basic advice for the TOK essay.

Some common TOK Essay problems are:

  • Defining terms using only dictionary definitions without interpretation of the definition.
  • Relevant ideas are not compared
  • Use of generalizing statements and words: all, none, few, many….. It has always been known that…..
  • Introductions that make not explicit reference to the topic, or introductions that do not properly interpret the topic question.
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