How to Structure a Theory of Knowledge Essay

You can use the following structure to score a great grade on any TOK essay. (It has been updated for the syllabus 2022).

Our video analysis of May and November Theory of Knowledge Essay Prescribed Titels is available in our members section. You’ll also find helpful advice, tutorials, evidence videos, and other useful information in the members area. It is free for you to explore. To help you create your TOK Exhibition, we’ll provide lots of videos, notes, as well as other resources.

Let’s get started…

First, select your Prescribed Name

Before you start writing, be sure to review the Prescribed Titles. It is important to take time to reflect on them before you decide. Sometimes, the most simple answer is not the best . More interesting essays can be created by asking complicated questions.

The most important thing is to make sure you answer the prescribed title.

Try out at least two or three titles before you settle for one.

Next, after you’ve selected your Prescribed Name, begin to put down some initial ideas on paper. This is an obvious step, but it’s very important. Later, you will be able to look for evidence that supports the ideas you had.

Second, select 2 AOKs

Take your prescribed title, then choose two Areas of Knowledge you would like to explore with it. You can also use our videos and detailed notes for every AOK/Theme and WOK. Some titles may require you to include a particular AOK (example “…). Talk about the natural sciences and another area of knowledge. With these questions, you will need to pick your second AOK.

It’s recommended that you have at least two body sections (or “developments”) in your essay. Each section will be focused on a specific area and will include a claim as well as a counter claim. It is important to be precise about the way you present this counter claim. Normaly, one side will agree or disagree with the statement in the question. Tim is available for TOK Zoom tutoring each day if students need assistance with essay decisions.

The courtroom analogy

The TOK essay is best viewed as an exchange of ideas between two smart people. Or, you can think of it like presenting two sides to an argument regarding knowledge in front of the judge. To succeed, each side must present their evidence and explain how the evidence relates with the question.

One side would respond YES to (prescribed title) using evidence, and the other would argue against the other side (saying ‘NO’), also using evidence.

In your essay, we need to see both sides argue well. Then, in the conclusion, you’ll weigh the evidence, telling us which side has the most right (or the way they’re right), and perhaps the circumstances that would allow the other side to be right.

It is important to make sure your evidence supports and refutes your claims.
The TOK Essay Framework

In total, there are four sections to the TOK essay.
Your introduction is the first thing you should do. (100-150 words)
Paragraph 1.

-Speak up about one or two things that are interesting about the prescribed title question. This immediately shows that you understand the question.

-Identify one or more key terms in your title. Get definitions for all main words in the title. These definitions don’t need be included in every essay. However, it’s interesting to see the different perspectives on the words. Sometimes, these definitions can give you some insight into claims, counterclaims, and evidence.

-Give the reader your plan. Clarify to the reader the way you will explore the essay question. This will make it easier for the marker what to look out for.

Next write your first development. 2 paragraphs totalling 600 Words
Paragraph 2.

This paragraph will be about your claim for AOK 1

-State the claim. A claim can be described as a topic sentence that summarizes your argument concerning the prescribed title. Example: You might claim that mathematicals can be trusted because it is a purely logic system. It is axiomatic. It does not depend on subjective experience.

-Example. Your examples could be something from your personal life (e.g., something you saw in your Biology IA) or something you have done research on, like the discovery of CRISPR. It should be clear, concise, and real. It must also clarify and support the claim. Let’s say that we have learned in mathematics that the inside angles to a triangle are 180 degrees.

-Explain. Clarify (and then explore) the reasons your example supports your claim. Notice what your example says about the title.
Paragraph 3

-Counter-claim. Argue against your claim above. “However it is possible to reach different conclusions using different mathematics systems.”

-Example. Provide an example supporting your counter claim. “It is impossible for a triangle’s interior angles to equal 180 degrees in Euclidian spaces. This cannot be shown using any other systems, such spherical geometry or hyperbolic geometry.”

-Explain. Clarify your example and how it supports your counterclaim. Notice what your example says about the title.

Sum up the development section. In linking to the prescribed name, highlight the insights that you have had about this AOK. “It’s clear that mathematics is reliable, but sometimes it can only show a particular system or approach.

Next, create two more body paragraphs for your second AOK. (600 words)
Paragraph 4

-State your claim.

-Provide evidence to support the claim.

-Explain how the example supports this claim.
Paragraph 5

-State the counter-claim.

-Explain the reason for your counter-claim.

-Explore carefully how the example supports counter-claim.

-Combine all of the insights that you’ve received about this AOK, and the prescribed title.

End with your conclusion. (200-250 words)
Paragraph 6

-Your conclusion. Discuss the insights that you have gained, in relation to the title question. It is important to take the time to sum up all of your major insights about your AOKs.

Significance and implications. Let us know why you think this is important. Clarify when and why it is important to have these insights.

-Perspectives or extensions. Try to see the situation from a different perspective when writing your conclusion. Perhaps you are able to recognize a different way to approach the question. This may have provided you with different insights from those that you had in your essay. Perhaps you can also address a unresolved question, or highlight a limitation that your research revealed.

Although there’s a lot more information that can be shared about the qualities of a good TOK essay, this structure will help you get started. You can even meet with me to discuss your essay.

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