A Theory of Knowledge essay (a TOK essay) is a piece of paperthat consists of 1,200–1,600 words on prescribed topics compiledby the IB. As the title implies, your TOK paper shouldconcentrate on knowledge problems like what knowledge is, how weknow stuff, etc. as well as connect other areas of knowledge.
Coming up with a title for essay
If you want to know how to write a TOK essay effectively, youneed to understand its structure. When working on the assignment,you will be required to contrast and compare various ways ofknowing through language, perception, emotion, and reason. TOKessay covers eight areas of knowledge. They include:
- The arts
- Indigenous knowledge systems
- Natural sciences
- Religious knowledge systems
- Human sciences
If you don’t want to come up with your own title, you could askyour professor for the prescribed ones. They are compiled by theIB and will require you to contrast and compare the ways ofknowing with a couple of areas of knowledge. Every exam, thequestions alter, so you can’t completely get ready for the paperuntil you have the right questions. Stay objective in the courseof writing and offer both positions of the title in a concreteand clear way.
Carefully pick a title
Search for a subject that includes an area of knowledge you’reinterested in or familiar with. Don’t just grab a subject rightaway because it looks simple or appealing. Study every titlecarefully and ask yourself these questions:
- Is the title interesting to you? The title has to be close toyour interests and is something that you want to write about. Itshould be something you care about and want to study.
- Are the concepts and keywords in the title clear to you? Ifsome concepts are not understandable to you, you may not graspwhat the title asks you to do. If there are some unfamiliar wordsin the title, highlight them and find their meaning.
- Do you have anything relevant you can say about the title?You must connect the question to the thoughts that you havestudied in your TOK lesson and the topics you’ve covered inclass, as well as your personal experiences and own thoughts. Thepaper should be of an objective tone. However, you’ll need to addpassion, clarity, and personality.
Many titles of TOK essays can seem convoluted or confusing. Ifyou find it difficult to understand the terms and keywords in thetitle, you can try and rephrase it by breaking it down intoseveral proposals, so it becomes clearer.
Structuring the assay
Keep in mind the evaluation elements. The IB applies fourelements to evaluate your paper. Try and find what they are andkeep them in mind when you prepare your paper. The four areas youwill be evaluated on are as follows:
- Structure of ideas. Your paper must be well-structured.Explain the main concepts, be accurate, and offer referenceswhere it is applicable.
- Understanding the issues of knowledge. Your paper must focuson the issues of knowledge, connect, and compare a minimum of twoof the issues. You need to show relevance and show a completeunderstanding of at least two knowledge issues.
- Perspective. Your paper must show self-awareness, independentthinking, and offer a couple of various perspectives along withsupporting samples.
- Analyzing the issues of the knowledge. In your paper, youmust demonstrate depth and insight, explain your key items, offerarguments and counter arguments, as well as study any suggestionsand meaning of your topic.
You need to know to all the keywords in the instructions of theessay. You can be asked to evaluate or assess a claim, whichmeans you need to offer arguments – for and against. Also, theremay be a direct question, which you should address in the essay.Also, you may need to define in what way or to what extent astatement is justified.
Brainstorming the ideas
Before you get to the plan, gather all the ideas that you have.TOK essays are mostly reflective pieces, so you’ll need to showthat you have examined the title and you are ready to discuss it,and analyze it.
- Start by a general brainstorm. Record everything that you canthink of about the title.
- After brainstorming look over what you have written. Definethe ideas that are related or that refute each other. If you areevaluating a claim in the title, create two columns for andagainst.
- Find examples of the thoughts that you recorded. Brainstormfor examples for every idea you have come up with.
Identifying the issue of knowledge
The issue of knowledge is a question or a problem that connectsto your understanding of yourself, the world, and others. In thepaper you’re attempting to answer the question “how do you know?”An issue of knowledge in the title of the paper will be connectedto a couple of the 8 areas of study mentioned above and youshould study the potential issues or conflicts in the areas orbetween them. Define the areas of knowledge you will be talkingabout in your paper.
Creating an outline
Use the ideas you brainstormed for and choose an area of study tocraft an outline for your paper. The outline will be your map andassist you to organize your paper in a clear and concise way. Theoutline will depend on the kind of paper title you selected. Ifyou write about 1–3 areas of study, you may want to structureyour paper applying to a five-paragraph format.
- Entry. Here, you need to provide an interpretation andexplanation of the title and define the main terms. Also, youneed to indicate your thesis and state an issue of knowledgeconnected to the title.
- The first knowledge area. Offer supporting examples and offercounter arguments against the examples or the title.
- The second knowledge area.
- The third knowledge area.
- Deduction. Sum up your main thoughts and revise your thesis.Finish the paper by giving an answer to the title completelyconsidering the counter arguments and restrictions to theknowledge areas.
Another way of structuring your essay is summing up the mainargument and counter argument. In this case your paper mayinclude four paragraphs:
- Entry and explanation of the issue of knowledge you chose.
- Main argument along with supportive evidence and examples.
- Main counter argument with the supportive evidence andexamples.
Look through the title of the paper again, your brainstormingideas, and your outline. Try to come up with a good thesisstatement. This is a fundamental claim that you’re making in yourpaper, so it should connect everything in your paper together.
Stay away from dictionary definitions
With your paper you want to demonstrate that you’re writing areflective paper and not a textbook filled with the difficultdefinitions. Don’t use dictionary definitions to back up yourargument or a counter argument. This will show only that you werenot engaged with the subject and skipped through complexitysurrounded in favor of just giving generic definitions.
Citing external sources
If you want to know how to write a TOK essay to get a high score,you will all likely need to know how to use the MLA citationstyle. You will need to cite outside sources using this style.MLA is a usual citation style applied in paper writing. Followthe guide when citing the sources.
- Offer references to exact quotes using quotation marks.
- Give references to any sections or sentences where you’reclosely following someone’s argument or thought even if it is inyour words.
- Give references to little known or surprised claims andfacts.
- Be logical with your citations and how you reference sources.
Reading your paper out loud
Reading your project out loud will assist you to define howaccurate and precise your language is, as well as confirm whetheryour suggestions are well supported and well structured.
When reading your paper out loud, make sure there are no abstractor vague terms or sentences. Verify that all the words you usedare clear and understandable.
Check whether you have identified the issues of knowledge in yourpaper. Verify whether you have used arguments and counterarguments to back up your thesis statement and whether youprovided supportive examples.
Correcting grammatical and spelling errors
When reading your essay for the final time, take the time tocheck any grammatical errors and the words you misspelled. Readthe assay backwards. This way, you could identify every word andmake sure there are no clear mistakes in the text.
Reading sample essays
It is important to make your TOK essay excellent. You can askyour teacher to show you sample essays to get the idea of whatyou need to write about. The IB also publishes 50 excellent TOKessays, which you can check out. It is advisable to look throughthese sources and try to create a good essay of your own. Whenlooking through the sample essays focus on different themes, theuse of examples, the argument structure, the entry, andconclusion.
Making the essay knowledge specific
The objective of your paper is to answer the question in thetitle. One of the pitfalls of writing is to compose a verydescriptive answer with many examples. All the titles concentrateon concepts to do with knowledge and knowing. Thus, the focus ofyour paper has to be on a critical analysis of the issue. Makesure you develop connections between ways of knowing and theareas of knowledge where appropriate.
Analysis over description
One of the criteria that will be taken into account whenassessing your essay is the quality of your analysis. If you’renot sure how good your analysis is, you may sharpen its qualityusing one of the following methods:
- Identify and assess arguments and counter arguments in thework
- Identify suggestions behind knowledge arguments and claims
- Give serious consideration to the implications of arguments
You can also use the knowledge framework if it is applicable.This is an analysis tool for contrasting two or more areas ofknowledge, so you could make connections related to thefollowing:
- Main concepts
- Scope and applications
- Main historical development
- Connections with personal knowledge
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