How to Structure an Essay on Theory of Knowledge

To get a great score on TOK essays, the following structure will help. It was updated for the 2022 syllabus.

Our members area contains our video analysis of November Theory of Knowledge Essay Prescribed titles. You will also find a lot helpful advice, tutorials and evidence videos in our members area. It’s free to use, and you are encouraged to do so. Here are many videos, notes, or other resources to assist you in your TOK Exhibition.

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First, pick your Prescribed title

Before you begin writing your essay, take a look at the Prescribed titles and pick one. You should take the time to look at them carefully before making your choice. Sometimes the simplest one isn’t the best. Perhaps because you are unable to think of any interesting alternatives. Sometimes, more complicated questions make for better essays.

It is important to remember that your first priority is answering the prescribed title. Therefore, make sure that each paragraph you write is relevant to the title question.

You might want to consider at least three titles before you choose one.

After you have selected your Prescribed Title, write down some of your initial ideas. This may seem like an obvious step but it’s important. Later, you can look for evidence to support the ideas you have.

Second, pick your 2 AOKs

You can now take your chosen title and pick two Areas of Knowledge that you want to explore. We have detailed videos and notes for each AOK and Theme. Some titles require that you include a specific AOK (example: “…). Some titles will require you to mention an AOK (saying something like “… Discuss with reference the natural sciences and one additional area of knowledge.” You will only need to answer these types of questions by choosing your second AOK.

It is recommended that your essay has two parts (or “developments”), Each body section will cover a particular area of knowledge. You should be careful with how you create the claim and counterclaim. The majority of the time, one side will agree to the statement in question while the other will disagree. Tim is available every day for TOK Zoom tutoring if you have any questions.

The courtroom analogy

It is helpful to view the TOK essay in terms of sharing the best bits of a conversation among two smart people. It could be viewed as the presentation of two sides of an argument over knowledge before a judge. For each side to succeed, they must present evidence and explain clearly how that evidence relates.

One side would use evidence to support the (prescribed title), while the other would argue the other (saying no), using evidence as well.

We need to see both sides of the argument in your essay. Next, in your concluding paragraph, you’ll evaluate the evidence. You’ll tell us which side (or how they’re wrong) is right and what circumstances would make the other side right.

The most difficult aspect of writing an essay is to ensure that your evidence supports your claims or counterclaims.
The TOK Essay Structure

There are 4 parts to the TOK essay.
Your introduction should be written first. (100-150 words)
Paragraph 1

-Speak one or two interesting points about the question’s title. This tells us right away that we know the question.

-Definition of one or two key terms in your title. Get definitions of all the main words in your title. Although you don’t necessarily need to include them all in your essay it is useful to see how people view the words. These definitions can sometimes give you some ideas for claims, counterclaims, or evidence.

-Give the reader an outline. You should explain to the reader how you intend to answer the essay question. This will allow the marker to easily identify what to look for.

Next write your first development. (2) Paragraphs totalling 600 words
Paragraph 2

-In the next paragraph you’ll discuss your claim to AOK 1.

-State your claim. A claim is a topic phrase that describes your argument about the prescribed title. One example would be “Mathematics is reliable because it’s a logical system.” It is axiomatic, independent of subjective experience.

-Example. You can use examples from your daily life or research to illustrate CRISPR’s existence. Your example should be concrete, specific, and true. The example must be specific, precise, and real. It should also support the claim. It could be said that “In mathematics, the inside angles of triangles in Euclidian spaces sum up 180 degrees.”

-Explain. Clarify your example and explain how it supports your claim. Notice what’s interesting about your example, and what it says about your title.
Paragraph 3.

-Counter-claim. Argue against your claim above. “However, different mathematical systems can lead to different conclusions.”

-Example. Please give an example to support your counter-claim. “It’s impossible to show that the interior angles a triangle equal 180° in Euclidian space. This cannot also be demonstrated using other systems like spherical or hyperbolic geometry.”

-Explain. Clarify and explore how your example supports your counterclaim. Notice what’s interesting about your example, and what it says about its title.

-Summary the development section. You can link to the prescribed titles and highlight your insights about this AOK. “It is clear that mathematics is reliable to some extent but it can often only prove something in a single system or approach.

Write two additional paragraphs for your second AOK. (600 words)
Paragraph 4.

-Insert your claim.

-Provide a supporting example.

-Explore carefully how the example supports the claim.
Paragraph 5.

-Report your counter-claim.

-Provide an example that supports the counter-claim.

-Explain how the example supports the counter-claim.

-Assume all your insights about the AOK title.

Final, you should write your conclusion. (200-250 words)
Paragraph 6

-Your conclusion. Your conclusion. You can take some time to summarize the main insights you gained about your AOKs.

Relevance and significance. Please tell us why we should know this. It’s important that you clarify when and how these insights are relevant.

-Perspectives, extensions. You might be able to offer a different perspective in your conclusion. Maybe you have a different perspective on the question than you did in your essay. This could lead to very different insights. Another option is to mention a question unanswered or a limitation discovered in your exploration.

We can go into more detail about what makes an excellent TOK essay but this is enough to get you started. If you would like, we can meet up to talk about your essay.

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