Step-By-Step Guide to Writing a TOK Essay

Step-By-Step Guide to Writing a TOK Essay
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The abbreviation TOK stands for “Theory of Knowledge.” The International Baccalaureate (IB) Theory of Knowledge Essay is a 1200-1600 word assignment written on different topics. For example, such essays may be aimed to explain what knowledge is and how it develops. Your TOK essay determines about two-thirds of your overall TOK grade. Learn more about TOK essays with College-writers service.

Choose an Essay Title

1. First, you should figure out what structure your TOK essay must-have. When writing an essay of this kind, you’re expected to consider different ways of learning (e.g. through language, perception, emotion, reason). You need to compare and contrast them, as well as different areas of knowledge (AOK). For example, you may write about such areas of knowledge as:

  • Natural sciences;
  • Mathematics;
  • Ethics;
  • Human sciences;
  • The arts;
  • Indigenous knowledge systems;
  • History;
  • Religious knowledge systems.

2. You should also talk to your teacher to get a list of prescribed titles (topics) created by IB. Such questions change every time so it’s impossible for you to prepare for your essay without knowing them. Essay writing also requires you to stay objective throughout the whole paper. Therefore, you should make sure to present both sides. Do it in a clear and concise way.

3. Now it’s time to select your title. You should do it carefully because your title must be appealing for readers, informative, and concise. We recommend that you try to answer the following questions:

  • Are concepts and keywords in your title easy to understand? Read the title and underline or highlight any words that you’re not sure about. For example, if your title contains some vague terms that may be interpreted in different ways, we recommend that you check your class notes and try to figure out the context.
  • Is the title really interesting to you? We recommend that you only select interesting titles because you should be able to consider the topic in detail, and you should also do it in an engaging way. Try to choose an area that you’re passionate about.
  • Can you say something relevant about the title? You should be able to see how the question relates to the topics that you’ve studied in class, as well as your personal thoughts and experiences. Although your essay must be objective, you should also be able to add a little personal touch to it.

4. Rewrite the title in your own words. Quite often, TOK titles can be a little confusing. There may be some difficult keywords so you will have to figure out what exactly you need to compare and contrast. However, if you rephrase the title in your own words, it will be much easier for you to work with. You can even rewrite it in more than one sentence to make sure that you understand your task clearly. Try to break it down into short sentences so that you can see what exactly you’ve been asked to do and how to answer the question properly.

Structure Your Essay

1. First, we recommend that you consider the criteria of assessment. There are four criteria with equal weight. Keep them in mind while writing to make sure that your essay contains all the important details that determine your success.

  • First, your essay should necessarily focus on knowledge issues, compare or link two different issues, demonstrate your understanding of these issues, and explain their relevance.
  • You should also provide your original thoughts and your awareness of different perspectives, providing examples that support your opinion.
  • Analyze the knowledge issues, justify your key points, explore any implications and assumptions of your topic, and present arguments, as well as counterarguments.
  • Make sure that your essay has the right structure. Explain the necessary concepts, check your facts for accuracy, and cite your references.

2. Read your instructions. For instance, you may be asked to evaluate or to “assess” a certain claim. In this case, you will have to argue for and against a certain statement, while also taking into account any grey areas associated with the title.

You may also need to explain in what way, or to what extent a statement is justified. In this case, you should also provide arguments for and against. You may also need to answer a direct question, explaining how much you support or disagree with a certain position.

3. The next step is brainstorming. You need to come up with some ideas to start writing the essay itself. Given that TOK essays are reflective by nature, you should also demonstrate that you’ve been thinking about the title and analyzed it.

  • Start with a general brainstorm: write down any ideas that come to your mind and don’t try to evaluate them at this point.
  • After this, read your notes and determine ideas that contradict each other or relate to each other. You may also make two columns and list arguments for and against every claim. You can also create a third column for ideas from the grey area.
  • When writing down a list of ideas, note examples that can help you illustrate them. You will need examples that are relevant in the context of a particular area of knowledge.

4. Think about your title and determine the knowledge issue. It will be a question related to your understanding of yourself, the world around you, or other people. Don’t forget that the idea of a TOK essay is to explain how you can know something. The knowledge issue from the title must focus on the potential conflicts in a certain area of knowledge or differences between two or more areas of knowledge. You should also determine the areas of knowledge that you will address in your essay. Think of the things that you can compare and contrast.

5. Write an outline. Use ideas from your brainstorming session and think about your area of knowledge. The outline must serve as a blueprint, helping you create the right structure so that the essay will be clear and concise but informative. Here is the general structure that you can use when writing about many different areas of knowledge.

  • Introduction. Explain the title and give definitions to the key terms. You should also present your thesis statement and identify the areas of knowledge.
  • The 1st area of knowledge. Discuss this AOK and provide the necessary examples to support your claims. Don’t forget to mention counterarguments and acknowledge any limitations of this area.
  • The 2nd area of knowledge. Discuss this AOK and provide the necessary examples to support your claims. Don’t forget to mention counterarguments and acknowledge any limitations of this area.
  • The 3rd area of knowledge (if applicable)
  • Conclusion. Summarize the key ideas of your essay and restate your thesis statement. You should provide a full answer to the title, mentioning the counterarguments and limitations.

You may also use another structure, which enables you to provide main arguments along with main counterarguments.

  • Introduction. Explain the knowledge issue.
  • Main argument. Provide justification and support it with examples.
  • Main counterargument. Provide justification and support it with examples.
  • Conclusion.

6. Write a thesis statement. We recommend that you read your title once again and review your notes. Keep your outline in front of you so that you can keep in mind the objectives of your essay. The thesis statement should link all the elements of your essay together.

  • Some students prefer to write a thesis statement when the rest of the essay is ready. This way, they can keep in mind all the main arguments to make their thesis statement informative, clear, and concise.

Write the Essay

1. Use your outline and fill all the sections with content. Keep in mind that your essay should be 1200-1600 words long. The introduction and conclusion must be the shortest sections. We recommend that you make them one paragraph long because the main part of the essay is its body. You may use your brainstorming notes to find the examples that may help you support your key claims. You may also use examples to illustrate your arguments and counterarguments.

2. Avoid dictionary definitions. Don’t forget that a TOK essay is a reflective paper so don’t fill it with definitions from textbooks that cannot add value. In contrast, you should build your own complex definitions to demonstrate that you’re interested in the topic.

3. Cite your sources. Most likely, you will need to format your citations according to the rules of MLA style because it’s very popular in essay writing. Don’t reference well-known facts or common opinions with no particular author. Always reference sections where you paraphrase someone else or follow someone else’s thoughts. Obviously, you should also cite direct quotes and use quotation marks for them.

4. Read your essay out loud. This way, it will be much easier for you to understand whether or not your language is good. You will be able to spot sentences that sound awkward and rewrite them, making your essay more effective. Your essay should have a natural flow and rhythm.
While reading your essay, make sure that there are no abstract or vague terms that can be confusing for your readers. Make sure that all your content is relevant and clear.

5. Finally, you should proofread your essay and fix any grammar or spelling errors. You should also check punctuation and make sure that errors will not ruin the impression of your paper.

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