Tok Guide Essay

The Top Ten Theory of Knowledge Essay Tips

Here are my top tips for getting to top marks on your Theory of Knowledge essay.

1.  All ToK essays are cross-disciplinary; they are never just about one way of knowing (perception, language, reason, etc) or one area of knowledge (mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, etc). In general you’ll want to include at least

2. But be careful about which WoK's and AoK's you include. Review all of your notes to refresh your understanding and make sure you’re seeing the relevant connections and make sure (after you’ve done your research) that you have interesting points to make (claims and counter claims).

3. Make an outline first. The outline is your road map and it’s where you make a lot of your major decisions. It will also help you to develop an argument, with each paragraph building on the one before.

3. Research in a lot of different ways: websites, your class notes, talking with people (parents, classmates, your teachers). Find arguments which support both sides of (for and against) your thesis and examples that support your claims and counterclaims. As you develop insights you can use, make sure to record them. ]

4. Make sure you have clarified the scope of your essay (what you're aiming to do). Make it clear, in your introduction, which WOK's and AOK's ’s you’re using. And define your key terms carefully, in ways that are useful to your argument. Dictionary definitions rarely do this. At the minimum, be sure to not just use the first definition you find.

5. It’s easy to forget that ToK is about developing your ability to think for yourself. Give yourself some time away from your outline, to reflect before you begin your real essay. And then try to give yourself a few breaks from your essay as well, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. It’s hard to see the weaknesses of your thinking while you’re busy trying to get it done (i.e. in a hurry). Come up with your own ideas.

6. Read at least 3 examples of excellent ToK Essays written by other people.

7. Keep editing. Each of your paragraphs should show opposing viewpoints concisely. Compare two opposing ideas about how natural science might relate to your knowledge question.

8. Use specific and qualified language. Rather than writing that “all science always provides useful insights,” instead say that, “chemistryoften provides useful insights.” Words like often or sometimes (instead of always), might or could (instead of should) help to keep from over-generalising or saying more than you can actually support in your essay.

9. To prove your essay's thesis you’ll need to rely on evidence. Various types of facts are fine (quotations, statistics, true stories from your reading or your own life). Avoid using clichés and common examples. If you can use examples that the marker hasn’t heard before this will show that you are thinking for yourself.

10. Read it out loud, after you have finished it. This will help you to find mistakes and areas that don’t flow as well as you thought.

Other Useful ToK Essay Resources

Six steps to writing a good TOK essay: A student guide by Colleen H. Parker at SPHS

Writing a TOK essay, by Richard van de Lagemaat

How to Write a Good TOK Essay, By Peg Robinson

This in link goes through a variety of examples of how to answer some of the questions from previous years.

Mr Hoyes’ Notes on The ToK Essay

How to Write a Good ToK Paper, from Collective Thinking

Writing a TOK Essay, from ‘Findings’ Part One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.

10 Tips on Writing a Good Theory of Knowledge Essay, from the American International School of Lusaka

Guide to writing the TOK Essay, from IBCram

Tips for writing a good ToK Essay by Ric Sims @ Nothing Nerdy

And consider some common problems, from ToK Talk






General instructions

Students must make one or more individual and/or small group presentations to the class during the course. Presentations must be delivered in a language accessible to all members of the class (if the school has been notified to submit presentation recordings, those presentations must be given in the language for which the students have been, or will be, registered).

The maximum group size is three. If a student makes more than one presentation, the teacher should choose the best one (or the best group presentation in which the student participated) for the purposes of assessment. Students are not permitted to offer presentations on the same specific subject matter more than once. This refers to either the same knowledge question, or the same real-life situation. It is advised that the presentation should take place towards the end of the course, as otherwise students may not have had the chance to develop skills such as formulating knowledge questions which are key to this task.

The TOK presentation requires students to identify and explore a knowledge question raised by a substantive real-life situation that is of interest to them. The selected real-life situation may arise from a local domain of personal, school, or community relevance, or from a wider one of national, international or global scope. Whatever situation is chosen, it must lend itself naturally to a question about knowledge.

Figure 19

The student is required to extract and explore a knowledge question from a substantive real-life situation. For this reason, it is wise that students avoid real-life situations that need a great deal of explanation from outside sources before the extracted knowledge question can be understood in context.

The diagram indicates that a successful presentation will have several dimensions.

  • The two levels in the diagram represent the students’ experiences in the TOK course (lower level) and in the world beyond it (upper level). The connections between the levels demonstrate the relevance of TOK to life beyond the TOK classroom.
  • At the “real-world” level, there is the real-life situation from which a knowledge question must be extracted.
  • This knowledge question, residing in the “TOK world”, must be developed using ideas and concepts from the TOK course, and in this progression it is likely that other related knowledge questions will be identified and will play a part in taking the argument forward.
  • The product of this reflection can be applied back (during and/or after the development) to the real-life situation at the “real-world” level.
  • In addition, the presentation should ideally aim to show how the process of application extends beyond the original situation to other real-life situations, thus demonstrating why the presentation is important and relevant in a wider sense.

Presentations may take many forms, such as lectures, interviews or debates. Students may use multimedia, costumes, or props to support their presentations. However, under no circumstances should the presentation be simply an essay read aloud to the class. While pre-recorded inserts within a presentation are permissible, the presentation itself must be a live experience and not a recording of the presentation.

If students incorporate the thoughts and ideas of others into the presentation, this must be acknowledged.

Before the presentation, the individual or group must give the teacher a copy of the presentation planning document. This is part of the assessment procedure (see below). The document is not to be handed out to the audience.

The role of the teacher

In relation to the presentation, the teacher has three principal responsibilities:

  • to encourage and support the student(s) in the preparation of the presentation
  • to provide guidance on presentation skills
  • to assess the presentation using the presentation assessment instrument.

These responsibilities should be met through the following interactions.

  • The student(s) should bring to an initial meeting with the teacher ideas for the selection of a real-life situation and the formulation of a knowledge question. The teacher should advise, but the final decisions belong with the student(s). The eventual success of this process will depend on a consideration of how the presentation will develop, so a second planning meeting is permitted, if required. Often a variety of appropriate knowledge questions can be identified in the kind of real-life situations most students will want to discuss. Teachers should help them concentrate their efforts on a clearly formulated one.
  • A final meeting between student(s) and teacher can take place several days before the presentation, in which the final structure of the presentation can be discussed. The presentation is intended as a positive learning experience for the audience, and therefore it is important that the quality of the product is monitored at this stage.

Each real-life situation and knowledge question should be treated only once in a particular teaching group.

In summary, the teacher should give the presenter(s) every opportunity to construct a presentation that will advance the aims of the TOK course for the class as a whole. The teacher may support students by guiding them towards suitable approaches but should not do their work for them.

The date when each presentation is to take place should be given to students well in advance, to allow sufficient time for preparation of material.

Presentation duration

Approximately 10 minutes per presenter should be allowed, up to a maximum of approximately 30 minutes per group. Presentations should be scheduled to allow time for class discussion afterwards.

Interaction and audience participation are allowed during the presentation, not just in follow-up discussion, but there must be an identifiable substantial input from the presenter(s) that is assessable.

Internal assessment documentation

Presentation planning and marking document (TK/PPD)

Each student must complete and submit a presentation planning and marking document (TK/PPD).

The procedure is as follows.

  • The student will complete the student sections of the TK/PPD form.
  • The student will provide a hard copy to the teacher for reference during the presentation.
  • The student will subsequently give the presentation.
  • The teacher will authenticate each student’s form and add comments on the presentation.

The section to be completed by the student requires responses to the following.

  1. Describe your real-life situation.
  2. State your central knowledge question.
  3. Explain the connection between your real-life situation and your knowledge question.
  4. Outline how you intend to develop your presentation, with respect to perspectives, subsidiary knowledge questions and arguments.
  5. Show how your conclusions have significance for your real-life situation and beyond.

This should be presented in skeleton or bullet point form, typed in standard 12 font and not exceed 500 words. It is acceptable to include diagrams, as long as they are clearly related to the text. It is not permitted to exceed the two sides of the TK/PPD form.

Participants in a group presentation must be given the same marks. In a group presentation, not every student need speak for the same amount of time, but it is the presenters’ responsibility to ensure that all members of the group participate actively and make comparable contributions.

Moderation of internal assessment

The procedure for uploading the TK/PPD form can be found in the Handbook of procedures for the Diploma Programme.

Marks awarded by teachers for the presentation will be subject to moderation procedures through sampling of the associated TK/PPD forms that have been uploaded. The objective of this process is to judge whether the contents of the TK/PPD form justify the marks given by the teacher for the presentation.

In addition, some schools in each session may be required to record some or all of their presentations. These schools may be chosen:

  • at random, in order to examine the relationships between plans and performance
  • because students are producing excellent presentations which could be used for professional development purposes
  • because an anomaly has been identified, for example, in the correlation between the marks for the presentations and the essays of students.

It is not necessary for schools to record presentations unless they are asked to do so, although it can be a useful exercise in order to standardize internal marking, where more than one teacher is involved.

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