How to Structure A Theory of Knowledge Essay

This is a step-by-step guideline that you can use to make any TOK essay stand out. This structure has been updated for 2022.

Our video analysis of Theory of Knowledge Essay Prescribed Topics from May and November can be found within our members area. We also offer a lot of useful advice, tutorials, videos and evidence. It’s also free to download. Additionally, you’ll find tons of videos and notes to assist with your TOK Exhibition.

Here’s the deal…

First, choose your Prescribed Title

Before you start writing an essay, it’s important to read the Prescribed Topics. Consider them all before you make a decision. Sometimes, the simplest answer may not be the best. It’s possible to write more interesting essays by asking difficult questions.

Remember the most important point: Answer the title of the question. Every paragraph should relate to it.

Before you decide on one, think about two or three of these titles.

After choosing your Prescribed Title, you can start writing down some ideas. This seems like a simple step, but is very valuable. Later, this will allow you to seek out evidence to support your initial ideas.

Second, choose 2 AOKs

Take your pre-selected title and choose two Areas of Knowledge. Our detailed notes and videos will help you to find the right AOK, Theme or WOK. Some titles will require you add a certain AOK, such as “…. The AOK will be required for some titles. You’ll only need to choose your second AOK with these types questions.

It is recommended to have two sections of your essay (or “developments”) Each body section will examine a different area of knowledge. Careful how you structure this counter-claim and claim. One side will usually agree with the statement of the question, while the other side will disagree. Tim is available for TOK Zoom tutoring, if needed.

The courtroom analogy

It can be helpful to consider the TOK essay like you’re sharing the best bits from a conversation between smart people. The TOK essay could be thought of as presenting both sides of a knowledge argument in front a judge. Each side must provide evidence and explain clearly why it is relevant to the question.

One side would choose to answer “YES” to the (prescribed Title) question using evidence. The other side is arguing against the other side (saying “NO”) using evidence.

In your essay we want to see both side arguments well. Then in your conclusion, your will weigh up the evidence — telling us which side is right or the ways they are wrong and possibly the circumstances where the other side would be correct.

This essay has one of its most challenging aspects.
The TOK Essay Format

Our TOK essay structure is divided into 4 sections (or 6 paragraphs).
First, create your introduction. (100-150 words)
Paragraph 1

-Speak about the question’s title. This will let us know that you already know the answer to the question.

-Define one to two of the key terms within the title. Get definitions of all key terms in your title. Even though you don’t have to include all the definitions, it’s valuable to know how others think about them. These definitions might also help you to make claims, counterclaims and provide evidence.

-Give the reader some direction. Clarify the process for how you are going to tackle the essay question. This will make the marker’s job easier.

Next write your first development. You will need to write two paragraphs that total 600 words.
Paragraph 2

-In this section, we’ll be discussing your claim in AOK 1.

  • State your claim. A claim is simply a topic sentence that states your position about the prescribed title. A claim could be, for instance, “Mathematics may be relied on because of its purely logical structure.” It is axiomatic.

-Example. Your examples may be taken from your everyday life, such as something you noticed while doing your Biology IA, but they could also come from research like how CRISPR was discovered. The example should be specific, concrete and real. It must clarify and support this claim. One example is “In mathematics we learnt that the inside angles a triangle have in Euclidian Space sum up to 180 degree.”

-Explain. Clarify (and examine) how your example supports you claim. Notice what you find interesting about your example. Also, what does it say about the title.
Paragraph 3

-Counter-claim. Argue against your claim above. “But it is possible that different systems of mathematics can lead to different conclusions.”

-Example. If you have a counter claim, please give us an example. “It is difficult to prove that interior angles of a triangle equal 180 degree in Euclidian spatial, it cannot be done with other systems such spherical geometry or hyperbolic geometry.”

-Explain. Explain how your example supports you counterclaim. Notice what you find interesting about your example. Also, what does it say about the title.

-Complete the section on development. You should link the development section to the prescribed Title. Highlight the insights you have gained about this AOK, the prescribed title. “It is obvious that mathematics is reliable to a degree, but it cannot show everything within a fixed system.

Now, add two paragraphs to your second AOK. (600 words)
Paragraph 4

-State the claim.

-Provide an example to support your claim.

-Explore in detail how the example supports and confirms the claim.
Paragraph 5

-State your counterclaim.

-Put forward an example which supports the counterclaim.

-Discuss how the example supports the counterclaim.

Summarize the insights and title you have gained about this AOK.

Your conclusion is now complete. (200-250 words)
Paragraph 6

-Your conclusion. What insights have you gained in response to the question? Consider combining the most important insights you’ve gained from your two AOKs.

Implications and importance. Also, tell us why this knowledge is so important. Clarify when it matters and how to get these insights.

-Perspectives. On your conclusion, you should try to bring in a different perspective if possible. It is possible that you can see a new way of approaching the question. This could have produced different insights than the ones you provided in your essay. Your exploration might have revealed a problem or limitation.

While there are many details that go into what makes a TOK essay great, this structure is sufficient to get you started. We are available to meet you and discuss your essay if necessary.

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