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  • “... The focus of your essay should be on knowledge questions. Where appropriate, refer to other parts of your IB programme and to your experiences as a knower. Always justify your statements and provide relevant examples to illustrate your arguments. Pay attention to the implications of your arguments, and remember to consider what can be said against them. If you use external sources, cite them according to a recognized convention.

- Your essay must be easy to read: double line spacing, regular font (Times New Roman, Ariel etc.), 12pt font, normal margins

  • - Your essay must be easy to read: double line spacing, regular font (Times New Roman, Ariel etc.), 12pt font, normal margins
  • - Page numbers in a footer
  • - Start the essay with the title and title number
  • - Keep an accurate record of the final word count – you will need to enter this when you upload your essay (but don't include it in your essay)
  • - Do not include a title page
  • - Must be anonymous: no name or session number anywhere in the essay
  • - No pictures should be included unless absolutely essential for your discussion
  • Presentation (important points for final submission)

- You must complete the TK/PPF form, which you will submit with your final essay.

  • - You must complete the TK/PPF form, which you will submit with your final essay.
  • - The form is a writeable pdf that you can find on the forums.
  • - You should complete the form with some reflections on your progress with the essay after each of the three “interactions with your teacher”
  • - Interaction 1 is the lesson when we discuss the prescribed essay title, with some follow-up in Managebac
  • - Interaction 2 will take place on your TOK worksheet in Managebac, probably sometime in November
  • - Interaction 3 will be my written feedback on your essay draft (which will also take place in Managebac)
  • - As you can see, you will need to use Managebac, which you can start doing as soon as you've chosen your title
  • TK/PPF (paperwork, paperwork)

Top Tips

  • Establish the relevance (to the title) of all of your discussion
  • Consider the question from different perspectives...
  • ...BUT, take a stance: What is your personal response to the question in the title? Why?
  • Reconcile any potential contradictions between your stance and the counter arguments you explore (by, for example, recognising conflicting interpretations of key terms)
  • Your essay should be a clear and coherent development of your personal response to the question
  • Use real examples, that you have found or experienced
  • Critically evaluate ideas
  • Provide convincing arguments for all claims you make, and references to back up any factual claims

Other Tips

  • On definitions: Avoid mechanical definitions. Instead, you should define terms when you have a specific reason to do so, such as when a term is open to misunderstanding, or when choosing a particular interpretation is key to your argument. Any definition should be accompanied by a statement of why you're embarking on the definition.
  • On concepts: You should take some time to think about all of the concepts in the title, and engage in discussion of the most important in your essay.
  • It's very important that you take a stance, but you should also recognise the potential weaknesses of your position.
  • While it's good to recognise related questions, you won't get good marks unless you engage in successful analysis of some of these questions.

Assessment instrument

  • The assessment instrument recognises the following aspects of a successful essay
    • Focus on KQs, and relevance to title
    • Development of KQs
    • Perspectives
    • Links to AOKs and/or WOKs
    • Argumentation
    • Use of examples

Focus & Relevance

  • Focus discussion consistently on the KQ in the title
  • You need to establish the relevance of other KQs you discuss: point out explicitly how each KQ is relevant to the question being asked in the title
  • Other key terms that often lead to useful KQ discussion are: proof, explanation, evidence, truth, experience, culture, belief, certainty, intuition, technology, interpretation, values

Development of KQs

  • You need to explore KQs in enough depth. Make sure your essay goes beyond obvious and stereotypical comments about AoKs and WoKs, of which the following are examples:
    • Mathematical knowledge is universal and objective, while the arts are subjective and personal.
    • Sense perception can be fooled, therefore we can't trust our senses.
    • History is biased.
    • There can be no ethical truth, as our values are shaped by experience and culture.

It can be ok to start off discussion with a straightforward comment about a AOK/WOK, but you should expand your analysis by asking, for example, these questions:

  • It can be ok to start off discussion with a straightforward comment about a AOK/WOK, but you should expand your analysis by asking, for example, these questions:
    • To what extent is my assertion true?
    • Under what conditions is it not true?
    • Why is it true under certain conditions, and why not under others?
    • What are the implications of my assertion? What does it mean in terms of the nature of proof, evidence, explanation, interpretation, truth etc. in this AOK/WOK?
  • Critically evaluate ideas, both your own and those of others (even the essay title can be evaluated critically)


  • You need to explore counter arguments, while being aware that this might lead to contradictions with your main argument. Following these steps might help:
    • Explain and illustrate some arguments that support your stance
    • Then consider what arguments could be made against your stance
    • Why do you favour your argument and not the counter arguments? Is the counter argument invalid? Or is it down to different possible interpretations of key terms? Or is your argument only valid in certain contexts?
    • Explicitly point out why you favour your argument
    • Make sure you recognise any assumptions that your argument is based on, and justify why these assumptions are sound


  • Your discussion must be linked to either AOKs or WOKs
  • It's usually best to treat no more than two or three AOKs/WOKs in detail
  • Nonetheless, passing observations or comparisons can allow you to make links to other AOKs/WOKs


  • NO ASSERTION IN YOUR ESSAY (unless it is so obviously true that no reasonable individual could question it) CAN BE STATED WITHOUT SUFFICIENT JUSTIFICATION.
  • This justification can be either a coherent argument that establishes your assertion, or a reference to a recognised authority that backs it up (only good for factual statements).
  • Examples can also be used to illustrate (but not justify) an assertion, but you need to explicitly point out how your example does this (here you can also justify your assertion), don't just assume it's obvious.
  • The use of an appropriately tentative language is important in terms of this and (the next) criterion. The following are examples:
    • It seems reasonable to assume that...
    • It would be hard to argue that...
    • One might conclude from this that...
    • While there are exceptions, it is generally the case that...
    • Let us consider the possibility that...
  • If can be a very useful term that allows you to do all sorts of useful things with your arguments
  • Some words should be treated with caution, such as:
  • only, always, never, obviously, of course

Use of Examples

  • Use original examples – think about the KQs in detail yourself and come to your own conclusions about how to illustrate them with examples.
  • Avoid obvious examples, e.g. the flat earth, 1+1=2, the geo/heliocentric universe
  • Avoid hypothetical examples. Use real and specific examples instead of generalisations.
  • Make sure you develop the example: you explain how the example illustrates the point you're making

When do I need to provide sources?

  • There are two situations in which you need to provide a source:
  • a) You're citing a fact that is not considered part of general knowledge, about which the reader could reasonably ask, "Is that really true?” In this case, you're backing up your factual claim with proof that it is correct.
  • b) You're quoting, or paraphrasing, the idea(s) of another person. In this case, you're acknowledging that the idea is not your own, and thereby maintaining your academic honesty. Strictly speaking, you should do this even in the case of, for example, quoting a fellow student from a classroom discussion.

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