The title sets the scope of the question. Your job is to find the knowledge issues within that scope

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  • The title sets the scope of the question. Your job is to find the knowledge issues within that scope.
  • Then, decide what AoK and WoK to include:
  • Breadth and links are essential


  • Beware of talking only about Ways of Knowing, without reference to Areas of Knowledge – resulting in an essay that is too abstract.
  • Stick with the terminology given in the title. Clarify and define, do not alter or adapt.


  • First and most important step in planning and writing the essay: decide what stance you take!
  • Refer to the knowledge matrix for support
  • Give examples/illustrations:
    • Your DP courses (the best type of example)
    • Personal experience
    • TOK course
    • Hypothetical examples: GENERALLY A NO-NO! BE CAREFUL!


  • Examine counterclaims: this is essential!
  • Examine each AOK separately and in relation to each other
  • Examine implications of your position. Answer the SO WHAT question. Why is this question and your conclusion important?


  • Voice of the knower: Make sure that your voice comes through!
  • Avoid hypothetical examples!
  • Don’t let the examples become the essay.


  • The reader should not have to do the work in “unpacking” the essay.
  • The writer has to do the work:


  • Citation
    • Remember that “common knowledge” is cultural. Assume an international examiner. Especially with “popular culture” references.
  • Don’t spend time criticizing the title!


  • A checklist:
    • What are the knowledge issues?
    • What stance will you take?
    • What AoKs and WoKs will you address?
    • What are the examples?
    • Deal with any counterclaims.
    • Note any implications.

Writing “Formal / Academic” essays: basic plan (e.g. “Essay” questions in History, Geography, Science, English, extended essays and TOK essays)

  • Introduces the TOPIC or interprets the QUESTION and mentions the
  • different ASPECTS which will be covered in the essay WITHOUT
  • giving details.
  • Presents a LOGICAL PROGRESSION of ASPECTS of the topic, along
  • meaning, ARGUMENTS in support of a point of view and / or
  • EVALUATES the evidence and presents your OPINION or your
  • CHOICE in the matter with PERSONAL REASONS for your decision.

For ToK specifically..

  • What to put in the Introduction: Make sure the key concepts you use are discussed in the introduction along with a statement of the Knowledge Issues and a brief statement of your position. You should give the reader some helpful signposts here about how you will deal with the issues raised in the Title.
  • What to put in the Body of the Essay: The arguments and main examples should appear in the body of the essay. Here you should give some detailed support for your position. Then there should be some anticipation of possible weaknesses in, or objections to, your position.
  • What to put in the Conclusion: The conclusion should state an evaluation of the arguments presented and the implications of this. There should be an answer to the question "So what?" For example you could end with a 'forward looking view'.
  • (Source: Ric Simms -

Paragraph 1: hook, background information, thesis Paragraph 2: a.o.k. #1 explanation and example(s) Paragraph 3: counter-example(s) and rebuttal(s) Paragraph 4: a.o.k. #2 explanation and example(s)– the relationship to a.o.k.#1 Paragraph 5: counter-example(s) and rebuttal(s) Paragraph 6: sum up your argument refer back to the knowledge question explain why your information matters

Meaningless Statements:

  • …such as "Since the dawn of time man has been obsessed with knowledge.” The essay
  • does not need a romantic lead-in so you should start it straight away. Like a film the first paragraph should be packed with TOK Action.

Gross Unsubstantiated Generalizations

  • …such as "Americans see wealth itself as a moral good". Be very
  • careful with the use of the word ‘all’. Check carefully what it is you want
  • to say. Ask yourself whether it is necessary for your essay to make
  • such a sweeping statement?
  • The embodiment of moral good -according to ALL Americans.


  • These are fictional examples usually based on stereotyping - "An Israeli would regard the Defensive Wall as necessary while a Palestinian would see it as an infringement of his basic human liberties". Rather than relying on fiction, try and find a statement made by a real Israeli and a real Palestinian.
  • Worse are examples which typecast Areas of Knowledge, such as "A scientist would look at the statue and try to work out the forces in it while an artist would react emotionally to it" or "All scientists are atheists” and “religious believers are highly emotional and prone to superstition".

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