How to Structure a Theory of Knowledge Essay


The following structure is a very good, step-by-step method you can use on any ToK essay to get very high marks. 

Here are the main things to keep in mind when you're using this method:

    1. Your #1 priority is answering the prescribed title. If you somehow follow this method, but don't answer the question you won't score well. So make sure you keep linking back to the question as you go. 
    2. Try to use original, interesting evidence

(I have a full a lot of helpful advice, tutorials, evidence videos and notes for ToK in my online ToK course, which you're welcome to join if you like.)

And I've also made a method for the TOK presentation, here.

Okay here we go...

The structure on this page will give you a strong foundation for your essay and then we're going to make your essay as insightful as possible.

First

First, before you can begin your real/final essay, you’ll want to look at the Prescribed Title (something like: “What is it about mathematics and science that makes them so convincing?” and think about it. Get some of your initial ideas down on paper.

(It is not necessary to write down a Knowledge Question (KQ), the way you would for your presentation. You can go ahead and answer the question directly).

Second

Now, take your prescribed title and choose two AOKs to explore it with (here are my notes: Mathematics, Human sciences, Natural Sciences, the ArtsEthics, Indigenous Knowledge SystemsReligious Knowledge Systems, or History). Or you can use WOKs: (again here are my notes: EmotionFaith, Sense perceptionReason,  Imagination, Intuition,  LanguageMemory). Then you can explore these aspects in your essay.

I normally recommend exploring just  2 AoK's in the main body of your essay and then include a few insights into WOKs around the edges (more on this in a bit).

Two sides of an argument

Each body section will look at a certain area of knowledge or way of knowing. To explore the question we chose above, it's pretty easy to choose our AOKs because they are actually listed in the question. We'll be using  Mathematics and Natural Science

The Prescribed Title is like a question for a judge and there are 2 lawyers, each arguing their side. One lawyer is saying YES and the other one is saying NO.

Your lawyer will make the case that you can’t be guilty of robbing the bank (her thesis), by using several arguments (claims); she’ll show that 

  1. You weren’t there
  2. You’re are a moral person and
  3. You don’t have the technical knowledge to pull off a job like that.

However, if your lawyer was a ToK student they would also be explaining reasons why you might be guilty (the counterclaims).

  1. Someone said they saw you there,
  2. You admitted to lying to your mom about candy one time and
  3. You are pretty good at computers.

The lawyers would use evidence to support each of these claims and counterclaims.

Making sure your evidence actually supports your claim is one of the toughest aspects of the essay.

The Formula

The formula has 4 sections and 7 paragraphs overall and specific aspects need to go in each.

Section 1: The Introduction 150-200 words

Paragraph 1

-Say 2 interesting things about the prescribed title. "Many people find Mathematics and Natural Science very convincing. However, many of these same people would say that they don't have a strong understanding of either of these two fields. Both of these fields rely on rigorous methodologies."

-Define the key terms in the title. Here I would define Mathematics and Natural Science. (I would also look up the term "convincing". I might not include that definition in my essay, but I would still like to be sure there aren't conflicting definitions. If there are then I might be able to use that in my essay somehow.)

-Narrow in on one aspect which is particularly interesting. This essay with focus on the link between replicability of results, as a source of reliability. 

-State your thesis. What is your short answer to the prescribed title, your thesis. You might decide, by the end of your essay, that your initial thinking was wrong. 

-Give us a roadmap, a sentence that gives us a preview, showing us what you’re going to do in your body paragraphs. Make it clear how you are going to explore the prescribed title, which Ways of Know­ing and/or Areas of Knowl­edge you’re going to use. This will make it easy for the marker to know what to look for. An example: “Mathematics can be seen as more reliable because it uses reason. Natural science can be less reliable because it relies on observation. ”

Section 2: Two paragraphs totalling 600 words

Paragraph 2

-Claim. A claim a topic sen­tence that outlines your argument about the prescribed title. For example you could claim that, “Mathematics can be relied on because it is a purely logical system.”

-Explain. Elaborate and clarify your claim. “Mathematics is axiomatic and independent of subjective experience.“

-Example. A real life example, to clar­ify and sup­port the claim from your own experience. Examples should be personal, specific, precise and real. Did something happen in your Science class? Did you have a conversation with your or hear a story from your grandfather? These are evidence from your own life rather than examples from Darwin or Lincoln. So you could talk about how, “In mathematics we learned that the inside angles of a triangle, in Euclidian space, sum up to 180 degrees.”

Paragraph 3

-Counter-claim. Argue against your claim above. “However, it is possible to come to different conclusions using different systems of mathematics.”

-Example. An example that supports your counter claim. “There are different It is not possible to demonstrate that the interior angles of a triangle equal 180 degrees in Euclidian space, this cannot be proven within other systems, such as spherical geometry or hyperbolic geometry.”

-Link to prescribed title. Quickly sum up the (complicated) insights of this section. “It is therefore clear that mathematics is reliable to an extent, but often it can only show something to be true within one fixed system or approach.”

Section 3: Another two body paragraphs, looking at your second AoK or WoK. Write these using the same approach you saw in paragraphs 2 and 3. 600 words

Paragraph 4

-Claim.

-Explain.

-Example.

Paragraph 5

-Counter-claim.

-Example.

-Link to prescribed title.

Section 4: Conclusion with two paragraphs totalling 200-250 words

Paragraph 6

-Implications and significance. Why is it important that we know about this?

-Perspective. Explain another view that someone may have (i.e. an older person, someone who's had different life experiences than you)

Paragraph 7

-Sum up the argument. The thesis again, in short. What have we learned?

 

Obviously there is a lot more depth that we can go into about what makes a really great TOK essay, but this structure will get you started.

Here are some more ToK Essay tips you might want to consider or you can join my online program if you like www.tokmastery.com