Precepts to use in everyday life

1. Think for yourself, 2. Be yourself, 3. Speak up, 4. Feel free to agree and disagree, 5. Be honest with yourself and others, 6. Be open-minded, 7. Avoid being judgmental and 8. Question everything - even your own thinking.

TOK Essay Titles Nov 2017

Friday, November 28, 2008

Notes on Structure and Layout

The TOK Essay: How to construct the main body of your essay

Each paragraph will focus on ONE of the approaches/perspectives that you specified in your introduction.

So let's take the question: "For some people science is the supreme form of all knowledge. Is this view reasonable or does it involve a misunderstanding of science or of knowledge?"

Each paragraph should reflect the following thought-process:

Step 1: offer an argument that explores one or more of your KIs and give an example to support the argument.

For example:
"Scientific knowledge is derived from the use of a specific, rigorous method that involves inductive logic. For example, if I observe that water always boils at 100"C when I am cooking, I assume that this will always be the case (induction)."

Step 2: suggest a counter-argument or problem that sees the situation from another perspective. Again, provide an example to support your counter-argument.

For example:
"However, if I were to boil water in Denver, Colorado, a location 1.6 km above sea level, I would discover that the water now boils at 94°C, as the pressure on the liquid is reduced. As we can see, the inductive component of the scientific method can sometimes lead to an incorrect hypothesis."

Step 3: put forward a possible solution to the problem raised by the counter-argument.

For example:
"...even if a scientific theory has been rigorously tested one million times there is always the possibility that an exception will be found, and hence the theory falsified. Karl Popper acknowledged this problem and suggested that a hypothetical deductive method should be used, whereby false hypotheses are discarded through trials and disproof."

Step 4: try to evaluate the argument and counter-argument - that is, decide which point of view is it reasonable to believe.

For example:
"This means we cannot prove a theory is correct; we can only prove that a hypothesis is false. Thus we can never know that a scientific theory is 'true'."

Keep following this process throughout each paragraph you write, tailoring your arguments and counter-arguments to the approaches or perspectives you have chosen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Notes on Structure and Layout

The TOK Essay: How to write an introduction

Suppose you're writing an essay on this question:
"For some people science is the supreme form of all knowledge. Is this view reasonable or does it involve a misunderstanding of science or of knowledge?"

Your introduction should be brief and precise and attempt to 'unpack' the essence of the question. It should comprise FOUR key sentences:

Sentence 1: Give a real life example (RLE) that relates immediately to the main essay Q or title.

For example:
"I have seen numerous television advertisements in which the makers claim that their product is 'scientifically proven' to perform its function better than other leading brands."

You could be more precise and give the actual advert (or put this in a footnote).

Sentence 2: Express the common assumptions or presuppositions implicit or embedded in the example.

For example:
"Their assumption is that the majority of people will believe their claim to be true because it is supported by scientific evidence."

Sentence 3: State the knowledge issues (KIs) that are embedded in the RLE and related to the Q - these will be in the form of key questions that you will explore in the main essay.

For example:
"This raises several important questions concerning knowledge and science: do we know that science does indeed lead to knowledge that is true? Does believing the makers' claim involve a misunderstanding of the knowledge science is capable of providing?"

Sentence 4. State the approaches or perspectives which you will use to explore the KIs.

For example:
"This essay will consider the Natural as opposed to Social Sciences."

You can choose 3-5 different approaches depending on the word count you have left.


Keep an eye open for more 'Notes' - they'll help you to organise your essay in stages...

Knowledge Issues

The essence of the problem

So the Year 12s are just coming up to the deadline for their first essay, while the Year 13s are thinking about finalising ONE of their three previous essays. All of you have, however, one thing in common: you're struggling to come to terms with 'knowledge issues' (KIs).

KIs are the essence of a TOK essay or presentation - without them, your work might end up as a very nice history or science essay, or remain simply a very informative psychology or arts presentation.

So what is a KI?

Andrew calls them 'issues of knowledge' (IoKs) and very kindly suggests that IoKs (or KIs - same thing!) are 'things that help -- or hinder -- your ability to get Knowledge'. We would like to add that KIs are things that also help or hinder your ability to USE knowledge. Furthermore, KIs are things that help or hinder your ability to establish the TRUTH of your knowledge claims.

In other words, the four ways of knowing (WoKs) are relevant when thinking about getting knowledge. For example PERCEPTION can help to acquire scientific data to support a hypothesis about the natural world, but it can also hinder our ability to get this data since our senses can be deceived, or our observations can be flawed.

Then again, the six areas of knowledge (AoKs) are relevant when thinking about using knowledge. For example, the ARTS can help us to express fundamental truths about human experience, but can also hinder our understanding of them since each artistic genre is arguably subjective in nature - so whose truth are we to believe, the poet's version of the truth or the musician's?

Finally, the idea of looking at methods of establishing the truth of our knowledge claims is also important. For example, if you believe that our assumptions about the world drive our conclusions, then we have to confront the problem of BIAS.

How do you actually construct a KI?

They are usually constructed in the form of QUESTIONS that you explore in an essay or presentation. The type of question depends very much on the nature of the original essay question or the topic of your presentation. The easiest way to formulate a KI is to use the sentence stem: 'How do we know...?' or 'How does knowledge of...?'.

More complex KIs can be composed by building the following vocabulary into your questions (use a thesaurus to vary your word use):

KIs relating to how we ACQUIRE knowledge (WoKs):
'perception'/'perceive'/'sense'/'sensation'; 'reason'/'rational'/irrational'/'logic'; 'emotion'/'feeling' (or any specific emotion by name); 'language'/'communication'/'sign'/'meaning'...

KIs relating to how we USE knowledge (AoKs):
'natural sciences' (or any of these by name - use the noun or adjective form); 'human sciences' (as with the natural sciences); 'history'/'historical'/'primary/secondary
sources'; 'mathematics'/'mathematical'/'statistical'; 'ethics'/'ethical'/'should'; 'arts' (or any of the genres by name)...

KIs relating to how we establish the TRUTH of our knowledge claims:
'bias' (personal or cultural); 'stereotype'; 'prove'/'proof'/'disprove'; 'argument'/'counter argument'; 'evidence'; 'reliable'/'reliability'; 'limitations'/'problems'; 'subjective'/'objective'; 'verification'/'falsification'; 'certainty'/'doubt'; 'belief'; 'assumption'/'presupposition'; 'common-sense'...

Please note: the above lists are not exhaustive!

Examples of KIs

Look at the ToK essay question breakdowns on the TOK blog and go to the TOK website (link is on the left) to find the powerpoint slideshow entitled 'What is a knowledge issue?' (you should find it via the 'TOK Presentation' link in the main 'Table of Contents').