Using sources in Essays and Presentations
We came across the following passage when re-reading that classic work of investigative journalism, All the President's Men. It struck us that we could all learn lessons from the anecdote, not only about how to use sources in TOK essays (and how not to), but also about the nature of evidence. Read the paragraph and decide what lessons you learn.
Here are two important Knowledge Issues that emerge from the passage: to what extent is common sense important in establishing the truth of knowledge claims or the reliability of evidence? What are the limitations of common sense?
The instructor had assigned the students to read some medieval documents that gave somewhat conflicting accounts of Henry IV’s famous visit to Canossa in 1077 to seek Pope Gregory’s forgiveness. According to all of them, the King had waited barefoot in the snow outside the Vatican for four days. Woodward had pored over the documents, made notes and based his paper on the facts on which most of the accounts agreed. All the witnesses had Henry IV out there in the snow for days with his feet bare. The instructor had failed Woodward['s paper] because he had not used common sense. No human being could stand for days barefoot in the snow and not have his feet froze off, the instructor said. “The divine right of kings did not extend to overturning the laws of nature and common sense.” (p. 221)
WOODWARD, B. & BERNSTEIN, C., All the President’s Men, London, Quartet Books, 1974, 349 p.