The TOK Essay

In Grade 11, we are goign to have a first run at a full length TOK essay.


Your teachers are here to help you. It’s going to be an interactive learning experience, for all of us. So, here are the 6 titles for the essay for 2014, with the IBO’s introductory comments (these are the titles the current Grade 12 have written their essays on):

Examiners mark essays against the title as set. Respond to the title exactly as given; do not alter it in any way. Your essay must be between 1200 and 1600 words in length, double spaced and typed in size 12 font.

1. Ethical judgements limit the methods available in the production of knowledge in both the arts and the natural sciences. Discuss.

2. “When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems begin to resemble nails” (Abraham Maslow). How might this apply to ways of knowing, as tools, in the pursuit of knowledge?

3. “Knowledge is nothing more than the systematic organisation of facts.” Discuss this statement in relation to two areas of knowledge.

4. “That which is accepted as knowledge today is sometimes discarded tomorrow.” Consider knowledge issues raised by this statement in two areas of knowledge.

5. “The historian’s task is to understand the past; the human scientist, by contrast, is looking to change the future.” To what extent is this true in these areas of knowledge?

6. “A skeptic is one who is willing to question any knowledge claim, asking for clarity in definition, consistency in logic and adequacy of evidence” (adapted from Paul Kurtz, 1994). Evaluate this approach in two areas of knowledge.

How do we go about even thinking about these issues? HOW many words?

OK, deep breath. First step –


Very broadly, today we shall be looking at each title, deciphering its meaning, unpacking it (working out exactly what is required and how we might begin thinking about it) and selecting which essay to write. To make this last step a little easier, we are going to reduce your choice to 3 titles: Essay numbers 1, 2 and 4

Homework you need to complete before next lesson:

In your journal, you need  to generate a list of real-world events which are relevant to the prescribed title you have chosen. At least two of the examples must be from your experience as an individual learner; at least five more must be from shared knowledge. You will explain your thinking about why the example seems relevant, and you will determine what that particular example suggests with regard to the prescribed title. You will not, at this point, determine a thesis for your essay.