Knowledge Issues

A Knowledge Issue is effectively a question about the validity of a knowledge claim.

If I claim to know something, what general questions does this raise?

This can be a positive or negative question.

They can apply to any aspect of knowledge and may refer to the acquisition, production, shaping, classification, status, and acceptance or rejection of knowledge. Knowledge issues range from the extremely general (“Can a fact exist without a context?”, “What constitutes good evidence?”) to the specific (“How can we distinguish between valid and invalid deductive arguments?”, “What should the role of emotion be in the justification of ethical decisions?”).

For the essay and the presentation, your KI should be open-ended and general, in order to give you the scope for a full investigation.

Knowledge issues that are most likely to support high levels of achievement are:
• open-ended questions that admit more than one possible answer
• explicitly about knowledge in itself and not subject-specific claims
• couched in terms of TOK vocabulary and concepts: the areas of knowledge, the ways of knowing and the concepts in the linking questions—belief, certainty, culture, evidence, experience, explanation, interpretation, intuition, justification, truth, values
• precise in terms of the relationships between these concepts



13 thoughts on “Knowledge Issues

  1. I still don’t understand what a Knowledge issue is. Especially in reference to the TOK prescribed titles. “Consider knowledge issues raised by…..” Can you explain that?

    • A knowledge issue (KI) is an issue or problem arising from a knowledge claim. If you claim to know something – this table is green, for example – you need to be able to say how you know it. (Everyone agrees, I know this book is green and the table looks the same, etc). Given your evidence for making a knowledge claim,what problems or difficulties arise? For example, colour only exists in us, as light passes through our eyes and is registered by our brain. So technically ‘green’ is an experience we have, not something a table can be, a KI might be ‘ to what extent are our general assumptions about what we see valid and true representations of the real world?’

  2. I don’t get how were supposed to incorporate KI in our TOK essays. My teacher said that I had examples not I needed to come up with a KI for each example, how is this done? Does each paragraph need to have a KI, if so how can we just have a question in the middle of our paragraph?

    • Hi Sarah,

      you don’t need a KI for each example – but each example should be addressing your KI. ONE is fine for an essay, though better essays might introduce two. Your examples need to make claims or counter-claims through which you can discuss the KI.

  3. In that case how am I supposed to incorporate them in my essay. Should it be in the intro? And are they still meant to be phrased as questions? Thank you for your help

  4. I need help on writing a KI for a mid term paper. How do I write a KI if my paper’a topic is “Some areas of knowledge seek to describe the world, while others seem to transform it. Explore this claim with refernce to 2 areas of knowledge” I am planning to do art and natural sciences. Please help and thanks in advance

  5. I only just manage to find this, however I have a hard topic for a TOK Essay, involving clashing knowledge “Religion and Ethics v Science and Mathematics. Considering the statement “The knowledge we reside in most, is the knowledge we can provide the strongest justification” Clashing knowledge is not only the problem yet to answer to Agree or Disagree. To dishearten those who are of religious beliefs and shame those of a strong logical beliefs of Science and Mathematics. ~ Thanks.

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