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Knowledge Questions & The TOK Essay

Mr. Glover TOK

Knowledge Questions TOK is primarily concerned with knowledge questions, KQs. - To put it briefly: the whole point of the presentation and essay tasks is to deal with KQ’s. 1.A KQ is an open question about knowledge: •

The question is open because there are a number of plausible answers to it.

The question is contestable and usually controversial in nature

2.KQs are about knowledge •

They are not questions of knowledge, but instead focus on the methods and mechanisms that produce knowledge - the WOKs and knowledge frameworks

3.KQs are general questions about knowledge rather than specific questions about a subject area or Real Life Situations

Example KQ 1 •

“What is the atomic mass of Hydrogen?” Discuss whether this is a KQ. •

No. •

It has a definite answer, which is not controversial

and it is an actual statement of Physics rather than being a general question about knowledge.

Example KQ 2 •

“Is Rembrandt a better painter than Picasso”? Is this a KQ?


It is true that the answer will be controversial. But there are still problems. What are they?

While there is knowledge involved in making the judgement, the question is not specifically about knowledge. It is about painting.

A good KQ should not be too specific but should use general terms exploring questions about knowledge.

A good KQ about this subject would be - “What sort of knowledge, if any, is expressed by an artwork?”

You try one. The following question sounds good but has a problem … “How can a Physicist know whether the Higgs boson exists?”

It is not a good KQ because it is too specific to the issue i.e. “Does the Higgs boson exist?” This question is specific to particle physics etc.

A more general, controversial question about knowledge related to this topic would be •

“How are theoretical predictions used in producing knowledge in the natural sciences?”

The vocabulary of Knowledge Question

Real Life Situation Vocabulary specific to area of knowledge Knowledge Questions General TOK Vocabulary

Connect each of the conclusions you reach through the development of each claim to your RLS by answering the “so what” question “So what if your claim is true?” “How do your conclusions impact on the way we interpret the KC’s in the RLS?”

The Essay Response A step by step outline

Paragraph 1 - The Introduction 1.Rewrite the essay topic legibly and highlight/underline key words: 2.List of key words including explanation on how you interpret/define them (NOT dictionary definitions!!!). 3.Complete the following sentence, answering the TOK Essay title (this is your thesis statement): In this TOK Essay I will show / it will be shown .....

Paragraph 2+3+4… - Support for your thesis 1.Topic sentence - In this paragraph I will show that..... (Now, provide an example supporting your thesis) 2.Discuss - example Now, provide an explanation of example: IMPORTANT • Reread your thesis statement ("In this TOK Essay I...." and the essay topic. Then read your example and its explanation. • Do example and explanation answer the thesis? Is there a clear link? __ yes __no? If yes, continue… If no, rewrite 3.Discuss - What area(s) of knowledge or way(s) of knowing are addressed in this example? 4.Discuss - Is the example very specific to one particular event? Is it broad? To what extent can it be generalized? Are there limitations, exceptions? Look at the ways of knowing / areas of knowledge and try to find some “holes". (__ is a specific example __ is a general example Why?) 5.Discuss - What exceptions (counter claims / different perspectives) are there? IMPORTANT! 6.Conclude paragraph - with link to thesis and next supporting paragraph. In this paragraph I showed that …. now I will explore how/what/whether…etc

Final paragraph - Conclusion •

Conclusion - Do not introduce new ideas here. If you have new ideas, then make a separate paragraph out of it.

Reread your thesis statement ("In this TOK Essay I...." and the essay topic. Then in a line or two summarize your answer to this topic question, based on paragraphs 2-4:

Make your response as clear as you can

Works cited •

You are not obliged to complete research to write an effective TOK essay, but if you do, you have to provide a works cited list.

Please use MLA

Remember, all essays are submitted to turnitin…

6 KQ & TOK Essay Writing Guide