Getting Started with TOK Essay

Structure of the Essay

IB prescribes 1400-1600 word limit. Between the limits of above 1200 and below 1600 words, let us work with a desirable range of 1450-1550 words.


Pick an ideal 3 AOK ‘Areas of knowledge’, 3 WOK ‘Ways of knowing’, and in no case any less than 2 of each. If the essay specifically requires only 2 AOK, then use 3-WOK to attain depth of the argument.


The very essential “ Introduction” and “ conclusion” for the Essay will take up 150-200 words each, so the main body will have minimum of 1000-1200 words.


Each claim /argument has to be balanced with a counter claim / counter argument.


So, with 3 AOK, 3 WOK, and for each claim and counterclaim, you will need 6-7 paragraphs of 150-200 words each.


It is your essay and you can always have 8-9 paragraphs. Just try to avoid very large and very small paragraphs.


Body of the Essay


The AOK provide the breadth and WOK the depth to the Essay. Well the combination is: “A Great Body (of Knowledge!)”.


Dedicate one paragraph to each claim and its counter claim in the following paragraph.


Clearly articulate the claim in the opening statement accompanied with the explanation, examples, and evidence citing the sources in the paragraph.


Imagine yourself on both sides of the table, do a role-play of arguing parties (Watch the recent election debates for the taste and flavor). Place the claim /counterclaim statements before your peers, elders, teachers. See what they have to say. You will get perspective.


Pore over related and not so seemingly related topics, RLS (Real Life Situations), stories. Gather everything that is relevant and fits in the statement/explanation/evidence parts of the body paragraphs.


KQ( Knowledge Question): The Soul of the Essay


The KQ or the knowledge question earlier referred by IB as KI (Knowledge Issue) is the search tool to build your body of Essay as well as your Presentation. The KQs are open ended and incisive, asking for thoughtful and critical examination of the topic.


Split the chosen Essay title in short and simple to tackle 7-8 KQs. Voila, you have begun work on your TOK essay body just answering those 7-8 KQs.  Develop the body of the Essay through connecting and weaving the threads of understanding the answers to your KQs.


The right KQ is the key to your TOK presentation too. Just ask the right questions!


A typical KQ explores a particular topic /theme in depth or combines examining any particular AOK with a WOK tool. We will formulate sample KQs for the current Essay topics and the Presentations.


RLS (Real Life Situation): The essential for Essay


Examples and Case Studies…


RLS or simply put incidents from reality serve as examples for explaining and justifying our claims/counterclaims in both the Essay and the Presentation. They serve as anecdotal evidence for our arguments.


RLS also double up as the case studies for TOK Presentation topics. RLS need not be contentious in nature. Good choices of RLS involve different viewpoints and are significant to us as civilization. These will prompt and invoke interesting debate and discussion.


The RLS used in the essay are past or historic situations while the ones for the Presentation are normally picked from the current events of your IB Diploma years. The more ways we can connect the AOK and WOK to the RLS, the better it is!


Decoding The Essay Title


Unpack the Title KQ (Knowledge Question) into 8-9 KQs that initiate the analysis and inquiry.


These 8-9 KQs will function as the building blocks for developing your essay.


The KQs should be laid out with a sequential and progressive follow up of the arguments and counter arguments. Take care to maintain the thread of understanding, context and clarity.


IB neither prefers hypothetical examples nor the ‘very common’ examples used by students worldwide.


The real challenge is to have access to multiple sources, readings and use reliable, relevant and offbeat examples –including those derived from your own experience.


You can see sample KQs and resources required for your TOK Essay under each of the Essay Titles.