Written By Rashi S.
I was in the graduating class of June 2021. I earned an A for my TOK essay and a B for my EE, enabling me to secure the maximum 3 points from the core. Structuring and formatting your TOK essay well goes a long way; it helps you untangle confusing concepts and makes it simpler for your teacher and the examiner to follow your essay, consequently increasing your chance to earn a higher grade. I refer to my TOK essay to help you visualize and exemplify the points I make in this blog post. Ensure that your TOK draft is the best version of it possible; your final essay can only be better if you make the recommended changes given to you in the draft.
Tips for before you start writing your TOK essay
- Engage in discussions with your peer(s) about the prescribed title (PT) to brainstorm ideas and consider its implications.
- Ask your TOK teacher questions for clarity and substantive questions.
- Ensure that you are on the same page as your teacher regarding how to write the essay as he or she is the one marking it.
- Create an extensive outline for the essay (mine was around 3 pages long) before you start writing it and if possible, ask your teacher for his or her feedback on it.
- It is usually best to take a moderate position on the PT (e.g. ‘to a large/small/considerable/significant extent’ instead of arguing that something completely ‘is.’
- Mention the PT that you are writing in the introduction of your essay. This is a tip given to my class by our TOK teacher. She stated that examiners only receive the TOK essay to mark, without the title. Thus, it is useful to make it simpler for him or her by mentioning the PT that you are focussing on instead of having them figure it out (even though the title that you are focussing on may be apparent
- Define key terms. There are several keywords in the PT and thus it is useful to define them in your introduction as they form the premises of your arguments. For the PT I chose, for instance, these are ‘labels,’ ‘organization of knowledge,’ and ‘constrain our understanding.’
- Provide a roadmap of your essay. This sets the reader’s expectations regarding the content of the essay and helps them better follow the flow of your argument.
- Mention the Area of Knowledge (AoK) you use in the essay and perhaps even the real-life examples (RLEs) and/or the Ways of Knowing (WoK). Consider providing a brief rationale for why you are using those particular AoKs.
- I would like to add this advice that was provided by my teacher here; nevertheless, I understand that it may be debatable. Do not include your thesis statement in the introduction; instead, write it in the conclusion. This is what I did in my essay. The reasoning behind this is that it demonstrates to the examiner that you do not have a preconceived argument that you are attempting to forward and are instead formulating one after having examined all the evidence. However, writing your thesis in the introduction can be useful as it is a part of providing the examiner with a roadmap for your essay.
- I recommend asking your teacher what he or she recommends doing for the best result.
Body Paragraph #1: Claim 1 of AoK 1
- Begin with an argumentative and clear topic sentence, explaining why the RLE from AoK 1 supports the PT.
- Discuss the RLE, linking it to the PT.
- Discuss the relevant WoK.
- End the paragraph with an interim judgement, summarizing the link between your RLE and the PT.
Body Paragraph #2: Counter Claim 1 of AoK 1
- Start with a counterclaim to the example you gave above, explaining why it might be flawed or discussing its weakness(es).
- Introduce the RLE.
- Discuss the relevant WoK, perhaps a different WoK compared to the ones used in Paragraph 1.
- End the paragraph with an interim judgement, summarizing the link between your RLE and the PT. Moreover, add a broader link between your examples and the AoK.
Body Paragraph #3: Claim 2 of AoK 2
- Same steps as for Body Paragraph 1
Body Paragraph #4: Counter Claim 2 of AoK 2
- Repeat steps as for Body Paragraph 2
- Begin the concluding paragraph with your thesis statement if you left it for the end. If you stated your thesis in the introduction, it is still valuable to restate it in the conclusion; however, instead of simply repeating it, reword it.
- Wrap up by briefly referring to the RLEs you used in the essay and the broader implications it holds for the AoK.
General Essay-Writing Tips
- Keep sentences concise.
- Read your essay out loud and proofread it yourself.
- Paragraphs must be of an appropriate length and not too long.
- Ask a peer to proofread your work.
- Be open-minded to minor changes until the end (it can make a significant difference)
- Use present tense in your essay. E.g. “I will argue” should be replaced with “I argue.”
- Avoid utilizing redundant terms such as “in this essay” and “etc.” that do not carry meaning (this also saves up words!).
- Use ‘Grammarly’ (free version sufficient) to check for spelling, grammar, and language usage.
- Use double spacing, 12-point font size, ‘Arial’ or ‘Times New Roman’ font style.