The new TOK curriculum (starting with the May 2022 cohort) has a revised essay and a slightly different kind of prescribed titles. Looking at previous sets of essay and prescribed titles can be helpful in preparing for your essay but be aware of what has changed over time.
One element of the essay that remains the same is breaking down a prescribed title into knowledge questions. Each individual TOK essay should address the prescribed title from different angles – i.e. different knowledge questions. Once you have a set of knowledge questions for your essay you need to start trying to answer them – these answers will eventually become the topic sentences for your body paragraphs. As you develop your essay you may change / add / remove knowledge questions.
The knowledge questions below are quite broad and are just a starting point; they are not necessarily essay-ready. You need to come up with a set of unique knowledge questions and arguments for your own essay.
With the new type of prescribed titles there starting with the May 2022 prescribed titles there has been some discussion / debate over whether or not the general process of breaking down a prescribed title into knowledge questions is still the same or not. Since the prescribed titles are now themselves knowledge questions there have been some TOK teachers (and apparently even workshop leaders) who questioned whether or not it was still necessary to analyze the key terms, come up with knowledge questions derived from the prescribed title etc.
I asked the IB directly for clarification and they made it clear (and state directly) that the process is the same. The only differences they noted is that the prescribed title is now a knowledge question and that some titles specify AOKs.
A few minor modifications have been to the TOK essay process page but 98% of the process is unchanged.
1. Can there be knowledge that is independent of culture? Discuss with reference to mathematics and one other area of knowledge.
To what extent is the research process in _______ (AOK) independent of culture?
To what extent does the universal nature of mathematics mean that it is independent of culture?
How is the teaching of mathematics dependent on culture?
To what extent does the language of research result in a knowledge that is dependent on culture?
To what extent does studying ___________ in translation highlight the link between knowledge and culture?
2. To what extent do you agree with the claim that “there’s a world of difference between truth and facts” (Maya Angelou)? Answer with reference to two areas of knowledge.
How is truth distinguished from facts in ________ (AOK)?
To what extent does ________ show that there is not difference between truth and facts?
How does the scientific method help highlight the differences between truth and facts?
To what extent do differences in artistic interpretation demonstrate that there is a difference between truth and facts?
3. Is there solid justification for regarding knowledge in the natural sciences more highly than knowledge in another area of knowledge? Discuss with reference to the natural sciences and one other area of knowledge.
To what extent does the scientific method show that knowledge in the natural sciences is superior to knowledge in ________ (AOK)?
How does ________ show that knowledge in the natural sciences and ________ (AOK) are equal?
How does ________ show that knowledge in the natural sciences is inferior to knowledge in ________ (AOK)?
4. How do historians and human scientists give knowledge meaning through the telling of stories? Discuss with reference to history and the human sciences.
How do historians use academic research papers to give knowledge through the telling stories?
How do human scientists use lab reports to give knowledge through the telling stories?
To what extent is the use of ____________ by historians / human scientists a way of using stories to pass on knowledge?
5. How can we distinguish between good and bad interpretations? Discuss with reference to the arts and one other area of knowledge.
How is ________ important in distinguishing between good and bad interpretations in the arts?
How is ________ important in distinguishing between good and bad interpretations of Japanese literature?
What role does the peer review process in ________ (AOK) help distinguish between good and bad interpretations?
6. If we conclude that there is some knowledge we should not pursue on ethical grounds, how can we determine the boundaries of acceptable investigation within an area of knowledge? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.
How do professional codes of ethics in ________ (AOK) determine ethical guidelines?
How does government regulation of broadcasting determine ethical boundaries in the arts?
How should medical researchers determine what is a justified risk in experimental drug research?