The first step when analyzing a prescribed title is to carefully look at the important words and phrases.
With this set of prescribed titles all of the titles except #2 explicitly state that that the essay must focus on only two AOKs. With #2 students have the freedom to discuss three AOKs (or more) but should be careful in taking too broad of an approach – two or three AOKs for #2 may be best.
1. Why is it so difficult to identify a clear line between accepted and disputed knowledge within a discipline? Answer with reference to two disciplines, each taken from a different area of knowledge.
“Why is it so difficult…” – Your claims must focus on why is it so difficult. Avoid focusing on claims about why it is easy to “identify a clear line…” Make sure to look at different ways and reasons for why it is “so difficult” in your AOKs and real-life examples.
““…identify a clear line…” – Look carefully at different AOKs and real-life examples to see how lines about “accepted and disputed knowledge” are drawn. Consider the reasons as to where and why different lines are drawn and what connection they have to knowledge.
“accepted and disputed knowledge” – Whether a particular piece of knowledge is “accepted” or “disputed” is often up for debate. One person (or group) may consider something accepted knowledge while from another perspective it may be disputed. Carefully consider the reasons for the differences in the “clear line” and the connection to knowledge. There are also a number of different reasons / motivations for a person or group to label something as “accepted knowledge” or “disputed knowledge.”
“two disciplines” – One definition of a discipline is “a particular area of study, especially a subject studied at a college or university.” https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/discipline. A discipline is a narrower category than an AOK. In the natural sciences, for example, there are broad disciplines such as chemistry, biology, and physics but there are narrower divisions such as pharmacology and cosmology. Choose your two disciplines carefully and make sure you have solid real-life examples in both of them.
2. “Knowledge gained through direct experience is powerful but problematic.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?
“knowledge gained through direct experience” – The phrase “direct experience” could be interpreted in lot of different ways. For example, is individual work more “direct” than group work? How does the use of technology make things more or less “direct”? Make sure you can clearly identify the specific “direct experience” (or “indirect experience”) that exists in the AOKs and real-life examples in your essay. Overall your essay could discuss a wide-variety experiences that have direct links to knowledge.
“powerful” – There are different ways in which “direct experience” can be powerful. In some situations it is possible that direct experience produces more important or trustworthy knowledge but in other indirect experience may be more effective. One type of experience can also have both positive and negative effects; some kind of direct experience may have a more powerful effect on an audience but at the same time it may have problems with bias.
“problematic” – There are numerous ways in which direct experience (and indirect experience) can produce knowledge that is problematic. Take a deep look into different AOKs and real-life examples and see the positives and negatives of both direct and indirect experience – you could also argue in part of your essay that “knowledge gained though indirect experience is powerful but problematic.”
3. “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact” (Arthur Conan Doyle). Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
“an obvious fact” – First of all, there is no clear definition or agreement as to what an “obvious fact” is. Something that may seem obvious to a particular person or group under one set of circumstances may not seem obvious to others. Look for areas in AOKs and real-life situations where a seemingly obvious fact can lead to an in-depth discussion of knowledge.
“deceptive” – An obvious fact can be deceptive in a number of ways. For example, a fact that is widely accepted is less likely to be scrutinized. Also, something may seem obvious to a particular group of people because of links to culture, identity, nationality, occupation, etc. The group’s belief in this obvious fact may be problematic if people assume it is true and don’t investigate their beliefs. Sometimes though, a fact may appear to be obvious because there is a significant amount of research and evidence to back it up. Not all obvious facts are necessarily deceptive in significant ways.
4. “Areas of knowledge always rely on a systematic process of trial and error to aid the production of knowledge.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
“always” – It is highly unlikely that you are going to find an AOK or a real-life example that meets the high standard of “always.” You may find situations that almost always “rely on a systematic process of trial and error” and look carefully at the instances where there are exceptions.
“systematic process of trial and error” – Different AOKs (and different real-life examples) will have very different systematic processes. You need to look at specific processes and their connection to knowledge.“
to aid in the production of knowledge” – Make sure you look very carefully at how knowledge is produced in real-life examples and see what effect “a systematic process of trial and error” has on the production of knowledge. You can find examples where the “systematic process” has a huge positive impact, or little impact, or possibly even a negative impact. Also, “production of knowledge” is a phrase that shows up fairly frequently in prescribed titles. Take careful note of how “the production of knowledge” differs from other similar phrases such as “the acquisition of knowledge” and “the sharing of knowledge.” There are slight differences between them.
Note: The “lazy” approach to this prescribed title would be a superficial discussion of how science uses a systematic process (i.e. the scientific method) but the arts doesn’t. Lazy doesn’t score well.
5. “If all knowledge is provisional, when can we have confidence in what we claim to know?” Answer with reference to two areas of knowledge.
“all knowledge is provisional” – In many areas it does seem clear that knowledge changes over time. Find examples of how knowledge has changed over time in AOKs and real life examples. Look carefully at the reasons for the changes, the methodology, the effects, etc. Also consider though, that there are areas such as in religious knowledge systems, where not all knowledge is viewed as provisional. Having said that, there are examples within a religious set of beliefs where specific beliefs and interpretations of religious doctrine have changed over time.
“confidence” – There are many different reasons to have confidence in a particular piece of knowledge. There are also different ways in which that confidence is generated. Consider the kinds of people / groups have confidence in the knowledge in a particular AOK or real-life example and also look at the underlying reasons for that confidence. Make sure to link “confidence” directly to “provisional.”
“claim to know” – The “claim” part of this phrase clearly adds a bit of doubt / ambiguity in someone’s beliefs. Compare these two sentences:
A: They know something.
B: They claim to know something
The knowledge in sentence B seems much more open to doubt than in sentence A.
6. “We are rarely completely certain, but we are frequently certain enough.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.
“rarely completely certain” – It is easy to find areas in AOKs and real-life examples where things are fairly certain but are not completely certain. Of course, different people and different groups of people do disagree about how certain something is. Look carefully at how the certainty is established / determined in particular AOKs and real-life examples and how important certainty is. There are some situations where a high degree of certainty is extremely important but there are others where it is not.
“frequently certain enough” – The line between “certain enough” and not certain enough will vary hugely even within an AOK. For example, the outcomes of medical procedure may be “certain enough” during preliminary testing but more certainty would be needed later on in the process. Even different doctors in different hospitals or countries could have very different opinions on whether or not a procedure was “certain enough.” Carefully look at different real-life examples where there are issues related to certainty of knowledge and see who is judging the certainty and what are the consequence of the judgements.