This is a short guide to the May 2018 Essay Titles – just an introduction to each title. I will post deeper, more detailed analyses soon. Please ensure that you get the exact titles from your ToK Teacher, I am unable to print the exact titles here for copyright reasons.
Click hyperlinked titles to be taken to longer descriptions.
May 2018 Titles.
1. Academic disciplines can overlap, but interdisciplinary approaches lead to confusion. Discuss this claim.
What defines a ‘discipline’ ? How do the processes of knowledge production influence the categorisation of knowledge ? Are disciplines culturally defined or objectively fixed ? Is the organisation of knowledge a product of a top-down or bottom up process ? Is confusion a positive stage of knowledge production ? Is confusion the outcome of pre-existing assumptions (which may be incorrect) ? What is the role of hegemony ?
Real life examples: The development of Vaccines, the debate between conventional economics and behavioural economics.
2. Confidence comes from knowing little, as knowledge increases doubt increases. Discuss with ref to 2 AoKs.
I see this as an “ignorance is bliss” type essay. It’s not too difficult to set up both sides of this debate, and use RLS to illustrate the arguments. The choice of AoKs will be absolutely crucial. I think that I would contrast Religious Knowledge with Natural Sciences initially arguing for the proposal of the title. Then in counterargument I would use examples from RKS where increased knowledge has not increased doubt, and may have increased confidence. Further, finding examples from Nat Sciences where increased knowledge has increased doubt, and possibly reduced confidence.
Argue 1: RKS for the proposal
Counter 1: Natsci against the propsal
Argue 2: RKS against the proposal
Counter 2: Natsci for the proposal
Analysis & evaluation. Conclusion.
3. Without assuming uniformities there can be no knowledge. Discuss re. 2 AoKs
My initial take is around the word ‘uniformities’. The essay asks me to look at cases where uniformity either was, or was not needed, in the production of knowledge. This is a patterns vs exceptions essay.
for the importance of uniformities: Correlational research in Nat Sci / Hum Sci eg Cancer & Smoking research, or Crime & Poverty research.
against the importance of uniformities: Genre change in the Arts, the importance of exceptions in ethics.
4. Is suspension of disbelief essential in AoKs ? Ref. 2 AoKs
The first question here is to decide to discuss whether disbelief is essential to the production of knowledge or whether disbelief is essential to knowing (akin to the consumption of knowledge) ? I think that either approach would be acceptable.
It could be argued that ‘disbelief’ is highly AoK specific, and therefore changes depending upon AoK. Disbelief in the Arts could be a willingness to accept the abstracted or reified, whilst disbelief in the Natural Sciences could be the use of conceptual representation in the place of empirical certainty (for example molecular diagrams in Chemistry, or the description of nuclear fission in Physics). An interesting discussion about Indigenous Knowledge Systems could posit that suspending disbelief is central to the very definition of some IKS. By setting this up as a subjectivity vs objectivity debate it would be easier to develop the counterarguments (that suspension of disbelief is not required for knowledge).
5. The older the discipline the higher the quality of knowledge of that discipline. Discuss re. 2 disciplines.
The question doesn’t actually use the term older, it uses the term “duration of historical development“, but I can’t use that term in the question due to copyright reasons. The term historical development could infer that the discipline has developed (ie changed) over time, as such students could set up static disciplines against dynamic disciplines in counter argument. The quote refers to academic disciplines.
In this essay students may want to question the concept of “quality of knowledge” – does this refer to the function of knowledge, the reliability of knowledge or the validity of knowledge ? However, I think the focus of the essay should be on the debate of whether the duration of development is linked to quality of knowledge. This is Knowledge as an Evolutionary Moment vs Knowledge as a revelationary moment, trial & error vs sudden
cognizance (an ‘aha’ moment).
There are also interesting discussions to be had with this essay concerning the fossilisation and petrification of knowledge. Does knowledge become fixed because it “stands the test of time” or does it become fixed because of dogmatism and the taboo of critique ? Finally, I assume that because the question stipulates ‘disciplines’ rather than AoK then the examiners are interested in the processes of knowledge production and replacement rather than underlying assumptions, however I could be wrong !
6. Robust knowledge requires consensus & disagreement. Discuss re. 2 AoK
What do we mean by ‘Robust’ ? Is an agreement to disagree actually a form of consensus ? One way of looking at this essay is to go into the process of knowledge production. You would need to find cases of knowledge production which required both consensus & disagreement in order to reach a ‘robust’ conclusion. In counterargument you would need to find examples of knowledge production which were either mainly consensual (or came out of falsification), or examples of consensus and disagreement which led to weak (‘not robust’) knowledge. The essay partly hinges around the definition of the word robust.
This is just a first look at the essays. I will do deeper dives on individual essays if people need / request them.
You are required to write a 1200-1600 word essay on a title set by the IB. The essays for 2013 graduation are here:
May 2013 TOK titles
TOK essays May 2014
Mr Langston’s Essay 5 and 6 Keynote
You may not change the title in any way. You should aim for 1600 words, as shorter essays rarely meet all the criteria.
The full essay criteria are here: Assessment Criteria ESSAY
There is also a useful summary here: Essay criteria breakdown
You are going to use this essay_template to start thinking about your essay. You will need to turn this in next week.
This summary will help you structure your essay – TOK Essay Plan Template
Please download and use one or ALL of these planning sheets to help you get started.
Planning Sheet ToK Essay copy
One way of approaching your TOK essay
Essay Planning Form
Your cover page for final submission MUST look like this:
Here is a very good exemplar essay, together with the IB’s comments and marks.
Example 1 Marks
essay 10 marks
TOK essay: for the LAST time!
Have you read and understood all the different criteria for assessment? Really?
Does your essay number between 1200 and 1600 words? (it should be far nearer 1600 than 1200!)
Have you organized your essay into an introduction, 2-3 examples, and a conclusion?
Is your introduction concise, with a discussion of what the title means, and a brief plan of how your essay will tackle the question?
Are your knowledge issues organized CLEARLY (using linking sentences) into arguments and counterclaims?
Have you referred explicitly to the different AOKs and WOKs, and provided links between them?
Have you used personal examples, specifically from your experiences as an ‘IB learner’, and avoided hypothetical ones?
Have you used well-referenced examples that you have found out about from beyond the classroom (articles, documentaries, books, the ideas of thinkers, etc.)?
Have you considered other perspectives and points of view?
Have you identified implications of your arguments and some of the counterclaims?
Is your conclusion consistent with the rest of your essay?
Yes, to all of these? If so, you’ve done great job. If not, go back and do a great job!
Other essay resources
Six steps to writing a good TOK essay: A student guide by Colleen H. Parker at SPHS
Writing a TOK essay, by Richard van de Lagemaat
How to Write a Good TOK Essay, By Peg Robinson
This in link TheoryofKnowledgeStudent.com goes through a variety of examples of how to answer some of the questions from previous years.
Mr Hoyes’ Notes on The ToK Essay
How to Write a Good ToK Paper, from Collective Thinking
Writing a TOK Essay, from ‘Findings’ Part One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.
10 Tips on Writing a Good Theory of Knowledge Essay, from the American International School of Lusaka
Guide to writing the TOK Essay, from IBCram
Tips for writing a good ToK Essay by Ric Sims @ Nothing Nerdy