Essays – FAQ’s

I have repeatedly received many of the same questions about ToK Essays, so I thought it best to start an FAQ’s page.


Which essay should I choose ?

Asking me (or your ToK teacher, or anyone else) which essay you should choose is like asking me what your favourite colour is. You should choose the essay that interests you the most, your personal preference is key.

The essays do not vary in difficulty, they only vary in interest to the writer (you). Generally, the less interesting you find the essay the more difficult you will find it to write.

What are the Knowledge Questions for this essay ?

You must establish the Knowledge Question(s) before you start to plan the essay. If you don’t know what the KQ’s are for your chosen essay then you are yet to fully understand the essay title. As soon as you have a full understanding of the title the KQ’s will be clear.

To get a better understanding of the title you need to make the title come alive for you. Some possible ways to make the title live:

  • Try writing it in a non-academic way, using informal language.
  • Try to explain the title to someone who has not studied ToK (maybe your parents, friends or dog).
  • Try to identify some real life examples which exemplify the essay title.
  • If you’re into debating try to formulate both sides of a debate around the title.
  • If you’re into creative writing try writing a poem, or a rap, about the title.
  • If you’re into photography try to make some images which illustrate the title (and then send them to me – I’d be genuinely interested in seeing them !).

What are the Knowledge Claims for this essay ?

Before you start writing the essay you should write a plan. before you start writing your plan you should work out your view on the essay title. Do you agree with the proposition, or disagree with it ? Or, do you have an alternative proposition ?

Once you have established whether you agree, disagree or have an alternative proposition then ask yourself why you have this position. The answers to your question ‘why ?’ are your Knowledge Claims.

Which Areas of Knowledge, or Ways of Knowing, should I use in this essay ?

The best WoK and AoK’s for you to use are those in which you are genuinely interested. They should be the AoK’s / WoK’s which provide you with good Knowledge Claims and help you to explore your Knowledge Question(s). AoKs / WoKs in which you have a genuine interest will better provide you with starting points to explore your Knowledge Question(s). Obviously, I can’t tell you which AoKs / WoKs meet these criteria for you, only you truly know your mind.

How do I define X in this essay ?

Obviously definitions are crucial to answering the question. The definitions should be made according to the Knowledge Question and the Knowledge Claims. The definitions can come from secondary sources, or you can devise (and justify) your own definition. Whichever definition you use it should help you to answer your Knowledge Question.

What are the Real Life Situations for this essay ?

I have tried to give examples of real life situations in my explanations of each of the essay titles. These are merely RLS which are known to me, and which fit with my Knowledge Claims, and they help me to answer my Knowledge Question. They are neither the best, nor the only RLS pertaining to each question (obviously).

You should use RLS which are pertinent to you, you can draw upon personal experiences, or use things that you have learned. Your RLS should help you to further understand your KQ & KC’s. If you have explored the question fully before you start planning your answer then the RLS should be very clear to you.

I hope that this helps those of you who are at the beginning of writing your essays.

If you have questions which are not answered by the above then please feel free to post them in the comments box (remember communication is healthy!).

Enjoy your writing !



5 thoughts on “Essays – FAQ’s

  1. Hi Mr Daniel!
    I really appreciate all the help you have given for the essay but I was just wondering whether each of our claims and counterclaims need to have a separate RLS to them.

    1. Hi, no your claims and counterclaims don’t need to have separate RLS, you could very well exemplify a claim and a counterclaim using the same RLS. For example: a claim might be that most people will be honest in most situations regardless of whether a dishonest act would be discovered. This was shown in Dan Ariely’s experiment when people were asked to pay for a blind person for a chocolate (cited in The Honest Truth about Dishonesty), however the counterclaim is that many people will take the opportunity to cheat a little bit if given an opportunity, which is also demonstrated by the same research when a large minority of people shortchanged payment for their chocolate.

  2. hii Daniel,
    i am planning to write my essay on topic 5, but as i am sitting to plan, i panic and go blank. i get confused on what is it meant by the term concept. and what kind of conclusions. please help me out i would more than grateful. please just help me get a clear thought.

    1. Developing your own understanding of the terms ‘concept’ and ‘conclusions’ is central to being able to write this essay. If you are unable to develop a nuanced definition of these terms then I would urge you to speak to your ToK teacher ASAP. If, after a discussion with your ToK teacher, you are still unable to understand the terms I would suggest that you pick an alternative title.

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