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Problems to avoid in your Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Essays

Updated on September 8, 2013

Writing a TOK essay for theMay 2014 deadline?

Here you'll find a some snippets of advice on how to improve your TOK essay technique.

Remember: following up on these suggestions is the first step to INDEPENDENT study and thinking which is a GOOD THING!

No dictionary defintions in essays!
No dictionary defintions in essays!

The problem of...

DEFINITIONS

Please, please, please AVOID USING DICTIONARY DEFINITIONS in your essays.

It's absolutely fine to consult a dictionary to clarify the meaning of a key word IN YOUR OWN MIND, but you don't have to quote it in the essay.

The meaning of the key word will become apparent to the examiner in the way you USE the word as part of a coherent argument that explores the knowledge issues.

If you really HAVE to clarify your terms or concepts, do so in YOUR OWN WORDS as far as possible - but don't just make up your own definitions!

So : ‘The OED defines ‘intuition’ as [blah blah blah]’ is a NO-NO

But : ‘Scientist’s intuit the existence of the Higgs-Boson as a way of explaining...’ is a BETTER approach.

For more handy hints like this on essay technique call on ibtoktutor.com

You can talk to someone directly through SKYPE or email them with your essay at info@ibtoktutor.com

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If you're looking for ideas for your TOK essay, search out these items...

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The problem of...

QUOTATION

Believe it or not, TOK essays are HAMPERED by lengthy quotations from primary and secondary sources.

Why? Because they indicate a lack of independent thought and because they give the impression that you’re ‘padding out’ your essay.

What’s an overlong quote?

Quantitatively, anything that takes up a full line of a paragraph or to be more precise, anything over TEN words of quoted text.

Qualitatively, any quote that is left ‘hanging’ or, in other words, isn’t used as a prompt for further reflection and integration into your own argument or counter argument (eg. sometimes students start or end with quotes – DON’T! – unless it’s a stimulus for further thinking).

For more handy hints like this on essay technique call on ibtoktutor.com

You can talk to someone directly through SKYPE or email them with your essay at info@ibtoktutor.com

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If you're looking for ideas on TOK Essay title 2, look here...

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The problem of...

NOTIONS OF TRUTH

Please do not mix up absolute truth and relative truth; subjective truth and objective truth; empirical truth and logical truth. And 'eternal truths' should only be discussed in the proper context - usually religion or mysticism.

Avoid over elaborate attempts to apply the 'threefold test of truth' (ie. coherence, pragmatic and correspondence) which usually only results in digression.

Remember:

'a priori' or logical truths are as objective as we can get ('All unmarried men are bachelors') - mathematical truths follow this form.

'a posteriori' or empirical truths are those that rely on observation and evidence and are fairly objective but never 100% true ('Water boils at 100 degrees C') - scientific truths follow this form.

Anything else is pretty much a 'subjective truth' or something we believe without support of evidence or logic - a matter of faith, so to speak.

For more handy hints like this on essay technique call on ibtoktutor.com

You can talk to someone directly through SKYPE or email them with your essay at info@ibtoktutor.com

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If your'e looking for material on TOK essay 1, take a look here...

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