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How to Plan your TOK Essay

How to Plan your TOK Essay

Where do I start?

Start with the title itself: What is your understanding/interpretation of the question?

- Read the question carefully

- Break the title down: Identify and define the keywords. It may even help to rewrite the question in your own words.

- Brainstorm ideas when you have understood the question.

Then, define which areas of knowledge (AOKs) you would like to use to back your arguments. The titles themselves (for example the May 2019 titles) often ask you to navigate your essay using two AOKs.

How do I plan my essay?

Using the above starting point, we can then begin to form the outline of your essay.

1. Introduction

- You do not need to write your introduction first, because as you develop the rest of your essay you may find that you may want to tweak this! You might actually find that it’s easiest to start with the body of your essay.

- It should not involve any evidence or arguments as that is reserved for the paragraphs that follow.

- It should not be too lengthy. Rather, it should captivate the reader in just 3-4 sentences, and give them a clear idea of your overall understanding of the given title.

- It should at some point state the areas of knowledge you will be using for the sake of your arguments. For example:

- “The validity of this statement may differ between the arts and the natural sciences

- “...this is largely the case with mathematics but debatably less so in regards to ethics”.

2. Body: Claims and Counterclaims

- Each claim must be contrasted by a counterclaim.

- There is no hard-and-fast rule as to how to structure the body of your essay, but these are two examples of how you may approach it - whichever structure you choose, stick to it; be consistent! :

Example 1 AOK #1

- Claim 1

- Counterclaim 1

- Claim 2

- Counterclaim 2

- Etc

AOK #2

- Claim 1

- Counterclaim 1

- Claim 2

- Counterclaim 2

- Etc

Example 2 Claim 1

- AOK #1

- AOK #2

Counterclaim 1

- AOK #1

- AOK #2


- As demonstrated in Step 2, you should compare and contrast the two AOKs, and the layout of your essay should facilitate this.

- Remember to regularly refer to a way of knowledge (WOK) in your arguments, but not so much that it looks contrived! For example:

- “The knower’s interpretation is contingent on the objectivity of the language used.”

- “In this case, the individual’s sense of reason may be clouded by their emotion.

- “One may infer using sense perception that…”

- A useful guideline is: PEEL - this is also helpful for any essay you write, including IAs!




Link it back to the main title/question

3. Conclusion

- This should not present any new material but should summarise what you have already said in the body paragraphs.

- Your closing statement should ultimately tell the reader what YOUR overall answer to the question or title is. It is important to remember there is no right or wrong answer, so long as you have justified your judgement with the arguments that you made before.

4. Bibliography

- Use a referencing website or application such as Mendeley or Endnote to keep your citations organised

- Try to reference statements wherever possible, unless they are common knowledge or your own opinion!


- Use the words “I” or “me” sparingly - perhaps only once or twice in the essay. Otherwise, keep it fairly formal and impersonal by using phrases such as

“It can be argued that...”

“It is thought that...”

“One may believe that...”

“If we look at...”

- There is no right or wrong answer so long as you can support and justify it: the point of this essay is to stimulate a discussion and that should include your opinions!

- When choosing the AOKs to use, try to stick to the ones that you’re most interested in, as this will make it much easier to seek out examples.

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