How to structure a TOK Essay

Structure suggestion

A solid structure is a crucial component of a high-graded TOK essay. Having a defined and noted structure before writing the essay serves as a helpful checklist of things you must have and mention in the essay, but also helps keep to the wordcount and guides writing in the proper direction. Below is a trialed and tested structure that helped us write dozens of successful TOK essays.

The essay should be comprised of 6 paragraphs in total:

  • The introduction
  • 2 paragraphs for the first AoK you have chosen (one is the argument, the other is a counter argument)
  • 2 paragraphs for the second AoK you have chosen (one is the argument, the other is a counter argument)
  • Conclusion

Before writing the essay, you should have the 2 AoKs, WoKs, KQs, Real-life situations and arguments planned and thought out, because it makes it a lot easier to keep your writing organized and coherent.

PARAGRAPH 1 – The Introduction (200 words)

The hook. It’s a good idea to start every essay you write with a ‘hook’. The hook is a sentence which is used to capture the attention of the reader and is usually an interesting sentence or question pertaining to the topic. This isn’t a necessary part, but certainly helps create a better reading experience.

Defining the key terms and explaining the title. Here, you should define TOK related terms (such as confidence, degree of knowledge, disagreement) and explain what the title means in simple and understandable terms.

Your hypothesis. Without going into much detail, you should state your initial opinion on how the title applies to the AoK’s you have chosen.

The plan of action. You should reserve the end of your introduction to provide a rough plan of research in which you should outline how your essay is going to look like, which AoKs you are going to explore and how.

Area of Knowledge 1

PARAGRAPH 2 – Argument Supporting the Title (300 words)

Topic sentence. While writing the TOK essay, you should stick with the basic rules of writing any academic essay, one of which is the topic sentence (doesn’t have to be one sentence in this case). In this part, you should make a claim that supports the main title of your essay regarding the first AoK.

Elaboration. You should then elaborate and explain your claim, backing it up with reasonable arguments and logic.

Real life situation. Only after the explanation, should you bring the real-life situation backing that explanation, and your initial claim up. Don’t go too wide with this part and try to keep everything you write related to answering your title.

Mini conclusion. At the end of this paragraph, you should briefly conclude all of the points you made and state how all of these points helped prove your initial claim. Always link your real-life situation to the claim that you are making and to the title.

PARAGRAPH 3 – Counterargument to the Title (300 words)

Topic sentence. Here, you should provide a counterargument or a counterclaim to the paragraph above. This could be arguing the complete opposite of the claim in the previous paragraph, but could be just offering an alternative outlook on the title. Providing different outlooks on questions and giving every argument an unbiased and fair look is essential for your TOK essay.

Elaboration. You should then elaborate and explain your claim, backing it up with reasonable arguments and logic.

Real life situation. Only after the explanation, should you bring the real-life situation backing that explanation, and your initial claim up. Don’t go too wide with this part and try to keep everything you write related to answering your title.

Mini conclusion. At the end of this paragraph, you should briefly conclude all of the points you made and state how all of these points helped prove your initial claim. Always link your real-life situation to the claim that you are making and to the title.

Area of Knowledge 2

WRITE 2 PARAGRAPHS WITH THE SAME STRUCTURE AS FOR AOK 1.

PARAGRAPH 4 – Argument Supporting the Title (300 words)

Paragraph 4 has the same structure, as paragraph 2. Head over there and follow the same structure. Emphasize how the AoK supports your response to the question.

PARAGRAPH 5 – Counterargument to the Title (300 words)

Paragraph 5 has the same structure, as paragraph 3. Head over there and follow the same structure. Point out how the counter-argument may offer an alternative view to the question; offer a rebuttal to the counter-argument at the end of the paragraph.

PARAGRAPH 6 – Conclusion (200 words)

Your conclusion. Here, you should conclude what the research you conducted while writing the essay taught you. In which cases is the prescribed title true and where does it fall short. Mention your WoK’s and how they contributed to your conclusion. Answer your most important KQ.

Why it matters. You should explain why your conclusion and the things you learned matter. Why they matter to your and why they should matter to other people. How do these findings help you in your knowledge production?

Shortcomings. As with all IB essays, you should reserve the end of your conclusion to explain the shortcomings of your essay. This means describing the limitations of your research, where you might have made mistakes, where does a lack of research material exist, how would you do things differently etc.

For the end, the main tip and the absolutely most important thing in your TOK essay is that you need to make sure that everything you write is connected to the prescribed title, and that everything you write helps back your claims regarding that title up. 1600 words does not leave you a lot of room for writing things that aren’t necessary, so you should utilize the wordcount efficiently.