Thoughts on the May 2017 TOK prescribed essay titles
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Here are our initial thoughts on the May 2017 TOK prescribed essay titles, offering a very brief consideration of the key words and concepts that need pinning down in your introduction. There are many ways of interpreting a question; the important thing is that you identify and explore your own knowledge questions, and support your discussion with real life situations from your own experiences as a learner, and ones that you have read about.
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The May 2017 Essay Guide is now available. Visit our TOK Resources Shop for more details. This provides detailed thoughts on the newest advice provided by the IB about how to identify KQs in a TOK essay, specifically, how far away from the prescribed title students should veer. This advice can be found in both the full guide ($42.99), and the update pack ($12.99).
What is Prescribed Title 1 asking you to do?
Key words to focus on in this title include the way knowledge is ‘produced’, what might represent a ‘difficulty’, and what we mean when we say we ‘truly value’ something. No instructions are provided in terms of numbers of areas of knowledge or ways of knowing to be explored.
What is Prescribed Title 2 asking you to do?
This title is really limited to two concepts, those of ‘facts’ and ‘theories’. To what extent are the latter made up solely of the former, and how much do we need the latter to understand the latter? This could be a little like the proverbial chicken and egg…
What is Prescribed Title 3 asking you to do?
PT 3 involves applying the perspective of time to the knowledge in two different areas of knowledge. Words to pin down involve what might represent an ‘event’, and the way in which we ‘judge’ things by applying ‘standards’. You’ll need to think about relativism for this essay. No limit is placed on the number of areas of knowledge to be featured.
What is Prescribed Title 4 asking you to do?
Again, this is about ‘production’ of knowledge. Those choosing this essay will really need to get to grips with what is meant by both ‘traditions’ and ‘correctives’, using these two concepts to link the areas of knowledge to the ways of knowing. There is no specification for how many areas of knowledge you look at.
What is Prescribed Title 5 asking you to do?
This is another PT with reference to ‘facts’; it also hints at relativism in the way we interpret those facts. Those answering this question will also need to think about what constitutes an ‘expert’, and whether experts in different areas of knowledge have a similar relationship with knowledge and ideas.
What is Prescribed Title 6 asking you to do?
This PT draws on the ideas of Michael Shermer, and whilst the instructions (as always) recommend that you do not spend too much time researching a context for his point of view, his ideas will be useful. The central concept of the essay is ‘patterns’ and ‘pattern-seeking’ – do we see patterns when they are not there? Or miss patterns when they are? And to what extent does this depend on the AOK you are dealing with?