How to Write a Good Essay!


Although there are some similarities to History and English essays, TOK essays are unlike any other essay that you will write and there are some specific things that the examiners are looking for and that you are going to have to do if you want to do well.


Some really good essays woníŽt score high marks because they doníŽt do exactly what it says in the mark scheme. So before you even put pen to paper you should read the mark scheme so that you know exactly what it is that the examiners are looking for, only then will you be able to give them what they want.


The mark scheme can be found on this page but, broadly speaking, to get full marks in the essay you will need to consider the following four key areas.


In General:

íP         think independently: doníŽt just base your answer on what your TOK teacher said, the ideas of famous philosophers or what is written in Wikipedia;

íP         identify and remain focused on the TOK issues (the knowledge questions) raised by a given essay title;

íP         offer personal definitions of key terms at the point in the essay at which they become relevant;

íP         include in-text citations and a bibliography.


Write a Good Argument:

íP         construct a well structured, detailed, coherent, logical and persuasive argument by having a series of 4-6 points that:

o        explain clearly the reasons for your position,

o        support these reasons for with convincing evidence,

o        considers the arguments against you (the counter claims),

o        supports these counterclaims with evidence,

o        evaluates how serious / effective these counterclaims are and responds to them appropriately,

o        comes to a balanced conclusion;

íP         support your argument with effective examples that come from a variety of sources, e.g. scientific íąfactíŽ, examples from different cultures or credible personal (often academic) experiences;

íP         explore the implications of your answer for different areas of life, for example if you are arguing that abortion is wrong on the basis that it is wrong to take life, does that affect your position on the death sentence;

íP         explore any assumptions that you have made and on which your answer is based, are these assumptions valid or are they questionable? If they are questionable then what are the consequences for your position if one of your assumptions turns out to be wrong?


Consider Different Perspectives:

íP         consider how your position might differ if you were to answer the question from the íąperspectiveíŽ of the different AOKs, for example, from the perspective of the sciences or the arts. You might also explore different cultural, political, philosophical, historical and intellectual perspectives, different interpretations of an event, or the different schools of thought within an AOK;


Compare the AOKs and WOKs:

íP         make links between AOKs and WOKs by showing how the answer to the question varies across different areas or ways of knowing. For instance your essay question might be about the idea of beauty and you could argue that the concept of beauty in Maths (if it exists at all) might be quite different to the idea of beauty that we usually find in the Arts (if that exists at all). Alternatively, you may have an essay about how different WOKs can provide us with certainty and you could consider how both emotions and reason might be said to provide us with a kind of certainty, but that the certainty that can be provided by logical reasoning may be quite different to the kind of subjective certainty that can be provided by emotion.