How to make an effective TOK Knowledge Question

TOK is not about any particular academic subject, but the nature of knowledge itself. Whilst TOK consists of eight areas of knowledge, we are not so concerned about the content of these individual areas but rather how knowledge is created, used, and judged within them. As such, when you are formulating your knowledge question you need to make sure that it is focused on knowledge itself rather than any subject specific details.

Let us consider two examples:

‘What has been the most important scientific discovery of the past 10 years?’

This is NOT a knowledge question but rather a subject based one.

‘To what extent does the imagination play a role in making scientific discoveries?’

This IS a knowledge question because it involves assessing the degree to which a particular WoK (in this case imagination) is used to develop knowledge within the sciences.

Knowledge questions should be open-ended or debatable. There are rarely, if ever, absolute, definitive answers in TOK. Moreover, in both your essay and presentation you will be looking at your knowledge question from contrasting perspectives, so you need to be able to answer it in a variety of ways rather than with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Compare, for example, the following knowledge questions:

‘Is intuition a reliable way of justifying ethical judgements?’

‘To what extent can intuition be used to justify ethical judgements?’

The second would be the better way to phrase this knowledge question as it is explicitly asking about the degree to which this WoK can be used for this purpose.

To ensure that your knowledge question is open-ended, you may begin it with one of the following phrases:

To what extent (can religious knowledge be justified in a rational manner?)

Under what circumstances (is an ethical judgement justified?)

To what degree (is intuition used in the formation of mathematical knowledge?)

How (reliable is our sense perception in understanding the world around us?)

Why (are knowledge claims made by ‘experts’ often deemed to be more credible than those of the general public?)

How can we know (that one scientific theory is superior to another?)

What role does (language play in our individual perception of the world?)

I hope you find the above tips useful in formulating your knowledge question. If you are still having difficulties with this, feel free to get in touch with me to arrange a Skype tutoring session.

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