May 2021 TOK Essay Title Tips 1

In this post, I unpack some key terms from the May 2021 essay titles and suggest some ideas to consider when structuring your argument. Please note that the following points simply serve as a guide to help you understand the questions, they are not complete essay plans.

1. “Accepting knowledge claims always involves an element of trust.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.


Key words:


‘Element of trust’


This term implies the suspension of our questioning of knowledge claims to a certain degree.




This suggests that trust is an indispensable requirement for accepting knowledge claims.


Potential AoK’s:


Natural Sciences


Religious Knowledge Systems


Ideas to explore:


You could argue that trust is not always required in scientific knowledge which is based upon empirical evidence and as such is empirically verifiable.


Religious Knowledge on the other hand consists of various knowledge claims which may not be verifiable and as a consequence a degree of faith is required to accept such claims.


Whilst it is clear that trust plays a different role across the various AoK’s, focusing on the validity of the claim that it is “always” required will be essential to your argument.



2. Within areas of knowledge, how can we differentiate between change and progress? Answer with reference to two areas of knowledge.


Key terms:




One possible interpretation of ‘change’ is a fundamental shift in an AoK due to the previous knowledge base being considered redundant.




Along similar lines, progress may be viewed as getting closer to ‘the truth’ without any major changes to the knowledge base.


Potential AoK’s:




Natural sciences


Ideas to explore:


You can explore the notion of change within history by choosing an example of a fundamental shift in society such as the transition from feudalism to capitalism (epochal change.) Such an example can then be contrasted with the ‘progress’ made over time within one of these systems.


Similarly, within the Natural Sciences you may choose to explore a ‘paradigm shift’ such as the Big Bang Theory becoming accepted over State Theory as an example of ‘change’. On the other hand, you may look at developments within the Big Bang Theory itself to demonstrate the idea of ‘progress’.


3. “Labels are a necessity in the organization of knowledge, but they also constrain our understanding.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.


Key terms:


‘Necessity of labels’


The idea of giving specific names to ideas and concepts being unavoidable.


‘Constrain understanding’


The assigning of such labels may limit the depth of knowledge we have about something.


Potential AoK’s:


Human Sciences


Religious Knowledge


Ideas to explore:


Labels appear to be integral to how we understand the world around us but they may come with connotations which prejudice the attitudes and understanding of the knowledge seeker. Contemporary terms such as ‘boomer’ or ‘millennial’ are not only used to identify someone’s generation but they are often employed in an overtly negative or insulting manner.


Labels also appear to be essential in Religious Knowledge both in terms of identifying someone’s broad spiritual identity (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist etc.) or denomination (Methodist, Sunni etc.). One could argue however that in an AoK where personal knowledge plays such a large role, labels can fail to truly capture the nature of an individual’s spiritual identity. There are a wide range of differing beliefs and values across religious traditions and many people do not identify with any singular belief system but a variety.

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