How to structure a TOK essay

How to structure a TOK essay

Writing a TOK essay can be extremely hard for someone at first, especially when claiming what you know. Learning how to structure a TOK essay answers some of your questions about linking knowledge to other subjects.

Taking your time to structure your essay makes it look better. You express your ideas more clearly. Your reader will follow your argument and navigate through your paper, thus understanding your viewpoint.

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A TOK essay connects different strands of knowledge and makes you think critically about how you learn and the value of what you know. It is a comparative essay by nature that discusses a specific problem through the areas of knowledge.

The fundamental task of a TOK essay is to examine the different areas of knowledge, which are:

Areas of knowledge (AOK)

They are specific branches of knowledge. Each of the units has distinct nature and different methods of gaining knowledge. TOK distinguishes between eight areas of knowledge: mathematics, natural science, human science, arts, history, ethics, religious knowledge system, and indigenous knowledge system.

You investigate AOK under two questions

What counts as evidence for theory X?

What does the theory mean in the real world?

Ways of Knowing (WOK)

In TOK, there are eight ways by which you can know something: language, sense perception, faith, reason, intuition, emotion, memory, and imagination.

You can investigate WOK via the following two questions:

How do we know what we know?

How do we judge what the best model of theory Y is?

How to structure a TOK essay

Before getting into structuring, you should look at the following tips that will help you know how to arrange and relate each part of the TOK essay.

Understand the essay title

Writing a TOK essay is very demanding, and it is better if you understand the prescribed title. It would be best to comprehend the command terms and the theory of knowledge which the title is inquiring about. Each title you need to explore will lead you on how to structure a TOK essay.

Your title will tell you if you are supposed to tackle two disciplines or two areas of knowledge. When you clearly understand the title, you will have a clearer picture of what to write in each part. It also helps you know how to proceed with answering the question sufficiently.

Know the assessment criteria

TOK essay rubric requires you to understand the knowledge questions, TOK essay criteria, and quality of analysis of knowledge questions.

The four areas of knowledge

Understanding of knowledge issues

Your essay should focus on knowledge issues and relevance between a minimum of two knowledge issues. You have to choose two areas of knowledge to explore.

Analyzing the knowledge issues

You must note down the arguments and counter-arguments that justify your key points. Explore the assumptions and implications of your topic.

Organization of ideas

Your essay should be well structured. You must be accurate in explaining the key points and note areas that will require you to cite references.

Knower’s perspective

The essay should show your ability to think independently and creatively. It will help if you have self-awareness, at least two perspectives, and several supporting examples of each section.

Identify the knowledge issue in the title

The knowledge issue can be a question or problem that refers to your understanding of the world or others in connection with the search for knowledge. You will be trying to answer the question, ‘how do you know?’

TOK essays are comparative. When selecting your AOK and WOK, you must draw comparisons and contrasts.

Be familiar with the terminologies

Read through the instructions carefully as you take note of the keywords. If a question requires evaluating a claim, you must consider what the keyword ‘evaluate’ means. The word requires you to contest for or against the title.

Read other TOK essay samples

Using various TOK essay examples will give you an idea of how to structure a TOK essay. A variety of examples are valuable sources that develop your insights. They give you different opinions about an essay structure.

Create a TOK essay outline

It would help if you wrote down all the ideas in an outline. An outline is like a roadmap that allows you to structure your essay clearly and concisely. The essay outline will be dependent on the type of essay title that you choose.

You will have many formats to choose from on how to structure a TOK essay. It would be best if you chose a design that will make your essay simple to go through.

Craft a thesis statement

The essay title and your notes on what you have written on the outline will help you create your thesis statement. It would be best to structure it well because it is a fundamental claim that will link everything in your essay.

TOK essay structure

How you structure an essay will give you a strong foundation for your work. A TOK essay has a general essay structure that includes three main parts, the introduction, body, and conclusion. When you put everything in place, the essay will be very insightful.


The section is the initial contact with your reader, which introduces them to the topic at hand. You should state what you will talk about and your opinion on it. It should try to capture your reader’s attention. A good introduction allows your reader to deduce the knowledge question you are answering.

It is essential to write exciting things about the topic. How you expound your introduction should show that you understand the title. In your own words, define the key terms that the reader may encounter in your essay. Avoid the dictionary definitions for your reader to understand the words easier.

You should include your thesis statement, which is the point that your claims will be supporting. It should be evident and not wordy, for it is the central claim for your essay. A thesis statement is like a teaser that sums up the main point of your entire article.

Give a roadmap, a sentence to give your reader a preview of the essay. You should state what you will be discussing in the other paragraphs. It will help your readers understand the direction of your writing.

Significant parts of the introduction

A TOK essay has two major parts:

  1. Thesis statement

It is the scope and a general idea of your essay that you wish to tackle. If it’s hard to develop a good thesis, you can seek help from essay writing services.

  1. Knowledge issue

It is the central question that you will be dealing with in the essay. You should state why it is important and worth exploring.


The body paragraphs consist of the following building blocks:

Topic sentence/ claim

You state the focus of analysis in this part. It introduces the sub-theme of the paragraph. A topic sentence will usually show reasons for something or a relationship between two variables.

A claim or topic sentence can be general and may not need a particular area of knowledge. Any claim helps you shape your essay and investigate the question further.

Features of a good topic sentence

  • It puts forward an idea
  • It’s not too general or vague
  • It is not too narrow so as not to discuss
  • It is short and clear
  • Uses words from the title
  • Outlines an argument about a prescribed title


After introducing your topic sentence, you elaborate the idea as you point out assumptions that led to that idea.


You need to support your essay with appropriate evidence that illustrates your claim. It is best not to over-describe the examples, but they should be precise, specific, and natural. It would help if you gave a real-life example to clarify and support the claim from your own experience.


In this part, you show that you can critically examine and evaluate your claims and examples. It addresses the underlying assumptions, limitations, omissions, and objectivity. You use analytical language and TOK concepts.


Here you argue against the claim that you have already discussed. You can break down your ideas into a proposing argument, opposing argument, and suggesting an alternative. After you introduce the counter-claim, you need to show how it affected your original idea.

You either refute a counter-claim or make a concession admitting that there are some truths in it. A counter-claim helps you show the other side of a claim, thus giving your essay a holistic nature.


It would be best if you gave a general overview of the whole paragraph. It is summing up the section where you link up your ideas to the knowledge question. Analyzing your examples about your claims and counter-claims will help. A thesis statement needs to connect with the prescribed title.

The body paragraphs can be in two approaches:

All in one paragraph

In one paragraph, you may prefer to write the claim, evidence, analysis, counter-claim, proof of a counter-claim, and conclusion. You will present each area of knowledge in claim and counter-claim under one paragraph that directly compares and contrasts.

Two separate paragraphs

The claim and counter-claim can be in different paragraphs.


In your conclusion, you explain what significant and general insights come out of the essay. As you write the closing, you need to:

  • Restate your thesis statement
  • Use your mini-conclusions to write your conclusion
  • Tell your readers the significance and implication of your TOK essay. State how and when it matters that your readers understand this essay.
  • Offer perspectives and extensions. You can recognize a different approach to the question, resulting in additional insights than those you included in the essay. Mention also one or two unresolved questions that the article has revealed.

Tok essay outline template

The following is an essay template that breaks down the content that you write down in each paragraph. The body will explore three AOK/WOK concerning the essay prompt.


Paragraph 1

In the introduction, you do the following:

  • Introduce your TOK essay
  • Explain the keywords
  • Identify the knowledge issues that you will tackle (they can be three)
  • Introduce your thesis statement
  • Write a brief overview of the main points that you will discuss
  • Give a transition to the body of the essay


Paragraph 1

In this paragraph, you explain the knowledge issue. You should:

  • Give a topic sentence
  • Provide the main reasoning why your thesis is valid using the first AOK or WOK
  • Use the TOK terminologies
  • Provide real-life examples and evidence to back up your claims
  • Write a conclusion that emphasizes the relevance of the knowledge issue
  • Write a transition to the next paragraph

Paragraph 2

  • Provide a counter-claim of the knowledge issue in paragraph 1
  • Give a reason to support your counter-claim (a validity against the thesis statement)
  • Provide examples to support your claims
  • Refute the counter-claim and drill holes into the evidence that you have provided
  • Give credence to your thesis
  • Conclude your paragraph

Paragraph 3

Here you explore the second knowledge issue.

  • Repeat paragraph 1 instruction but use a different knowledge issue.

Paragraph 4

  • Repeat the counter-claim process in paragraph 2

Paragraph 5

You will explore the third knowledge issue that you noted down.

  • Repeat paragraph 1 instructions but use a different knowledge issue

Paragraph 6

  • Repeat the counter-claim process


Paragraph 1

  • Explain the importance of your thesis and the knowledge issues you have discussed in the essay
  • Provide an alternative perspective on your thesis (how someone else in a different culture will view your thesis)
  • Review your thesis
  • Review the main points
  • Sum up the argument.

Closing remarks

The foundation priority of this writing has been to discuss how to structure a TOK essay.  A compelling and exciting introduction attracts your reader to read the body and conclusion content.

When writing a TOK essay, you connect and compare different strands of knowledge. You discuss any problem through different areas of knowledge.

As you analyze the knowledge question, you give a relevant and personal example as your evidence. It demonstrates the complexity and understanding of the unpredictable knowledge issues that you discuss.

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