12 TOK Key Concepts Explained: What You Should Know

September 29, 2023

tok key concepts

TOK key concepts are significant to knowledge. It’s important to learn them because they enable you to know about the production and use of knowledge within core and optional themes in the Theory of Knowledge.

These TOK concepts are certainty, culture, evidence, explanation, interpretation, justification, objectivity, perspective, power, responsibility, truth, and values.

In this lesson, we will explain each of these concepts as used in the Theory of Knowledge to give you more insight into the topic.

You will also learn how to implement these concepts in physical context to identify the moments linked to them.

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The 12 TOK Key Concepts Explained

1. Evidence

Everything humans do is based on some kind of evidence springing from experiments or observations.

Take Brownian monition, for example.

Named after Robert Brown, the phenomenon shows a movement of particles suspended in liquid or gas from the collision of fast moving atoms or molecule. This phenomenon is a concrete evidence of the nature of matter.

Even in linear spectra, atomic electrons can be found in energy levels. That is evidence, especially since it’s hard to explain it in a different way.

2. Certainty 

In this TOK concept, we look at certainty by focusing on its exact opposite.

We’re concerned about uncertainty because it’s difficult to be certain about the results, and if results are unclear, it’s impossible to use them as evidence.

Certainty is more or less about tolerance.

3. Truth

In this concept, we ask how truthful and reliable a law is. Does a universally accepted concept translates to being truth?

While looking at this concept, we ask ourselves whether or not things can be true within certain limits.

For example, it’s highly unlikely that everyone’s clock measure the same time. However, we assume this to be true.

Another good example is that we treat Newton’s first law to be true for the simple reason that if it weren’t, it would be impossible to solve problems from a scientific standpoint.

4. Interpretation

This Theory of Knowledge concept plays a crucial role in IB Physics IA and IB Biology IAIt goes beyond interpreting experimental results to concept evaluation to find out if the experiment can support your theory.

There can be varying interpretation, so the results can be uncertain. To deal with this correctly, you should base your conclusions on acceptable laws and solid evidence.

In Math, for example, it’s unreasonable to assume that a relationship in an equation is a sine function when it’s in fact a quadratic function.

5. Power

In this TOK concept, we look at whether some laws have more power others. Then, we look at which law is the most powerful.

An example question would be something like:

Can a second law trump your explanation on the use of mechanics to attain a perpetual motion?

6. Justification

In justification, you base your ultimate conclusion on mathematical consequence or concrete evidence of an assumption.

For example, is it possible to justify that you cannot travel faster than the speed of light?

Since it’s impossible to justify something that you can’t do, look to justifying an assumption and then use the justification to come to a conclusion

7. Explanation

This Theory of Knowledge concept has its basis on the principle that if a student can’t explain something in relation to a particular subject, they don’t understand it.

Without understanding, it’s impossible to make relevant predictions.

And it’s difficult to understand an incorrect explanation, even if the prediction is correct.

8. Objectivity

Objectivity is a TOK concept that deals with how much, or what, an individual actually knows as opposed to what they think they know.

This concept of truth is independent of biasness that arises from an individual’s emotions, perception, or imagination.

Knowledge is objective if it meets truth conditions free from biasness by sentient subject.

9. Perspective

This concept examines how human see things differently.

When examining perspective, it’s important to understand and accept that people won’t look at and interpret things the way you do.

Significant in physics, perspective play an essential role in relatively.

Specifically, it enables you to understand how the measurements made in your own frame of reference would appear in the frame of another person or group.

10. Culture

Culture doesn’t appear quite as often in Internal Assessment. Many students and teacher feel stuck because culture is something they hardly think about in the first place.

For one, while there are cultural biases in the history of physics, biology, economics, and other subjects, they tend to be less apparent in the new syllabuses.

11. Value

This TOK concept examines the values that society place on the advancement of knowledge

For example, society value physics graduates because they have skills that can easily be applied to economics.

12. Responsibility

Responsibility as one of the TOK Key Concepts stresses on fulfilling obligations in ethical areas even if the knowledge doesn’t inflict compulsion or challenge to the individual carrying the knowledge.

There might be conflict of interest in some situations. That notwithstanding, an individual must make an ethical decision based on the moral values and a sense of what’s right or wrong.

Some Thoughts on TOK Key Concepts

You don’t have to study each optional theme and areas of knowledge separately to understand the prominence of these concepts

You can easily do that by organizing units of work on each of these concepts.

The organization goes a long way to help you to not only understand but also compare and contrast these key concepts between various areas of knowledge

Again, it goes further to give you a strong anchor for the core theme in TOK, which is the Knowledge and The Knower.

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About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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