The Best Way to Write TOK Knowledge Questions So They Make Sense

Knowledge questions in a theory of knowledge essay can be defined as questions about knowledge. 

More often than not, the questions don’t focus on particular content or situation. Instead, they’re open-ended – not simple yes or no questions.

Also, these questions are general in nature, meaning that they aren’t specific bout one subject. These questions are usually meant to not only examine but also engage with Knowledge Claims related to real-life situations. Knowledge Questions usually use TOK language and typically ask about the areas of knowledge, and ways of knowing

Moreover, they use other related terms, culture, authority, belief, experience, evidence, truth, and values just to mention but a few.

Characteristics of Knowledge Questions

The following are the characteristics of knowledge questions:

  • These questions direct touch on how we understand the world, and ourselves and others in relation to how we acquire, produce, search for, and shape acceptance of knowledge
  • They are open-ended and designed to open an inquiry into the specific nature of knowledge
  • They are intended to unravel possible uncertainties limitations in connection to knowledge, biases in approach, methods of verification, and ways of knowing

How to Write Knowledge Questions

In the case of Prescribed Title (PT) and Presentation, it’s necessary that you not only construct but also engage with knowledge questions.

While formulating your knowledge question, it is advisable to phrase it using theory of knowledge terminologies and concepts.

Make sure that these terms are in bold so that they stand out. For instance, you may want to start your question with the words “How can we know” or even ensuring that the word “knowledge” is part of the wordings in your question.

For example, is our Knowledge in Mathematics more certain compared to our knowledge of science?

You could be even more creative by starting your questions using the terms “how properly is it justified?” Or even “how compelling is the evidence for x?”

Some of the examples of TOK vocabulary you can use include

  • Justification
  • Knowledge
  • Judgment
  • Evidence
  • Interpretation
  • Explanation
  • Coherence
  • Theory
  • Implications
  • Reason
  • Assumptions
  • Language
  • Paradigm
  • Emotion
  • Sense perception

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Unsuitable TOK Knowledge Question Examples

There are word choices that you shouldn’t use in formulating your KQs.

Example #1

Example about speech:

Do we need freedom of speech?

Not only is this question too general, but it is also not entirely focused on the Theory of Knowledge.

A good knowledge question should be focused on knowledge. To make your knowledge question better, it needs to be more precise and also formulated using TOK vocabulary.

Here’s a good question to ask instead:

“What is the role of emotion, language, and reason in how we interpret contemporary and historical events?”

Example #2

Example of a Knowledge Question about future population growth in, say, Africa:

“How can we forecast the future growth of the population in Africa?”

This is not even a knowledge question for the simple reason that it is a technical quiz in the subject of population studies.

You may want to rephrase it as follows:

“How can a math model provide us with knowledge even if it doesn’t lead to accurate results?”

Not only is this KQ sufficiently general but it also explores the nature and purpose of mathematical modeling.

Example #3:

An example of the role of placebo and its effects on the medical profession.

A bad knowledge question example:

“How does Placebo work?”

The right answer to this question might use technical explanations in psychology as opposed to engaging knowledge creation.
A good example of a knowledge question might be:

“How could we ascertain that A is an Active ingredient that causes B?”

This KQ is a general question about how we come to know about causal connections. Therefore, it is a typical knowledge question.

Examples of Knowledge Questions by Ways of Knowledge and Areas of Knowledge

History

  • Are History claims and facts limited by the language they are written in?
  • How significant is the role played by statistics in History?
  • How far does the role of emotions go in historical interpretation?
  • Is historical objectivity possible?
  • How does knowledge about our past differ from other types of knowledge?

Natural Science

  • What is the certainty of the theory of evolution?
  • Is there a similarity between knowledge in the literature and that in natural science?
  • Is ancient knowledge more significant than the imagination in science?

Human Science

  • How true are claims that natural sciences are more certain than human sciences?
  • What is the reliability of statistics in business and economic decisions?
  • How reliable are economic models?
  • What is the most important thing in advertising: emotion, reason, perception, or language?

Arts

  • Do all forms of art (music, painting, architecture, sculpture, and literature) use a language?
  • Must art be beautiful?
  • What role does art play in understanding societies and individuals?
  • Must experts recognize the arts?

Math

  • Do you need language to understand math?
  • Is math a language?
  • Can mathematicians trust the results they produce?
  • How does Math describe our real world?
  • How relevant or irrelevant is emotion in the creation of mathematical knowledge?
  • Does belief play any role in math?

Language

  • Does language shape how we think?
  • Should the relevant authorities censor offensive language?
  • Can we know about culture using its language?
  • Is the language needed to think?

Emotion

  • Does language shape emotions?
  • Do we all experience the same level of satisfaction?
  • Is there a type of knowledge obtainable completely through emotions?
  • Are religion and faith purely emotional?

Wrapping This Up 

Formulating a knowledge question is a critical part of writing a theory of knowledge essay. Knowledge Questions are normally open-ended, which mean that they don’t just need a yes or no answer. Also, these questions are more general in nature and aren’t tied to one particular subject.

When formulating a knowledge question, make sure you use the theory of knowledge vocabularies and terminologies like certain, explanation, interpretation, evidence, sense perception, coherence, reason, paradigm, language, assumptions, justification, knowledge, and judgment.