How to Write TOK Knowledge Questions (The Complete Guide)

January 9, 2024

TOK Knowledge Questions

In TOK, knowledge questions are questions that focus on the nature of knowledge and what it means to “know” what we know.

Instead of focusing on specific content or situation, are open-ended and focus on knowledge. The questions are not subject-specific but generic in nature.

Knowledge questions investigate and interact with Knowledge Claims linked to Real Life Situations

In addition to using the Theory of Knowledge language, Knowledge Questions also ask about the Areas of Knowledge and the Ways of Knowing.  

Additionally, the questions employ terminology such as culture, authority, belief, experience, evidence, truth, and values. 

In this guide, we’ll look at: 

  • What constitute knowledge questions
  • What knowledge questions are not
  • The elements of knowledge questions and
  • Examples of knowledge questions

Let’s get started:

What Constitutes Knowledge Questions?

Knowledge questions direct you to concentrate on TOK concepts rather than on topics often discussed in subject lectures.

While the concerns about knowledge are philosophical in nature, you should relate them to real world events and provide evidence and instances from the real world.

Knowledge questions may suggest connections between domains of knowledge, themes, and the course's four components: scope, viewpoint, ethics, and tools and techniques.

The questions may raise concerns about what constitutes knowledge, who possesses knowledge, and the circumstances under which you should accept anything as knowledge.

Knowledge questions can elucidate the advantages and disadvantages of the ways and instruments available to us in pursuit of knowledge and, possibly, the truth.

Numerous knowledge questions begin with the phrase:

  • how do we know
  • what constitutes knowledge in
  • to what extent

They may also include terms such as 'belief', 'evidence', 'justification', 'certainty', 'culture', 'evidence', 'explanation', 'interpretation', 'truth', 'values', or 'experience.

Knowledge inquiries may delve into the concept of what constitutes knowledge and what does not and what constitutes a fact and what does not.

What a Knowledge Question is NOT?

Questions that require YES or NO responses don’t qualify as Knowledge Questions in TOK.

Also, questions that are specific, such as the ones you expect to get on an exam, don’t qualify to be knowledge questions.

The Elements of Knowledge Questions

The following are the four elements of knowledge questions:

1. Scope

Scope focuses on the nature and extent of various subjects and fields of knowledge.

It examines the relationship between each theme or areas of knowledge, the entirety of human knowledge, and the nature of the challenges that each area of knowledge confronts and attempts to answer.

2. Perspective

Perspective focuses the critical nature and significance of viewpoints and circumstances.

This involves reflection on students' personal views and sources of information, as well as the ways in which different persons or groups see and approach knowledge in various themes.

Additionally, it includes reflection on historical views and the evolution of knowledge across time.

3. Methods and Tools

Methods and tools deal with the techniques, tools, and practices through which we generate knowledge.

This encompasses the development of conceptual frameworks, the establishment of traditions and practices, and the methodology used by formal disciplines.

Additionally, it considers the cognitive and material tools available to aid us in our pursuit of knowledge, as well as the ways in which these tools have evolved because of technological advancements.

3. Ethics

Ethics focuses on ethics and the ethical issues that influence investigation across several topics and domains of knowledge.

This involves the link between facts and values and the way ethical and epistemic values relate in the pursuit of knowledge.

Additionally, ethics addresses issues of knowledge, inequality, and injustice.

It is critical that TOK discussions about ethics place an emphasis on the knowledge questions entwined with and implied by the ethical issues under discussion, rather than on debating the ethical issues themselves.

Characteristics of Knowledge Questions

The qualities of knowledge questions are as follows:

  • These questions directly address how we understand the world, ourselves, and others in connection to how we acquire, generate, seek, and influence knowledge.
  • They are open-ended in nature and so should initiate an investigation into the unique nature of knowledge and knowing.
  • Knowledge questions disentangle potential uncertainties, constraints on knowledge, approach biases, verification methodologies, and ways of knowing.

How to Write Knowledge Questions

When presenting a knowledge question, it is important to use knowledge theory terms and principles.

Ensure that these phrases are highlighted in bold to make them stand out.

For instance, you might begin your question with the phrase "How can we know?" or perhaps include the term "knowledge" in the question's wording.

For instance, "is our mathematical knowledge more definite than our scientific understanding?"

You might be even more inventive by beginning your questions with the phrase "how properly is it justified?" Alternatively, "how persuasive is the evidence supporting x?"

Several examples of TOK terminology that you may use include the following:

  • 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


  • 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?


  • 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?


  • 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?


  • 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?


  • 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?

Knowledge Questions, TOK, and the Real World

The origin of knowledge questions is a concept you can trace back to the actual world.

The entire purpose of TOK is for you to be able to apply your study of TOK principles to situations you encounter in the real world.

This distinguishes TOK from a philosophy course.

An appropriate knowledge question, based on the real-world situation of autonomous automobiles, may be "How are moral judgments different from other types of judgments?"

This is a more general question that may be applicable to other real-world circumstances as well.

An inquiry, for example, enables you to investigate the basis of moral judgment (and establish ethical standards).

Additionally, a knowledge question linked to injury is wide enough to apply to other circumstances, such as actual occurrences of euthanasia or genetically modified newborns.

While knowledge questions are abstract and feature "TOK terminology," you should be able to connect them to a variety of real-world instances.

You may use these examples to substantiate your claims as you investigate the essay question.

Wrapping This Up 

Writing a theory of knowledge essay requires you to construct a knowledge question.

Generally, knowledge questions are open-ended, which means they do not require a yes or no response.

Additionally, some questions are more generic in nature and are not subject-specific.

When formulating a knowledge question, verify that you use appropriate TOK vocabularies and terminologies.

These include words such as certain, explanation, interpretation, evidence, sense perception, coherence, reason, paradigm, language, assumptions, justification, knowledge, and judgment. 

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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