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12 ToK Key Concepts | Explained

The TOK essay is one of the parts of the IB diploma program that students tend to find more challenging than the rest. This is because it has an entirely different structure from other essays and is one that has to be done analytically. While many might not have noticed with time, it is true that the TOK framework has now changed and has become more concept based. This led to the emergence of 12 different TOK concepts.

For those of you who are in a rush and do not want to dive deeper into each concept, below I’m listing 12 TOK key concepts:

  1. Certainty
  2. Culture
  3. Evidence
  4. Explanation
  5. Interpretation
  6. Justification
  7. Objectivity
  8. Perspective
  9. Power
  10. Responsibility
  11. Truth
  12. Values

If you still have time and a will to learn more about each TOK concept, I suggest you continue reading this article. Because you will find plenty of useful information to select the concept that works best for you. No more words, let’s continue.

Examiners are now looking for ‘big ideas.’ They want to see how students can apply their knowledge well and develop different ways of handling things. They will also check the usage of real-life examples, and how you follow the criteria using different WOKS and AOKS, but this is another story.

This write-up is all about TOK concepts, what they are and how essential they are to help you work your way through things. In total, there are 12 TOK concepts. These key concepts help you write your TOK essay in a much more comprehensive way, which is, again, very important for you, allowing you to do a great job.

12 key concepts of TOK essay

As mentioned earlier, these key concepts are certainty, culture, evidence, explanation, interpretation, justification, objectivity, perspective, power, responsibility, truth, and values.

We will be exploring each of these in detail here so that you can learn more about what each of these is and how you can further work towards expanding on these.

1. Certainty

Certainty mainly refers to being sure about something. As students, you must carefully consider the variables to be entirely sure about what you say. The problem with this concept is that we cannot always operationalize variables.

For example, there are certain things that you cannot be sure about at all times, like your marital satisfaction, or your stress level, since there is no parameter to measure these. So you can only apply this concept when you have the leverage and possibility to be completely sure about something.

2. Culture

Culture is known to be the way of doing things in a particular society. A great way to study human behavior is to look at culture in that context and understand how society is affected in a certain way through culture.

There are several dimensions of culture that can be studied to understand fully well what is being said- like power distance, masculinity, or uncertainty avoidance. These help us understand things in a much better way in society. The process of learning different cultural practices, or how two places differ in their culture, is also a really great way of looking at things.

3. Evidence

This is one of the easiest concepts of the TOK essay, where students have to evaluate different research methods based on their proof. Whenever they give an example of choosing something that they want to talk about, they have to openly talk about how they reached that conclusion and what facts help them see the real picture. When they do that, it becomes much easier for them to see through the evidence and work towards proving their point.

This is one of the most widely used TOK essay concepts, owing to its nature.

4. Explanation

This is also one of the easiest essay concepts to work with. In this, students are expected to detail things in the right way by focusing on all the aspects that allow for that to happen. Using different theories, it becomes all the more possible to understand things in greater detail.

5. Interpretation

The way we interpret things differs from person to person. There are several factors that affect how we choose to interpret things, which is again based on our own understanding of different situations. One of the important things we discuss as part of interpretation is causality and correlation, since they are both a result of positive or negative feedback loops. Everyone interprets things differently, and that is largely dependent on our culture and our way of understanding things.

6. Justification

Justification is the process we choose to explain our point of view in a particular situation better. When we talk about justification in different scenarios, we can see how there are many different links between theoretical frameworks and choices.

It is up to us entirely how we choose to go about that and understand things in a much better way. So, if students have evidence about certain things and understand how things must be done, they can easily choose to go with justification.

7. Objectivity

Objectivity is a TOK concept that is mainly based on facts. Like with essays it can be also used in TOK presentations. This refers to what we actually know as opposed to what we think we know about a specific TOK topic. This is something that is based entirely on facts, which means that we have to keep our own biases out of the situation and need to understand fully well what the reality of the situation is.

If students know and understand what the reality is, then they can work on this with a lot of ease.

8. Perspective

This concept is one that allows us to look at things from our own lens and then analyze them based on our understanding of it is. When we have clarity in perspective, it allows us to understand things clearly and put out our own point of view in a much clearer way. The clarity in perspective is very important for us to be able to put our point across and also make sure that the others understand what we are saying and where our premise on that is coming from.

The one thing that stands out about analyzing things using this concept is that perspective is something that is deeply related to who we are as people and how our experiences have shaped us. It allows us to understand things in a much better way and also allows us to get our point across decently too. Depending on what we choose to go through, we need to use perspective.

9. Power

This concept is one in which we look at how some laws definitely have more power over other laws, which allows us to understand them better. Then we can look at which law holds more power and why.

Depending on our knowledge of power and how we can support these issues, we can get through with what we are saying and allow ourselves to fully well explain what we mean.

10. Responsibility

This concept is linked to power very closely. It focuses on fulfilling obligations in certain areas, as is expected of us. When we do that, we can fully well analyze how certain things are done.

We, as human beings, take responsibility for things we are fully aware of. This is something that is related directly to that. We can use this concept if we feel we have it in us to defend what we think is best.

11. Truth

This concept is related to how truthful or reliable a law is. The truth cannot be hidden. When we look at this concept, we evaluate certain things based on how true they are and how we choose to get explanations concerning that.

For example, we can talk about how true Newton’s first law is and why we consider it to be that way.

12. Values

Values are what we believe in and what we allow to govern our lives. So based on that, we can examine what matters most and how society values those. Then, based on our own values and what we are choosing to explore, we can decide what we want to proceed with.

Now you know what a key concept is

Now that you clearly understand these twelve TOK concepts, the idea is to understand each of these and then talk about which one we will choose to go with considering the prescribed title selected for your essay.

Meanwhile do not forget about the submission dates for a TOK essay and understand its structure before starting to write your paper. This will help you construct a great skeleton outline for your TOK essay. Using a good skeleton,, you can ensure that your final draft will be good.

Of course, as s student, you need to first be sure about all these criteria, and then you need to make a smart choice since this will largely determine your grade on your TOK essay. So make sure to follow all the provided guidelines in order not to fail your TOK.

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Vasy Kafidoff

Vasyl Kafidoff is a co-founder and CEO at WritingMetier. He is interested in education and the ways modern technology makes it easier. As an educational specialist, he wants to bring awareness about new learning possibilities. When not working, he’s found behind a drum kit.

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