The prescribed essay titles (PTs) for TOK are released about six months before you are due to complete your essay.
It’s hard to give generic rules about choosing an essay title, because every PT list is different, every school will have covered different topics, and every student is unique. What appeals to you may not appeal to others. However, the following principles can be used to help you decide which title to select.
Certain titles may seem vague and abstract, and hard to get your head around, in which case, you’ll be reluctant to choose them. On the other hand, certain titles may seem to ‘talk to you’, and appear more viable. This is a valid first reaction, but you shouldn’t dismiss anything at this point, or decide for sure on the one you’ll write.
Your teacher will probably run an ‘unpacking’ session with you, looking at each PT, thinking about which key words and terms need pinning down, and giving you a clearer understanding of what each title is looking for.
After this, you will probably be able to focus your choice.
Image: Arce, Ricardo. Unsplash, 2019.
A TOK essay is built around arguments and counterarguments, with a ‘sustained relevance’ to the title. If the title is asking you to consider two areas of knowledge (AOK), the basic structure for your essay would be an argument and counterargument for your first AOK, then the same for your second.
Ask yourself the following questions:
How easy is it for you to construct this discussion?
Do you have a good idea of which AOKs you will choose?
Can you see how you might explore them?
If the PT does not specify the number of AOKs, you have a little more leeway, and could structure it around a big argument and counterargument (referring to more than two AOKs in each one), or around three or more smaller arguments.
How easy is it to plan your structure? Again, if you can see the way ahead clearly, this may be the PT for you.
This is when you should nail down the PT you’ll be tackling. Talk to your teacher, and be honest and open with them. Outline the process you’ve gone through, and explain how you propose to answer the question.
Don’t expect the essay to be easy; you should be challenged by the title you’ve chosen. But that’s fine; indeed, you can even explicitly acknowledge that you’ve wrestled with difficulties within your essay.