Finding Real Life Situations for TOK

It can be very difficult to find the elusive, philosophical real-life situations which are a requirement for theory of knowledge. However, the reality is that real-life situations are not truly so hard to come by, and that questions about the origin of knowledge, its transmission, and its purpose can be identified in a great deal of situations.

To ensure that you also have an abundance of these situations to use for the TOK presentation or the TOK essay, it is critical to keep a TOK journal. Entries do not at all have to be complex and elaborate -- simple knowledge questions, links to interesting articles and personal experiences are completely valid. Inputting 2 entries per week into this journal, one per TOK lesson, would translate into approximately 70 real-life situations for your presentation (usually done about 10 months into the course) and 100 real-life situations for your essay (usually done about 13 months into the course)!

But where to actually find the real-life situations to put into this journal? Well, of course, the real-life situations mentioned by your TOK teacher should have a place in the journal, and any subsequent knowledge questions you derive from your classes too! But you should also have real-life situations which are unique to you. They are usually more tricky to find. It is very useful to keep updated with the news, as articles often provide real-life examples which are both original and relevant to the TOK course outline. 

One such news website which is very highly recommended is the New York Times. Having a subscription to the New York Times however is paying, but the fee for a regular membership is only 2$/month, and this is a small price to pay for the variety of news the NYT offers. In addition to this, the NYT has a special “Morning Briefing” for its members, which is a short article of about 5 minutes reading time which is sent to a members’ email address each morning. It is customised to the specific region of the member, and thus the email will arrive at approximately 07:00 each morning, regardless of time-zone. This is a very convenient way to stay in touch with current news, and takes very little time per day.

Of course, there are other alternatives to the New York Times’ “Morning Briefing” which do not require a monthly payment. It is also useful to read local news articles, some of which may be completely free of charge. Such local news sites can be found in any country, but it is important to read reliable news, and some examples are below:

Switzerland --

United Kingdom --

India --

United Arab Emirates --

Japan --

Brazil --

All sites listed provide news in English.

Finally keep in mind that your personal experiences can always be used as an example to further a point about the nature of knowledge and the way in which knowledge can be communicated. One such example may be a time when you misunderstood a peer, or when you failed to explain a concept that you thought you had completely understood. Always remember, TOK is everywhere!