Conclusions and Implications
The most important parts of a research report are the descriptions, analyses, and interpretations of the data. What you do with the findings, i.e. the implications, are just as important.
The research needs to identify for the reader why and how the analyses and interpretations were made and the way key concepts in the analyses evolved. In addition, the researcher needs to "inform the reader of any unexpected findings or patterns that emerged from the data and report a range of evidence to support assertions or interpretations presented." (Stainback and Stainback, 1988, p. 80-81).
Showing, not telling about your findings, is the best way to let your reader know what you discovered. Quotes, vignettes, field notes, work samples and other data can be used to support interpretations and assertions. "The best way to show findings is to look for those critical incidents in your data, the "aha" or "oh no" moments, when you had a breakthrough in answering your research question. If it was a moment of vivid insight for you, it may well be a breakthrough for your audience." (Hubbard and Power, 1993. P. 113).
A conclusion section refocuses the purpose of the research, revealing a synopsis of what was found and leads into the implications of the findings. A conclusion may also include limitations of the study and future research needs.
Implications for Practice
The meanings you construct from your data help give you ideas about how to teach in a particular way. The statements you make about how you might teach are the implications for future teaching. Is Teacher Research Valid and Reliable? That is a question that has been asked many times by both traditional educational researchers and teacher-researchers. Validity in research is the degree to which a study is honest and true to its intent, its context, and its reporting. It is the result of your integrity as a teacher and as a researcher. It poses the question, "Does your data say what you say it says?" All of the research strategies you have been using- observing, writing, interviewing, documenting, analyzing-are ways to ensure validity." (MacLean & Mohr, 1999, p. 117).
Each school is different and the conditions are never the same from one class to the next. Teacher research derives its reliability from providing enough information to be able to make reasonable "comparisons" to other situations and contexts. Teacher researchers do not try to recreate the context of a study, but rather consider asking questions such as these:
- How does the context affect the findings in the study?
- What different variables are in the context?
- If the multicultural mix of students was substituted for a more homogeneous one, how would that affect the findings?
MacLean & Mohr, p.120-121:
MacLean and Mohr outline a number of steps teacher-researchers can take to achieve validity in research. Chief among them are:
- Make revisions of your research questions to ensure a focus on your current teaching and what your students are learning.
- Frequent, consistent writing of your own observations will help you to discover what you think and to record what happens over a period of time.
- Collect a broad database of information to provide grounding for the interpretations that emerge from the data.
- Have other teacher-researchers examine and challenge your work.
- Read literature from theoretical and methodological frameworks to seek different theories and methods that challenge and deepen your own.
Stainback and Stainback state that "qualitative researchers seldom claim that their reports are totally unbiased. "...they do try to let the reader know, to the best of their knowledge, what their perspectives and biases were and how they collected and analyzed their data, to allow the reader to judge for him or herself the potential usefulness of the findings." (1988, p.83-84).
MacLean, Marion S. & Mohr, Marian M. (1999). Teacher-Researchers at Work. Berkeley, CA: National Writing Project, p. 56-66.
Power, Brenda Miller (1996). "What to Do With What You've Written. Taking note: Improving Your Observational Notetaking. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Stainback, Susan and William (1988). "Conducting a Qualitative Research Study." Understanding and conducting qualitative research. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.
How to Structure a Theory of Knowledge Essay
The following structure is a very good, step-by-step method you can use on any ToK essay to get very high marks.
Here are the main things to keep in mind when you're using this method:
- Your #1 priority is answering the prescribed title. If you somehow follow this method, but don't answer the question you won't score well. So make sure you keep linking back to the question as you go.
- Try to use original, interesting evidence.
(I have a full a lot of helpful advice, tutorials, evidence videos in my online ToK course, which you're welcome to join if you like. Or, if you just need some TOK Notes you can get those here.)
And I've also made a help page (similar to this) for the TOK presentation, here.
Okay here we go...
The structure on this page will give you a strong foundation for your essay and then we're going to make your essay as insightful as possible.
First, choose your PT and KQ
Before you can begin your real/final essay, you’ll want to look at the Prescribed Title (something like: “What is it about mathematics and science that makes them so convincing?” and think about it.
Get some of your initial ideas down on paper.
Second, choose 1 WOK and 2 AOKs
Now, take your prescribed title and choose two AOKs to explore it with (here are my notes: Mathematics, Human sciences, Natural Sciences, the Arts, Ethics, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Religious Knowledge Systems, or History). Or you can use WOKs: (again here are my notes: Emotion, Faith, Sense perception, Reason, Imagination, Intuition, Language, Memory). Then you can explore these aspects in your essay.
I normally recommend exploring just 2 AoK's in the main body of your essay and then include a few insights into WOKs around the edges (more on this in a bit).
The essay contains two body sections (or "developments"). Each body section will look at a certain area of knowledge or way of knowing.
To explore the question we chose above, it's pretty easy to choose our AOKs because they are actually listed in the question. We'll be using Mathematics and Natural Science.
The courtroom analogy
The TOK essay is about knowledge (how we come to know things). It helps to think of the essay as though you're showing the most interesting bits of a conversation between two smart people, about how we know things.
Or you could think about it like presenting two sides of an argument, in front of a judge. Each side needs to present evidence.
One lawyer is saying YES (i.e. reason is reliable, with examples) and the other is pointing out the weaknesses in what lawyer 1 is saying (i.e. reason is often not reliable, also with examples).
Your lawyer will make the case that you can’t be guilty of robbing the bank (her thesis), by using several arguments (claims); she’ll show that
- You weren’t there
- You’re are a moral person and
- You don’t have the technical knowledge to pull off a job like that.
However, if your lawyer was a ToK student they would also be explaining reasons why you might be guilty (the counterclaims).
- Someone said they saw you there,
- You admitted to lying to your mom about candy one time and
- You are pretty good at computers.
The lawyers would use evidence to support each of these claims and counterclaims.
Making sure your evidence actually supports your claim is one of the toughest aspects of the essay.
The step-by-step method
The method has 4 sections and 7 paragraphs overall and specific aspects need to go in each.
First, write your introduction, using 150-200 words
-Say 2 interesting things about the prescribed title. "Many people find Mathematics and Natural Science very convincing. However, many of these same people would say that they don't have a strong understanding of either of these two fields. Both of these fields rely on rigorous methodologies."
-Define one or two of the key terms in the title. Here I might define Mathematics and Natural Science. (I would also look up the term "convincing". I might not include that definition in my essay, but I would like to know whether there are any conflicting definitions. That might help me say interesting things later on in the essay--for example in the conclusion.)
-Narrow in on one aspect which is particularly interesting. "This essay with focus on the link between replicability of results, as a source of reliability."
-State your thesis. What is your short answer to the prescribed title, your thesis. (You might decide, by the end of your essay, that your initial thinking was wrong, but you should know the point your claims are going to be supporting).
-Give us a roadmap, a sentence that gives us a preview. This shows us what you’re going to do in your body paragraphs (your "developments"). Tell us AOKs you're going to use and which WOK you will be focused on most. This will make it easy for the marker to know what to look for. An example: “Mathematics can be seen as more reliable because it uses reason. Natural science can be less reliable because it relies on observation. ”
Next write your first development. 2 paragraphs totalling 600 words
-Claim. A claim a topic sentence that outlines your argument about the prescribed title. For example you could claim that, “Mathematics can be relied on because it is a purely logical system.”
-Explain. Elaborate and clarify your claim. “Mathematics is axiomatic and independent of subjective experience.“
-Example. A real life example, to clarify and support the claim from your own experience. Examples should be personal, specific, precise and real. Did something happen in your Science class? Did you have a conversation with your or hear a story from your grandfather? These are evidence from your own life rather than examples from Darwin or Lincoln. So you could talk about how, “In mathematics we learned that the inside angles of a triangle, in Euclidian space, sum up to 180 degrees.”
-Counter-claim. Argue against your claim above. “However, it is possible to come to different conclusions using different systems of mathematics.”
-Example. An example that supports your counter claim. “There are different It is not possible to demonstrate that the interior angles of a triangle equal 180 degrees in Euclidian space, this cannot be proven within other systems, such as spherical geometry or hyperbolic geometry.”
-Link to prescribed title. Quickly sum up the (complicated) insights of this section. “It is therefore clear that mathematics is reliable to an extent, but often it can only show something to be true within one fixed system or approach.”
Now, write another two body paragraphs, looking at your second AOK. Use the same approach you saw in paragraphs 2 and 3. 600 words
-Link to prescribed title.
Finally, write your 'conclusion'. Two paragraphs, totalling 200-250 words
-Your conclusion. Explain what big, general insights have come out of this--your conclusion.
Implications and significance. Also tell us why it's important that we know this. When and how does it matter that we understand this lesson?
-Perspectives and extensions. If you can, try to pull in a very different perspective, on your conclusion. Perhaps you can recognize a very different way of approaching the question, which could have resulted in quite different insights than those you included in your essay. Or you could also mention one or two unresolved questions that this essay has revealed. You could also think of this as explaining some "limitations" or a weaknesses of your essay, but it's also about showing that the conversation isn't over yet. There is more to the question than you've had the room to explore.
Obviously there is a lot more depth that we can go into about what makes a really great TOK essay, but this structure will get you started.
Here are some more ToK Essay tips you might want to consider or you can join my online program if you like www.tokmastery.com
Cite this page as:
Woods, Tim. “How to Structure a Theory of Knowledge Essay” IBMastery. IBMastery, 1 Jan 2016. Web. TODAY’S DATE <https://www.ibmastery.com/blog/how-to-structure-a-theory-of-knowledge-essay>