What Is A Knowledge Question?

Knowledge questions combine a Way of Knowing with an Area of Knowledge, are open-ended, and use Theory of Knowledge vocabulary. They should also refer to justification in some way (evidence, beliefs) either implicitly or explicitly.

Review this section by Prof. Crow is writing on behalf of TOK Tutor:

Consider these alternative questions:

1. Can we trust the senses?

2. When can we trust the senses?

3. Should we trust the senses?

4. To what extent should we trust the senses?

All four questions are forms of KQ, but they are varied in their impact and the quality of enquiry they generate.

KQs of the first type are fairly ‘weak’. Notice how they start with the verb ‘can’. Questions which start with variations of this verb (‘is’, ‘do’, ‘will’, ‘have’ and so on) are ‘closed’ questions, to which you can usually answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without much further informed discussion.

KQs of the second type are sound, but may end up in a more factual discussion of the topic instead of one that questions how knowledge is built. Notice how it starts with one of the 5 Ws, ‘when’.

KQs of the third type are slightly stronger and more ‘open’ in their impact: the verb ‘should’ already introduces an ethical element to our thinking and encourages us to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of our topic. Alternative starting expressions could be ‘might’, ‘could’, or ‘would’ either alone or in conjunction with one of the 5Ws.

KQs of the fourth type are perhaps the strongest. Look at the command expression ‘To what extent…’ whose job it is to challenge us not only to explore the scale and depth of knowledge, but also to evaluate the methods of its construction. Other command expressions are ‘In what ways…’ (which allows us to compare and contrast how knowledge is built in different AOKs) and ‘How far…’ (which allows us to enquire into issues related to the limits of knowledge and its implications.)

Please review these materials:

Knowledge claims and knowledge questions

Knowledge Questions in International Baccalaureate Subjects

TOK Links For Student-Led Lessons

You can find most of them here.

However, for some weird reason, not quite all of the “tags” are visible at that link. Here are direct links to the WOK and AOK resources not listed in the above link:

Logic and Reason (They’re separate, but all related. I think I first started using the logic tag and later switched to reason)


Indigenous Knowledge Systems


Intuition (though most are still in the Emotion category)

Human Sciences