When students ask me: How do I write the intro for my TOK essay? – I usually say: Don’t. Do it later.
What should you start with then? Brainstorm first and create the structure of your essay. It’s like drawing a roadmap to the essay, so you’ll know what is in each paragraph and where it will take you next.
It is really important to have the structure of your essay set before you even start writing. Once you know what your essay will look like, you can start writing the intro or any other part you like (except the conclusion – this usually comes last). You can even leave the intro for one of the last things to write, because the clearer you are on the argument of your essay, the easier will it be to write.
Having said that, what goes into the intro?
To answer this question, you must know the purpose of the intro: It is there to set the frame of your essay and give the reader a first impression of what to expect. You also want to catch the reader’s attention, intrigue them, so that they will want to continue reading.
So, how will you do this?
1. Setting the frame
You want the reader to know what your essay will be about. Sure, they can read the title of your essay, but this does not exactly tell them which direction your essay will be going. To show them how you understand the prescribed title, you should rephrase it, put it in your own words. This is important because most TOK titles can be understood in different ways.
Pay attention to any key words in the title and define them. You should not necessarily use dictionary definitions of these terms – since for many of them there will be different, perhaps even opposing, definitions you should not list all of these. Rather, show how you understand them in the context of your essay. In other words, use only the definitions which are relevant for your essay and your argument.
2. Telling your reader what to expect
Now that your reader knows what your topic is and how you understand it, tell them how you will go about discussing it. State which areas of knowledge you will be focusing on in the essay. You can also mention the ways of knowing that are the most relevant for your argument.
Finally, state your thesis – the main argument of your essay. This part is usually not clear at the outset of your essay writing. My advice is – leave it for later. Your thesis statement will be quite similar to your conclusion, only much more condensed. Wait until you’re done with the conclusion and then write your thesis – it should fit into one or maximum two sentences.
3. Catching attention
This is the fun bit. It is one of the last steps you can take once you’ve completed your essay. You will want to make a statement that will grab your reader’s attention. It can be edgy and provocative, made up by you, or a quote by some famous person. Whichever it is, keep in mind it should be related to what you are writing about.
Keep your eyes open for catchy statements while you’re researching your topic, online or otherwise. You can also search the internet for suitable quotes by entering the term “quotes” and one or two key words from the prescribed title in a search engine.
Usually it is a good idea to start your intro with such a statement and go on from there to explain how it is connected to the prescribed title you chose and your argument. It can support the point you are trying to make in your essay, but you can also disagree with it.
Either way, it must be relevant to your essay. Don’t try to stick a quote in there just for the sake of having a quote – if you can’t find anything appropriate, better leave it, and try to create a statement of your own.
- To recap, here are the steps you need to take (not necessarily in this order) to write your intro:
- Start the intro with an attention-grabbing statement or quote.
- Explain how it relates to the essay topic.
- State how you understand the topic and the key words that appear in it,
- and how you will discuss the topic, using what AoKs and WoKs.
- State your main argument – your thesis.
Hope this helps. For more guidance on writing your TOK Essay you can always get in touch with us or join the upcoming TOK Club.