TOK Title 1 (May 2015) - Explanation
This one makes us the most happy. It’s such a nitty gritty question that the IB have given in order to trip everybody up! Often the titles with the fewest words trick students into thinking their easy and their often selected because of this. Do not be tricked; the long titles normally have a little more to go off and are the ones that gain the best marks. Then again, never fear if this is the title you have selected, it is possible to understand it!
The title is as follows:
“There is no such thing as a neutral question. Evaluate this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.”
Wow. The keywords are:
“no such thing” - this blatantly shows that you must prove for and against.
“neutral question” - of course, you must DEFINE this. We always recommend you read up on definitions, maybe give a definitions, but DEFINE it yourself in your essay, (ie; “a neutral question is considered to be structured to be without bias, informative leading and represents complete neutrality in order to receive the truest response without implications or persuasion from outside sources; however, I define it to be neutrality in order to gain a truth without an ulterior motive imposed within its structure, the opposite being a ‘leading’ question that provides a desired or expected response.” If you define it yourself, your ideas will become clearer to us if we mark it!
“evaluate” - don’t just prove it, but disprove it. FOR and AGAINST. This means you need strong counters and also need to anti counter well. In this, it means you’re not actually going to prove much. You’ll prove that it there is no such thing in AOK 1 but then say well actually it has some element of bias, and then argue that this bias has no effect on the situation etc. Therefore you’re not truly proving anything, but revealing its strengths and flaws.
“two areas” - pick ones that are similar but different (we always love Natural Sciences and History because they’re so different but wonderfully similar in their collection and collaboration of knowledge - ethics and law may be terrific options for an able candidate).
NEXT ARE ASSUMPTIONS!
1. Neutral questions are impossible, therefore everything carries bias.
2. The only form of question that there is has to be leading.
3. In order to ask or respond to anything, there can be no neutrality.
4. Everything we know has been manipulated by bias, therefore we may not know anything (vague, but it could be interesting to discuss).
Finally, we’ll move on to STRUCTURE/EXAMPLES (we’re going to do History and Natural Sciences - but Maths or languages could be totally intriguing and we might do those at a later date).
- define neutrality, a neutral question, give your AOKs and signpost your assumptions (make sure you define a neutral question in both the AOKs because sometimes this can be different). Explain that is is possible and impossible to have a neutral question and your essay will discuss the extent to which the statement/title is valid in these selected AOKs. In doing so, you’re signposting everything.
• Para 1 (AOK 1 - FOR - There is NO SUCH THING as a Neutral Question - Natural Sciences)
- Explain that there is no such thing. Of course there isn’t. Everything in science has an end-goal. We want to discover something, we are aiming to learn or advance in something. Therefore, any scientific question we ask leads to an answer. We wanted that. For example, scientific method is a design of processes that we follow and create new experiments with. We deduce a hypothesis before we actually begin our expedient; therefore we have a goal at the beginning. We usually have a research question of “What is the effect of light intensity upon invertebrates?” and our hypothesis, whether correct or not, predicts what we believe will happen. Thus, our question is null and void because we expect something already. It’s not neutral any longer. Counter: what happens if the hypothesis is wrong, does that make the question neutral again? Anti-Counter: Clearly, it’s not because despite its validity, we are still aiming to have an answer and there is bias.
- There are so many examples you could use, be creative! If you need help with examples, we can help out with a few sneaky ones! You could have one very good example or more than one, (use quotations from philosophical people like “So-and-so claims that "we cannot understand anything without having a reason to understand it at all” which may be applied to the case of our scientific method where the experimental results are predetermined in an attempt to understand it. Therefore the research question may not be neutral despite its attempt to be so.“ just to back yourself up and give it that bit of FLARE! :P)
• Para 2 (AOK 2 - FOR - There is NO SUCH THING as a Neutral Question - History).
- Similarly to the Natural Sciences, History attempts to understand the way things work and why things occur as they do. The collaboration and corroboration of information relies heavily on historical investigation and stories and facts justified by a collective acceptance and belief. Bias is involved in many aspects of History. As in science, we begin with a question, for example, "to what extent was the Battle of Verdun a French victory?” a question considered to be 'neutral’ because of the words, “to what extent” in which we are lead to believe it will observe each viewpoint in order to determine the truth. However, this question suggests that there can be no neutral question in History because it suggests immediately and leads us to believe that it was a french victory. Does this reveal that all our questions in history lead us to a predetermined and expected answer? It is clear that emotion and perception impact heavily on our interpretations in history and the natural sciences; this supports the claim that there is no such thing as a neutral question as there is always a desired or expected response or motivation behind the question. Counter: however, we can understand that it will observe and investigation both sides of the question in order to allow for bias to be removed and a fair treatment of each viewpoint to be put across. The answer may be determined based on this and therefore the question is not 'leading’ but rather signposting what is to be investigated. Anti-counter; clearly there is a motivation behind this kind of question and therefore it may not be neutral. This suggests that there is no such thing as a neutral question.
- our example could be something on the lines of our dictators. Neutrality on our dictators may not be possible, for example the Duchess of Devonshire claims that Hitler was a “nice man” despite historians reflecting him as a horrible man. Does that mean her opinion is not valid for our question of “who was Hitler?” so… is it the question that is not neutral, or the responses that cause it to be biased? Hmmm… could be interesting.
That’s all we’ve got at the moment today, sorry. If you have specific questions, we can answer those in depth and give you good examples for any of your AOKS (but a general post is all we can do right now without loads of specific requests).
If you request an introduction example, an essay example etc, please tell us if you’ve selected your AOKs and we can make it specific with good examples for you guys.
GOOD LUCK ALL AND STAY OUT OF TROUBLE! We’ll be adding little bits each day to the titles as new ideas come up and we get more time to do it!
Hope it helps!