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Human sciences knowledge questions

Human sciences knowledge questions

Knowledge questions (KQs) form the heart of the TOK course, and provide us with the opportunity to discuss, explore, and sometimes argue about the way in which we acquire, use, and evaluate our knowledge about the world.

Although the human sciences knowledge questions that you see here link primarily to this area of knowledge, many of them link to other AOKs, and themes, so one of the first things to consider is how they relate to, and impact on, other aspects of the course.

Knowledge questions on the nature and scope of the human sciences

  • These KQs on the human sciences relate to Big Question 1, our first BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to the nature and scope of the human sciences, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

What qualifies a field as a human science?

How can we distinguish valid data from misleading data in the human sciences?

Are the human sciences really ‘scientific’?

What challenges are associated with trying to explain human behaviour?

To what extent are the human sciences based on certain assumptions?

What should be subject to more scrutiny in the human sciences: methods or results?

Should (and can) human sciences be subject to replication as part of the scientific method?

Knowledge questions on the relationship between the human sciences and values

  • These KQs on human sciences relate to Big Question 2, our second BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to the human sciences and ethics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

Do ethical considerations hinder or help the production of knowledge in the human sciences?

How essential is empathy in understanding the human condition – and why are some people reluctant to apply it?

Can we make moral judgements about knowledge produced by human scientists the past?

Are human scientists more hampered by ethical constraints than other areas of knowledge?

Does the possession of knowledge about human behaviour carry with it special ethical obligations?

Is it our responsibility to think in a certain way about the human sciences?

Knowledge questions on the communication of ideas in the human sciences

  • These KQs on the human sciences relate to Big Question 3, our third BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices of human sciences, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

What role do models play in producing knowledge about the world?

Is it possible to present data objectively?

How can data visualizations be manipulated in order to spin the knowledge they communicate?

Was Sir Charles Dilke right to say “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”?

How does it change our understanding of something when we (radically) alter our terminology related to it?

Does the language used within questionnaires and surveys always influence the outcome of the knowledge produced?

How do ‘shifting meanings’ complicate the way we approach debates in the human sciences?

Knowledge questions on human sciences, perspectives, and context

  • These KQs on human sciences relate to Big Question 4, our fourth BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to perspectives & context related to human sciences, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

Can (/should) claims in the human sciences be based on personal experiences?

How should competing claims be evaluated in the human sciences?

Is all academic research ultimately tainted by confirmation bias?

How does applying a ‘fox-like approach’ help us to ‘embrace multiple perspectives’?

How do personal and societal perspectives affect the conclusions formed by human scientists?

Can we escape the Hawthorne effect in the human sciences?

How do assumptions lead us astray?

Do cognitive biases have more of an influence in the production of knowledge in the human sciences than in other areas of knowledge?

Knowledge questions on the creation of new ideas in the human sciences

  • These KQs on human sciences relate to Big Question 5, our fifth BQ units for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices of human sciences, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

Why do ideas in the human sciences get reevaluated over time?

Overall, do ‘natural experiments’ provide us with better knowledge than ‘laboratory manufactured’ insights?

How much ‘new evidence’ does it take to move knowledge on in the human sciences?

Has ‘big data’ made the human sciences more objective?

To what extent are the human sciences based on observation and experimentation?

Do academic traditions support or stifle the production of knowledge (in the human sciences)?

Are models useful in helping to produce knowledge in the human sciences?

Can accurate predictions be made in the human sciences?

Can ideas ever be produced in isolation?

Knowledge questions on becoming a discerning knower about the human sciences

  • These KQs on human sciences relate to Big Question 6, our final BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices of human sciences, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

What distinguishes ‘good’ from ‘weak’ evidence in the human sciences?

Is there a clash between accuracy and speed in the social media age?

Is knowledge in the human sciences always tainted by the ‘observer effect’?

How should we conceive of ‘wisdom’?

Is “Never trust a scientist” valid advice?

How immediate do we need to be to something in order to evaluate it with validity?

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