The order of your paragraphs could make a difference

8 11 2011

The rich should shoulder more of the poor’s burden. To what extent is this true?

Consider the following essay plans. There’s nothing wrong with the order of the paragraphs in Plan 1, but Plan 2 illustrates how re-ordering the paragraphs can make a difference.

PLAN 1

[Content is courtesy of Ezra]

Thesis
The rich are already doing a lot to shoulder the poor’s burden. Furthermore, there are problems with the status quo which make shouldering more of the poor’s burden unnecessary and possibly counter-productive. As harsh as it might sound, the truth is that until we solve the problems in the status quo, the rich should not shoulder more of the poor’s burden.

Paragraph 1
Explanation of the status quo and how the rich are already doing a lot / enough.  Engagement of counter-arguments to show an understanding of why some might argue for shouldering more of the poor’s burden.

[Paragraphs 2-4: Problems with the status quo]

Paragraph 2
Donor countries are unwilling to provide more aid. In fact, existing levels of aid provision are not being met enthusiastically. Thus, asking for more aid is pointless.

Paragraph 3
Problems with the provision of aid render aid ineffective, as donors may not understand the needs of the country (e.g. providing technology that the locals have no means of maintaining)

Paragraph 4
Problems in the recipient country make aid ineffective. One key problem is corruption in the government, which means that much aid never actually gets to the intended recipients.

Paragraph 5
When aid is provided, recipient countries often become trapped by the debt burden which they may never escape

Paragraph 6
Donor countries often have their own problems to deal with, and it’s the responsibility of the government to look after their own people first.

PLAN 2 

Thesis
(as above)

Paragraph 1
(as above)

[Paragraphs 2-4: Problems with the status quo]

Paragraph 2
Problems in the recipient country make aid ineffective. One key problem is corruption in the government, which means that much aid never actually gets to the intended recipients.

Paragraph 3
Some might argue that the problem is with the way* we give aid, and that we should still shoulder more of the poor’s burden, but do it in a way that circumvents the problem of corruption. One way is to stop providing money, and instead, actually go into a country to set up education programmes, or build roads / irrigate farms / etc.  However, we see that even when donor countries go into a country to provide aid directly to the intended recipients, further problems with the provision of aid render aid ineffective, as donors may not understand the needs of the country (e.g. providing technology that the locals have no means of maintaining)

Paragraph 4
In light of this, some may propose going back to the idea of giving money (thereby preventing the problem of providing technology that the poor cannot upkeep), but only shouldering more of the poor’s burden in countries that do not face severe problems of corruption (thereby preventing the problem of aid being taken by corrupt governments or being misused). In other words, by providing more aid to only suitable recipient countries. And this might seem like a possible solution – until one considers that when aid is provided, recipient countries often become trapped by the debt burden which they may never escape.

Paragraph 5
Of course, opponents might argue that this problem can be avoided – with a big dose of altruism. Debts have been cancelled in the past, so perhaps if we provided gifts, rather than aid that needs to be repaid, we would finally be fulling our moral obligation of truly, genuinely, altruistically shouldering the burden of the poor. But yet again, problems arise – the potential for overdependency, for one, as well as the simple fact that even donor countries often have their own problems to deal with, and it’s the responsibility of the government to look after their own people first.

Paragraph 6
Finally, all the above arguments assume that countries are more than comfortable with the existing amount of aid they’re providing, and that they would be more than willing to shoulder more of the poor’s burden. However, the unfortunate reality is that donor countries are unwilling to provide more aid. In fact, existing levels of aid provision are not being met enthusiastically. Thus, asking for more aid is pointless.

What makes Plan 2 a better essay is not just the fact that the paragraphs are ordered differently. You also must show why you’re ordering the paragraphs in that way. Show that the way you’ve ordered your paragraphs is not arbitrary, but it was done to show the development of your essay on a macro scale. And that explains the importance of the blue text in Plan 2 – the blue text shows the link between one paragraph and the preceding one, and shows your reader that you don’t just know how to develop individual arguments (paragraph development), but you are also developing the entire thesis (essay development) as you move from one paragraph to the next.

*See this post which considers dealing with the key term “more” by considering the manner rather than the quantity.


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