We’ve been dealing with the issue of topic sentences quite a bit the past weeks. Let me just consolidate the key learning points here using this question as an example (other questions have been looked by my colleagues in a previous post).
Q: How effective are international efforts to ease the problem of global hunger?
I. Brief analysis
This is your standard poverty-related question (which usually revolves around the causes, problems or solutions of the issue) with the added scope delineated for you (aid from where? international bodies or foreign countries what aspect of poverty? lack of food). Issue? This is not ‘international efforts good’ vs. ‘international efforts bad question’. If you were to really think about the issue (i.e. why are people asking this question? what two broad ‘camps’ do they then fall into?), you would be thinking about:
How international efforts have actually helped improved the situation despite the challenges they have/are facing
How international efforts have actually not helped improve things despite their continual efforts
Drawing out the ‘stands’ in this manner will ensure better planning on your part, really. Lastly, the phrase ‘how effective’ is not asking you assess the character of the donor or recipient per se, nor is it asking you to compare international effort with other avenues of help, and nor is it asking you to recommend what international efforts should or should not be doing. What you really need to do is assess the situation as it is now and look at the net outcomes of international efforts.
Here are some handles (DIRT) with which to measure effectiveness:
Degree of impact (i.e. have many people benefited or are most still lacking food?)
Ideal vs. pragmatic (i.e. practical obstacles?)
Root causes/impacts (i.e. do international efforts deal with the root of the problems?)
Time (i.e. do international efforts really help in the long run or is their help mostly attending only to short run needs?)
II. OK now on to topic sentences.
Remember that topic sentences essentially must (1.) directly support the thesis (and by logical extension, address all parts of the question), (2.) must be an argument (reason + claim) and must concern a specific point. Bonus elements can include contextualization and even a counter-argument structure.
Here are topic sentences that you have remodeled in class. Are they OK?
Sample Topic Sentence 1
Original: Aid from international organisations has played a part in reducing the issue of global hunger despite their inadequacies. [Evaluation: TS is understandably too general and is a merely echo of the thesis. There is also no clear argument being given (there is a vague claim that it has ‘played a part’ but no clear reasoning as to how or why).]
Remodel 1: Despite their inadequacies in solving political restrictions and long lag time before execution of action [evaluation], aid from international organisations have reduced global hunger [claim] due to their massive financial ability and their global outreach [reason]. [Evaluation: TS is more specific and contains some element of evaluation now but it is still not too clear how financial ability and global outreach necessarily mean their efforts have been effective. It’s like saying the rich have been effective in helping the poor because the rich are very rich].
Remodel 2: Despite their inadequacies in solving political restrictions and long lag time before execution of action [evaluation], aid from international organisations have–given their massive financial ability and global outreach [reasoning]–managed to get food supplies to increasingly more impoverished groups of people more effectively [claim] than any single humanitarian organization could have done on their own so far [some context] . [Evaluation: TS claim is clearer now; there is the aspect of ‘degree of effectiveness’ as well]
Sample Topic Sentence 2
Original: International efforts to tackle the global hunger problem are also made ineffective due to the political instability in these under-developed nations [claim]. [Evaluation: TS has a clearer claim but the reason is not so clear]
Remodel 1: While there are many international organizations who are active in raising awareness to help alleviate the problem [evaluation], international efforts to tackle the global hunger problem remain ineffective as political instability in these under-developed nations [claim] disrupts the effective distribution of aid [reason]. [Evaluation: TS makes an attempt to bring in the ‘opposing’ view but it is not directly related to the argument at hand]
Remodel 2: While international aid continues to pour in and local governments seem fairly receptive on the surface [evaluation], international efforts continue to remain ineffective due to persistent political instability in these under-developed nations [claim] (such as Somalia and DR Congo) [some context] that often disrupt the management and distribution of aid [reasoning]. [Evaluation: TS has a more relevant counter-argument preface and brings in some context now to lay down the wider correlation between political instability and socioeconomic situation impedes the effectiveness of food aid]
Sample Topic Sentence 3
Original: Aid-providing bodies, however, often harbor vested interests [reason]and abuse their powers instead [vague claim]. [Evaluation: TS is not clearly addressing the question; not clear how abusing power necessarily leads to ineffective efforts]
Remodel 1: Though the setting of global bodies like the IMF and World Bank have brough hope of better coordinated food aid for the poor, these financial bodies often harbor vested interests [reason]and abuse their power by laying down punitive aid conditions for their own economic gain [claim]. [Evaluation: There is some counter-argument now but the TS still does not directly address the question]
Remodel 2: Though the setting of global bodies like the IMF and World Bank have brough hope of better coordinated food aid for the poor, these financial bodies–operating under a capitalist ideology with vested free market interests [reason and context]–often abuse their power by laying down punitive aid conditions that do more in the long run to ensure access for western firms than constant food supply for the recipients [claim]. [Evaluation: Link to question is more clear; some degree of evaluation in time (long/short run) also employed]