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C. Finding the purpose of each paragraph
 
 

The paragraph is the main structural unit of any passage. To find a paragraph's purpose, ask yourself

  • Why did the author include this paragraph?
  • What shift did the author have in mind when moving on to this paragraph?
  • What bearing does this paragraph have on the author's main idea?

This process allows you to create a "mental road map" of the passage. You are taking the test on a computer screen. You cannot label the paragraphs. Instead, remember the structure as you proceed and/or use scrap paper to draw a rough diagram of the essay as you go. Some students feel comfortable drawing the diagram. There are two purposes to creating a map of the essay: 1) it will help you better understand the essay and 2) it will help you locate specific details later if you get a specific detail question.

Let's look at the earlier essay:

      One of the most persistently troubling parts of national domestic policy is the development and use of water resources. Because the technology of water management involves similar construction skills, whether the task is the building of an ocean jetty for protection of shipping or the construction of a river dam for flood control and irrigation, the issues of water policy have mingled problems of navigation and agriculture. A further inherent complexity of water policy is the frequent conflict between flood control and irrigation, between requirements for abundance and those for scarcity of water. Both problems exist in America, often in the same river basins; the one is most typically the problem of the lower part of the basin and the other the problem of the upper part.

<<This paragraph is a discussion of the conflicts over scarce water resources (flood control vs. irrigation, lower part vs. higher part of basin).>>

      Then there are the problems of cities located along the major American rivers, not infrequently directly on the very flood plains of highly erratic streams. In the arid parts of the land, it has recently become clear that climate varies over time, with irregular periods of serious drought followed by wet periods marked by occasional floods. The problems of land and water, then, are inherently difficult. For this reason alone, shortcomings and failures have probably been inevitable. Moreover, in the scale of the undertakings that have been attempted involving on occasion no less than the reversal of stream flow and the altering of the natural features of whole river basins, it is inevitable.

<<Climate varies creating inherent conflict in how to use a water supply that constantly changes.>>

     Nevertheless, the most startling fact about the history of water projects in the United States is the degree to which their shortcomings have been associated with administrative failures. Again and again these shortcomings have proved to be the consequences of inadequate study of water flow, of soils, of factors other than construction technology and of faulty organization. In 1959, the Senate Select Committee on National Water resources found that twenty different national commissions or committees charged with examining these problems and seeking solutions had emphasized with remarkable consistency the need for coordination among agencies dealing with water.

<<The major problem with water policy is administrative failures. Coordination is needed between agencies.>>

Draw the roadmap:
Paragraph 1. This paragraph is a discussion of the conflicts over scarce water resources (flood control vs. irrigation, lower part vs. higher part of basin).
Paragraph 2. Because climate varies, it creates inherent conflict in how to use a water supply that constantly changes.
Paragraph 3. The major problem with water policy is administrative failures. Coordination is needed between agencies.

If you see how the essay is set up, you will better understand the essay and more quickly find answers.


D. Determining the scope of the argument



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