How to Write a Problem Solution Essay: Step-by-Step Instructions
Problem Solution Papers
Describe the problem
Convince the reader the problem needs solving
Explain the solution proposal
Argue that this is the best solution
Picking a Topic
These sorts of essays are something you will write in your work and in life. Start by thinking about things that bother you or problems that you find irritating. If you've thought, "I know how this could be done better!" you have a great idea for this essay.
How to Find a Topic Idea
Step One: Get ideas for this essay by thinking about what sorts of problems you encounter. Think about groups that you belong to and problems that those groups have. Make a list of groups you belong to like:
- Hometown community
- Sports teams
- Hobby groups
- People groups (teenagers, high school students, college students, family, males, females, race, culture, or language group)
Step Two: Make a list of problems you have encountered in some of these groups. Sometimes, there is a plan for solving the problem but it isn't working, or maybe the plan isn't being enforced. The problem doesn't have to be a big one, but it has to be something you can convince other people needs to be and can be solved, or at least made better.
Step Three: Once you have your topic, you might want to go through the exercises in my problem solution guide to get ready to write your paper.
Finding a Solution
Once you've decided what problem you want to solve, you need to decide on a solution. The table below lists many of the kinds of solutions that we often use to solve different sorts of problems. Look through them to get ideas for a solution to your problem.
Essay Solution Ideas
How It Works
Assumes Cause of Problem is
Give more money, people, equipment, or stuff
Lack of resources
More teachers in schools, more money for fire department
Take something away
Remove source of problem
One thing or person causing problem
Fire bad teachers, get rid of poor textbooks
Give information about the problem and solution
People don't know what to do
Say No to Drugs campaign
Make laws or rules
Create a new law or rule, or reform existing rules
Current rules don't solve problem
School dress code revised to require uniforms
Enforce laws or rules
Provide a way to enforce or else provide more resources (like more police or money for regulators) to enforce existing rules or laws
Current rules are adequate but aren't enforced
School calls parents if students don't adhere to dress code
Change method or procedure
Change the way something is done or organized
Something isn't being done the right way
Change meeting time from Tuesday morning to Saturday to get more people to come
Use advertising or emotional appeals to get people to do or not do something
People know what they should do, but don't do it
Build something new
Give new facilities or organization
More buildings or a new organization is needed because nothing currently existing will solve problem
Build a new football stadium to encourage fan support
Work out a compromise
Get opposing sides together to work out a mutual agreement
Problem is mostly lack of agreement
Trade agreement talks between countries
Adapt a solution that works
Take a solution that worked somewhere else and apply it to this problem
Current solution does not fit problem
Adding taxes on cigarettes decreases smoking, so put a tax on unhealthy snack foods
Get rid of current leadership and put someone new in charge
Leader is the problem
Fire college football coach
Present information or incentives to change the way people feel about situation
Attitudes are causing problem
Parents give children money to do chores
To be effective, you need to organize your essay carefully. Your main goal in this essay is to:
- Interest your reader in the problem
- Convince your reader that the problem is important and needs to be solved
- Explain your solution clearly
- Convince the reader that your solution is cost-effective and feasible
- Convince your reader that your solution is better than other solutions
Solving Problems: Square Peg in Round Hole
Introduction: State the problem and explain why it needs to be solved
- If it is an unknown problem, you will need to explain in detail.
- If it is a familiar problem, then you need to paint a vivid picture.
- In both situations, you will need to convince the reader that it is an important problem.
- A true-life story about the problem
- A personal experience story
- A scenario: imagined story illustrating problem
- Statistics and facts about the problem which make it vivid for reader
- Explanation of problem with facts and history of problem
- Frame story (story of problem in intro; story of solution in conclusion)
- Vivid description which makes the reader see the problem
Propose a solution: Thesis
- State your solution clearly in one sentence. Usually, your thesis sentence will come after your description of the problem.
- Sometimes, if your solution is short and simple, you may end up just stating it at the end.
How can we solve the problem of racism in America?
The body of your paper will be three or more paragraphs and must:
- Explain your solution clearly
- Give details about how this solution will solve the problem
- Explain who will be in charge and how it will be funded
- Give evidence that your solution will work (expert opinion, examples of when it has worked before, statistics, studies, or logical argument)
The body of your paper will also seek to argue that your solution:
- Will solve the problem
- Is cost-effective
- Is feasible to implement
- Is a reasonable solution to the problem
- Can stand up to possible objections
- Is better than other solutions
In order to make a convincing argument, you will need to consider objections to your plan carefully and refute them logically with argument and/or evidence.
Your conclusion will be one or more paragraphs. In your conclusion, you want to clinch your argument and convince your reader that your solution is the best. Here are some effective conclusion ideas:
- Tell the reader what should happen
- Give a description of how the situation will change if your plan is adopted
- Use the end of the frame story to show how the solution is needed or how it will work
- Give a real-life example or scenario showing adoption of your plan and how it works
- Cite convincing facts, statistics, or expert testimony on the solution or the problem
Problem Solution Quiz
Do you like to solve problems
Solving the Problem of Lying
Finding Common Ground with Your Audience: In order to build an effective argument or proposal, you need to find common ground with your audience. While there is some value in arguments which “preach to the choir” and “rally the troops” to support something they already strongly believe, most arguments are more effective if you seek to persuade an audience which is undecided or not strongly in favor of your position.
Here are some questions that can help you define your audience for your position paper and also find out what common ground you have with them:
- Who is your audience? What do they believe about your issue?
- What do you want them to believe or do after reading your paper?
- What are the warrants (values or strong beliefs) your audience holds about this type of subject?
- How are your warrants (values or strong beliefs) different or the same as those of your audience?
- Where do you and your audience have common ground? What basic needs, values, and beliefs do you share? Examples of needs and values that motivate most audiences: basic needs, health, financial well-being, affection and friendship, respect and esteem of others, self-esteem, new experience, self-actualization, and convenience.
- Which of these needs and values could be effective for you to appeal to in your paper?
Solving Problems in Health
Tips for Writing
Tone: Tone is important in this sort of paper. You want to have a tone that is reasonable, convincing, appealing, and logical.
Point of View: Because you are trying to convince the reader, this is one paper where the second person point of view (“you” or “we”) might be used effectively. However, first person or third is also appropriate.
Audience: Considering the reaction of your reader is very important in writing this paper. You need to address a reader who can actually implement your proposal. You need to think about how you can convince the reader who has the power to act on your suggestions, not just someone who already agrees with you but can’t do anything about the situation.
Problem Solution vs. Argument Papers
Argument essays often lead to position or problem solution papers, since once someone agrees with your argument, they often want to know, "What should we do about it?" As I explain in my article How to Write an Argument Essay, argument or position essays might talk about a solution, but they won't give a detailed plan. Both argument and problem solution essays:
- Vividly describe a problem or situation
- Have a viewpoint they want to convince the reader to understand
- Want the reader to believe, do, or think something
- May want the reader to take action
Problem Solution Essays Give a Detailed Plan: What makes a problem-solution paper different is that it gives a detailed plan for how the problem needs to be solved and argues for a specific action. The body argues for your solution and explains:
- What needs to be done
- How it needs to be done
- Why it will work
- Why it is feasible and reasonable as a solution
- Why it is cost-effective
- Why this solution is better than other solutions