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How to Write a Problem Solution Essay: Step-by-Step Instructions

Updated on May 26, 2016
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VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

Problem Solution Essays: How To
Problem Solution Essays: How To

Problem Solution Papers

Describe the problem

Convince the reader the problem needs solving

Explain the solution proposal

Argue that this is the best solution

Refute objections

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.

Topic Ideas

How do we prevent violence in schools?
How do we prevent violence in schools? | Source

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:

  • School
  • Hometown community
  • Clubs
  • 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

(click column header to sort results)
Solution Ideas  
How It Works  
Assumes Cause of Problem is  
Add something
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
Anti-smoking ads
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
Change leadership
Get rid of current leadership and put someone new in charge
Leader is the problem
Fire college football coach
Change attitudes
Present information or incentives to change the way people feel about situation
Attitudes are causing problem
Parents give children money to do chores

Essay Outline

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.

Introduction ideas

  • 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?

Body Paragraphs

The body of your paper will be three or more paragraphs and must:

  1. Explain your solution clearly
  2. Give details about how this solution will solve the problem
  3. Explain who will be in charge and how it will be funded
  4. 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:

  1. Will solve the problem
  2. Is cost-effective
  3. Is feasible to implement
  4. Is a reasonable solution to the problem
  5. Can stand up to possible objections
  6. 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

See results

Solving the Problem of Lying

Effective Essays

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:

  1. Who is your audience? What do they believe about your issue?
  2. What do you want them to believe or do after reading your paper?
  3. What are the warrants (values or strong beliefs) your audience holds about this type of subject?
  4. How are your warrants (values or strong beliefs) different or the same as those of your audience?
  5. 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.
  6. Which of these needs and values could be effective for you to appeal to in your paper?

Solving Problems in Health

How can we motivate people to eat more healthy foods?
How can we motivate people to eat more healthy foods? | Source

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.

Psychology Topics

How can we avoid mental illness?
How can we avoid mental illness? | Source

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


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    • profile image

      kani 3 weeks ago

      this articles and notes are really helpful for me to attend the english exam

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      derp 8 weeks ago

      I'm using this as a resource for a project

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      Hamadeh 2 months ago

      This is so helpful solved all my homework with it

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      Lizz 6 months ago

      This is really help full. its going help me with my with my essay.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 11 months ago from United States

      So glad to hear this helped you gambi!

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      gambi 11 months ago

      it really helped me pass the test. I by hearted the whole article. and u know my result:) 10 out of 50

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      Martin 11 months ago

      Thanks ❤️

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      Kamaraju Pulugurtha 15 months ago from Khammam, India.

      For an introduction, I find here possible solutions in my quest for publication in the web pages and I have developed a little bit of confidence in my abilities as a writer. I think I can go ahead and find a problem and solutions that I throw open. Good beginning. I congratulate myself.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 2 years ago from United States

      Joe--so glad I could help you. I hope that you will check out all of my other "how to" essay help. Many English instructors in colleges are graduate students who are new to this job. I like to be able to provide them and their students the information I've gathered over many years of working as an English instructor. Most of what I've written has come from my experiences with students, not a teacher's manual or textbook. If it is helpful, you are welcome to show these to your teacher and invite them to share my articles with students online (not copying out hard copies--that is a violation of copyright).

    • profile image

      Joe Shankywanka 2 years ago

      Thank you! My english teacher is terrible and i have a problem solution paper due tomorrow. Thank you sooo much for making it so that i wont absolutely fail! :)

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      mia colmenares 2 years ago

      this would help me do my essay for my school

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 2 years ago from Washington State

      Wonderful detail on how to write a problem solving Essay. I found the charts and 1.2.3. thoughts and questions very helpful. The challenge is on to find the solutions. Great topic!

    • chaitanyasaivb profile image

      Sai Chaitanya 2 years ago from INDIA

      A great article to read. And the description given with the help of a table is simply superb. And suggestions for solving a problem, is quite interesting.

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      sa 2 years ago


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      Samuel Wright 2 years ago from Bakersfield, Ca.

      Thanks for this. I shared it with my Niece, who is in Honors writing classes in high school and still has problems with her essays. She thanks you as well. :-)

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      Noor 2 years ago

      Great ideas.

    • Shari Renae Hicks profile image

      Shari Hicks 2 years ago from Dayton, Ohio

      This is great. This is helpful for writing Argumentitive Essays too!

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