The Problem-Solution Essay

The Problem-Solution Essay

problem soltuion essay Change the World: The Problem-Solution Essay A Problem Solution Essay does exactly what it sounds like:

      • Presents a problem.
      • Argues for a solution.

Problem Solution Essays are a kind of Argument Essay. They argue that one particular policy would be the way to solve that particular problem. They are sometimes called Propose a Solution Essays. The most important part of this kind of essay is:

  • Describing a detailed solution.
  • Arguing that this solution is affordable, feasible and a better solution than anything else.

For more information on what belongs in a argumentative essay,  check out this article:  The difference between arumentation and persuasion or see this Argument vs Persuasive Writing graphic. Inpiration:  Children Helping Children (video segment starts at 13:00) At age 12, Craig Kielburger set out the change the world. Now, 17 years later and with 2 million volunteers, he’s still at it. In a recent interview on 60 Minutes, Kielburger says, “Kids are looking to get involved. They’re searching for it. And in an era where, you know adults often are looking for meaning and purpose in their lives, kids also want to assert who they are, not just by the videogames they play or the peer groups they belong to, but by the contribution they make. And that’s part of a youth self-identity in the world. And not only is it good for the child, my God, our world needs it.”

In the interview, Ed Bradley asks, “Why you?” Kielberger’s response, “Why not me?” So, WHY NOT YOU?

Step by Step Guide to Problem Solution Essay

Problems are easy to see, but finding solutions is not as easy. To write an effective Problem Solution Essay, you need to spend some time preparing your ideas.   Planning makes all the difference between an effective essay and a mediocre one.  the info graphic below illustrates the writing process. Inquiry Based Learning

Step 1: Find Your Problem Solution Essay Topic

Problem Solution ideas that are easiest to write about are ones that you have experienced yourself. If there is something that bugs you, or if you’ve ever thought, “I have a better idea of how to do that!” you have the begining of a Problem Solution Essay. So start with writing a list of different groups or organizations you belong to. Think about:

  • Where you live.
  • Home town.
  • Activities, clubs and hobbies you do.
  • School groups.
  • Sports groups.
  • Places you’ve worked.
  • Groups of people you may identify with, such as: male/female, oldest/youngest child in a family, ethnic background, tall/short etc.
  • Stereotypes: consider what group others might place you into and the stereotypes of that group.

2. Now take your list of groups and brainstorm different problems you see in these groups. The problems might be caused by:

  • the organization of the group
  • the leadership
  • rules or procedures
  • stereotypes about the group
  • ideas in the group
  • people in the group
  • what the group wants to do vs. what they can do

Still stuck?  Here is a list of Problem Solution Essay Topics that students have written about. Still stuck?  Do you have an interest in saving the world?  Try watching these TED-Ed videos on ways in which we can be friendlier to the environment:  Lessons to Inspire Ordinary Superheroes

Remember, you will need to develop a solution to that problem.

  1. From your list of possible problems, pick 3-4 that you are interested in writing on.
  2. Turn each of your topic ideas into a question. Try to narrow your question.

Example, if you are interested in solving the problem of cheating, possible questions could be:

          • How can we solve cheating among college students?
        • How can we solve cheating in High School?
        • How can we solve cheating on standardized tests?
        • How can we solve cheating on homework?
        • How can we solve businesses cheating on their taxes?

Step 2:  Researching the Problem and Possible Solutions 

Students - Get the Most Out of Google for Research


Step 2:  Critically Evaluating Online Sources  

Criteria for judging content critically (from  Here’s another resource, straight from students, that provides sage advice for searching online:  “Smart Tips for Searching Online

1- Be skeptic
Before you believe ask yourself questions such as: what’s the point of view of the site? And what opinions or ideas are missing. Does the information show a minimum of bias ? Is the author impartial in their reasoning ? Is the page designed to sway opinions ?

2- Fact-checking
 Always double check the facts that you find through comparing them with other sources of information. Ask yourself: Is the information reliable ? Is it error-free ? Does it include links to other resources ?

3- About the author
Is the author qualified ? An expert in their domain ? Is there a link to the information about the author or the sponsor of the website ? If the page does not include no author name or sponsor, then is there any other way to determine its origin.

4- About the page
Check out if the page is dated and if so , is it current enough ?  what topics this website cover ? What is it that this page offers to readers ? How in-depth is the material ? What about the writing style, arguments, data , and facts included ? how are these developed ?

5- Search strategically
 Use advanced search features to refine your searches. Think critically about your online searches and use specific and descriptive keywords.

6- Conduct multiple searches
Search for the same topic using various keywords and phrases. Compare the search results and evaluate the different perspectives.

7- Pay attention to the URL domains
The URL domain is located at the end of a website address. URL domains reveal the kind of organization you are dealing with . Educational institutions and government entities usually aim to share knowledge and improve communities. Examples of URL domains are .com = company, .gov = government website, .edu = educational institution, .org = organization.


(from Edutopia) The term “to vet” means to to study or examine something to see that it is acceptable or accurate.  That is what researchers have to do with their sources.  They have to think critically about the value of the information that is presented.  Do not select sources simply because they meet your content criteria.  They must be credible, meaning that the person presenting the information must have the experience to speak knowledgably about the topic and the information should be current and correct.  Here are some guidelines for vetting your sources:

  • Relevance: the information’s level of importance to a particular reading purpose or explicitly stated need for that information
  • Accuracy: the extent to which information contains factual and updated details that can be verified by consulting alternative and/or primary sources
  • Bias/Perspective: the position or slant toward which an author shapes information
  • Reliability: the information’s level of trustworthiness based on information about the author and the publishing body

Evaluating relevance and accuracy involves considering the quality of the content itself. In contrast, judgments about perspective and reliability require an examination of details about the author and his or her agenda in relation to a specific affiliation. Understanding these differences provides a concrete way to remember that any judgment should be informed by a critical examination of both relevant claims and an author’s level of expertise to make those claims.

How to Evaluate Web Pages 

These instructional videos offer helpful advice for determining if a web source is credible.

Common Craft’s Guide to Web Page Evaluation

Assessing Quality of Online Resources
Figure 1. Understanding dimensions of critical evaluation.  Credit: Julie Coiro

When reading on the Internet, readers are often tempted to distort or disregard new ideas that contradict their thinking, and revise their reading path to focus only on locating details that confirm their thinking. Challenge yourself to look for evidence that supports and refutes key claims. Cross-checking claims between multiple sources (see Figure 2) can help:

  1. Recognize ideas you might otherwise ignore
  2. Weigh the usefulness (and reliability) of these ideas against what you believe to be true
  3. Consider that new ideas may actually be more accurate than your original thought.
Think Critically while Researching
Figure 2. Three stages of thinking prompts for evaluating sources.  Credit: Julie Coiro
Here are some excellent questions to help guide you in your vetting process:
  • Is this site relevant to my needs and purpose?
  • What is the purpose of this site?
  • Who created the information at this site, and what is this person’s level of expertise?
  • When was the information at this site updated?
  • Where can I go to check the accuracy of this information?
  • Why did this person or group put this information on the Internet?
  • Does the website present only one side of the issue, or are multiple perspectives provided?
  • How are information and/or images at this site shaped by the author’s stance?
  • Is there anyone who might be offended or hurt by the information at this site?
  • How can I connect these ideas to my own questions and interpretations?

Step 3: Identifying Debatable Claims

You’ve gathered several possible problems. Talk over your choices with people in your class or friends and pick one that you think will make the best paper to write about. You may change your mind as you work through these questions and that is all right. Pick one topic and answer the following to help you decide on a specific claim. The best report will be one that you care about and can discuss knowledgeably.  Be sure that you consider various perspectives.  In other words, ask yourself how your claims might be challenged.

  1. Does the topic involve different claims of definition? Would different members of the audience define the problem in different ways? Identify any possible differences of definition.
  2. Does a clear cause and effect relationship exist in the problem? What are the main causes and effects of the problem?
  3. Does the problem involve value judgments? If so, what values are involved?
  4. Does the possible solution involve getting the audience to adopt a change of behavior and/or a change of value?
  5. Where can you get information to help you write your paper? What sources will you use?

Step 4: Identifying the Causes of the Problem

You may need to do some research at this point to find out what other people think about this problem, the causes and the solutions that have already been suggested and tried. Answer the following questions to help you think through causes and effects.

  1. What problem will your essay address? Why did you choose to focus on this particular problem?
  2. What audience is affected by the problem and how are they affected?
  3. Other than those most directly affected, who is most likely to be aware of the problem? How will they know about it? What is their interest in it?
  4. Which of the effects of the problem are the most common? Which ones are the most serious?
  5. What are the possible causes of the problem? Which are the immediate causes and which are the remote ones? Are any of the causes unchangeable?
  6. What solutions have been proposed or tried in the past? If they were unsuccessful, why? If they were successful, why?
  7. What are the most important reasons for solving this problem?

Step 5: Identifying an Audience for Your Problem Solution Essay

Address Someone Who Can Solve Problem: Choosing the audience you are writing towards is very important in Problem Solution Essays. If you want your solution to really work, you need to choose an audience that has the power to solve the problem, not just one that sees the problem.

Usually, Your Audience is an Authority: For example, students might not like the food in the cafeteria at school, but writing a paper to the students isn’t going to solve the problem. You need to address the administration or cafeteria workers or some other authority who can actually make changes in the menu

Use Reasons that Convince that Audience: Moreover, you need to find reasons for solving the problem that would convince that authority. The students might notice the food is not tasty, but authorities might be more interested in the idea that the food is not healthy, or that parents will be happier if the food is better.

Guiding Question to Help in Choosing an Audience

  1. What is the situation or context for the problem?
  2. What audiences are interested in the problem? Who would be directly affected by your solution?
  3. What are the different points of view an audience might have on the problem?
  4. Which audience or group has power to work a solution to the problem?
  5. What sorts of reasons would make that audience believe the problem needs to be solved?
  6. How will this audience respond to your proposal? What sort of evidence would convince this sort of audience? Would they respond best to logic? pathos and emotion? authority? character?
  7. Who might object to your solution and what would their objections be? How will you respond to these objections?

Step 6: Finding a Solution to the Problem

Many problems have multiple causes. You may need to focus on solving the most important cause. Answer the following questions to help you find your solution idea. Do any research needed to develop your plan.

  1. What is the most important cause of the problem?
  2. What do you think needs to happen for this problem to be solved?
  3. Explain your proposed solution. Include the steps needed to implement the proposal.
  4. What reasons can you give to show that this solution will work? How can you demonstrate the logical connections between parts of the problem and your solution?
  5. What specific effects would your proposal have on the problem? Explain the cause to effect relationship.
  6. How does this solution differ from previous solutions that have been tried?

Step 7:  Making an Essay Outline

After doing all these Problem Solution Essay Guided Pre-writing steps, you are ready to make an outline and write your essay. You will probably find the essay very easy to write because you have thought about all your ideas and how you can effectively present your solution. For steps on how to write an outline see:How to Write a Problem Solution Essay which also includes sample essays.  The following Ted Talk is also an example of a problem-solution essay. When you finish your paper, you may want to have someone Peer Edit, and you can also follow tips for Editing Your Paper for a Better Grade.

Online Research Tutorial Research papers should present authoritative facts about a subject.  They should also be readable and show human consequence.  This is done by combining the use of narrative strategies in your persuasive or informational text.  Watch this video about how you can do research that will help you uncover the hidden narrative gems to add depth and interest to your persuasive writing. Citing Sources:  Avoid the Pitfall of Plagairism.   How to incorporate quotes in a research paper with internal citations and a bibliography.


Step 8:  Present Your Ideas to an Authentic Audience Maya Penn started her own business at only eight years old. She saw the need to develop eco-friendly apparel, so she started designing clothes from material that would not harm the enviornment, and she donates 20% of her earnings to organizations that can help with protecting the planet’s resources. She is the leader of tomorrow who gives back. Watch her story and think about how she discovered a problem, engineered a solution, and then presented her ideas to a wider audience. She is as good as it gets! Child prodigy Adora Svitak says the world needs “childish” thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism. Kids’ big dreams deserve high expectations, she says, starting with grownups’ willingness to learn from children as much as to teach. After a visit to a plastic-filled waste transfer station last year, students Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao learned that much of the plastic in trash may not degrade for 5,000 years. Synthesized into plastics are phthalates, compounds that make shower curtain liners, food wraps and other products bendable but may also adversely impact human reproductive development and health. As plastics slowly break down, these phthalates would leach into the surrounding environment. So, the two young scientists tackled the problem and ultimately discovered strains of bacteria that have the potential to naturally degrade phthalates. Their work earned a regional first place in British Columbia for the 2012 Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada, as well as a special award for the most commercial potential at the contest’s finals. Fifteen-year-old Tavi Gevinson had a hard time finding strong female, teenage role models — so she built a space where they could find each other. At TEDxTeen, she illustrates how the conversations on sites like Rookie, her wildly popular web magazine for and by teen girls, are putting a new, unapologetically uncertain and richly complex face on modern feminism. McKenna Pope’s younger brother loved to cook, but he worried about using an Easy-Bake Oven — because it was a toy for girls. So at age 13, Pope started an online petition for the American toy company Hasbro to change the pink-and-purple color scheme on the classic toy and incorporate boys into its TV marketing. In a heartening talk, Pope makes the case for gender-neutral toys and gives a rousing call to action to all kids who feel powerless. Hot Topics for Persuasive Writing Six Online Research Skills All Students Need

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