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
This Article Includes
Finding a Good Topic
Deciding on the Best Solution
How to Write an Excellent Essay
Effective Writing Tips for Problem Solution Essays
Choosing a Problem Solution Topic
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 your paper.
Step One: 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 a solution 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: Still stuck? You might want to check out my list of 100 Problem Solution Essay topics to find an idea (hint: this article also includes sample essays).
Step 4: Once you have your topic, you might want to go through the exercises in my problem solution guide to get ready to write.
Finding a Solution
Great solutions are:
- Implemented easily
- Effective at solving the problem
Use the table below to get ideas for what types of solutions might already have been tried and which ones might work better to solve your problem.
12 Ways to Solve Problems
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
Writing Your Essay
To write a persuasive solution essay, you need to organize carefully. Your main goals are:
- 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
In the introduction, you need to describe the problem and explain why it needs to be solved and then give your thesis solution. Remember:
- 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.
Creative Introduction Ideas
- Tell a true-life story about the problem.
- Give a personal experience story.
- Use a scenario or imagined story illustrating why this needs to be solved.
- Give statistics and facts about the problem which make it vivid for the reader.
- Do a detailed explanation of the problem with facts that show why it needs to be dealt with.
- Give the history of the situation and explain how this problem developed.
- Use a frame story which gives an example of the problem in the introduction and then a return to the problem being solved in the conclusion.
- Use a vivid description with sensory details that makes the reader see the situation.
- Use a movie, book, T.V. story or news story to show the problem and why it is important.
At the end of your introduction, you can ask your thesis question and then give your solution idea as the thesis statement. Here are some tips:
- State your solution clearly in one sentence.
- Usually, your thesis sentence will come after your description of the problem.
- Sometimes, you may not want to state this thesis until after you have shown that the present solutions aren't working, especially if your thesis is something simple.
Body of Paper
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.
Writing the Conclusion
Your conclusion will be one or more paragraphs. For an excellent ending, you want to clinch your argument and convince your reader that your solution is the best. Here are some effective 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
Effective Writing Tips
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.
How to Convince 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?
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
Questions & Answers
- Helpful 105
How should I start the first paragraph of a problem solution essay?
Start by giving a vivid description of the problem. You can tell a story about the problem or give a scenario, or tell your real-life experience with the problem. Then end the paragraph with the question about how to solve that problem.Helpful 28
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a problem solution essay?
A problem solution essay is a type of argument essay. In fact, solving a problem is the last step in thinking about any issue and is often the most important and complicated step. The advantage of choosing this sort of essay is that you get a chance to explain in detail how you think a problem can be solved. In an essay that argues for a cause, you can talk about what created the problem and then discuss some possible solutions at the end of the essay, but in a Problem Solution essay, you get to spend a lot of time talking about the details of the solution and arguing for why that solution is the best, most efficient, and most feasible. On the other hand, the disadvantage of a Problem Solution essay is that the reader may have a lot of objections to your solution and you need to think about how you are going to refute those objections.Helpful 2
I am a high school student, and I chose to write an essay about insecurities. However, now I feel the topic is too broad. Should I stick with it?
You are very astute to realize that your topic isn't narrow enough. That problem happens a lot to students. Instead of changing topics, you probably will do better to take the subject you started with and narrow it to a particular group of people or a situation. Here are some ideas of problem solution topics on insecurities:
How can schools help high school students overcome insecurities about learning?
How can a high school student overcome insecurities in social situations with the opposite sex?
How can high school students help a friend whose insecurities are limiting their life?Helpful 3
How do I solve the problem in a problem solution essay?
Finding a solution is always the hardest part of this sort of essay. I suggest that you follow a three-pronged approach:
1. Ask as many people as you can who know about the problem what their ideas are for a solution.
2. Research the problem and solutions that others have tried. One trick my students taught me is that you often can find a solution that has been tried in a different location and adapt that to your situation. For example, when we had problems with people biking on campus and causing accidents, my students researched a nearby campus and found a solution that had been done there.
3. Look at my "Ways to Solve Problems Chart" on the "How to write a problem solution essay." The chart includes all of the different ideas my students have come up with over the past ten years about how to solve problems. Think about each type of solution and how that could create a solution for your problem. For example, what could you add to the situation? What could you take away? Would changing leadership help? Could money solve the problem, and if so, how could you get the funds?
Finally, when you have some solution ideas, check to see if they are feasible (can you do them?), cost-effective (does the cost seem reasonable and do you have a way to pay for it?), and will this actually solve the problem without creating any new problems?Helpful 1