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

Updated on August 16, 2017
VirginiaLynne profile image

Virginia 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

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

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

Finding a Good 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:

  • 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 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: Once you have your topic, you might want to go through the exercises in my problem solution guide to get ready to write.

Deciding on the Best Solution

Great solutions are:

  • Implemented easily
  • Effective at solving the problem
  • Cost effective

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.

Ways to Solve Problems

(click column header to sort results)
Solution  
How It Works  
Assumes Cause of Problem is  
Example  
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
Educate
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
Motivate
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

How to Write an Excellent Essay

To write a persuasive solution essay, you need to organize carefully. Your main goals are:

  1. Interest your reader in the problem
  2. Convince your reader that the problem is important and needs to be solved
  3. Explain your solution clearly
  4. Convince the reader that your solution is cost-effective and feasible
  5. Convince your reader that your solution is better than other solutions

Introduction

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

  1. Tell a true-life story about the problem.
  2. Give a personal experience story.
  3. Use a scenario or imagined story illustrating why this needs to be solved.
  4. Give statistics and facts about the problem which make it vivid for the reader.
  5. Do a detailed explanation of the problem with facts that show why it needs to be dealt with.
  6. Give the history of the situation and explain how this problem developed.
  7. 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.
  8. Use a vivid description with sensory details that makes the reader see the situation.
  9. Use a movie, book, T.V. story or news story to show the problem and why it is important.

Thesis

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:

  1. State your solution clearly in one sentence.
  2. Usually, your thesis sentence will come after your description of the problem.
  3. 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

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.

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:

  1. Tell the reader what should happen.
  2. Give a description of how the situation will change if your plan is adopted.
  3. Use the end of the frame story to show how the solution is needed or how it will work.
  4. Give a real-life example or scenario showing adoption of your plan and how it works.
  5. 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 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:

  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?

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

Questions & Answers

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • For a problem solution essay, should the problem be in one paragraph and the solution in a different paragraph?

    My students generally write essays that have at least five paragraphs, often more. I would suggest that you do something like this:

    Explain and describe the problem and why this should be solved. End with a question which is asking how the problem can be solved. Example: How can we solve the problem of school shootings?

    Then in the next paragraph, you would give your solution idea. If your idea is easy to explain, then you would spend the rest of your paper refuting objections and explaining why your idea would work and be cost-effective, feasible, and effective.

    On the other hand, if your idea is complicated to explain, you will need to spend a longer part of your paper making sure the reader understands it. In both cases, you will need to refute any objections and help the reader to see how important it is to do this solution.

Comments

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    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      3 months ago from United States

      Hi Ron--Whether or not you need to provide solutions depends on the type of argumentative essay you are writing. This article is about a problem solution essay, where the main point is to give a solution. A cause essay is probably what you are writing. In a cause essay, your main point is to explain the cause behind something (and sometimes the effects). Of course, if what you are explaining is a problem and you pinpoint the cause, you might want in your conclusion to suggest a possible solution or a direction that leads towards finding a solution. However, you wouldn't have to give a detailed plan. Likewise, in a problem solution essay, you would probably need to begin the essay talking about what different people think the cause of the problem is because you need to explain why you think a particular cause is the most important.

    • profile image

      Ron 

      3 months ago

      Do you need to provide solutions for an argumentative essay? I was trying to focus on the why mainly?

    • Leonie Manguilin profile image

      Leonie Manguilin 

      6 months ago from Belgium.

      Thanks a lot for your tips. It helps a lot.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      6 months ago from United States

      Hi Arianna, I don't exactly know what a "field trip essay" is. If you could tell me more about the assignment, then maybe I could write an article. However, I think what you may be talking about is a Personal Experience paper and I do have an article about how to write one of those, so you might want to check that out.

    • profile image

      Arianna 

      6 months ago

      Is helped me a lot! Thank you Virginia! Can you do an article on field trip essays!?

    • profile image

      dawnshannon 

      7 months ago

      Thumbs up!

    • profile image

      King Arman 

      8 months ago

      Thanks a lot for the insght! It helps!

    • profile image

      gavin 

      9 months ago

      thats hot

    • profile image

      Jaloladdin Sadullaev 

      10 months ago

      it was really helpful for me, but it would be good if at the end write total plan, then it will be easier to understand

    • profile image

      Lucia 

      15 months ago

      Wow! This has really helped me to complete my project. Thanks!

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      16 months ago from United States

      Hi Sarah--I would only underline if the instructor asked you to do so.

    • profile image

      Sarah 

      16 months ago

      I saw someone underline their thesis statement in the introduction. Is this recommended in an MLA problem-solution essay? I'm confused and still learning these writing styles any help would be appreciated.

    • profile image

      kani 

      17 months ago

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

    • profile image

      derp 

      18 months ago

      I'm using this as a resource for a project

    • profile image

      Hamadeh 

      19 months ago

      This is so helpful solved all my homework with it

    • profile image

      Lizz 

      23 months ago

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

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      2 years ago from United States

      So glad to hear this helped you gambi!

    • profile image

      gambi 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Martin 

      2 years ago

      Thanks ❤️

    • profile image

      Kamaraju Pulugurtha 

      2 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      3 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 

      3 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! :)

    • profile image

      mia colmenares 

      3 years ago

      this would help me do my essay for my school

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 

      3 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 

      3 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.

    • profile image

      sa 

      3 years ago

      good

    • SamuraiMarine profile image

      Samuel Wright 

      3 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. :-)

    • profile image

      Noor 

      4 years ago

      Great ideas.

    • Shari Renae Hicks profile image

      Shari Hicks 

      4 years ago from Dayton, Ohio

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

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