The Problem-Solution Essay
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The Problem-Solution Essay

Essay Overview

A Problem-Solution Essay discusses a problem, and then provides a plan for its solution.  We often use this type of essay when we what to persuade others that we have a better idea, or a better plan.

There are two ways to organize a problem-solution essay.  You can write about the problem, or problems, in the first body paragraph, and then address the solutions in the next two body paragraphs. This is the Block Method of organization.  Or, you can write about a problem and its solution in each body paragraph.  This is known as the Point-by-Point Method of organization.

Before you choose which method, check with your teacher.

Essay Introduction

The Introduction is usually a shorter paragraph including a hook, background information, and the thesis statement.

Thesis Statement

The problem-solution thesis statement can be one sentence or two.  Whether it is one or two sentences, it needs to clearly state what the problem is and why it is a problem, and then possible solutions.

In the following example, “Excessive noise from traffic” is the topic, and “…poses health risks for people of all ages” is the reason why it is a problem.  Then “…two possible solutions to protect people and still preserve the flow of traffic” refers to possible solutions.

Example:

  • Excessive noise from traffic poses health risks for people of all ages. Researchers have developed two possible solutions to protect people and still preserve the flow of traffic.

Body Paragraphs

Block: The first body paragraph describes the problem in such a way that the reader is convinced that the problem needs solving.  Then the next body paragraphs explain the solution(s) to the problem persuading the readers that the solutions are the best.  You can include a rebuttal for objections. See Below.

Point-by-Point: The first body paragraph addresses the first problem or an aspect of a single problem and provides a solution.  The next body paragraph addresses the next problem or another aspect of the same problem, and as in the first paragraph, provides a solution.  The last body paragraph presents the final problem, or another aspect of the same problem and its solution.

Conclusion

The conclusion restates the thesis statement. It should be done in such a way as to emphasize the solutions. The closing statement should leave a call to action – challenging readers to do something about the problem.

Including a Rebuttal

Counter-Argument

The counter-argument states clearly what the opposition believes.

Some people believe that technology is the way of the future and that it is impossible to become overly dependent on its use.

Rebuttal

A strategy often used in the rebuttal is to agree where you can agree, and then state clearly your objection and the reason why your position is correct.

It is true that in modern society technology has infiltrated into almost every fiber of our lives, and that it has enabled people to reach beyond their limits.  However, to say that it is impossible to become overly dependent on its use is to forget how vulnerable society can be.

Support

After you have stated your position, give plausible reasons to support it.

If we allow ourselves to become carelessly dependent on technology, we are in danger of neglecting to develop the necessary skills to survive when technology is not available.  As a result, in an emergency society would not be prepared to survive.

Developing Your Essay

Writers often use cause and effect transitional words to develop how one event affects another event.  

Showing CausesShowing Effects
because of
due to
as a result of
stems from
develops from
consequently
therefore
thus

Suggested Outline (Block)

Introduction

  1. The hook – use an interesting fact, or a quote, or even a rhetorical question
  2. Connecting information – briefly introduce the problem
  3. Thesis statement – state the problem, why it’s a problem, refer to a proposed solution for the problem

Body Paragraph: 1

  1. Write a topic sentence that defines the problem
    1. Describe what the problem is
    2. Provide examples and reasons that show why the problem is important
    3. Show how the problem affects our lives
    4. You may include a counter argument

Body Paragraph: 2

  1. Write a topic sentence that defines the solution: individual level
    1. Explain why this solution is good
    2. Provide steps on how the solution can be implemented
    3. Show how the solution solves the problem

Body Paragraph: 3

  1. Write a topic sentence that defines the solution: community level
    1. Explain why this solution is good
    2. Provide steps on how the solution can be implemented
    3. Show how the solution solves the problem

Conclusion

  1. Restate the thesis statement
  2. Summarize main points
  3. Connect solution to our lives
  4. Final thought

Richard Carrigan, MSE

Richard Carrigan has been an educator for over 30 years and a filmmaker for the past ten years. He has experience teaching English as a Second Language in Asia and teaching university students in the United States. He earned his undergraduate degree from Loma Linda University and his graduate degree from Shenandoah University.