In order to know how to write a problem-solution essay, one must know what kind of essay it is first. So what is a problem-solution essay? A problem-solution is a method for analyzing and writing about a topic that identifies a problem and consequently providing one or more solutions to it.
Problem-solution essays are commonly short essays that argue and convince a reader to take on a problem or address it in a particular way. It is usually composed of an introduction, a problem, a solution, and a conclusion.
The introduction identifies the problem in a nutshell. It explains why the topic is a problem, who are affected by the problem, and the consequences they will have to suffer if the problem is not addressed.
The problem explains what the problem is clearly and specifically. It demonstrates that this is not just a personal complaint but a genuine problem that actually affects the general public. Why? Because it will appeal more to the readers or audience. Anything that affects a person, whether directly or indirectly, instantly makes the person curious or interested in it.
The solution is the part that offers a concrete solution to the problem. It explains why this one is the best recourse among others. The student or the writer can also include other solutions to it and just add which one he or she thinks is the best option. When presenting multiple problem-solution items, these have to be presented in a logical order to ensure that they are easily understood by the readers or audience of the essay. Otherwise, it will defeat the purpose of the essay itself, and that is to help resolve a problem.
The conclusion is an emphasis of the importance of the problem and the value of the solution or solutions presented in the essay. It can also be the part where the student or the writer convinces his or her readers or audience to act on it before it worsens.
Problem-Solution Essay Outline
There are two ways to approach a problem-solution essay: either through a block or a chain structure.
In a block structure, all of the problems are identified and listed first, and then followed by their corresponding solutions afterward, which would look like this:
While in a chain structure, each problem is followed immediately by its corresponding solution, which would look like this:
Each type of outline has its own merits with the former being generally clearer and simpler, while the latter presents the solutions directly to the problems identified. In choosing which approach to apply, the student or the writer will have to consider certain factors including the number of problems to be identified. If a student opts to identify several problems in the essay, choosing the chain structure would appear to be a better choice so the readers can associate which solution answers a particular problem more quickly and consequently avoid mismatching them in the process.
List of Topics for a Problem-Solution Essay
In choosing which topic to write about in a problem-solution essay, it would be best to choose a topic that the student or writer is truly passionate about or something that he or she is well-informed. To attract readers or audience to read it, he can address some social issues that affect the general public or a certain group of people. It could be topics about health, youth, the environment, the society, education, or even about happiness and success.
The following are universal issues that can be tackled on in problem-solution essays:
Whether or not to fully ban tobacco to reduce the lung cancer incidence;
Whether or not to ban genetically-modified food to address obesity;
Whether or not to censor movie scripts to reduce violence;
Whether or not to implement one-car rule to reduce global warming;
Whether or not to invest in renewable energy source to address the climate crisis;
Whether or not psychological help can reduce domestic violence;
Whether or not adoption procedures should be made easier for gay couples;
Whether or not investment in virtual curriculums can make education more affordable;
Whether or not music can improve academic performance; and
Whether or not social media can solve teen isolation.
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Problem-solution essays are a common essay type, especially for short essays such as subject exams or IELTS. The page gives information on what they are, how to structure this type of essay, and gives an example problem-solution essay on the topic of obesity and fitness levels.
What are problem-solution essays?
Problem-solution essays consider the problems of a particular situation, and give solutions to those problems. They are in some ways similar to cause and effect essays, especially in terms of structure (see below). Problem-solution essays are actually a sub-type of another type of essay, which has the following four components:
The 'situation' may be included in the essay prompt, in which case it will not be needed in the main body. If it is needed, it can often be included in the introduction, especially for short essays, as with the example essay below. The 'evaluation' may be included as part of the conclusion (also as in the example below), or omitted altogether, especially for short essays. For these reasons, problem-solution essays are more common than situation-problem-solution-evaluation essays (or SPSE essays).
There are two main ways to structure a problem-solution essay. These are similar to the ways to structure cause and effect essays, namely using a block or a chain structure. For the block structure, all of the problems are listed first, and all of the solutions are listed afterwards. For the chain structure, each problem is followed immediately by the solution to that problem. Both types of structure have their merits. The former is generally clearer, especially for shorter essays, while the latter ensures that any solutions you present relate directly to the problems you have given.
The two types of structure, block and chain, are shown in the diagram below. This is for a short essay, which includes the 'situation' in the introduction and 'evaluation' in the conclusion. A longer essay, for example one of around 1,000 words, with citations, would probably have these two sections as separate paragraphs in the main body.
Below is a problem-solution essay on the topic of obesity and poor fitness. It uses the block structure. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay, i.e. Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation. This will highlight not simply the paragraphs, but also (for problems and solutions) the thesis statement and summary, as these repeat the problems and solutions contained in the main body.
Consumption of processed and convenience foods and our dependence on the car have led to an increase in obesity and reduction in the fitness level of the adult population. In some countries, especially industrialized ones, the number of obese people can amount to one third of the population. This is significant as obesity and poor fitness lead to a decrease in life expectancy, and it is therefore important for individuals and governments to work together to tackle this issue and improve their citizens' diet and fitness.
Obesity and poor fitness decrease life expectancy. Overweight people are more likely to have serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, which can result in premature death. It is well known that regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, which means that those with poor fitness levels are at an increased risk of suffering from those problems.
Changes by individuals to their diet and their physical activity can increase life expectancy. There is a reliance today on the consumption of processed foods, which have a high fat and sugar content. By preparing their own foods, and consuming more fruit and vegetables, people could ensure that their diets are healthier and more balanced, which could lead to a reduction in obesity levels. In order to improve fitness levels, people could choose to walk or cycle to work or to the shops rather than taking the car. They could also choose to walk up stairs instead of taking the lift. These simple changes could lead to a significant improvement in fitness levels.
Governments could also implement initiatives to improve their citizens' eating and exercise habits. This could be done through education, for example by adding classes to the curriculum about healthy diet and lifestyles. Governments could also do more to encourage their citizens to walk or cycle instead of taking the car, for instance by building more cycle lanes or increasing vehicle taxes. While some might argue that increased taxes are a negative way to solve the problem, it is no different from the high taxes imposed on cigarettes to reduce cigarette consumption.
In short, obesity and poor fitness are a significant problem in modern life, leading to lower life expectancy. Individuals and governments can work together to tackle this problem and so improve diet and fitness. Of the solutions suggested, those made by individuals themselves are likely to have more impact, though it is clear that a concerted effort with the government is essential for success. With obesity levels in industrialized and industrializing countries continuing to rise, it is essential that we take action now to deal with this problem.
Below is a checklist for the main body of an essay. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.