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.
Problem-solution essays are those compositions that put into consideration the problem of a certain phenomenon or situation and try to provide possible solutions to those problems. But how to write an essay like this? They usually contain 4 major components which include: situation or circumstance, the problem, solution and evaluation. The situation or the statement of the problem is usually encompassed in the introduction of the essay while the evaluation is done as a part of the conclusion. These types of essays are usually related to cause and effect essays as they almost share the same structure.
How to Write a Problem-Solution Essay
As stated earlier, problem-solution essays usually have four components in their structure of: situation, problem, solution and evaluation. You start by introducing the situation of a certain phenomenon in the introduction part. This is concisely introducing the topic that you want to discuss about to your audience. For instance, you may choose to discuss about immigration as a topic which alerts your audience by introducing the topic to them. Once you give the situation, the next thing is to identify and cite various problems related to the area of interest. This is where you should clearly define all trends and issues related to your topic giving a description of each problem identified. For instance; you can have a sub topic of illegal immigration where you are expected to highlight all possible causes and how it affects the immigration sector. You should make it known to your audience how the stated sub topic chosen is really a “problem’. The other step will be providing various solutions to the stated problem. This is where your opinions about how to deal with that problem should be highlighted. You should clearly explain how one should deal with the problem in hand giving examples and providing possible solutions. For instance, you can recommend the government to deal with the illegal immigrants by deporting them or coming up with a specialized team to check documentations of each and every individual coming into the country. The last thing to do is to evaluate whether the solutions provided have helped curb the problem. In this section, you should analyze all results of the initiative taken as a solution to the problem. Once you evaluate and gauge the effectiveness of the solutions provided, you can now conclude that the problem in hand was effectively solved.
Another way to write problem-solution essays is adopting the chain structure. Here, each problem is accompanied by its possible solution immediately. Once you choose the topic to discus, the next step is to outline the problem of situation. Since there may be more than one problem, each problem is stated at a time and all possible solutions are provided before proceeding to the next problem. The final step is similar in both structures as it contains evaluation to see whether the solutions provided yielded good results.
Problem-Solution Essay Topics
It may be difficult to decide on a particular topic to discuss. There may be a thousand and one topics where you may be required to select only a few which might confuse you as well on which particular topic to select. The trick is to choose issues and topics that you are usually passionate about and those that will not give you headache while gathering points. Choosing the right topic will not only guarantee you sufficient ideas but also will be fun discussing what you like most. Ensure that the topic has a wide variety source of information where you can link to or cite. Once you come up with that “killer topic” you can now easily venture into giving detailed descriptions about the problems related to it and later provide possible solutions. Outlined below are some of the topics that you may consider discussing.
Illegal and undocumented immigration. - This topic had earlier been discussed above. It has long been a problem in many countries about illegal immigrants. Some of the possible solutions to this problem are setting up strict charges on illegal immigrants such as huge fines and penalties and deportation.
Gender discrimination. - In most countries the problem of gender discrimination has been dominant over years. Some of the possible solutions to this problem is setting up organizations which protects citizens from any form of discrimination may it be gender, racial or tribal.
Police brutality. - Issues of police brutality have raised concern to the global community where police officers harass the citizens who break the law. The government should set up strict rules to officers before hiring them. Disciplinary actions should also be taken to the participants.
Unemployment- it is beyond any reasonable doubts that unemployment has been a setback in most developing countries. The governments of respective nations should restructure their education system to curb this problem.
Child labor and exploitation, suicide, sexual harassment, domestic violence, illegal business and consumer exploitation, election fraud, environmental preservation among others are some of the many topics that one may choose due to their wide sources of information.
Writing an Essay Using Writing Skills in Different Ways as A Way to Increase One’s Writing Potential.
Writing skills play a vital role as far as essay writing is concerned. Once you decide on the topic to discuss, gathered relevant information about the topic, it is important to plan and organize your essay well to suit the needs of your audience as well as increase your writing skills. You need to structure your essay breaking it into various categories such as introduction, the main body and conclusion as well. Referencing your sources of information on linking to various sites are some of the writing skills you should adopt for good essay writing. Drafting and rewriting will also work miracles on your essay writing as it gives you a chance to go through your essay and make corrections as appropriate. These skills will increase your writing potential as well as motivate your readers to continue reading your posts due to the many benefits accrued to it.
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