Problem-Solution Essays

A problem-solution essay looks at a particular problem, considers the causes of the problem, or the effects, and then some ways to solve the problem. It sounds difficult, but don't worry, it's very easy when you know how to do it. First, find and read the articles that are provided at the beginning of the semester.

The essay question in the assessment will be based on these articles, so the more you understand the topic, the easier the content of the essay should be. You need to read the question carefully and make sure you understand it. Is it a question asking about causes of the problem and solutions? Or, is it about impacts of the problem and solutions? Planning is important for all essays. Let's consider this example question. Good planning helps you to organise your points well. One way to do this is to use a mind map. Drawing a mind map helps you to clearly see the relationship between the impacts and the possible solutions. After brainstorming, you should quickly read the extracts that are provided with the question. Is each one dealing with a cause of the problem, an impact, or a solution? Highlight the authors of each one? How many are there? Do you need to use et al? Then match each of the extracts to the ideas you have already brainstormed. Like all essays, problem-solution essays must have an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion.

First thing to do in the introduction is to give the readers an overview of the problem that you are going to discuss. You have to tell readers what the issue is about. Define the keywords in the topic, so the reader knows exactly what you mean. Then, tell your reader why the issue is important, the significance of discussing it. And, how you are going to discuss the issue, the structure of this essay. This supplies the reader with information of the essay type, the scope on the discussion and the covered content. Remember, the introduction should not be too long, about ten per cent of the total essay length at the most. There are two possible structures. If the solutions can be used for more than one problem, then this structure may be the more appropriate. Causes or effects of the problems can be addressed in the first two paragraphs and the possible solutions for the problems afterwards. Or, if the solutions only address a single problem, you can have alternate problem and solution paragraphs. Remember, whatever structure you use you should specifically link each cause or effect to a possible solution.

Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence, which outlines the main idea of the paragraph. Also, remember to give your supporting evidence for each point in your paragraphs. You should use a range of reporting verbs when you are reporting the views of others, for example, you could use observe, recognise, believe, propose, recommend. Also, you should use cause-effect words for introducing the problems into the essay, such as, due to, because, since, therefore, or consequently. When you are suggesting possible soltuions, you can use conditional sentences to help you express your ideas more accurately.

Conditional sentences often include words like, when, if, unless, and whenever. They help to demonstrate the effects of your recommendation more clearly. When writing a conditional sentence, your recommendation should be put first, the expected results second. Your conclusion needs to give your reader a quick summary of the major points from your essay.

Remember there should be no new information and no citations in the conclusion. In most ELC in-class assessments you will not need to write a reference list, but do read the instructions on the question paper just to make sure!