Problem and solution essays are relatively common, especially in higher-level college courses. You may encounter them in take-home assignments or find them on tests. After all, they are a way to demonstrate your understanding of an issue and let you identify potential solutions to a problem. However, they are not structured the same way as the typical 5-paragraph expository essay. They contain a critical evaluation element. So, you need to understand how to approach and structure your essay.

What is a Problem-Solution Essay?

A problem-solution essay asks you to identify a problem or problems and come up with a solution to that problem. They can be broad-based or specific, depending on the nature of the problem you are addressing in the essay. Learning how to write a problem-solution essay means understanding the different components of the essay and how to present them logically.

What Are The Four Components Of A Problem-Solution Essay?

The four components of a problem-solution essay are

  • Situation
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Evaluation

The situation describes the background of the issue. You can think of it as the information that helps people understand why something is a problem. The problem is the cause, or one of the causes, of the situation you describe in the background.

The problem is what you are trying to solve. Fixing the problem should result in changing some or all of the background conditions you describe in your situation. That is because the background conditions you describe should be a symptom of the problem you are trying to fix.

The solution or solutions is how you think you will solve the problem. Many problems do not have a single solution. Instead, solving them will require a multi-faceted approach. You can describe multiple facets or focus on one solution element when describing your answer. If you focus on a partial solution, you want to acknowledge that it is only a partial solution.

Your evaluation section is where you consider the potential effect of your solution. How effective will it be? How likely are you to get people to support your solution? Will it require other solutions to solve the problem completely?

How Do I Identify a Problem in a Problem-Solution Essay?

The first thing you should do is consider the essay prompt. Suppose you are writing a problem-solution essay in response to a test question. In that case, the prompt may identify the problem. If so, you want to ensure you are writing solutions to that problem, not another issue.

On the other hand, you may be asked to supply your own problem. You could get a generic prompt asking you to write a problem-solution essay. Other prompts may ask you something like:

Think about some of the problems facing modern society. What do you think is the most critical problem we are facing? What solutions can you identify to help solve this problem?

When identifying a problem, consider the context of your course. If you are in a climate science class, your problem should be related to climate science. If you are in a sociology class, your problem should be related to how humans behave in groups, etc. So, keep the context of the prompt in mind when developing your problem and solution.

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How Do You Structure a Problem-Solution Essay?

We use the 5-paragraph model to show people how to write essays. That structure is

  • Introduction
  • Body Paragraph 1
  • Body Paragraph 2
  • Body Paragraph 3
  • Conclusion

For a concise problems and solutions essay, your structure might look like this:

  • Introduction and Background
  • Identify Problem
  • Describe Solution
  • Evaluate Solution
  • Conclusion

You can always expand to include additional paragraphs, which is probably necessary in a complex problem-solution essay. To determine your structure, you need to consider whether you want to present each problem with its solution or all of the issues and then present all the answers. So, your structure might look like this:

  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Problem 1
  • Solution 1
  • Problem 2
  • Solution 2
  • Evaluation
  • Conclusion

It could also look like this

  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Problem 1
  • Problem 2
  • Solution 1
  • Solution 2
  • Evaluation
  • Conclusion

problem and solution essays

How Do You Write an Effective Problem-Solution Essay?

An effective problem-solution essay clearly describes the background, defines the problem, and offers actionable solutions. It is not enough for the reader to understand your solution. The reader must also know why you think the issue is a problem. You cannot just state that something is a problem. You have to provide the background information to demonstrate that it is, in fact, a problem. However, this is where it is essential to consider the prompt. If the prompt defines the issues as a problem, you may be able to skip the background component of your essay.

Does a Solution Need to Be Plausible?

When you are writing a problem-solution essay, it is vital to consider reality. Your solution needs to be actionable and possible. That does not mean that it needs to be probable. However, suppose it is unlikely that the decision-makers will embrace your solution. In that case, you need to address that in your evaluation section.

What Are Some Problem and Solution Topics?

Picking a problem for a problem-solution essay can be challenging, but finding a solution can be even more difficult. Here, we highlight some of the top problems people debate and suggest a few answers to those problems. Remember, when you pick a solution, you must demonstrate how that solution will help fix the problem. It does not have to be the only solution. Still, if it will work alongside other solutions, you must address that in your evaluation.

Problem: Obesity

Solution 1: Eliminate the use of high-fructose corn syrup in food products.

Solution 2: Treating obese people with GLP-1 medications.

Solution 3: Increasing physical activity in schools.

Problem: Red-Blue divide in American politics

Solution 1: Electing more people from third parties.

Solution 2: Term limits for politicians.

Solution 3: Removing party affiliations from ballots.

Problem: Undocumented Immigrants

Solution 1: Build the wall.

Solution 2: Change foreign policies that may negatively impact people in their home countries, driving up the rates of undocumented immigrants.

Solution 3: Reduce barriers to legal immigration.

Problem: Racial Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System

Solution 1: Increase racial diversity of police forces.

Solution 2: Obscure victims, witnesses, and defendants in the courtroom so that the judge and jury cannot see their race.

Solution 3: Diversity training for all actors in the criminal justice system.

Problem: School Shootings

Solution 1: Arm teachers.

Solution 2: Gun control.

Solution 3: Better mental health services for people with potential mental health issues.

Solution 4: Require gun owners to have liability insurance if their guns are used in a shooting.

Solution 5: Hold gun manufacturers responsible for shootings.

Problem: Pet Overpopulation

Solution 1: Outlaw the sale of companion animals.

Solution 2: Require people to spay or neuter their pets or pay hefty fees to license them.

Solution 3: Increase criminal penalties for abandoning or abusing pets.

Problem: Police Brutality

Solution 1: Require police to wear body cameras.

Solution 2: Make police officers individually liable if found guilty in a police brutality claim and outlaw insurance or police unions covering their damages.

Solution 3: Introduce training in the police departments aimed at decreasing the militarization of modern police departments and enhancing the idea that police are public servants.

Solution 4: Prohibit prosecution of defendants with a successful police brutality claim.

Problem: Student Loan Debt

Solution 1: Offer student loan forgiveness for all borrowers under a certain income threshold.

Solution 2: Suspension of interest payments on student loan debt.

Solution 3: Allow borrowers to include student loan debt in bankruptcy filings.

Problem: The Housing Crisis

Solution 1: Require cities and towns to build affordable housing for at least 25% of their population.

Solution 2: Limit the number of properties an individual landlord or property-owning business can have in an area.

Solution 3: Limit the number of short-term rental properties to a percentage based on the area’s nature.

Problem: Low Voter Participation in the United States

Solution 1: A paid day off for voting, but only with proof that the person has voted.

Solution 2: Prevent gerrymandering so people feel like their votes count.

Solution 3: Reach out to groups with historically low voter turnout to encourage them to vote.

Solution 4: Expand vote-by-mail programs.

What is an Example of a Problem-Solution Essay?

We have solution problem essay examples in our essay database. One of them tackles the problems and solutions in the American healthcare system. You can read that essay to see an example of problems and solutions.

What Do I Call My Problem-Solving Essay?

Picking the right title can be tricky for this type of essay. That is because the subject is relatively broad. You could go with a simple format:

Is (Solution) the Answer to (Problem)?

Ex: Is Reducing Carbon Emissions the Answer to Climate Change?

Ex: Is Decriminalizing Drug Possession the Answer to Prison Overcrowding?

If you want a more creative approach to picking a title for your problem solving essay,  check out our Essay Title Generator today!