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The Problem-Solution Essay

Problem solution essays define a problem and then propose a solution. In order to choose a topic, you need to have a specific problem in mind.

Here’s a few steps that can help you narrow down your topic:

  • Choose a Field of Inquiry
  • Find a Problem
  • Propose a Solution

Research Problems

The world is full of problems—problems in society, problems in politics, problems in science, problems in the art world. Pick a general area that interests you. If none of those larger fields interests you, then start closer to home. Look at these general areas of your life:

  • Home
  • School
  • Sports
  • Clubs
  • Work

Find a Problems

Once you have a general area, you can start to brainstorm problems in that area. There are a few ways to go about it. You can research some common problems in the area by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is this problem relevant?
  • Is this problem controversial?
  • Are people debating solutions to this problem?
  • Has anyone offered solutions to this problem?

Similarly you can start formulating problems of your own by asking yourself questions about your own experience.

  • What problems have I encountered at work/home/school?
  • What are common problems people encounter?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, pick 2-5 topics that interest you. Finally, ask yourself what problem interests you the most.

Propose a Solution

Your topic suggested a problem. Now your thesis should suggest a solution to the problem you’ve presented. You could offer one solution or you could offer a multi-part solution. Either way, it’s important to formulate a solution before you start writing your essay. If you can’t find a solution to the problem you presented, and if you can’t say why that solution is better than all the other possible solutions, then you might consider choosing a different topic.

Here are some sample topics to get you thinking:

  • What can be done to prevent bullying?
  • What can be done to help those who have been bullied?
  • How can we reduce poverty in developing nations?
  • How can governments prevent poaching?
  • How can we reduce the national debt?
  • How can we increase access to healthcare?
  • How can we make the American population more secure?
  • How do we help those who suffer from addiction?
  • How can we mitigate the effects of climate change?

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