How to Write a Problem Solution Essay

How to Write a Problem-Solution Essay


High school students love to complain. Teachers love to give high school students a reason to complain. Teaching students how to write a problem/solution essay accomplishes both.


Need a downloadable/printable PDF file for “How to Write a Persuasive Essay,” “How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay” and “How to Write a Problem/Solution Essay”? The downloadable version of these three lessons have been reorganized from this site. All you have to do is print them out and stick them in your lesson plan book. All the notes and information you need to give your students is there as well as a list of common core objectives (for your administrator). I also threw in three graphic organizers (one for each lesson) that you can copy. Buy it. It’s only $2.50. Find more at Teacher Guide Central.
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The Problem

I assigned a problem/solution essay and couldn’t wait to see the results. After reading 143 illogical solutions, I realized I hadn’t really shown my students how to write an effective essay of this kind. I needed to be punished for not explaining the key principles of a problem/solution essay structure. I opened the wardrobe cabinet in my classroom, wedged my head in, and began opening and slamming the door until I passed out.

Dr. Phil was sitting at my desk when I awoke. “You need to teach problem/solution essay structure,” he said, “but not until you solve your own problem, crappy lesson plans.” Dr. Phil pulled a How to Write a Problem/Solution Essay lesson plan out of his bag, laid it on my desk, handed me a band aid, and disappeared.

I share his lesson plan with you.

ELA Common Core Standards

Teaching how to write a problem-solution essay satisfies the following common core standards.  This will impress your administrator, but bore your students.  I recommend simplifying the language when you write the objective(s) on the board.

Common Core Writing Standard 1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Common Core Writing Standard 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
W.9-10.4  Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in W.9-10.1-3.)
W.9-10.5  Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of L.9-10.1-3.)
W.9-10.7  Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
W.9-10.8  Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

Problem-Solution Essay Structure

For a problem/solution essay to work, it must present a clearly defined problem in the introduction, present and explain possible solutions in the body, and restate the problems and the benefits of the solution in the conclusion.

A successful problem/solution essay…

  • clearly states the problem and explains its significance.
  • explores all aspects of the problem, especially its causes and effects.
  • offers one or more solutions and how to implement those solutions.
  • uses supporting details: anecdotes, facts, examples, and statistics.
  • uses logic to persuade the audience.
  • explains what readers can do to solve the problem.

Problem-Solution Essay Procedures

Whether you assign it as a formal essay or a timed writing assignment, you can help students plan their problem/solution essay with the following tips:

  1. Brainstorm problems. High school students are great at brainstorming problems. Teenagers are best at brainstorming problems about their school. Community, national, and international problems make for better essays with more capable classes.
  2. Think about the problem. Jot down its causes and effects. Write down why it’s a serious problem that deserves attention.
  3. Brainstorm solutions. Use a cluster map to discuss how the problem can be solved.
  4. Evaluate potential solutions and eliminate impractical ones. Find the best solution by examining whether people will support it.
  5. Identify the audience. Address the concerns of the essay’s most likely readers.
  6. Research the facts. Find data and expert opinions to support your solution.

After solutions have been evaluated, researched, and organized, it’s time to draft. Use the following organization:

  1. Identify the problem and explain its significance.
  2. Explain causes of the problem, effects of the problem, and present data to support your assertions.
  3. Address likely concerns.
  4. Conclude by describing how to achieve the solution.

Types of Essays

Step-by-step instructions for writing different types of essays can be accessed by the following links.

  1. Problem-Solution Essay
  2. Persuasive Essay
  3. Narrative Essay
  4. Instructional Article
  5. Literary Analysis
  6. How to Write a Tall-Tale
  7. How to Write an Article Critique
  8. Cause and Effect Essay