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How to Write and Structure a Problem-Solution Essay: Definition, Features, Outline, and Examples

In the article, you will learn about what an essay is, what its features are, and how to write a problem-solution essay: aim, structure, outline, and examples.

An essay is one of the most versatile and multifaceted literary forms.

At the center of the problem-solution essay is the study of a problem situation, which the author reveals from different sides, first of all, from a social, moral, and ethical perspective.

Before proceeding to a detailed analysis, let’s first consider what a problem-solution essay is (and an essay as a whole), and what genre features it has.

What Is a Problem-Solution Essay

The problem-solution essay is a short narrative that briefly describes events, facts, and people.

An essay is considered one of the varieties of a story that combines elements of literature and journalism. This type of text belongs to a special kind of author’s or writer’s journalism, which is considered the pinnacle of journalistic skill.

What is a problem-solution essay, its aim
What Is a Problem-Solution Essay: Definition

In a problem-solution essay, a journalist not only describes a problem, event, or person, based on factual data but also uses artistic methods of expression. Read post “How to Write a Persuasive Essay and Article: Complete Guide.”

The essay refers to the journalistic writing style, namely to its artistic and journalistic genre.

The “sketching” of such texts is expressed in the fact that the author strives to outline the portrait and character of the hero or to display the main points and contours of the problem. Therefore, often the form of presentation of information is quite rough, and free.

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Main Features

In a problem-solution essay, the writer describes a problem (topic) and then proposes the solutions.

The features of a problem-solution essay are:

  1. Artistic imagery.
  2. Emotional richness.
  3. The presence of elements of journalistic and artistic writing styles.
  4. The writer’s opinion.
  5. The events and characters described in the essay are taken from real life.
  6. Urgency and relevance of the researched problem.
  7. The brevity of information presentation and specificity.
  8. Сombining reporting and research (analytical) principles.
  9. Depending on the topic, the writing style of the essay may be formal or informal (more often).
  10.  Slang, jargon words, or terminology. 
  11. To confirm a personal point of view, the author uses facts, evidence, quotations, statistics, etc.

The most striking stylistic features of the problem-solution essay are:

  1. First of all, this is the expressed position of the author. All narrative is connected with the writer’s opinion and view of the situation. Often, the author of the essay acts as a protagonist, interconnected with the main character.
  2. Dialogue with the reader. Using various stylistic devices, the journalist seeks to arouse the reader’s interest and emotionally involve him in the plot of his essay, thus making the reader a participant in the described events.
  3. Documentary. When writing an essay, the author, first of all, relies on facts. Therefore, various calculation formulas, statistical data, and specific terms are often found in the essay.

What Is the Aim of a Problem-Solution Essay?

The problem-solution essay aims to find out the causes of the problem situation, try to determine its further development, and identify possible solutions.

The problematic situation is not described only in the form of a set of numbers, judgments, and facts, but is presented in an essay as a certain barrier that real people with their strengths and weaknesses, characters, worldviews, and values are trying to solve.

Very often the problem arises in the background of a conflict of interest. And by exploring this conflict, the author can get to the heart of the problem. The process of observing the conflict itself evokes emotions and involvement, both on the part of the reader and the author of the essay. This is what makes the essay “alive” and interesting.

A journalist can give various parallels, associations, and comparisons in the text, sometimes even deviating from the main essay topic.

The task of the writer is not so much to convey to the reader the already existing facts and data about the problem, but to provide the facts that he found out on his own during the collection and preparation of information.

How to Write a Problem-Solution Essay: Structure

There are three ways to structure a problem-solution essay:

  1. Chronological. Using this method, the writer describes events, phenomena, and life situations in their time sequence.
  2. Logical. The author of the essay narrates based on the logic of causal relationships. There is no strict temporal sequence in such an essay; the main thing is the logic of the study.
  3. The mixed or free way of narration. Such a structure of the essay is the most popular in the periodical press, it is multifaceted and combines the elements of chronological and logical structure.

Problem-Solution Essay Outline

Undoubtedly, the author of a problem-solution essay has the right to decide what and how to write about. But if this genre is still not fully understood by you, and you are just starting your journalistic journey, a visual outline of the essay can be a good help in your work.

Problem-solution essay outline
Problem-Solution Essay Outline

The outline of the problem-solution essay might look like this:

  1. Interest in the issue. The author begins the text with a description of the incident that prompted him to study it in more detail. In other words, he tells what happened.
  2. The writer shows and proves to the reader why this situation is not accidental, but is typical for our society.
  3. Creation of intrigue. The further the author plunges into the study of the problem, the clearer it becomes that the situation is not as simple as it seems at first glance.
  4. Involvement in the problem. The writer needs not only to interest the reader, but also to evoke an emotional response and experiences, and most importantly, a sense of belonging to the problem.
  5. Personal feelings and thoughts. The journalist conveys to the reader personal feelings and opinions about this problem. Thus, it prepares the reader to accept the writer’s arguments and point of view.
  6. Associations, images, visual description, comparisons, emotional background. The author can reveal some text elements in the form of images and comparisons, prompting the reader to use his imagination and fantasy.
  7. Connecting link. All the facts discussed in the essay should be united by a single goal and the meaning of the story. Otherwise, it will be a pun and the reader will get confused.
  8. A personal conclusion. By the end of the problem-solution essay, the author must lead the reader to make conclusions for himself.

Schematically, the problem essay can be represented as follows:

Description of the problem – > causes of the problem situation – > its development – > solutions.

Problem-Solution Essay Examples

Most of the problem-solution essays are quite long. Therefore, further, I will provide short excerpts. 

Example #1

Cyber Crime in the Society: Problems and Preventions

Kamini Dashora, PhD, Principal, P.P. Patel College of Social Sciences, (Affiliated Sardar Patel University, Vidyanagar, Gujarat, India)  


Crime and criminality have been associated with man since his fall. Crime remains elusive and ever strives to hide itself in the face of development. Different nations have adopted different strategies to contend with crime depending on their nature and extent. One thing is certain, it is that a nation with high incidence of crime cannot grow or develop. That is so because crime is the direct opposite of development. It leaves a negative social and economic consequence. Cybercrime is defined as crimes committed on the internet using the computer as either a tool or a targeted victim. It is very difficult to classify crimes in general into distinct groups as many crimes evolve on a daily basis. Even in the real world, crimes like rape, murder or theft need not necessarily be separate.

However, all cybercrimes involve both the computer and the person behind it as victims; it just depends on which of the two is the main target. Hence, the computer will be looked at as either a target or a tool for simplicity’s sake. For example, hacking involves attacking the computer’s information and other resources. It is important to take note that overlapping occurs in many cases and it is impossible to have a perfect classification system.

The term ‘cyber crime’ is a misnomer. This term has nowhere been defined in any statute /Act passed or enacted by the Indian Parliament. The concept of cyber crime is not radically different from the concept of conventional crime. Both include conduct whether act or omission, which cause breach of rules of law and counterbalanced by the sanction of the state. Before evaluating the concept of cyber crime it is obvious that the concept of conventional crime be discussed and the points of similarity and deviance between both these forms may be discussed.  


Problem-Solution Essay Example #2


Problem-solution essay by Razieh Tadayon Nabavi


Life satisfaction involves people thinking about their life as a whole, including factors such as whether they are achieving their goals, are doing as well as other people around them and happy generally rather than just right now. These days education became significant issues around the world. There are a lot of opportunities of study for people not only in their country, but also in abroad. Over the past few decades, researchers have done many studies about students that they are living in overseas. Based on their findings some of these students face some problems about satisfaction of their lives. So some scholars claim that unsatisfaction of life became a global problem for foreign students which study in abroad.


Life satisfaction represents how satisfied people feel with their life generally, Satisfaction has been described by Shin and Johnson (1978) as a global assessment of a person’s quality of life according to his/her own criteria. In recent years, a lot of young people from different countries go to the developed countries for continue their education. During this period, they probably face with unsatisfaction of their lives. Based on a number of studies as like Ylijoki (2000) unsatisfaction of life for students who are living abroad are increasing. It caused by different indicators such as homeless, stress, unsuccessful and etc. The researchers stated that when students start their new life in abroad some of them become homeless about their countries, families and even about their home foods. They cannot adjust themselves with host country foods, families and friends. So they prefer to isolate themselves and spend many times alone. Researchers also pointed to stress, lack of confidence and academic achievement as other factors that impact on life satisfaction. Some scholars suggested that researchers in their future studies can find more predictors for preventing of this problem. 

Problem-solution essay by Razieh Tadayon Nabavi

Problem-Solution Essay Example #3


Can Cities Be the Source of Scalable Innovations?

By Christof Brandtner 

Systems change to address complex problems, including climate change, is hard to achieve. What little optimism remains to tackle such complex challenges is mostly placed in supranational schemes, such as the COP climate change conferences, or transformational national policy, such as the Green New Deal in the US. Solutions of grand design regularly disappoint, however, because of their high costs, the challenges of translating big plans to local needs, and ongoing disagreement and polarization about what works and what is detrimental.

There is hope on the skyline though. Urban innovation ecosystems can provide an alternative to grand schemes, and cities’ social sectors provide a source of ongoing innovation. Companies like Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet that develops technologies for sustainable urban design, are transforming business as usual to solve complex urban problems. Social enterprises such as car-sharing programs are changing the nature of urban transportation and providing alternative options to individual car ownership. Through its iconic mobile showers, the San Francisco nonprofit LavaMae has found new ways to serve the homeless in the absence of more radical reforms of affordable housing. And the US Green Building Council (USGBC), an intermediary promoting energy-efficient construction, developed guidelines and rating systems for sustainable cities and neighborhoods.

Promising ideas are in ample supply, but the crucial question is: How can social innovators scale such innovations so that their local impact adds up to big solutions?

Full-text of the problem-solution essay

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