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ENG1021 Advanced Composition & Communication: Problem-Solution Essay

The Research Trajectory/Proposal

Picking a topic

Think about what problem would you like to see solved. You should pick something that will be motivating to you, something that you are passionate about. Why? For one, it will make it easier for you to research and to keep yourself motivated to do the research. For another, it will make it easier for you to write on and make your paper more engaging for others to read. Your paper and the research it documents should be impactful to those who read it.

Important: make sure that you pick a problem that really has possible solutions. The same considerations apply to picking a topic for this paper as for any other -- the topic can't be too broad or too narrow, and it has to be something that can actually be researched. For more information on choosing a topic, check out this webpage on finding problem topics and useful ways to approach finding solutions to those problems.

Forming research questions

Not sure what to research for your topic? Take the topic you have selected and turn it into a research question. For instance, if your topic is "obesity in America," you could frame that into research questions like "What are measures that prevent weight gain?" or "What are the most sustainable diets for weight loss?" (Tip: Avoid search terms like "best" or "worst" because they are very vague and subjective. Choose terms that are more specific and quantifiable in meaning.)

Still stuck on how to create a research question? Check out this video for more help:

Researching your topic

Now that you have a research question, do some preliminary research to give you direction on breaking your problem down in to feasible solutions. Choose more specific Browse the library's databases, skim through a book, or search the web for possible information.

Keep these questions in mind as you search:

  • What type of information is available on your topic?
  • Where did you find this information?
  • Who are the experts, and what do they have to say about your topic?

Creating a thesis and presenting your proposal

Using the research you gathered from your research question(s), create a claim indicating what solutions you plan to propose in your paper. What three solutions are you proposing to the problem? The topic you submit in your proposal cannot be changed, but the research process is still ongoing, so your solutions may change if you find better ones in your ongoing research. This is a tentative thesis; you can make some changes to it later if you need to.

Now that you have taken some time to seriously think about and research your topic, you are ready to present your trajectory/proposal (intentions) for the research project. The proposal must contain your final subject/topic for the research project.

Not sure how to put together a thesis? Watch this helpful video that breaks it down for you:

Outlining a Problem-Solution Paper

A problem-solution paper is exactly what it sounds like. First, an issue or obstacle is posed, then a solution or series of solutions is suggested to resolve that issue or obstacle.

Problem-solution essays can be structured differently depending on the nature of the topic. (For instance, if there is important historical information to your problem that is a bit too long for your intro, then you might want to spend a paragraph between your intro and your solution body paragraphs to give your audience that history.) Most essays, however, follow this basic formula:

I. Introduction: Communicating the Problem

  • Paint a vivid picture of the problem. Focus on the how and why: how did this become a problem? why is it (still) a problem? why is it important / why does it need to be fixed? 
  • End your intro with a thesis statement recapping the problem and providing a preview of the solution(s) you will offer in the rest of your paper.

II. Body: Communicating the Solution(s)

  • Cover each potential solution to the problem in its own paragraph, or cover each step of a multi-step solution with each step having its own paragraph.
  • Each body paragraph should have a clearly stated claim that is distinct from, though connected to, the other paragraphs.
  • Support each solution or solution step with several pieces of evidence from authoritative sources of information. (Best to go to the library catalog and article databases for these.)
  • Cite each source used to support your claims correctly according to MLA citation format, using an in-text citation that corresponds to an entry in your works cited page.

III. Conclusion: Reiterating Importance

  • Recap your thesis statement (problem + brief overview of solution)
  • Close out your paper by emphasizing the importance of solving the problem you have covered.