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Problem And Solution Essay Layout

Problem-solution essays are a common essay type, especially for short essays such as subject exams or IELTS. The page gives information on what they are, how to structure this type of essay, and gives an example problem-solution essay on the topic of obesity and fitness levels.

What are problem-solution essays?

Problem-solution essays consider the problems of a particular situation, and give solutions to those problems. They are in some ways similar to cause and effect essays, especially in terms of structure (see below). Problem-solution essays are actually a sub-type of another type of essay, which has the following four components:


The 'situation' may be included in the essay prompt, in which case it will not be needed in the main body. If it is needed, it can often be included in the introduction, especially for short essays, as with the example essay below. The 'evaluation' may be included as part of the conclusion (also as in the example below), or omitted altogether, especially for short essays. For these reasons, problem-solution essays are more common than situation-problem-solution-evaluation essays (or SPSE essays).

Structure

There are two main ways to structure a problem-solution essay. These are similar to the ways to structure cause and effect essays, namely using a block or a chain structure. For the block structure, all of the problems are listed first, and all of the solutions are listed afterwards. For the chain structure, each problem is followed immediately by the solution to that problem. Both types of structure have their merits. The former is generally clearer, especially for shorter essays, while the latter ensures that any solutions you present relate directly to the problems you have given.


The two types of structure, block and chain, are shown in the diagram below. This is for a short essay, which includes the 'situation' in the introduction and 'evaluation' in the conclusion. A longer essay, for example one of around 1,000 words, with citations, would probably have these two sections as separate paragraphs in the main body.


Block

Introduction
(including 'situation')

Transition sentence/paragraph

Conclusion
(including 'evaluation')



Chain

Introduction
(including 'situation')

Problem 1
&
Solution to Problem 1

Problem 2
&
Solution to Problem 2

Problem 3
&
Solution to Problem 3

Conclusion
(including 'evaluation')


Example essay

Below is a problem-solution essay on the topic of obesity and poor fitness. It uses the block structure. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay, i.e. Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation. This will highlight not simply the paragraphs, but also (for problems and solutions) the thesis statement and summary, as these repeat the problems and solutions contained in the main body.


Situation

   

Problem

         

Solution

   

Evaluation

   

1

   

2

         

Consumption of processed and convenience foods and our dependence on the car have led to an increase in obesity and reduction in the fitness level of the adult population. In some countries, especially industrialized ones, the number of obese people can amount to one third of the population. This is significant as obesity and poor fitness lead to a decrease in life expectancy, and it is therefore important for individuals and governments to work together to tackle this issue and improve their citizens' diet and fitness.

Obesity and poor fitness decrease life expectancy. Overweight people are more likely to have serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, which can result in premature death. It is well known that regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, which means that those with poor fitness levels are at an increased risk of suffering from those problems.

Changes by individuals to their diet and their physical activity can increase life expectancy. There is a reliance today on the consumption of processed foods, which have a high fat and sugar content. By preparing their own foods, and consuming more fruit and vegetables, people could ensure that their diets are healthier and more balanced, which could lead to a reduction in obesity levels. In order to improve fitness levels, people could choose to walk or cycle to work or to the shops rather than taking the car. They could also choose to walk up stairs instead of taking the lift. These simple changes could lead to a significant improvement in fitness levels.

Governments could also implement initiatives to improve their citizens' eating and exercise habits. This could be done through education, for example by adding classes to the curriculum about healthy diet and lifestyles. Governments could also do more to encourage their citizens to walk or cycle instead of taking the car, for instance by building more cycle lanes or increasing vehicle taxes. While some might argue that increased taxes are a negative way to solve the problem, it is no different from the high taxes imposed on cigarettes to reduce cigarette consumption.

In short, obesity and poor fitness are a significant problem in modern life, leading to lower life expectancy. Individuals and governments can work together to tackle this problem and so improve diet and fitness. Of the solutions suggested, those made by individuals themselves are likely to have more impact, though it is clear that a concerted effort with the government is essential for success. With obesity levels in industrialized and industrializing countries continuing to rise, it is essential that we take action now to deal with this problem.

Situation

 

Problem

 

Solution

   

1

   

2

   
 

Evaluation

Below is a checklist for the main body of an essay. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.






I previously wrote about sticking to the same formula of a 4 paragraph structure. Once you practice this approach, it will be very easy to plan and organize your essay when you’ve only got 40 minutes.

For the problem/solution essay, you can follow this paragraph structure:

  1. Introduction– introduce topic and give your clear answer to the task question
  2. Problems – give examples and supporting details
  3. Solutions – give examples and supporting details
  4. Conclusion – restate your answer to the question

or

  1. Introduction –  introduce topic and give your clear answer to the task question
  2. Main problem #1  & possible solutions  – give examples
  3. Main problem #2  & possible solutions – give examples
  4. Conclusion – restate your answer to the question

Here’s an example for a problem/solution essay or a reasons for problems/solutions essay.

People naturally resist change in their lives. What kind of problems can this cause? What solutions can you suggest? 

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. 

Here’s my 4-paragraph approach:

  1. Introduction. First sentence paraphrases the topic of the question – people avoid making changes in their lives. Second/Third sentence answer both questions.
  2. Problems caused by this resistance – give examples – not challenging oneself in pursuing career or academic goals, staying unhealthy and unfit, staying in a bad relationship, etc.
  3. Possible solutions – finding support groups, encouragement from family & friends, etc.
  4. Conclusion – restate answer and overall possible solutions.

Here’s another example:

The widespread use of the Internet has brought many problems. What do you think are the main problems associated with the use of the web? What solutions can you suggest?

 Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.  

Here’s my paragraph structure:

  1. Introduction –  paraphrase the topic, answer the questions
  2. Main problems (I put both problems together) – Privacy security and vulnerability of children by online predators
  3. Suggested solutions (applies to both problems) – stronger regulations and parental supervision
  4. Conclusion – restate suggested solutions to address main problems

Want to get your essay writing checked? Here’s how: Essay Correction & Feedback 

Posted in IELTS Writing, Writing Task 2 Tagged with: IELTS Writing, sample Task 2 questions, Writing Task 2

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