Writing a Problem Solution Essay

Table of contents

Defining the Problem Solution Essay

Just as the name implies, the problem solution essay involves identifying and describing a problem and then posing one or more solutions. It is a common assignment in high school and college English composition courses, but may also pop up in social science, education, other humanities coursework, and even the hard sciences. While more than one solution can be proposed, most often the essay involves a single solution that is argued as the best one.

Some tips on how to write a problem solution essay

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Parts of a Problem Solution Essay

There are four parts to such an essay:

  1. Description of the problem: It will be important to provide a detailed explanation of the problem, and this will often involve research. Proving that the problem is real and worthy of attention may also mean finding some statistics of its impact on people, nature, or a physical environment. Causes should also be identified because in those causes the relevant solution could lie.
  2. Solution proposal: Again, this solution will be related to the research that has been conducted. 
  3. Feasibility of the solution: It must be realistic and practical and one that can be implemented, even if it could be costly.

One important note here: There are many problems that are large, with many sub-problems. Environmental issues, for example, can be divided into global warming, water and/or aid pollution, destruction of forests and ocean environments, etc. Poverty is another huge issue with many facets, as is world hunger. To write an effective problem solution essay, broad topics must be narrowed to one of their aspects – one that can be handled in a single essay.

Steps to writing a problem solution essay infographic

Here is a problem solution essay topics list:

Social Issues

  • Bullying – how can it be addressed in school, in the workplace, or on the Internet
  • How to deal with toxic people in the workplace
  • How to help a friend who is making poor choices
  • How can we address the stereotyping that contributes to racism?
  • How can we address illegal immigration?
  • How can we best address teenage pregnancy?
  • What can be done about the school dropout issue?
  • Helping victims of domestic violence
  • What should be done about gun violence?
  • How should convicted criminals best be rehabilitated?
  • How do we ensure healthcare for all?
  • How do we balance free speech with restrictions that are placed on it?
  • How can we eliminate the inequalities of the justice system?

Science/Environmental Issues

  • What can be done to clean up the garbage in our oceans?
  • How can we reduce carbon emissions?
  • What can we do to reduce deforestation?
  • How do we preserve the rain forests? Coral reefs?
  • What can be done about the growing scarcity of water?
  • How can we solve the problem of the ethics of cloning?
  • How can we address the ethical issues of stem cell research?

Political Issues

  • How do we eliminate the influence of money and large corporations on our politicians?
  • How can campaign finance laws work to provide more transparency?
  • What can be done to improve civility in the political discussion?
  • How do we return public service as the primary motive for political office-seeking?
  • How can the social security system be fixed?
  • How do we find the balance between gun control and the right to bear arms?

Best problem solution paper topics

  1. How to help a friend who is making poor choices
  2. How can we solve the problem of the ethics of cloning?
  3. How can campaign finance laws work to provide more transparency?
  4. How can we address the ethical issues of stem cell research?
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Possible Problem Solution Essay Topics

Given the number of problems we have in this world, the potential list of problem solution essay ideas is huge. Often, a topic may be assigned by an instructor. However, at times students will be given a broad field from which to select a smaller issue within that field. Still, at other times, students will have free reign, usually in an English composition class.

Problem Solution Essay Structure

The problem solution essay format is the same as for most all essays – introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

So, let’s talk about what should be included in each of these parts.


Catch your readers attention immediately, with the first sentence. This is easy to do with a problem solution essay because there are always some of the following:

  • A shocking statistic. For example, “14,000,000 American children go to bed hungry every night” might be a perfect opening for the problem of food shortages either in the U.S. or around the world, or for the issue of poverty.
  • An anecdote. For example, “Recently, a dead whale washed up on the shore in Portugal. Inside the whale were found a number of plastic water bottles, an even larger number of plastic bags and holders, and a pair of flip-flops. These items had interfered with the whale’s digestive process.”
  • A quote from a famous individual. “Albert Einstein once said, ‘If bees die off, civilization will have approximately four years left to live.”

Now that you have the reader’s attention, make your thesis statement – the point of your essay, and why a solution is a critical need.

Body Paragraphs

Your first paragraph or two will be used to describe the problem in detail. This is where your research is provided and cited. Be sure that you use credible sources for that research. 

You should be proposing your solution by the third or fourth paragraph. Remember, the solution must be feasible and realistic. It might involve any of the following:

  • Changes in laws or regulations
  • Enforce existing laws
  • Change leadership
  • Re-allocate resources (people, time, money) 
  • Add or build something
  • Educate

Explain why your solution is feasible and answer any objections that have surrounded this solution.


The conclusion should contain a call to action. Return to your thesis statement and re-state it in different words, and then call upon your audience to be a part of your solution in some way.

Problem Solution Essay Examples

Here are two sample essays from students of Virginia Kearney, a college English composition teacher.

A Sentence That Strikes Fear in All College Students

By: Celina Weemhoff

“Oh, you’re going to be a freshman next year? I hope you’re ready to gain the freshman fifteen!” All throughout my senior year of high school, my college friends warned me about the inevitable freshman 15. Regardless of whether I told them that I wouldn’t gain it, they always said I would and that it couldn’t be helped. To them, everyone gains weight in college; and, that’s how many college students see it nowadays, actually. Many freshmen go into college believing they will have to battle weight gain all throughout their freshman year. I also went into college believing I would have to fight this same problem too. The college soon got in the way though, and I wasn’t able to work out as much as I would have liked. As time went on, I gradually came to terms with the fact that I would probably gain weight while I was in college and had probably already gained some. It wasn’t until I went to the health center on Baylor’s campus that I realized I had actually lost weight. I was shocked at first, but this initial shock led me to think about how I had actually lost weight while at college and I soon realized that I had been exercising this whole time. I just hadn’t realized it until now. 

While men face the problem of weight gain in college, it doesn’t affect them in the same way that it affects many girls. In today’s society, girls are only seen as desirable or beautiful if they are super skinny. If a girl who is very self-conscious about her weight gains some during college because of unhealthy eating habits and lack of time to work out, then this could have a major effect on her self-esteem and her overall confidence, which could lead to dangerous issues. Girls, it doesn’t have to be like this though. Every one of you that read this essay is unique and beautiful, but if you do still want to maintain your current weight in a healthy manner then I’ll do my best to show you how I have gone about it while I’ve been at college. Remember though, you’re beautiful just the way you are. Don’t let a small factor like weight gain change that.

The freshman fifteen is a huge problem on campuses throughout America today. Many factors contribute to freshmen gaining weight, such as unhealthy food options and lack of exercise. Both of these problems stem from the fact that college students just don’t have any time for healthier options. Many students that actually weight during college actually didn’t ever want to gain it in the first place, but due to lack of time, they couldn’t stop the inevitable weight gain from happening. This weight gain not only affects their eating habits, but it also can greatly affect their self-esteem. Many students, especially girls, may find themselves not feeling as confident after gaining weight. This problem can then lead to even more serious issues, such as anorexia and bulimia. This problem not only affects college students, though. It also affects the parents of students who are dealing with the stress of gaining weight, as such, not only is the student’s attitude affected, but also their parent’s attitude. After all, no parent wants to see their child upset about something. 

Luckily while I have been at college, I have actually found a way to fight and win the battle against the freshman fifteen. My first solution to the problem was just starting to eat healthier in general. Many students on campus are blind to the healthier options, but there are many that actually exist. Collins is known for its famous southwest chicken salad day and healthy food options. It’s at Collins where I eat lunch every day, and where I have found the healthiest options. Regardless of what people say, I found that I don’t even have to eat like a rabbit every day to maintain weight. Instead, I have supplanted my chicken sandwich, fries, and chocolate chip cookies with a healthier and more balanced option. For lunch, I typically now eat a turkey or ham sandwich with tortilla chips or eggs, and a single cookie. I found this healthier and more balanced option not only tastes just as good as the unhealthy option, but it also helps me feel more active and alert throughout the day. 

Another problem that highly contributes to weight gain is late-night snacking, or just snacking in general. I have found this to be a notorious problem among the other freshmen I know. While I myself am rather fond of snacking at night while I do my homework, I have found a healthier option. Instead of munching on high-calorie candy or chips, I instead now eat pretzels, low-calorie granola bars, popcorn, or marshmallows; all of which are known for having low calories, and still taste quite delicious. I’m still able to get a nice snack in at eleven at night, but now in a healthier way.

The main solution that has contributed to me not gaining weight is exercise. As I stated before I don’t go to the gym at all, but I found an easier option that I can do throughout the day that can help me not gain the notorious freshman fifteen. I found that just by simply walking everywhere on campus that I get in plenty of exercises during each and every day. On average, I can be found to walk about 3 miles every single school day, typically more. This single factor has contributed greatly to me not gaining any weight. Even if I eat a rather greasy and unhealthy meal on occasion, I can quickly walk it off by just simply walking to class. Not only that, but I found that taking the stairs can also help to not gain any weight, especially if you walk up the stairs on your tippy-toes. This not only contributes to fighting weight gain, but it can also contribute to gaining some killer legs by the end of the year.

While the problem of forming unhealthy eating habits can majorly affect a person in the beginning, it can also affect someone’s eating habits for the rest of their lives. After all, actions become habits. If someone starts eating unhealthy in college, then this habit will more than likely persist on into the rest of their lives; that’s why developing a healthy lifestyle early on, especially in college, is very important. Not only can making your everyday activities into workouts and eating healthier help you in college, but it can also help you later on in life. 

While many people will probably believe this solution is just like all the other solutions they have heard about how not to gain weight, it’s actually quite different. This solution allows a person to not gain weight by eating healthy and tasty options, instead of eating like a rabbit. It also allows someone to lose weight by simply just walking around campus, instead of heading to the gym. This factor is quite nice for college students, as many don’t have much time to head to the gym on a weekly basis. It’s also true that many people may believe that the only reason I have lost weight is that I might just have a high metabolism, which is true. In my past though, a high metabolism hasn’t stopped me from gaining weight if I don’t exercise or eat healthy. A high metabolism can only really help a person if they exercise and eat healthy. Both of which I have been able to do while at college my first semester and both are why I have actually lost weight, instead of gaining it. It’s funny to now look back on what my college friends used to tell me about my gaining weight during my freshman year of college. They had told me gaining the freshman fifteen was inevitable and couldn’t be helped. Well, I guess I proved them wrong, because I haven’t gained any weight while at college, and I definitely plan on keeping it that way (in a healthy way, of course).

Becoming That Girl

By: Kathryn Worrall

Ashley was the stereotypical good girl. She had A’s in high school and was the track, volleyball, and even power-lifting star. She was heavily involved in her church and worked at a Christian camp over the summer. Her family is close to one another, her parents are happily married, and her siblings all serve the Lord. She didn’t drink or do drugs, and she had only dated a few boys casually. Her life as a whole was pure and happy. No, she was not perfect, but she was Ashley, your cliché, all-American good girl. Everyone expected great things out of her- high grades, a good sorority, med school, a Christian boyfriend, and an excellent reputation. She would be that girl, that “Baylor approved,” beautiful, sweet girl.

However, a few weeks into college, she became that girl, but not the girl that everyone had predicted. During Welcome Week she went to a few fraternity parties and had a little to drink, but nothing serious. She kissed one boy, but just in a drunken stupor, nothing serious. The next weekend she had a little more, and the next, even more. Ashley quickly spiraled out of control. She now drinks constantly, whether at a fraternity party, a friend’s house, or even in her dorm room by herself, with a cup of Ramen and a movie on Netflix. She has smoked weed, but she says, “It wasn’t a big deal.” She has been with twelve boys in a mere three months, and now has a reputation with the fraternities as that freshman girl. She has made a fool of herself time after time in public places and is blacklisted from several major sororities. Her grades are horrible, with D’s and F’s in the majority of her classes. Does she see the error and problems in her ways? Does she agree it is time for a change? No. She is in college, the time of her life, so she is “just having fun. It is nothing serious.”

The above “Ashley” is my roommate. She is the sweetest, most fun girl you will ever meet. Our personalities mesh perfectly and I love her during the week. However, when it comes to the weekend, she transforms into the one stereotypical person I did not want to room with. Her wild side comes out and it is unbearable. This is not what I signed up for. I signed up for that girl, who loves Jesus and her family. What happened to transform her into that one freshman girl, who boys love for a night and sorority girls instantly dislike? This problem is not just a personal problem with my roommate; nearly every college freshman knows someone like this. People who lose control of themselves and their bad habits are common. What can we, as friends and family, Baylor University, as the school, and authority, like professors and CLs, do to help reduce good students losing themselves in the freedom of college?

In order to find a solution, we must know the causes, and this problem has several different origins. Some students are too sheltered or protected. When they get to the “real world,” they cannot handle it. The newfound freedom overwhelms them, and they want to do everything. One Baylor student told me, in regards to one of his friends, that “Jimmy went wild because his parents were way too strict on him prior to going to Baylor, thus he never got to experience the things he is now doing in college.” Protecting your children from the evils of the world is a great idea, but a general education is still key. That does not mean that giving your middle school kids vodka will help them control their future alcohol consumption, but to send a child into college completely naïve of their future independence is a common and foolish mistake. Other students greatly desire popularity, friends, the title of being “cool,” and a place in the right crowd. They will do anything to ensure that. Unfortunately, they appear foolish and immature more than they impress others. For a while, “Ashley” would bring alcohol into our dorm room. She would get beer from friends and even stole some while babysitting. She made sure everyone knew she had it in the room. She once lied to a guy about having vodka mixed in with the cranberry juice. Her ploy to impress him did not work, which was evident by the confused and even slightly repulsed look on his face. The last cause seems to be an invincible mindset, where nothing bad can happen to you. It is just alcohol and a little pot, right? This is college, with no parents, no responsibilities, and all opportunity. We are young, free, and wild. It is just having fun and this is the time to experience everything. “Ashley” has said several times, “What’s the worst that could happen?” She’s driven drunk, ran from several busted parties, and fooled around with many, many guys, only to have her heartbroken. Each and every day she is living the repercussions of the “what’s the worst that could happen?” mentality, yet she is still blind to her errors. Media reinforces this lifestyle all the time, but very rarely does it show the realistic consequences.

Excessive drinking and partying can lead to various devastating effects. The students see partying as more valuable than studying, homework, or waking up for classes, and thus their grades greatly suffer. One anonymous student told me a typical story about one of his friends, whom I’ve named John. “John assumed he would be maintaining a 3.9 GPA. As the semester progressed and he started to party more, he cares less and less about his grades. This is sad because we both want to join the same fraternity, which requires a 3.0 GPA, and moreover med school, which requires above a 3.5.” John is ruining his future plans for fun nights, alcohol, and the “time of his life.” There are numerous possibilities of things that could happen while under the influence. Unwanted sex, which could lead to a pregnancy or STD, embarrassing photos, videos, text messages, or calls, blood alcohol poisoning, severe hangovers, or even just developing an extremely poor reputation are a few of many possibilities. “Nothing serious” can damage your future career and life, your present relationships, and your past positive image.

What can be done about this problem? Is there a one step, cure-all solution? I do not think so. This problem is so vast and so diverse that I believe there is no flawless resolution. This does not advocate giving up, however. There is always something that loved ones and friends can do to help.

The audience I wish to focus on is us. You and I, as the friends, roommates, or classmates of these students, can make the biggest impact. We cannot control them or keep them from their foolish mistakes, but we can always do our best to help prevent them. No one likes to be preached at by others or feel judged, so thus doing either one would be counterproductive. What I have learned is best is to protect them, love them, and gently remind them of their true selves. Through these three small steps, we can help produce a big effect.

First, and most important, is to protect them. You must be their better judgment when they cannot judge for themselves. You must be their mother, telling them no when they have had too much or gone too far, and be their chauffeur when they cannot drive themselves to the next party. You must pry them away from the creepy guy that promises to drive them home and be the friend to pull them off of the table. You must try your best to protect them from themselves. This is no easy task. It is draining and can even lead to your own bad reputation. Of course, you cannot do this every time. Sometimes our friends must learn on their own. As harsh as that sounds, they will eventually fall to their lowest point, where through pain, embarrassment, or shock they see their mistakes. It is then, when they can sink no lower, that they will be ready to change on their own. This is where my second solution, loving them, is key.

Every time “Ashley” leaves for a night out, I tell her the same thing. “Call me, if you need anything. I’ll turn my phone up, so if you need a ride, I will pick you up. I’m serious; don’t hesitate. Be safe! Think about what you’re doing and be smart with your choices!” Typically, she laughs and says, “Yes, mother.” The next morning, I slip into our standard routine: a glass of water, two blue Advil’s, and a cup of coffee. I do my best to remain patient, kind, and quiet. Showing love, even though she knows I disagree with her choices, helps our relationship. Sometimes I get extremely bitter towards her. She does this, yet has no guilt putting scripture on her Facebook as soon as she is sober enough to work her computer. I daily work on understanding and coming to terms with the realization that one sin is not worse than another. Everyone is a hypocrite, in one way or another, so who am I to judge or condemn her? Love, not your overly righteous spirit or condemnation, will help her. Helping our friends with true love is a simple way to usher them out of their foolishness.

Lastly, we can remind them of what and who they truly are. “Jimmy” is that funny, smart guy, not that one guy who cannot remember what he did last weekend. “Ashley” is the artistic, innocent girl, not that one girl who kissed three boys at one party. How can we do this without being overly confrontational or condemning? For me, it is simple reminders for “Ashley.” It is encouraging her to choose the right thing, to stay away from certain boys, and to appreciate herself. It is through short Scriptures, quotes, or everyday kind words. It is helping her realize the positive potential, the beauty, and the treasure that she is. Her personal realization of her self worth that will lead to a change. Our misguided friends are worth more than what they show themselves to be. They should get to experience everything college and Baylor have to offer, but the right way.

Yes, this is college. I am not going to tell you to never, ever go to a party. To tell free college students to never drink is pointless because very few would listen. However, students must be smart about their decisions and never let freedom control them. When they lose their self-control, they quickly lose respect. It is then, when the parties, alcohol, and promised popularity has supremacy, that we need to step in and do our best to help the ones we love.

Sometimes this slips out of our control. It is too much for peers to handle. This is when we most make the best decision for our friends, even if they disagree with our choices. Parents, Community Leaders, professors, or other authority figures need to be contacted. Friends might not understand in the present, but one day, when they look back, they will be grateful for our interventions.

Has “Ashley” changed? Not really. She tells me after an acute hangover that she is done partying and regrets the previous night, but forgets her newly found resolution by the time the next party opportunity comes around. She continues to make poor decisions when it comes to guys. I doubt she will be able to rush, due to her poor grades. I doubt she’ll be able to keep up with her biology pre-med major. But I do not doubt that she will eventually find her way back. This is not her, and her true self will eventually return. When she does, when the true “Ashley” that I know and love is back, it will partially be due to my help, love, and seemingly insignificant interventions.

Note: You will notice that problem-solution essays are often longer than a basic 5-paragraph one. This is because describing a problem, citing research, and proposing at least one solution is a bit more complex.

This tool for writing a problem-solution essay should provide you with a roadmap as you work to craft one of your own. If you follow the steps, do the research, and organize your essay well, you should be “good to go.”

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