Writing Problem-Solution Essays
Georgia is a beautiful state covered by forests. Imagine if all those forests were gone in a single year. That would be a catastrophe! Sadly, that’s the amount of deforestation on our planet every year. All the world’s forests could be gone in a century.
Deforestation is a huge problem with many causes and effects. A problem-solution essay helps you explore a real-world problem and consider ways to solve it. You argue for the seriousness of the issue and convince readers to take action. Your writing might even help fix the problem and make the world a better place!
The following essay examines an environmental crisis: deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. The writer identifies two main causes of the problem and shows the negative effects. Then she calls on politicians, soldiers, and consumers to help solve the problem.
Save the Amazon
Shocking statistics and distressing facts lead to the problem. Every year, our planet loses nearly 60,000 square miles of forest. In the Amazon alone, nearly 4,000 square miles of rainforest vanish per year. This habitat loss threatens species, reduces biodiversity, erodes topsoil, pollutes waterways, and increases greenhouse gases. To solve this problem, we need the help of politicians, soldiers, and consumers.
Each middle paragraph focuses on a cause of the problem and people that could help solve it. In the Amazon, 80 percent of deforested lands have been converted to grazing. Instead of supporting thousands of species of animals, these lands now support cattle raised for meat, dairy, and leather—for human consumption. Instead of absorbing carbon dioxide, these lands now produce large amounts of methane, a major greenhouse gas. The Brazilian government needs to more strongly manage the preservation of the rainforest.
In recent years, illegal gold mining has destroyed many more square miles of the Amazon. Highly armed bands of criminals invade remote sections of rainforest, clear-cutting, burning, and strip mining. They take mineral resources and leave behind sterile land and poisoned water. These remote lands are protected by indigenous people, who cannot match the firepower of the miners. The people need help from the Brazilian military to hunt down and destroy these mining bands.
This paragraph shows how readers can help solve the problem. Saving the Amazon rainforest may require politicians and soldiers, but it also requires consumers. We can start by reducing our use of beef and leather. We can boycott foods that contain palm oil, raised on plantations that once were rainforest. And we can support United Nations efforts to eliminate international trade in illegally mined gold.
The writer summarizes the essay and calls the reader to act. The Amazon rainforest has been called the lungs of our world, helping all of us breathe. It is home to thousands of species and protects the rest against global warming. Politicians, soldiers, and consumers must work together to save it. By eating fewer steaks and fighting illegal mining, we can all breathe easier.
Note This essay focuses on causes of the problem and calls on three groups of people to help solve it. In another problem-solution essay, the writer may mention a few possible solutions, but then focus on the best one. The organization of the essay depends on the problem that it addresses.
Writing a Problem-Solution Essay
Prewriting Planning Your Essay
Choose a Topic 🟪 For your essay, select a topic that you have strong feelings about. If your readers know you really care about your topic, they are more likely to pay careful attention to your ideas. To begin your topic search, list problems in your community or elsewhere in the world. The student of the sample focused on problems in South America. Review your list, and select one problem to be the topic of your essay.
Problems in South America
— refugee crisis
— drug cartels
— Amazon deforestation
— corrupt governments
Prewriting Gathering Details
List Causes and Solutions 🟪 You need to understand what causes the problem. Then create possible solutions that address each cause.
Problem: Deforestation in the Amazon
Causes of the Problem
— The rainforest is being cut down to make grazing land for cattle.
— Palm plantations are being created to feed the demand for palm oil.
— Illegal mining operations invade indigenous lands, take gold, and ruin the soil and water.
— The Brazilian government needs better forest-management policies.
— Indigenous people need military help to fight off illegal mining operations.
— We need to buy less beef and palm oil.
— We should help the U.N. oppose illegal mining.
Prewriting Organizing Your ideas
After collecting your details, you should organize all of your ideas in the order that you want them to appear in your essay. You can form an outline to do this. (See page 49.)
Another way is to create an organized list to arrange your ideas for writing, just as the writer of the sample essay did. Her list combines the causes of the problem and possible solutions. (The solutions are in italics.) Each cause became a separate paragraph in her essay.
Problem: Deforestation of Amazon rainforest
Cause 1: Rainforest is becoming grazing land.
— high demand for beef and leather
— thousands of species replaced by one: cattle
— instead of absorbing greenhouse gases, the land generates it with methane
— better land-management policies
Cause 2: Illegal gold mining ruins indigenous rainforest.
— strip-mining of remote areas by armed bands
— wastelands of ruined soil and poisoned water
— partnership between indigenous people and military
Cause 3: Markets demand beef, palm oil, and gold.
— reduce use of beef and leather
— boycott palm oil products
— support U.N. effort to stop illegal mining
Other Forms of Organization
You could also organize your ideas in the following way:
- Summarize the problem.
- Name possible solutions.
- Explain the best solution.
Writing Developing the First Draft
When you write your essay, use your outline or organized list as a general guide.
Beginning 🟪 The beginning part of your essay is very important. You need to get the reader’s attention, introduce your topic, and state the problem. Therefore, you need to be clear and clever at the same time.
Middle 🟪 The middle part of your essay is where the real work gets done. You need to break down the problem into its causes and effects and provide specific solutions to fix the problem. As you move from one paragraph to the next, use transition words to help your reader follow along. Here are some common ones.
First of all
For that matter
The best solution
The final thing
Ending 🟪 In a problem-solution essay, the ending is very important. You need to summarize your solution to the problem and add some final thoughts. You might also say how readers can get involved.
Revising and Editing Improving Your Writing
Once you’ve finished the first draft, make sure that it is complete, clear, and well organized. The following questions should help you revise your writing. (Use the checklist on page 66 to help you edit it.)