1. Think Deeply. As the fortune cookie, located at left, suggests, the problem-solution essay requires that you think deeply about both the problems and the solutions. Thinking deeply, however, does not mean that you have to avoid those problems or solutions that are right in front of you. In fact, you might find the method more sensible to consider the problems in your family or community, first, instead of thinking about national or global problems.
2. Choose Concretely. Be sure your problems and solutions are grounded in concrete discoveries, not abstract, unobservable ideas. Discussing happiness, love, or peace as associated with either problems (i.e., lack of) or solutions (i.e., we need more of) is ill-advised.
3. Research Heavily. Just as much as you think deeply, be passionate about researching problems and solutions with just as much depth. When you are searching, consider synonyms for your topics. For instance, information databases use their own specialized vocabulary that, if you grow to understand what to look for, then your searches will be more accurate and productive. Consider having a look at Library of Congress' authorities search. For instance, try the Subject Authorities Heading search (the default) for homelessness and see what the catalog advises you for search terms when you click the Authorized & References button at left in the search.
4. Conclude Broad-Mindedly. Seek multiple points of view for both your problems and solutions. Suspend judgment until all research is complete. Hasty conclusions could disadvantage your good ideas. Show your work on the solutions. One solution is usually not enough. Offering a best solution among many is often a good game-plan.
Written & Compiled by Matthew Bodie