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 Critical Thinking
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Critical Thinking, Thoughtful Writing, Second Edition
John Chaffee et al.
Writing Projects
Chapter 11: Proposing a Solution to a Problem

Write an essay in which you apply the five-step problem-solving method to a local, national, or international problem, or to a personal problem. If you are analyzing a social problem, you will have to do some research and locate several articles that provide background information about and discussion of the problem. If you are analyzing a personal problem, you will enrich your paper by consulting some sources that pertain to it.


Purpose: Aside from arriving at a potential solution to a significant problem, you will also benefit from the process of understanding and working through the problem itself. You will learn about problem solving.

Audience: Your audience could potentially include all those interested in the problem you are discussing. Even a personal problem could be one that others are also having to deal with.

List some people or groups who might benefit from reading your paper.

Subject: When it comes to the task of solving a problem, you are always forced to consider how important understanding the problem itself really is, before attempting to formulate a solution.

Writer: Even if you do not start out as one, by the end of this project, you will likely have become somewhat of an expert on the problem you've chosen to discuss. You will have background information and research; in addition, you will have spent time thinking about the problem (that is, about what makes it a problem) and about different kinds of possible solutions.

Generating Ideas: With the problem-solving model in mind, consider what sorts of problems interest you the most. Does solving a personal problem, a local problem, or a national problem seem more appealing? Spend time generating ideas for each kind of problem before settling on one.

List the ideas here.

Defining a Focus: Be clear in your thesis statement that you are proposing a solution to a particular problem. Identify as explicitly as possible what the problem is and what solution you propose. Draft a thesis statement here. Try it several times if you're not happy with it—that's the nature of problem solving!

Draft a thesis statement here. Try it several times if you're not happy with it—that's the nature of problem solving!

Organizing Ideas: Try to integrate the steps in the problem-solving method with your essay structure so that each complements the other. Here are the steps so you can refer to them.

A Flexible Approach to Problem Solving
  1. Identify the problem
  2. Brainstorm alternatives
  3. List advantages/disadvantages for each alternative
  4. Propose a solution
  5. Test the solution
Drafting: Consider drafting paragraphs around different possible solutions you intend to discuss. Consider the various effects of beginning with either the best or worst solution, if you are able to categorize them in such a way.

Revising: Given the opportunity for peer review, ask whether your readers understand the importance of the problem as you've described it in your essay. Remember that for your solution to seem noteworthy, your reader must first understand that the problem is, in fact, a problem.

Editing and Proofreading: As always, pay attention to correct documentation of sources.

Submit your answers
Either print your answers out for submission or email them to your instructor.