University of Houston-Victoria

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Problem Solution Paragraphs

Drafting Body Paragraphs: Purpose-Based Organization Strategies Problem-Solution

There are several different organizational strategies designed  for specific types of body paragraphs, including cause-effect, problem-solution, comparison-contrast and chronological. You must  identify the purpose of the paragraph before you begin writing and then  seek out the appropriate organizational strategy for writing a paragraph with that specific purpose. This handout discusses  the problem-solution strategy in detail.

First, there’s one thing you should  know about  this handout and  its connection to another Academic  Center handout. This handout is best used in conjunction with  the Academic  Center handout Drafting Body Paragraphs: CECC:  An Internal Organization Strategy, which discusses  a method of paragraph development that focuses on claim, evidence,  commentary and  conclusion. The  CECC  method accounts for the labeling  in brackets of the example  paragraphs in this  handout. These  labels in brackets are merely meant to show how each purpose-based organization strategy also corresponds with  the CECC  method.

A problem-solution paragraph identifies a problem, or problems, and recommends a plausible solution(s). This  method of internal organization splits  the paragraph, or paragraph block, into four easily-recognizable parts:

  • Use a topic sentence to explore the paragraph’s main idea, or claim (the problem  that will be explored).
  • Provide a description of the problem for the reader.
  • Provide a description of the solution(s) for the reader.
  • Include a conclusion sentence to describe whether all solutions are applicable or whether one solution is better than the others.

Now, let’s look more closely at the second and  third sections  of the problem-solution organizational strategy.

The  description of the problem, or second section  of the paragraph, should  provide  sufficient evidence that a problem exists and address  all questions that a reader  may have about  the problem, including who, what, when,  where, why and how. The third section  of the paragraph explores  the recommended solution(s). If you wish to explore several solutions in this  section, then  you should  explain  the efficiency and/or  effectiveness  of each of the solutions. In this section  you may also wish to arrive  at a conclusion as to why one solution may be better than another solution. However,  you can also reveal this information in the fourth section  of the paragraph. It is your choice as a writer  to decide where this information fits best based on your understanding of the reader’s  needs and expectations.

Let’s take  a look at an example  of a successful  problem-solution paragraph:


Topic sentence [claim]

  • General Computers, a Fortune 500 company, has recently experienced problems with employee dissatisfaction, especially in the area of lack of flexibility with work schedules; however, this problem can be easily solved by implementing new technology to allow employees to telecommute, which results in greater schedule flexibility and may, in effect, result in increased employee satisfaction.


Description of problem [evidence]

  • According to Edwards (2006), the problem was first recognized when General Computers administered a survey on employees and work satisfaction. Surprisingly, General Computers found that the majority of employee dissatisfaction (82%) resulted from a lack of flexibility in employee work schedules .


Description of solution [commentary]

  • The solution to General Computers’ problem lies in the implementation of a telecommuting program to enable employees greater scheduling flexibility. The telecommuting program would enable employees to bring up their workstation desktops from home. This method could facilitate greater scheduling flexibility in two areas: while this program would enable some employees to make the transition to full‐time telecommuters, other employees who still physically work in the office would also enjoy greater scheduling flexibility. For example, if an employee’s child has a dental appointment late in the afternoon, the employee can seek permission to leave work early and simply finish what he/she was working on from home later that evening.


Conclusion sentence [conclusion]

  • This type of scheduling flexibility allows employees to maintain an effective work‐life balance which will enable General Computers to significantly reduce the problem of employee dissatisfaction.

Note  that each of the four primary sections  of the problem- solution pattern is included in the example:  topic sentence, problem description, solution description and  conclusion sentence. Not  only is this problem-solution pattern present, but  you are also able to see the components of the CECC pattern emerging. For  example,  in the description of the problem  section, the evidence,  or statistics about employee dissatisfaction, cited  according to Edwards, establish proof that there  is a problem. The writer’s  commentary, which follows in the solution section, is his/her  own proposed solution to the organization’s problem.

More information on providing and signaling commentary is available  in our handout Signal Your Commentary on Source Material.

A paragraph block is a seri  s of several paragraphs which share the same topic  sentence. The paragraph block has the same basic function as a single paragraph – to explore a main idea in detail. A paragraph block is used when the main  idea being covered features several different components or is especially detailed. The  paragraph bl  ck will still  follow the same organizational pattern; the content will just  be revealed  over the course of several paragraphs rather than contained within a single  paragraph.

In  this  example  paragraph, the cause is the offering  of rewards  to children, the effect is the delay in egocentric  growth, and the description of the process explains  why the offering of rewards leads to a delay in egocentric  growth.

Not  only is the cause and effect pattern present, but the components of the CECC  pattern also emerge.  For  example,  in the description of the process section, the evidence,  or statements about how ego development relies on the ability  to choose and control for oneself,  is cited  according to Smith. However,  the writer’s commentary which follows these  statements interprets and summarizes this  evidence for the reader.

As an aside,  it might also be beneficial  to take  a closer look at the third section  of this  example  – the description of the solution. Although this  section  provides  commentary for the problem  in a broad  sense,  it also features its own separate claim  – evidence – commentary pattern. The  first sentence of that section  (The  solution to General  Computers’ problem  . . .) is the claim;  the second  sentence (The  telecommuting program would enable  employees  to . . .) is the evidence; and the third and  fourth sentences (This  method could facilitate . . . ) are the commentary. It’s interesting to note  that the CECC  pattern is so foundational that it can emerge even within the body of a paragraph that already  more broadly  conforms  to both  the CECC  pattern and  the problem-solution organization strategy.

Although this  handout discussed the problem-solution approach to paragraph organization, there  are many  other  methods you can use to organize  information within a specific paragraph. Additionally, while the information presented in this  handout is tailored toward  paragraph development, this  organizational strategies discussed can be applied  as overall organization strategies for research  papers  or can be used as organization strategies for paragraph blocks within a larger  paper.


Copyright 2008 by the Academic  Center, the University of Houston-Victoria, and  Candice  Chovanec  Melzow. Created 2007 by Candice  Chovanec  Melzow.