Problem-solution essays challenge students to think critically. These essays work well for students just beginning to write essays as well as high-school students prepared for a more challenging assignment. This broad assignment can touch on a range of appropriate topics, all of which ask students to identify a problem and solution using sound theory and research.

Personal Problem

Novice writers need a basic topic in order for their problem-solution essay to be a success. Ask younger students to write about a personal problem as well as a realistic way to solve this problem. Students can reflect on issues that have occurred in their past – or are currently taking place – and uncover ways to handle the problem. For example, a middle-school student can write about her inability to keep her room clean – the problem – and creating a list of daily chores – the solution.

Societal Problem

Writing a problem-solution essay about a problem in society is an appropriate topic for more advanced writers. Students can identify the problem with research. For example, a problem-solution essay can discuss the epidemic of bullying in schools, and students can find facts and figures that prove that this is, in fact, a problem. They can then offer realistic solutions to the real-life problem to bolster the second part of their essay, the solution.

Local Problem

Challenging students to identify a problem in their community is a way to localize this broad essay topic. This essay topic pushes students to learn what's going on in their community. For example, perhaps there is a factory in town that is polluting local neighborhoods and causing health concerns for area residents. The student can investigate this problem and offer a solution by interviewing parties on both sides of the issue and formulating a solution that is fair.

School Problem

To localize the topic even further, students can compose a problem-solution paper that address a current problem in their school. Again, this topic is basic enough that even younger students can address it. For example, students can write about the lack of healthy food options in the cafeteria, the negative impact of long school days or the lack of extracurricular options for students. They can present viable solutions, which the school might actually implement.