How to Write a Problem-Solving Proposal

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Problem-solving proposals invite your audience to consider a specific solution to a problem of local or global significance. The problem may be social, environmental, ethical, commercial, scientific, political or judicial; it may affect a group, a business, an organization or society in general. Proposals can relate to student career goals or curriculum-specific topics such as health, business or the environment. The length, depth and format depend on the audience and assignment guidelines.

1 Prewriting and Research

Use prewriting strategies before research to develop a concise focus. Writing experts like those at Durham Technical College say that successful problem-solving proposals begin with prewriting strategies such as exploratory questions, developing hypothetical solutions and evaluating solutions with audience-specific criteria. For instance, environmental advocates may resist an engineering solution that alleviates traffic problems by adding extra driving lanes. Business students can use a model that links the situation with the target to organize information, define the problem and manage conflicts that evolve from the solution.

2 First Impressions

The topic and context will determine the writing tone and help you select a specific template with headings or paragraphs. Introduce and summarize the problem first. Business, entertainment and marketing students may use a proposal format called a pitch -- a short live presentation usually accompanied by visuals and audience handouts. All types of proposals can use a story that quickly shows the problem. You could narrate the story of how you or someone you know discovered the problem, relate the story of someone who was affected by the problem or develop a hypothetical scenario.

3 Effective Organization

Present your main solution in one sentence. For example, you might say: "The way to ensure equal employment opportunity and job success in low-income areas is to provide free, take-home wireless access through library lending programs." In a research paper, this statement usually appears as the last sentence of the first paragraph or under the second heading. Next, give two or three reasons for solving the problem with subsequent headings or paragraphs. Discuss other possible solutions using a new heading or paragraph and explain what distinguishes your solution. Show how to adapt successfully tested solutions to the new context.

4 Feasibility Options

Before your conclusion, explain how your solution warrants investment of time, money or energy. If the timing of the solution is an issue, provide a specific plan of action. If funds are factor, offer a brief cost analysis and discuss the availability of grants or other factors that make the solution feasible. Tap into emotion by explaining how to motivate and use volunteer services or team members. Persuade your audience with practical ideas on how to organize tasks and delegate responsibilities when implementing the solution.

A native of New Orleans, Amanda Petrona holds a Bachelor of Science in anthropology/social psychology and Master of Arts in English. She taught writing, research and literature at LSU Baton Rouge. Petrona founded Wild Spirit Louisiana, an organic farm, nature conservatory, and education center for sustainable and holistic living.