Problem Solving Essay (Collaborative)

In everyday life, crisis is a constant.   Problems emerge in every facet of our existence:  In occupations, problems arise in working conditions, policy implementation, co-worker relations, labor/management relations, and governmental standards.  In our communities, problems such as homelessness, pollution, school violence, terrorism, and urban sprawl must be encountered daily.  While many of us have the privilege of ignoring such problems, someone, in some capacity, has to address them. Problem solving requires all of your skills as a writer.  You need to observe carefully to see if a problem exists.  You may need to remember experiences that illustrate the seriousness of the problem.  You need to read and investigate which solutions have worked and not worked.  You often have to explain what the problem is and why or how your proposal would remedy the situation.  You may need to analyze and evaluate both the problem and alternative solutions.   

Assignment:  Your group should select one of the following scenarios:  
You are all members of an election (or re-election) campaign staff for a political candidate — a prospective senator, governor, president, etc.
You are members of a citizen’s action group that is working for the passage of a voter referendum on the November ballot.

Focus your efforts on one particular controversial domestic issue, for example, affirmative action, immigration policy, education, law and order, health care, environmental issues (climate change, urban sprawl, the depletion of natural resources), bioethics (cloning, stem cell research), etc. (If you are working for a political candidate, recognize that there may be other issues in the campaign, but imagine that this particular issue is the crucial one at this particular time.)  

HINT:  to save yourselves time, you should preferably choose an issue that someone in your group has worked with this term, so you will have at least one group member that is an "expert" on the issue.  However, if you wish you may examine a new topic.  Just understand that this will require you to do more intense research for you will need to understand all facets of the topic.


Your goal here is to argue and persuade.

You will need to write a 5-6 page proposal that addresses each of the following:

Demonstrates that a problem exists.  What are some causes of the problem?  What are some illustrations or examples of the problem? What are the most troubling or alarming images associated with the problem? What are the short-term effects? Long-term effects? How does this problem affect attitudes or behaviors? How might this problem snowball? What other situation (event, attitude) does this problem resemble?
Proposes a legislative solution that will resolve the problem.  After convincing your readers that a serious problem exists, you must then propose a legislative remedy, plan, or course of action that will eliminate or reduce the problem (propose new laws as the prospective political candidate or citizen’s action group).  What action will best address the causes of the problem? How can that action (or set of actions) be implemented? What might stand in the way of this action? How could those involved overcome impediments? How will the action change the situation?
Persuade your readers (constituency) that your proposal will work.  Show how you proposal is feasible, or that it is better than alternative solutions. You convince your readers (constituency) by supporting your proposal with reasons and evidence. Has this kind of solution been tried before (in other situations)? How did it go? Does the solution have potential shortcomings or limitations? Could this solution fall short? (Under what circumstances?)

This assignment is designed for you to learn to explore complex issues and difficult, abstract, or unusual ideas and in the process discover and learn something about yourself and the world.  As a writer you have a responsibility to your readers to make these difficult concepts concrete and understandable.   While writing, try to avoid vague generalizations. Where do you get the examples to develop your essay? Which examples support your claim?  Which do not?  Which are the most convincing? Which are the most likely to interest readers and clarify meaning?

The most important techniques used in this proposal however, are:
Identifying and focusing on a specific problem
Demonstrating that the problem needs a solution
Evaluating possible solutions
Convincing your readers (constituency)
Answering possible objections to your proposal
Identifying drawbacks to your solution
Show how you proposal is feasible, or that it is better than alternative  solutions.

Your claim will be one sentence that demonstrates that your issue is a problem and proposes a solution to that problem.


How will audience affect the content of your paper? Who am I writing for?

Imagine you are writing this essay for highly educated legislators.  Based upon their educational levels and levels of expertise, you need to consider what they likely already understand about your topic.  In other words, if you are discussing the obesity problem in America, you really don't need to define the word "obese."  This would be basic, common knowledge for someone of this level of intelligence. Please keep this in mind.

How will audience affect diction (word choice)?

Since your audience is highly educated and you are essentially writing an academic piece, how will this affect the type of language that you will use?

Since you are essentially writing an academic, researched paper, your essay should have a very formal  tone.  However, this is not as formal as the exploratory paper and it is permissible to  use personal pronouns (“we, us, etc.”).  

You should NEVER , however,  use first person or contractions.  In addition, you should completely avoid the use of slang and explicit language.


At this point in the term, at least one person in your group is an expert on this issue and should have a good deal of research material on the topic.  However, as a group you may need to gather more research to help you formulate a solution and then to persuade your audience that this solution will work.  Keep in mind that you must use information found in the library or on the library's databases.  YOU CANNOT USE SOURCES FOUND ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB.  

Your essay should have a title. It should also be typed, double spaced, with one-inch margins all around, Times New Roman Font, & 12 pt.  Your paper should be 5 FULL page up to 6 FULL pages and, in addition to this page count have a works cited page.  F Refer to OWL Pursuw for other question about format and citations using MLA style.  You may also refer to model student drafts:

"Power Production and Shortages in America"
"The Electoral College System:  It's Time for a Change"

You should have a minimum of five to six (5-6) sources.  Include copies of each source with your final draft and highlight the material used in your paper on the copy of each source.  


The grade for this assignment will be determined as follows:

Total Possible Points:  50/

Individual Scoring ( 15 points):

Score for individual typed annotations (individual research: 2 pages), 
Attendance and individual score for contribution to in-class       drafting/invention, and overall contribution to project

Group Scoring (35 points):

Focus (9 points):  Does essay have a clear purpose? Overall claim stated? Focus on a single idea or aspect of the literature?

Development (9 points):  ):  Does the author demonstrate that a problem exists? Does the author provide evidence to support that assertion?  Does the author propose a solution to the problem and explain how the solution will be implemented & paid for?  Doe the author convincingly persuade the reader that there solution will work?  Does the author call the reader to action?  Does writer quote accurately from the source, including citing specific page numbers? Does the author effectively use at least three images to support their claims?

Organization (9 points):   Do first few sentences arouse the reader’s interest and focus their attention on the subject? Are readers expectations set and clearly met? Do paragraphs have clear focus, unity and coherence? Effective transitions?

Style (4 points):  Is language clear direct and readable? Are sentences clear, concise, and easily read by intended audience? Is word choice appropriate for audience? Do sentences reveal and sustain appropriate voice and tone? Does writer use the literary present tense to describe events in the story?

Mechanics (4 points):  Are there obvious errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar? Are there patterns of error?






Grading scale:
A  45-50
B  40-44
C  35-39
D 30-34
F    0-29