English 110: Solberg
ESSAY #5: PROPOSING A SOLUTION
For use with PA chapters 13 and 15
Axelrod, Rise B. and Cooper, Charles R. Concise Guide to Writing. Fourth Edition. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2006. Print.
Faigley, Lester and Jack Selzer. Good Reasons with Contemporary Arguments. Third Edition. New
York: Pearson/Longman, 2007. Print.
Kirszner, Laurie G. and Stephen R. Mandell. Practical Arguments: A Text and Anthology. New York:
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. Print.
DESCRIPTION: Write a 1000-1250 word argumentative essay that offers a solution to a particular, local
problem. You should address your essay to a particular person or persons; identify the problem and
provide reasons and evidence so that your audience is convinced that it exists and is serious; make a
causal argument for why your problem exists that includes good reasons and evidence; clearly state
and describe your solution so that your audience can readily imagine what it will be like; support your
solution with good reasons and evidence that your solution will work (will solve the problem) and is
feasible; anticipate and respond to readers' objections and questions; and evaluate and reject at
least one alternative solution. You may use personal interviews to support your argument but not
written sources (such as books, magazine articles, or websites) except with special permission.
TOPICS: Note: Your topic must be approved by me for this essay. Your topic will be the problem
that you are solving. Your topic will be stated in the form of a problem and should be a complete
sentence, such as “There are too few student parking spaces.” You should choose a problem that affects
you directly or that has affected you directly in the recent past. Try to write about a problem that is as
unique and as specific as possible. The best topics in the past have been ones that have concerned a
person’s job or a group the person was associated with (i.e., school clubs, church groups, community
organizations). You should not have decided on a solution when you choose your topic, but you should
consider the following points:
Choose a narrowed topic that you can cover in 4-5 pages. If the topic too broad, try to narrow down
the problem. For instance, “the financial aid office is unhelpful” could be narrowed down to designate
a certain way in which it is unhelpful, such as the process by which it distributes checks. If you CAN’T
narrow down a problem that is too broad, then reject the topic.
Don't choose a problem that can't be solved.
Don't choose a problem that affects only you or whose existence you cannot satisfactorily prove.
(Example: "The bookstore hours are inconvenient for me" is a problem that only affects you. "The
bookstore hours are inconvenient for everyone" would be a problem you cannot prove without
Don't choose a topic whose solution is too easy/obvious A good way to test this possibility is if there
is only one possible solution. (Example: “My roommates don’t do the dishes”; the solution obviously is
for your roommates to do the dishes.)
Don’t choose a position essay topic. Remember that the topic is a problem that needs to be fixed, not
something that you want simply to eliminate or have done (Example: “The problem is the dorm
visitation rules need to be abolished” In other words, you’re against the dorm visitation rules—it’s a
position topic, not a proposal topic.)
Don’t choose problems for which the solution involves a lot of money (i.e., raising taxes, charging
fees, or redistributing an existing budget). New buildings, new scholarships, new roads, etc. all are
just a question of money; your essay won’t go anywhere. Raising or finding money CANNOT be a
central part of your proposal!
Don’t choose a problem that will involve you do to research beyond interviews or one that is
global/too big. For instance, you cannot write on problems dealing with drunken driving, teenage
pregnancy, immigration policies, etc.
Forbidden Topics: Certain topics do not work well for this assignment. If you are unsure if your topic
falls into any of the forbidden categories, check with me. You may not write about
o student parking
o time management
o dorm visitation rules
o messy dorm bathrooms
o noisy dorms/dorm quiet hours
o problems in our class (though you may write about other classes)
o college dining hall food or hours (though you may write on a problem you have if you WORK in the dining hall)
o global problems (the economy, capital punishment, etc.)
o any topic which we discuss in class or on which you read a sample essay
Final note on topics: I am happy to help you come up with a topic IF you have done some work
first. You need to read the PA chapters, the assignment sheet, and the invention/prewriting
section on topics FIRST.
PURPOSE: To persuade your audience to implement the proposed solution.
AUDIENCE: You will write your argument as a letter to the SPECIFIC person or person who has/have
the authority to implement your solution. For example, you might write a letter to your supervisor
about a way for your company to save money so people won't have to be laid off, or a letter to the
president of your club proposing a way to recruit new members. It will be up to you to research who can
implement your solution. You will need to use a specific person or committee’s name AND have a real
address for your audience. Remember to whom you are writing throughout your essay; your audience
will shape much of your argument and determine your tone.
SPECIAL FORMATTING: You will use a modified version of regular formatting on this essay to make it
look somewhat like a letter. Format your essay as usual with the following exceptions:
Instead of a title, write out the address of your audience (single-space) and use the salutation Dear
[audience’s name] followed by a colon (not a comma). Thus, the top of your first page should look like
Professor Erika Solberg
100 Christmas Drive
North Pole, Top of the World
Dear Mr. Claus:
The beginning of the essay should start here. Your first paragraph continues on and on and on and on
and on on and on and on on and on doo dah, doo dah and on and on on and on and on and on on.
At the end of the essay, use a letter closing phrase like “sincerely” and sign your name. Then insert
the honesty statement as usual and do a Works Cited page as usual (if needed).
… this is the last line of your essay here.
The writing in this essay is my own work. If I’ve used outside sources, I’ve acknowledged them through correct
RATIONALE FOR ASSIGNMENT/SKILLS TO WORK ON:
Creating a proposal argument
Creating a causal argument
Creating an argument connected to personal experience
Finding relevant evidence and explaining it clearly
Using persuasive and rhetorical strategies designed for a very specific audience
Creating effective paragraphs and sentences
Correctly and effectively documenting an interviewed source
Following directions and meeting deadlines
POINTS TO CONSIDER:
Note that the length of this essay is longer than usual. You have more points to cover in this essay
than in past essays.
o Your problem should be stated as a complete sentence.
o Remember that you will need to persuade your audience that your problem exists and is
serious before you can persuade your audience to take specifics steps to fix the problem.
Use specific evidence (and reasons as appropriate) to do so!
o You may need to use some personal interviews to help you understand the problem and
present it persuasively.
o Avoid assumptions, a whining tone, focusing only on the effect the problem has on you, and
using sources who are whining or overly focused on themselves.
Make a causal argument for why your problem exists
o You will also argue for the causes of your problem; THIS ARGUMENT WILL BE A
SEPARATE SECTION (ONE OR MORE PARAGRAPHS) IN YOUR ESSAY.
o Think carefully about all possible causes of the problem, but then argue for the one(s) you
believe to be the primary one AND use evidence to support your assertions.
o You may also want to rebut other causes that some may think are primary but which you do
not think are.
State the solution
o A delayed thesis is okay: you may want to define your problem thoroughly and even perhaps
reject an alternative solution before stating your solution. However, we should know when we
get to your solution and you cannot argue in support of your solution until you state and
o You will argue for only ONE solution to your problem.
o Your solution should be stated as a complete sentence and should follow the formula for a
proposal argument “ We [or whoever can implement the solution] should/should not take a
o This essay should be a practical proposal. Besides including a clear central claim that sums
up your solution, you should also outline the steps of your solution clearly and
specifically; your audience should know exactly what it would need to do to implement your
solution. Don't JUST say things like, "We will have a meeting"; instead, explain how long the
meeting will be, what will be discussed, who will run it, when and where it will take place, etc.
Convincing argument for solution
o Your argument for your solution needs to take into account what has caused your problem,
either by eliminating the primary causes(s) of the problem OR by acknowledging that the
causes cannot be eliminated, in which case your solution will try to eliminate the effects of
those causes. For example, in the case of messy bathroom, you can target a cause by trying
to get the students to be less lazy, or you could focus on the effects of their laziness by hiring
more custodial workers.
o Make sure you spend a significant part of your essay explaining HOW and WHY your
solution will work/will solve the problem--use very specific examples and details. Your
reasons and support for how the solution will work are the most crucial (and often
hardest) part of the assignment.
Be sure to make arguable assertions about how the solution will solve the problem.
Avoid asserting the solution will solve the problem because it will solve the problem.
In other words, if your problem is “the dorm bathroom is too messy” and your solution
is “We, the dorm residents, should establish our own cleaning schedule,” your reason
would not be “the solution will work because it will make the bathroom cleaner” but
could be “the solution will work because dorm residents will make less of a mess if
they know their friends will have to clean up after them.”
You will likely have MULTIPLE paragraphs for this section because you will
have multiple reasons and EACH reason will need evidence to support it.
Your argument here will also be in part a causal argument: you are arguing that your
solution will produce certain effects
Back up your assertions with evidence -- examples, facts, authorities, interviews, etc.
See if you can find examples of similar solutions (comparisons) to use as evidence.
o You also need to argue that the solution is feasible. Consider factors like effort involved,
time involved, cost, materials needed, the laws of physics, human nature, etc. Always keep
your audience in mind. Remember that you need reasons that are arguable assertions ("This
solution will not cost us anything") and evidence to back up those assertions ("We can use
the electronic bulletin board to publicize the event").
o You may also want to argue that the solution will produce certain benefits. Think about the
effects putting the solution into place will have and who will be affected by your solution.
Think about your audience’s priorities. You will need to use reasons and evidence.
o To use personal interviews, you will need to talk to people who will be relevant and credible.
Keep in mind that having your roommate confirm what you think is not necessarily adequate
support. Feel free to talk to faculty, administration, parents, store clerks, former teachers,
strangers on the street, etc.
Respond to objections and questions and evaluate and reject an alternative solution
o You need to include rebuttals in this essay. They may be in response to objections or
questions relating to your assertions that the problem is real and serious; to your causal
argument for why the problem exists; to your argument that the solution will work or is
feasible; and/or to other concerns, such as fairness. Think about where the weak spots in
your argument are and where your specific readers would have questions. It is okay to
combine a rebuttal with another aspect if appropriate – for instance, if a major objection
relates to feasibility, and you address that objection, then you are also covering, at least in
part, the “is it feasible?” component of the argument.
o As always, you should cue the other side's point, explain it thoroughly, cue your response,
and respond directly and with support, either refuting or counterarguing the other side's point.
o You must also present an alternative solution (this step will be easy to do if you brainstorm
multiple solutions during your invention) and explain why yours is better using the criteria for
a good proposal (workability, feasibility, and benefits). Yours may be better because will solve
the problem better, and/or is more feasible, and/or will produce more benefits. For instance, if
the problem is there is not enough student parking, you may argue that we should
redesignate visitor parking areas for students and argue that an alternative solution that we
should build a parking garage is not as good as yours because while a parking garage may
solve the problem, it is not feasible. Remember to make clear that yours is the better solution
-- don't just state an alternative solution without rejecting it because you will undermine your
Be aware of your audience as you organize your argument and also as you adopt a tone: be aware
of how your audience may react to your argument so you know how accommodating or how
confrontational to be.
Your introduction will need to hook your reader(s) into your essay and prepare him/her/them for your
argument. Consider giving a vivid illustration of the problem, stating all the good things you see about
the club/job/community/etc. in which you see the problem, vividly illustrating an alterative world where
the problem does not exist, etc. You MAY but do NOT HAVE TO state your central claim or forecast
your reasons, but you must give your readers an idea about the topic that the essay will discuss.
Your conclusion will need to recap all the main points of your argument and spur the reader to action.
If you want your audience to take you more seriously, refer to adults (such as students) as "women"
and "men" rather than "girls," "boys,” or “kids.”
Think of your argument as a pyramid: a broad foundation of evidence supports a smaller section of
reasoning that supports the very small top of the pyramid, which is your solution. Thus, the bulk of
your essay will be EVIDENCE.
Do not write a five paragraph essay; make your argument as long as it needs to be. Organize your
essay around your argument, not around how long you think an essay is supposed to be.
You will need to follow MLA guidelines for using sources in your essay. Refer to the Bedford
Handbook, the documentation webpage, and me for guidance.
ACADEMIC HONESTY: do not consult, review, copy, or even read ANYTHING from outside written
sources -- not Spark Notes, not another textbook, not your older sister’s essay, not a website – I want
ONLY YOUR ideas and YOUR ideas ONLY. If you look at someone else’s ideas, you run the risk of
plagiarizing. If you are having trouble with your essay, talk to me or a writing tutor. I strongly encourage
you to review this course's academic honesty policy on the syllabus and to consult with me if you have
any questions. Any student caught plagiarizing will automatically fail the course.
TURNITIN.COM: Each student is required to submit his/her essay to turnitin.com before midnight on the
day when the essay portfolio is due in class.
ADDITIONAL PORTFOLIO ITEMS:
1. All prewriting, including topic work and outlines.
2. First draft (your copy)
3. First Draft Swap: Include the feedback your peer gives you on your draft.
4. First Draft Revision Plan: Answer the assigned questions before you do draft two.
5. Draft Two (your copy)
6. Peer Evaluations: Staple each evaluation to the copy of the essay that the peer evaluated. Also
include the copy I write on.
7. Second draft revision plan: Include the plan you make before you write draft three.
8. Third Draft (your copy)
9. Writing Goals: See directions on writing goals sheet.
10. Error Checklist: Include your filled-out your checklist on the Position Essay. See instructions on
11. Grade sheet (print out from the website -- please make sure it all prints out on page -- you may need
to adjust your margins -- ask me if you have problems)
12. Final essay
PORTFOLIO ORGANIZATION (label each item neatly):
When you turn in your final essay, you will also turn in all the work you have done on the essay so far,
contained in a two-pocket folder. You will receive a portfolio grade (counts as a double quiz grade)
based on the organization, neatness, and completeness of your portfolio.
Follow special formatting for this essay (see above).
Be sure to clearly label each item. The chart below will tell you what to turn in and where to put it. Be
sure to staple and label each item separately and neatly (unless it already has a clear label,
such as your final draft).
Left side [1=top] Right Side [1=top]
1. Complete prewriting (including outlines and
1. Grade sheet
2. Draft 1 2. Writing Goals sheet
3. Draft 1 Swap 3. Error Checklist
4. Draft 1 revision plan 4. Final essay
5. Your original copy of draft 2
6. Peer evaluations with reviewed copies of draft 2
attached, including instructor's
7. Draft 2 revision plan
8. Draft 3
See the syllabus for general information on essay grading and how much this assignment count
toward your overall course grade.
Essay Process grade (worth up to 50 points of overall essay grade); work must be complete and
submitted on time for full credit. NOTE: draft 1, draft 2, draft 3, and the final draft must all be
DIFFERENT drafts in terms of content to be considered separate drafts and for you to receive credit
Item Point Value
1. Prewriting (including outlines and topic work) 10
2. Draft 1 10
3. Draft 1 revision plan and Draft 2 10
4. Peer evaluations 10
5. Draft 2 revision plan and Draft 3 10
Essay Content Grade: See the assignment description at the top of this page for the main items you
will be graded on. For more details, see the assignment's grading criteria/rubric and Grade Sheet.
Letter Grade Point Value
A- to A+ 40-50
B- to B+ 30-39
C- to C+ 20-29
D- to D+ 10-19
Overall Essay Grade: Combine your Essay Process total with your Content Grade to get your
overall essay grade. See the syllabus for the grade scale used in this course for your overall
essay grade (i.e., 90=A-, 77.5=C+, etc.). For instance, if your first draft is late and you don't do
one of you peer evaluations and then write an essay worth a C in content, your overall grade
would be 35 (process) + 25 (essay content) = 60, which is a D-. If you do all the process steps
and then write an essay which is a C+ in content, your overall grade would be 50 (process) +
27.5 (essay content) = 77.5, which is a C+. I round up low grades so that essays submitted on
time will earn no lower than 50 (F).
o Your overall essay grade will be penalized if you fail to submit your essay on time. Essays
lose 10 points per day (not class day) that they are late.
o Your overall essay grade will be penalized 10 points if you do not submit it to TurnItIn.com on
HELP AND GUIDANCE:
Use the webpages for this unit – all of them!
Go back over PA chapters 13 and 15 frequently.
Consult BH chapters 1-3 for help with invention, planning, drafting, and revision.
Come see me as often as you wish. I will read as many drafts as you want.
I don’t read full drafts via email, but I’ll read and comment on individual paragraphs via email if given
Don't forget the fabulous tutors at the Writing Center -- they stay up much later than I do!