Instructional Materials for Craig White's Literature Courses






Essay Organization

may also appear as
Question > (Analysis) > Answer
Appearance > (Analysis) > Reality

Overview: First, an attitude adjustment: In the everyday world beyond academic studies and especially in the business world, average people avoid or deny problems, but academics, researchers, and "knowledge workers" welcome problems, face them directly, and profit by analysing and solving them. They're like doctors whose professions require sickness, undertakers who require death, or politicians whom utopia would put out of business.

For academic thinkers, "problem" is often synonymous with "topic" or "issue." Thus a problem is not necessarily bad but rather a subject we can learn from. Discussing or debating a problem illuminates the strengths and weaknesses of our thinking and of rival thinkers. Such practices are essential for critical thinking and progress.

The Problem-Analysis-Solution organization is a standard pattern for critical thinking in group or corporate settings such as academic conferences, policy debates, marketing research, resource development, personnel management, etc,

The following outline has many variations or options—as usual your subject and your thinking may diverge, but for Essay 3 you are expected to develop its 3 main steps (P-A-S) with at least one passage offering concession.


Introduction and Thesis

Introduction: Identify problem as subject of essay (including context in which problem appears).

Thesis: Preview analysis & solution


Body Paragraphs

1. Continue identifying the problem and its significance. (1-3 body paragraphs)

Content: Examples of problem & how it appears in our lives or experience; data and statistics as available.

Identify negative consequences or outcomes, especially if some people don't think your problem is a problem.

Possible concession: for some people, your problem may not look like a problem. Why not? Why is your problem still worth paying attention to? (Conceivably your problem might appeal to a special audience or interest group, whom you can identify in your introduction or here.)


2. Analyze the source or causes of the problem (1-3 body paragraphs)

What are the roots or sources of the problem? How did it originate?

Was it always a problem, or did changing conditions turn something positive into a problem?

Negative consequences of problem may also appear in the analysis section. Don't lose a chance to press the urgency of analysis and action.

Possible concession: Would some people or parties see different sources for your problem?


3. Propose a solution for the problem (1-3 body paragraphs)

Propose a solution to the problem.

Make the terms of your solution meet the terms of your identification and analysis. For instance, if the problem creates negative consequence X, demonstrate how your solution solves or ameliorates consequence X.

Possible concession: What problems may be caused by your solution? What aspects of the problem does you solution not address?



The organization of your conclusion might reprise or summarize the P-A-S pattern of the body.

Add emphasis or urgency. As your reader leaves your essay, give him or her an impression of how your essay should be applied or could be developed.

Alternative frameworks: for Problem-Analysis-Solution

Consider substituting

Question > Answer

Question = Problem

Analysis = how or where the Question rises, why the Question needs an answer, what other answers are typically provided, etc.

Answer = Solution
 . . . or . . .

Appearance > Reality

Appearance = Problem of people's acceptance of a false appearance or an apparent reality that is really deceiving or delusory

Analysis = how people are fooled by false appearance; negative consequences of false appearance

Reality = Solution of substituting a true reality for a false appearance

Topic / subject options for Essay 3

In the syllabus (p. 6), the assignment for Essay 3 says only, "Think of a problem or question challenging yourself, society, or a group in society."

In other words, the topic is yours to choose. Your problem can be one you're facing in your daily life, one we all face as a society, or a "problem" or topic in academic studies, like nature-nurture or determinism vs. free will.

You may also use Essay 3 as preparation for our final Essay 4: "Organize and describe your learning experience in writing generally and Advanced Writing in particular."

That is, you can use Essay 3 to develop content to rewrite and integrate into Essay 4.

For example, you could isolate a particular problem with your writing, analyze where it came from and how it appears, then discuss possible solutions, referring to handouts that discuss the problems you're learning to identify and resolve.

Doing so is not required, but doing so can save you some work in a few weeks and give you a chance to rewrite and improve parts of Essay 3 for Essay 4.

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