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Problem-Solution Synthesis Essays - Assignments by Chris Sloan

Author: Chris Sloan

I. Solutions Synthesis Posts

This is a series of three assignments.

First Assignment: Write Comments on a SolutionsU story you have uploaded to NowComment

Step 1. SolutionsU is a site that “connects you with solutions stories about the world’s challenges.” Search for a story on SolutionsU that is about a problem that you think needs solving.

Step 2. Annotate on NowComment. Upload the text of the article into a NowComment document and annotate. In your annotations comment on if/where in the article – and how well – the writer:

  1. Introduces the problem. Does the writer convince you that it’s serious?
  2. Presents a solution or at least a partial solution. Is it feasible, cost-effective, and/or more promising than alternative solutions?
  3. Anticipates others’ objections and/or questions
  4. Establishes credibility through the use of personal experiences, hypothetical cases, facts, statistics, examples, quotes from authorities, speculations about causes or consequences, etc.

Instructions on how to upload to NowComment. To complete a NowComment annotation assignment, do the following:

Go to My Library > More > Properties/Access dates > edit

Add the following to the Document Information:

  • Author
  • Citation (Author last name, author first name. Title of work. Date)
  • Publication date
  • Original URL
  • Permission basis is Fair Use
  • type of document is article
  • Make the document public

Next, add your annotated article to our class collection:

Invite > Judge 2020-21

Second Assignment: Collaborating in NowComment study groups

Step 1. Add your annotated article to any applicable Now Comment study groups listed below. The ideas in your article will likely apply to more than one. N.B. You’ll have to join the study group before being able to add the document to it.

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health and well-being
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender equity
  6. Clean water and sanitation
  7. Affordable and clean energy
  8. Decent work and economic growth
  9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequalities
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace, justice, and strong institutions

Step 2. Add comments and/or replies to three articles in your study group or related study groups. Things you might comment on:

  • How serious is the problem?
  • How feasible is the solution if applied to other communities or your own community?
  • Can you think of alternative solutions that aren’t mentioned in the article?
  • Can you suggest another resource for your partner? another article, video, etc.
  • Speculate on the effects of the solutions mentioned in the article? Can you think of any unintended consequences?

Third Assignment: Youth Voices post

Part 1. In a Youth Voices discussion post, synthesize your annotations of the SolutionsU article you read.

  1. Describe the problem in general (e.g.: “Plastics in the ocean are a problem for a lot of reasons,” or “When young adults get released from jail, a lot of them can’t find work…”)
  2. Discuss the particular aspect of the problem that’s being addressed in the article you annotated.
  3. Describe the solution in detail.
  4. What objections might someone have to the solution described in the article?
  5. Critique the solution. Is it feasible, cost-effective, and/or more promising than alternative solutions? Do you think that solution or something like it could work in your community?


  1. Link to your NowComment annotations in your Youth Voices post.
  2. Tag your post, Judge Memorial Catholic High School.
  3. Compose a well-written post that’s free of distracting surface errors
  4. Make sure your post is public so that others (like your teacher) can see your work. See video at the bottom of this page if you’re not sure how to do this.
  5. Optional: Choose the Showcase category if you want your post to appear on the front page of Youth Voices.

Part 2. Write two constructive comments on Youth Voices: one on a discussion of a student from Judge (not in your section of English) and one on a student’s discussion from another school.

Things you should do in your comment to get the writer to engage more deeply with their topic:

  • be specific about what you’re responding to by directly quoting something from their discussion,
  • ask questions,
  • provide links to resources that might help them find out more about their inquiry,
  • make a connection to something you’ve experienced, observed, or read,
  • end by telling them what might bring you back to read more from them.

II. Problem-Solution Synthesis Essay

Write a proposal to address a problem affecting a community or group that you belong to. Analyze the problem and establish that it is serious enough to need solving, offer a solution that will remedy the problem or at least help partially, and lay out the particulars by which your proposed solution would be put into effect. Keep in mind the stakeholders of your community and/or outsiders who could help address the problem, being sure to take into account likely objections to your proposed solution as well as alternative solutions. For each of the next four weeks you’ll annotate sources, provide summaries, and compose an argumentative essay.

Step One: Formulate your question (in class on 2/23). Using the UN Sustainable Development Goals as the organizing principle, identify a problem in a community that you belong to and that you’d like to see improve. Frame your topic as an inquiry question, like the examples at the bottom of this document. You can continue with the topic you chose for your SolutionsU annotation or you can choose a new inquiry now.

Step Two: Annotate (weekly 2/23-3/23). Create a NowComment collection (or add to an existing collection) where you will add an article each week that informs your inquiry question. You’ll annotate and summarize a source for each of the four weeks of the project (3/2, 3/9, 3/16, 3/23). One of these sources must be a chart, illustration, video, photograph, or infographic. Consider using Solutions U, Opposing Viewpoints, New York Times, and the UNSDG site for some of your sources.

  • Upload each article as a separate document on NowComment
  • Create/contribute to a collection on NowComment with your question as the title. Here’s my example.
  • Make sure your sources show multiple perspectives on the issue

Annotate one document each week, commenting on the elements listed below. You may not be able to see all three of the elements in each document, but your collection as a whole should.

  1. Define the problem. Establish that it’s serious.
  2. Discuss solutions, or partial solutions
  3. Consider objections and other points of view

Step Three: Summarize (weekly 2/23-3/23). Youth Voices post. After you annotate a document each week, summarize how that article informs your inquiry question in a Youth Voices discussion post.

Step Four: Synthesize (draft due 3/26; revision due 3/31). Synthesize at least three of the sources from your NowComment resource into a well-written essay proposing a solution to a problem in society. Your essay must follow MLA style and do the following:

  • Analyze the problem and establish that it is serious enough to need solving,
  • Offer a solution that will remedy the problem or at least help solve part of it,
  • Lay out the particulars by which your proposed solution would be put into effect.
  • Consider your community’s stakeholders and/or outsiders who could help solve the problem,
  • Take into account likely objections to your proposed solution as well as alternative solutions.

Rubric for final post

  • define problem
  • explain why it’s serious
  • discuss solutions (or at least partial ones)
  • explain how the solution can be implemented
  • consider objections to your solutions
  • three sources linked in text to your NowComment annotations
  • MUGS (mechanics, usage, grammar, spelling)

Examples of Collections – to use yourself or to inspire you

Study Group: Zero Hunger
Collection: Why does America have so many hungry kids?

Study Group: Good Health and Well Being
Collection: What can schools do about the health of their students?

Study Group: Quality Education
Collection: Do college loans enslave young people today?

Study Group: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Collection: What causes economic inequality in America?

Study Group: Reduced Inequalities
Collection: How can our policies for children at the border shift from trauma inflicting to trauma informed?

Study Group: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Collection: How can we best prepare for drought?

Study Group: Responsible Consumption and Production
Collection: How do we avoid unsustainable, unethical fast fashion?

Example of a collection that needs clarification with a question: Is this about the device and therefore really about Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure or is it about domestic violence and therefore really about Gender Equality?

Study Group: Live on Land
Collection: Are zoos good for animals?

Study Group: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
Collection: What are the effects of money in politics?

Study Group: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Collection: Does education in youth detention centers make a difference?

When you add a document to a collection:

  • Delete the excerpt
  • Add an image

DMU Timestamp: February 12, 2021 19:33

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