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Writing Tutorial – Analyzing a Problem

Let’s start with the ‘Problem’. Do you agree with the statement that ‘very problem begs for an answer or solution’? I do. So, whenever I think of something or you say something to me that is in need of an answer or solution, I have a problem. That is probably the best way of defining a problem.
This definition can also be turned around: Whenever I have a problem, I am in need of an answer or solution. How often does that happen in a day? Lots of times! Sometimes the answer or solution comes easily and quickly … probably because we have encountered that problem before. At other time, it takes time to get an answer or solution. Occasionally, answers or solutions just don’t come! That’s when we can get quite frustrated or upset, especially when an answer or solution is needed to move forward. I can think of times when I was taking a mathematics exam and I could not arrive at a solution to some of the questions. How frustrating was that … especially when the solution to the problem came moments after I had turned in my exam!

So, what is needed to move from a problem to a solution? In the diagram above, we see that the problem and the solution are separated by two gaps … an information gap and a logical gap. Therefore, to overcome the gap between a problem and a solution, we have to determine which gaps separates the two and then resolve those gaps. Let me explain.

Suppose Jane faces the mathematics problem: 6 + ? = 9. She might say: ‘That’s easy … just subtract 6 from 9 and you get the difference between 6 and 9. What did she do? She recognized that a logical gap separated the problem from the solution.

Suppose Peter needed to know the distance between Vancouver and Calgary. He says, ‘That’s easy … I will simply Google it’. He did and discovered that the distance is 973 km. Peter recognized that he had to solve a factual or information problem. Once he recognized what kind of gap he had to overcome, he knew how to solve it.

Coastal flooding

Sometimes we are faced with what is called a ‘wicked problem’. This is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. Take, for example, the conflicting views on the causes and effects of global warming. No matter how hard we try, we experience great difficulties in solving this problem. Never-the-less, the challenge of solving this problem rests with overcoming our information and logical maps. We need more information about global warming. We also need to develop logical models which enable us to make projections. After all, we want to solve the problem of global warming before the effects are upon us!
In conclusion, No matter what problems we face, we need to overcome the information and logical gapsthat separate the problem and the solution. Any successful analysis of a problem has addressed this challenge.
Once again, thinking strategies are needed to identify a problem and to discover alternative solutions. Here they are.
THINKING STRATEGY # 1State the problem
Whichever approach is used to analyze a problem, a clear and concise statement of the problem is essential.
THINKING STRATEGY # 2Describe the problem
Describe a problem by explaining why it is a problem, for whom, the setting in which the problem arises, etc. Identify the information and logical gaps that create the problem.
THINKING STRATEGY # 3Outline alternative solutions
Frequently, there are several solutions to a problem even though one or two solutions may be preferred. Present alternative solutions together with their strengths and weaknesses in different situations. Be as objective as possible.
THINKING STRATEGY # 4Identify the best solution
State the best solution(s), the context in which they are preferred and the reasons for selecting them.
THINKING STRATEGY # 5Conclusion
Restate the problem, highlight the evidence/logic used to analyze the problem and focus on the preferred solution(s).

 

 Let’s apply the Analyzing a Problem Model to this template to prepare the notes on the topic ‘Time is Running Out’.
THINKING STRATEGY # 1State the problem
–          While scientists are debating whether the people of the earth should be concerned about global warming, Canadians need to act.
THINKING STRATEGY # 2Describe the problem
  • Need more information
–          Information about the negative effect of global warming on Canada
–          Information about the positive effect of global warming on Canada
  • Need to solve the logical problem
–          Develop more reliable models on the melting of ice caps and sliding glaciers and their effect on sea levels
THINKING STRATEGY # 3Outline alternative solutions
  • On the need for more information
–          More information about the negative effect of global warming on Canada
–          More information about the positive effect of global warming on Canada
–          Ignore the negative effect of global warming on Canada
–          Ignore the positive effect of global warming on Canada
  • On the need to solve the logical problem
–          Develop more reliable models on the melting of ice caps and sliding glaciers and their effect on sea levels
–          Depend on currently available models
–          Wait for new models
THINKING STRATEGY # 4Identify the best solution
  • On the need for more information
–          More information about the negative effect of global warming on Canada
–          More information about the positive effect of global warming on Canada
  • On the need to solve the logical problem
–          Develop more reliable models on the melting of ice caps and sliding glaciers and their effect on sea levels
THINKING STRATEGY # 5Conclusion
  • Canadians and the rest of the world should conduct more research to determine the impact of global warming.
  • At the same time, Canadians need to take steps immediately to slow down the global warming trend.
With this outline, the writer is ready to write the following essay on ‘time is Running Out.’

Template

  • State the problem – Whichever approach is used to analyze a problem, a clear and concise statement of the problem is essential.
  • Describe the problem – Describe a problem by explaining why it is a problem, for whom, the setting in which the problem arises, etc.
  • Outline alternative solutions – Frequently, there are several solutions to a problem even though one or two solutions may be preferred. Present alternative solutions together with their strengths and weaknesses in different situations. Be as objective as possible.
  • Identify the best solution – State the best solution(s), the context in which they are preferred and the reasons for selecting them.
  • Conclusion – Restate the problem, highlight the evidence/logic used to analyze the problem and focus on the preferred solution(s).
Let’s apply the Analyzing a Problem Model to this template to prepare the notes on the topic ‘Time is Running Out’.
State the problem
–          While scientists are debating whether the people of the earth should be concerned about global warming, Canadians need to act.
Describe the problem
  • Need more information
–          Information about the negative effect of global warming on Canada
–          Information about the positive effect of global warming on Canada
  • Need to solve the logical problem
–          Develop more reliable models on the melting of ice caps and sliding glaciers and their effect on sea levels
Outline alternative solutions
  • On the need for more information
–          More information about the negative effect of global warming on Canada
–          More information about the positive effect of global warming on Canada
–          Ignore the negative effect of global warming on Canada
–          Ignore the positive effect of global warming on Canada
  • On the need to solve the logical problem
–          Develop more reliable models on the melting of ice caps and sliding glaciers and their effect on sea levels
–          Depend on currently available models
–          Wait for new models
Identify the best solution
  • On the need for more information
–          More information about the negative effect of global warming on Canada
–          More information about the positive effect of global warming on Canada
  • On the need to solve the logical problem
–          Develop more reliable models on the melting of ice caps and sliding glaciers and their effect on sea levels
Conclusion
  • Canadians and the rest of the world should conduct more research to determine the impact of global warming.
  • At the same time, Canadians need to take steps immediately to slow down the global warming trend.
With this outline, the writer is ready to write the following essay on ‘time is Running Out.’
Time is Running Out
While scientists are debating whether the people of the earth should be concerned about global warming, Canadians need to act. This is not said to belittle the debate among scientists; their research provides vital information. However, since many scientists claim that the global warming trend is likely to have negative consequences, the people of Canada should plan for the future with this information in mind.
Some scientists claim that not all regions of the globe will suffer serious negative consequences from global warming. For example, Peter Diamandis in his new book, Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think released in February 2012, maintains that Canada, in fact, may benefit from global warming. He claims that the countries above the 45 parallel North latitude will experience an increase in precipitation which could generate many benefits for countries like Canada. Increase agricultural production is only one of them; others include growing immigration and related economic activity, quality of life due to the natural environment, increased primary and secondary industries due to population growth just to mention a few.
Other scientists argue that most Canadians would suffer negative consequences (Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise, http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/auth/english/maps/climatechange/potentialimpacts/coastalsensitivitysealevelrise/1.) The Maritimes and the West Coast would experience coastal flooding; arid regions of southern Alberta would turn into deserts; and the permafrost in the Yukon would decay more and more. Skiers would have fewer places to ski in British Columbia , Ontario and Quebec because of a shortage of snow. The fish migration patterns along the eastern shoreline might change so much that the prime fishing areas may disappear. All these changes together would have a negative impact on the lifestyle of most Canadians.
These catastrophic consequences are based on the assumption that the melting of ice caps and sliding glaciers could cause sea levels to rise as much as five feet causing major coastal flooding on  Canada’s east and west coast. However, Laurence Smith in his recent book, The World in 2050 (2011) points out that scientists know very little about the causes of potential rising sea levels. Computer models and field studies in this area of research are  in their infancy, he claims. In fact, the recent IPCC assessment of global warming did not include accelerated sea level rises.
It is for these reasons that the concern about the negative consequences of sea level increases should not be used as the grounds for Canadians to tale action in response to global warming. That is not to say that Canadians should not take action in response to global warming. Canadians and the rest of the world should conduct more research to determine the impact of global warming.
At the same time, Canadians need to take steps immediately to slow down the global warming trend. For example, Canadians should change from being one of the highest users in the world of fossil fuels to one of the lowest.  This would be a promising start to save Canada, as we know it. Not to respond to the threat of global warming would be like ignoring a tornado warning. Let’s not wait till devastation is upon us.
*************
Try this …
1.      Go to www.sponsoravillage.ca, go to Writing and go to Analyzing analyzing a Problem. Read the ESSAY and complete the template.
2.      Write an essay using `analyzing a problem` and to develop your ideas. After you are pleased with your essay, edit it for grammar to create a reader’s draft.
If you have any questions about the writing process, send them to Ask Dr. Otto at www.sponsoravillage.ca.
Enjoy your writing experience.