Problem Statement Template


Problem Statements
Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 20 minutes in class (plus student prep time outside class)


This template can help students to write their first problem statements. Once students have claims to write about (claims you provide them with, claims the class has generated, or claims that will form the foundation of an essay), ask them to write a problem statement for homework, using the template if they want to. If students have trouble with the template, they can start with the questions on the brainstorming sheet (easier because they begin, rather than end, with the claim). Share results as a class.
 
Scroll down for the template and brainstorming list.

__________________________________________________________________________

Problem Statement Template (Claim Last)
 
If you're having trouble writing a problem statement, try brainstorm ways to fill in the blanks. These are only guidelines; you don't need to use them, and you probably shouldn't use exactly this wording in your final essay.
 
Stable Context

Describe unchanging facts about the topic/problem.
 
For many years, people have debated about ______________________.

or

____________________ has been controversial because

_____________________________________________________________.

or

______________________ has dominated discussions of _____________.
 
Status Quo

State common but incorrect or incomplete assumptions.
 
Many people think ________________________________________________________.

or

At first glance, it may seem like ______________________________________________.
 
Destabilizing Moment

Describe something that reveals the status quo assumptions to be incomplete or inaccurate.
 
This initial perception fails to take into account __________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________.

or

This theory can't explain ___________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________.

or

People have failed to notice, however, _________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________.
 
Consequences

Show readers why they should care: what bad things will happen if people continue to believe the status quo? what good things will happen once they stop believing it?
 
If we continue to believe _______________, we'll never understand the larger question of ______________________________________________________________________.

or

Unless we change _____________________, we will continue to have trouble with ______________________________________________________________________.

or

Once we understand ___________________, we'll begin to see the answer to the problem ______________________________________________________________________.

or

By rethinking our approach to ___________________, we can fix ________________.
 
Resolution

Provide a better theory/explanation to replace the status quo. State your claim.
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________.
 
 
__________________________________________________________________________

Brainstorming Problem Statements (Claim first)
 
If the template isn't working for you, try starting with these questions. Take your answers to these question and put them into fairy-tale order (Status Quo, Destabilizing Moment, Consequences, Resolution). Then, try turning those answers into a form that will match the problem statement template.
 
Resolution

State your claim. Name something interesting that you've learned about the topic from reading/discussion/research.
 
 
 

 

Consequences

Why do you think the claim is interesting or important? What bigger questions has it helped you answer? What problems has it helped you to understand or solve?
 
 
 
 

 

Destabilizing Moment

What specific fact/concept/reading/etc. helped you to discover the claim?
 
 
 

 

 

Status Quo

Before you discovered the claim, what incorrect or incomplete opinion did you hold about the topic?