Problem Solving Notes:


1. Why a problem-solving plan: (A plan is not just an outline.)

Reasons:   To have you be conscious of going through the whole process of solving a problem.   In a way, your information-seeking strategies will influence your findings and, in turn, whether your solutions are practical or not. 


Another way to help you become aware of your writing/problem-solving process is the self-evaluation rubric we use.


Ref. From “”  

"Students are not taught the problem solving process. The thinking part of problem solving is typically suppressed. They are primarily exposed to the result of the process. In the typical textbook the thought processes, the planning, the problem solver used to solve the problem are omitted. Only the results of that planning are displayed. Thus the very thing most needed, training in thinking, is omitted from the examples of problem solutions presented to the student."  (source:


2. General Mistakes of your problem solving papers:

1) The problem is

a. not properly defined or exemplified‘yet’—though all of your efforts well appreciated.

e.g. how to gain weight (how is underweight a problem?); how to think independently; inaccurate information of online news (examples?);  

(Note: See problem definition here.)


2) The solutions

a. do not properly address all of your problems --> suggestion: narrow your scope down to an area which you can work on specifically while showing your awareness of related aspects.

e.g.  how to reduce work pressure; how to solve the conflicts between roommates; how to prepare for TOEFL exam

b. are overlapping --> some problems share similar solution.    


* To sum up the above two situations: there can be different situations in the ways different aspects of a problem are related to each other:


a. One problem 

One solution

 The road is wet thus slippery. à  Wipe it dry.

 One problem

 Two or more solutions

A strong wind messes my hair. à  avoid it or wear a hat. (Neither of these is our focus.)

Two or more related problems

 One general solution with other different solutions for each

Parents’ disagreement with children’s love for their differences in age, educational, family or cultural backgrounds.


General solution: 1) communication; try to put oneself in the other party’s shoes; 2) action. 

* Maybe different cultural or educational backgrounds need some different treatments. 

Conflicts between roommates over daily matters (e.g. schedule conflict, different sanitation habits, different sense of public/private space)

Setting rules, communication and negotiation. 

* Maybe not all are negotiable for all.  We just have to recognize what we can accept and what not.  

Two or more related problems 

Two or more solutions for each. 

Work pressure caused by 1) lack of ability; 2) too much work; 3) unpleasant work relations

1)     understand oneself; be ready to change plans/jobs if necessary.

2)     adjust one’s priority all the time, while knowing when to say no or accept one’s limitations.

3)     Communication, etc.

General solution: find ways to relax oneself. 


c) may be limited by our lack of knowledge à suggestions: try our best but acknowledge our limitations

e.g.  college students going into debt with the use of cash card; weight gain;  

d) may take on a broader perspective

 e.g. learning vocabulary for TOEFL test.  à do we want to just learn vocabulary for a test? 

e.g. how to avoid procrastination or lateness in writing papers.  à For me, personally, getting oneself ‘interested’intellectually is the most important thing.


3) Lack of citation -- where did you get your information from