Skip main navigation

Further reading for problem to solution

Reading recommendations on P-S text

This is our third session of our lesson on structure and organization of research articles. In the previous two sections, we had been talking about the most common structure in research articles, which is I.M.R.D., and a very common movement, it’s called, known as “general to specific.” And now, in this section, we’ll be talking about another structure of research articles, which is very common, especially in engineering fields. It’s called “Problem-Solution organization.”

Let’s get started. As you know already, in the previous section, we talked about introduction, methodology, results, and discussion. This is very common. And because these four sections, they simply cover why, how, what, and so what. And these are information readers love to know. However, you may wonder, how come my research article don’t always look the same? Okay. Let’s use an everyday example. Life is busy. Okay. Too many things to do. Too little time. So, we probably need better time management, more efficiently use our time. However, it is easier said than done, right? This is a very common logic flow and development of, probably, you and me. So, we can see this logical flow and development as describing this situation first, and identify a problem there, and we probably will propose and come up a solution. Once we have a solution, we will evaluate how efficiently that solution can help us to solve the problem. I will call this “Problem-Solution organization.” So, we will…in this organization, usually, a paper or a piece of writing will cover these four components-situation, problem, solution, and evaluation, as you can see in this very simple example. This example, of course, is oversimplified. Let’s have another example here. Okay. As we know, a very general common phenomenon here is that fossil fuel is running out. Okay. And therefore, there’s a problem. We need alternative energy resources, like solar energy, wind, or maybe hydrogen. So, here, probably based on the literature review, or based on some scientific finding, we know solar energy can be a good candidate for alternative energy source. So, here. However, we need to evaluate how solar energy, is it officially enough? Can it effectively solve our energy shortage problem here? So, we need to evaluate again in our study. Also, matching these four elements in problem-solution organization. Once again, the general situation, and you identify a problem in that situation, we propose a solution to address that problem we just identified, and in the end, we will evaluate, test, that solution to see whether it works out or maybe not. Or is it efficient enough? Or maybe not so much. Alright. More examples you can see here. You’re probably thinking that example is still too general.

Let’s have a more specific one. It’s very common that… Imagine we know that alternative energy source is important and we need that, that can be a situation here. And the literature and scientific findings would identify that solar energy is actually pretty stable, pretty sufficient, and it’s cheap enough. Okay. So, here, probably in a more specific manner, scientists, engineers will propose a method to store and transform solar energy so that we can use it in our everyday life in different applications. And as you can see, we still have to evaluate that proposal. We have to evaluate the method that is being proposed in that study, so to see is that feasible? Can we really put that into practice? So, to also establish this evidence-based kind of study, as we know in our first lesson, remember? Research writing is based on data, is based on evidence. So, we always have to evaluate our proposal to see if it works out or not. This is how we can…this is another way different from I.M.R.D. And this is also very common that researchers will organize the content in this structure- problem-solution organization, including these four elements- situation, problem, solution, and evaluation. Keep these in mind. Here is another example. Solar cells can effectively store and transform solar energy. However, there are some detrimental impact on the environment when we manufacturing solar cells. So, here, scientists and engineers alike will like to propose different manufacturing processes for solar cell. Based on the literature and our knowledge so far, solar energy is stable, cheap, and efficient. However, the manufacturing process of solar battery, solar cells is actually, will cause some damage [to] our environment. And also, how we dispose the waste of solar cells is a problem, too. Again, scientists and engineers alike will like to propose new ways, new processes to address or alleviate this problem. And, usually, in a research article, scientists or researchers, the author, they will also test the proposed method in their experiment to see, probably, is the method better than the previous one? Better than the old methods. Here, again, we can see those matching components of problem-solution organization. Situation, that’s the most general part, and somehow, still follow the “general to specific” pattern, narrow it down to a specific problem in the situation. And we will propose a specific solution to address that problem. And then, evaluate it. Yes, this is actually what a research paper will look like. Let’s go back to the four major components here. A lot of students would ask, no, my research article, they don’t look so simple. It’s not just four components. There are more stuff. Probably. Usually, a real problem-solution text will probably look more like this. They still have a general situation. You describe the research background in general, And you will identify a problem here. However, solar energy, or solar cell, it’s not really a new topic. And, usually, you are not the first one to address this issue. Therefore, there will be some previous studies, meaning the literature, previous study. Other researchers, other engineers had been working on this same problem already, and you have to talk about and cover that part of literature review and introduce that literature or previous findings to your reader that other people had been had been working on this problem. However, based on the partial evaluations, the previous solutions, they are not good enough. Therefore, you will propose your real solution there so that…and you will evaluate that proposal, evaluate that, propose the solution in your own experiments, and test it again. So, you can see, the two new components in the middle, partial solution and partial evaluation would be your literature review, which are usually included in your introduction part. In your introduction, you will talk about previous findings, and however, you will still point out something still missing in the current understanding of the topic. This is what these two middle components are. Let’s see an example here. You probably want to say, alternative energy source is needed. Okay. Everybody understands and agrees on that statement. Natural energy, like the wind, water power, is unstable. Hydrogen energy transforms water into energy, can be of use. Okay, that’s something new. However, the transformation process is not stable. Alright. And again, you will propose a revised transformation process, using novel semiconductor materials, maybe? Alright. And again, test the revised process to see if it performs more stably. This is the last evaluation component. We always need the evaluation part, as research writing is always based on data and evidence that we collected in our experiments, which is different from the previous research. Okay. Let’s see another example to see if you can get a better understanding of this organization of content. Here. Modern life relies on energy more than ever. Alright. This is a general statement. I will say, we probably need to store the energy, and we use a certain device or a certain system to store the power and energy. And LIBs, lithium-ion battery, okay, can be a promising solution based on our understanding and our knowledge. Again, the manufacture of LIBs is unstable and time-consuming. Engineers are always try to refine the process to make it faster, make it safer, make it cleaner and probably less time-consuming. So therefore, in the study, the author of the article will propose a new manufacturing process to address the problem here. Even though that is not a new problem, other scientists and other engineers had been working on that before, but, however, it’s not enough. Alright. So, usually, the study being described in the article, the author will try to propose something new, okay, different from the previous methods, and then, again, test it, the last component of problem-solution organization. Here. So, as you can see, problem-solution has… the shape looks pretty different from I.M.R.D., right? We still have a more general situation at the beginning because we know, we always start with something general so our reader can better understand and can follow. And then, gradually narrow down to something more specific. So, as illustrated in this article here, the author also starts to talk about the general situation and identify a general problem. However, like for example, the energy shortage, that’s the general problem. But that’s too general. Usually, we can not solve that general problem in one single study. We always have to narrow it down to something more researchable, into more specific problems so that can be alleviated or to be addressed in one single study. And narrow down to specific problems. And again, once the article, the writing has narrowed down its scope, the author will talk of bringing about a solution and evaluate it. So, let’s read for writing. Remember? Do you have your model article with you? Let’s see if you can identify some problem-solution components in your field, especially if you are in material science or maybe in some engineering field. It’s more common that you will see problem-solution text. So, this is how you can raise your awareness on disciplinary differences. Come up with these four components.

This article is from the free online

Deconstructing Research Articles: How to Read and Write a Research Paper

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now