How to Identify the Problem and Solution in a Reading Selection

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Determining the Sequence of Events or Steps in a Reading Selection

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 How to Identify…
  • 1:59 Problem & Solution Example
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Kara Wilson

Kara Wilson is a 6th-12th grade English and Drama teacher. She has a B.A. in Literature and an M.Ed, both of which she earned from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Expert Contributor
Jenna Clayton

Jenna received her BA in English from Iowa State University in 2015, and she has taught at the secondary level for three years.

Informational texts can be arranged in a variety of ways. In this lesson, we'll discuss how to identify the problem/solution structure. We will look at key words used and an example that uses this format.

How to Identify Problem and Solution

Informational texts, such as news articles, arrange facts and details in a specific way. Text structure refers to how the information in a text is organized. One way that it can be organized is using a problem/solution structure so that the problem is stated and one or more possible solutions are explained. This way of organizing a text can be done for just one paragraph or for an entire news article or textbook chapter.

For example, one might read an article about a consistent littering issue within a community that's being solved by a clean-up crew. Or, a science chapter in a textbook might discuss different types of pollution, including a problem/solution paragraph about the issue of overflowing landfills and how recycling can help remedy the situation before going on to discuss the causes and effects of pollution.

Using this format, the author presents a problem that needs to be solved. A problem can involve one person, be between two people or between different groups. Or, it might be a national or global issue. Being able to identify the problem and solution structure helps readers better comprehend and remember the information covered in a reading selection because they have to:

  • Identify the issue
  • Explain how people tried to resolve it or how it was actually resolved
  • Recognize which details expand on the problem, which expand on the solution and which ones are not important to the main idea of the text

In order to identify the problem and solution structure in a text, the reader needs to look for signal words and phrases such as:

  • Problem
  • The dilemma is
  • Issue
  • To solve this
  • To address this
  • Solution
  • Challenges
  • Proposed solution
  • Difficulties
  • Resolve
  • Repair
  • Remedy
  • One answer is

Problem and Solution Example

Let's look at an example of an article written using the problem/solution structure. CNN journalist Dean Irvine wrote an article entitled Hong Kong's Mounting Food Waste Problem. Here are a couple of excerpts from it:

'Nestled among the granite peaks of eastern Hong Kong, a new, man-made mountain is emerging.'

Irvine goes on to describe the landfill, which will be up to 100 meters high when the site is full:

'While plans to expand some sites are being proposed and a controversial mega-incinerator project remains a possibility, focus in the city is turning to how to reduce the amount of waste it produces.'

The problem is clearly introduced through the mention of a 'new, man-made mountain' and then details about this landfill are provided. Possible solutions are touched on and the word 'proposed' is used to hint at a suggested solution. 'How to reduce' also conveys the need to find a solution to this specific issue.

'The local government has created a task-force to address the issue of food waste and set a 10% reduction target by 2016. Globally, only around 3% of food waste is recycled.'

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Additional Activities

Informational Text Structure: Problem and Solution

Identifying the Problem and Solution

For this activity, you will read an example of an informational text that follows a problem/solution format. After reading the example, answer the questions that follow.

Teenage Vaping

It's no secret that vaping and Juuling is growing in popularity across the nation and world. Kids and teenagers are exposed to these dangerous e-cigarettes at a young age, and an alarming percentage of students have vaped. Young persons quickly become addicted to the chemicals in the liquids used in vaping, and in some unfortunate cases, some adolescents have died as a direct result of vaping.

To solve this growing issue, students and parents must first be educated on the negative health effects. One answer is for schools to hold assemblies or prevention programs that discuss the short-term and long-term health risks of vaping and e-cigarettes. It would also be a good idea to invite parents to this school-wide assembly so that they are also aware of the risks. Students need to understand the reality and seriousness of these health concerns so that they can make the smart decision not to vape.


  1. What problem does this text outline?
  2. What solution(s) does this text provide?
  3. What are examples of signal words from this text that help you recognize its problem/solution format?

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account