According to conventional wisdom, you can summarize every story ever told in the following way: someone falls into a hole and must climb out. In other words, every story is about solving a problem. There are probably many exceptions to this observation; however, connecting the need to solve a real-life problem to your subject can draw your readers’ attention. The problem-cause-solution pattern can help you do this.
In a sense, this pattern is a variety of the specific-to-general pattern, as it often begins with specific details and moves to a somewhat generalized solution. However, rather than evoking a sense of mystery and suspense, the problem-cause-solution pattern focuses on concrete difficulties; and though a solution may appeal to abstract principles, the solution should have a practical application, enough to solve the real-life problem.
You may find the problem-cause-solution pattern useful in writing case studies, critiques, introductions, reports of scientific investigations, literary reviews, political and social discourse, white papers, proposals, many kinds of reports, and essay examinations.
The name of the problem-cause-solution pattern also describes the sequence in which to present your information.
Begin by describing the problem.
Proceed through diagnosing and analyzing the problem.
Then propose a solution.
The forms of analysis used to diagnose the problem may vary. You might, for example, use comparative analysis to evaluate for flaws in a process that may have led to the problem. You might use a combination of synthesis and cause and effect analysis to locate systemic conditions which caused the problem. However, in each instance—whether analyzing an entire process or analyzing a specific cause—the goal is to locate a cause or causes.
There are two main kinds of ice that shape sea levels. The first is sea ice, which comes from ocean water that freezes solid. It makes up most of the ice at the North Pole. As it forms, it changes the saltiness of seawater and helps shape powerful ocean currents.
Melting sea ice doesn’t change the overall amount of water in the ocean, just as melting ice cubes don’t change the water level in a glass of water. But sea ice tends to reflect sunlight, while the darker ocean tends to soak up its heat. That speeds up warming and drives more ice melt in a worrying feedback loop. The warmer temperatures also contribute to the thermal expansion of water, which in turn can raise sea levels.
The second kind of ice is land ice, which builds up in sheets over thousands of years from compacted snow. In Antarctica, the ice sheet is 1.5 miles thick (2.4 km) on average, reaching up to 3 miles (5 km) in some areas. Greenland’s ice sheet averages a mile in thickness. When land ice starts to jut out over the ocean, it creates a floating ice shelf (Irfan, 2022, paras. 9-11).
Notice how the passage above begins with an implied problem: ice causing changes to sea levels. The passage proceeds to explain the causes of changing sea levels. These are the first two parts of our pattern. A few paragraphs later, the author shifts to discussing the beginnings of a solution.