<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

“The need for more efficient absorbers is particularly acute on the microscale, where they can play a significant role in preventing crosstalk between optical interconnects, and also as thermal light-emitting sources” (Teperik, T.V. et al.).

To which you reply:

“So what? I’m not motivated by those needs, so I’m still not convinced that this is important.”

Having failed to find the answer that will satisfy the reader, the writer must try again to present the problem statement in a way that persuades the reader of the urgency of his argument. Remember, this involves establishing the status quo, unsettling it with a destabilizing condition, and proposing an answer or solution. Imagine that the writer responds by adding:

“Several efforts have been made in this context to achieve near-total but directionally dependent absorption using periodic grating … However, the ability to absorb light completely for any incident direction of light remains a challenge” (Teperik, T.V. et al.).

To which you reply:

“So what?”

And so on, ad infinitum…

Unless the writer can establish a set of stakes—an accounting of the costs and benefits—that can satisfy the reader of the importance of his problem.

“Here we show that total omnidirectional absorption of light can be achieved in nanostructured metal surfaces that sustain localized optical excitations. . . . We suggest that surfaces displaying omnidirectional absorption will play a key role in devising efficient photovoltaic cells in which the absorbed light leads to electron–hole pair production” (Teperik, T.V. et al.).

If I am passionately involved in “devising efficient photovoltaic cells in which the absorbed light leads to electron-hole pair production,” then this formulation of the problem has finally convinced me to read further. All of this goes to show that a problem statement cannot be considered finished until the author has established costs and benefits appropriate to the reading audience. We have given a convincing answer to the question, “So what?” when we identify the kinds of consequences that will matter to our readers and illustrate how the potential costs (or benefits) render the status quo unacceptable.

Iv. costs and benefits as consequences

We evaluate the potential costs and benefits of our choices and actions every day. As we saw in the previous example, for an argument to sway audiences, readers need to recognize their own priorities and concerns in the costs, consequences, or benefits you present to them. Readers recognize as persuasive consequences those effects that would cause them either to benefit or to suffer in some way.

V. what is the solution?

The solution is your response to the problem introduced by your claim. It can be a resolution or a proposed resolution of the issues introduced by the problem statement. Especially in business, professional, and technical situations, if you have stated the consequences in terms of costs, the solution should present the benefits of your proposed course of action. You need to answer the question, “How does this solution eliminate the perceived problem?”


  • What does your audience need to know to appreciate the solution you propose?
  • What makes it easy or difficult to accept?

Remember: LRS helps you to know what readers need by teaching you to question your own argument!

Applications for introductions, issues, and audience

As we have seen, good problem statements perform not one but several functions for your argument. They provide background or context for your discussion, they

supply necessary old information and prepare readers for new revelations, they produce audience agreement or “buy-in,” and they establish criteria upon which audience will be asked to accept proposed solutions.

Problem statements and revision

Even though arguments begin with Problem Statements, we don’t always start with a clear idea of how to express the problem. Problem statements themselves benefit from a process of revision. The step-wise development of the problem statement modeled in this discussion is designed to help you take your topic and gradually refine what you want to argue.

Problem statements and introductions

The five parts of the problem statement also supply many of the requirements of a good introduction, mapping out the issues and solutions that will later guide the choice of evidence and the course of discussion. For example, what serves as the Status Quo in a Problem Statement later resonates with the Common Ground you will present for your argument— the information orienting your audience to the context of your claim.


Fundamental to any problem statement is an awareness of what the audience needs to know to follow along with your argument. As you build effective, convincing problem statements out of your topics, you are asking yourself the same questions that your reader will need answered. Who or what? Why? So What? These elements will later guide your choice of evidence, not to mention your reasons and warrants for what you are arguing.

Good problem statements motivate good arguments

  • By establishing common ground,
  • By placing issues in context,
  • By conditioning audience response,
  • By establishing specific criteria for agreement, and
  • By making the costs and consequences of your argument clear.

Examples taken or adapted from:

  • Mertens, J., et al. “Label-free Detection of DNA Hybridization based on Hydration Induced Tension in Nucleic Acid Films.” Nature Nanotechnology 3 (2008): 301- 307. Web of Science. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. 6 May 2008 (External Link)
  • Teperik, T.V., et al. “Omnidirectional Absorption in Nanostructured Metal Surfaces.”Nature Photonics 2 (2008): 299 - 301. Web of Science. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. 6 May 2008 (External Link)
  • Williams, J. (2005). Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. (8th ed.). New York: Pearson.
  • Williams, J., Colomb, G. (2003). The Craft of Argument. (Concise ed.). New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.

Questions & Answers

Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
QuizOver.com Reply

Get the best Algebra and trigonometry course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Three modules on clear writing style: an introduction to the craft of argument, by joseph m. williams and gregory colomb. OpenStax CNX. Jul 17, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10551/1.1
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Three modules on clear writing style: an introduction to the craft of argument, by joseph m. williams and gregory colomb' conversation and receive update notifications?

Anindyo Mukhopadhyay
Start Quiz