Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation

There are many different ways to structure a presentation or report. For academic work, one very useful structure is Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation (SPSE)

  • Situation: the general background or context of the topic
  • Problem: some challenge or difficulty in that situation
  • Solution: one or more ways to address that problem
  • Evaluation: the strengths and weaknesses of the solution(s)

Everything manmade around you has been designed to solve one or more problems. It usually is a newer version of an older solution. It solved some problems with the older version.

For example, let’s think about the “pet bottle”. It replaced the glass bottle.

Situation: Companies like Coca-Cola want to sell beverages in vending machines. For all of my childhood and early adulthood that meant they used glass bottles or cans.

Problem: Glass bottles are heavy and they can break. They are also a bit expensive to produce. Cans were (in the past) also heavy and expensive.

Solution: PET bottles are lighter, stronger, and cheaper to make.

Evaluation: The PET bottle solves some problems, but it creates different problems. For example, plastic can’t be recycled more than once or twice, and the bottles often end up in the ocean and cause big damage to the environment. In my opinion, plastic bottles are bad design because they cause bigger problems than they solve.

Nuclear power: the energy crisis has even die-hard environmentalists reconsidering it. In this first-ever TED debate, Stewart Brand and Mark Z. Jacobson square off over the pros and cons. A discussion that’ll make you think — and might even change your mind.

Watch this debate and think about SPSE. What is the Situation, the Problem, the Solutions proposed, and what is your Evaluation? Which of the two solutions do you think is better?

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