Problem Statement, Criteria, Analysis, Criteria

Problem Statement:

In exactly one declarative sentence, state the decision maker, the decision faced, and just enough specific context to create an image of the situation surrounding the decision.
It is important you are specific and concise when writing your problem statement. If you are not specific, your reader will not have a clear opening snapshot of the situation. If you are not concise, your reader’s comprehension will go down or they might think you’re hiding something.

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When the entire case format is written, you will advocate one solution for the decision; thus, if the decision faced is unclear, your document’s beginning and end won’t match.

It is also important for you as a writer to know exactly where you are going. A clear statement of exactly what’s going on will keep you on track.

exactly one declarative sentence with
a decision maker (typically the subject of the sentence); this can sometimes be a group; it’s the “who?”
a decision faced (typically the verb of the sentence); it should seem like a choice; it’s the “how?” as in “must decide how to”
just enough contextual details so the reader can picture the gist of the situation; don’t be cryptic; it’s the “what?” as in “what’s going on?”


In exactly one well-developed paragraph, provide your reader with claims and support about the case decision maker’s current situation and the choice he or she faces. Your claims and support must make the reader comfortable with your credibility and logic.

The analysis paragraph should include these three things:

A Topic Sentence as a First or Last Sentence
Appeals to Credibility: The case facts that should matter most to the decision maker.
Appeals to Logic: Claims of your own that do not appear in the case.
Credibility (ethos/the case)

The credibility can be your experience or evidence from the case. Since you’re probably not an authority on a lot of our case topics, you should stick to case facts. There is a value in picking the right evidence, summarizing large amounts of evidence down to manageable portions, and combining similar facts. However, well-combined or not, all that repeating of case evidence is still just repeating.

Case facts are needed, but they must be paired with your commentary on them.

Logic (logos/your ideas, findings, and judgements)

Express your logic to add value to the case facts. Why do those case facts matter? What do you infer from all those bits of case truth? What do the case facts NOT tell us? Where do the case facts contradict? What do we know for sure and what must we assume? What plausible conclusions can we make based on assumptions?

You can point out things not stated in the case such as: cause-effect, sequences and triggers, proportions, scales, similarities, other perspectives beyond the decision maker’s, contradictions, priorities, urgency, importance, differing values placed on the same thing, human virtues or failings, processes, etc.

Continuity with the rest of the document.
–Your problem sentence is a promise to the reader. This paragraph should stick to that promise.
–When in doubt, always go back and check your problem statement.


After stating the problem and educating the audience on the problem’s existence and significance, you must move toward solutions.
Before you can solve though, you must state what will make possible future actions successful and worthy of the decision maker’s consideration.

On our exams, you’ll do this in exactly one declarative sentence containing a list of the best two to four criteria the decision maker should consider when weighing possible future actions. The sentence should use conditional advice words like should, could, or might; do not use absolute words, like will, shall, must, and have.

Use numbering within your sentence’s list of criteria for clarity. See the samples below.

Use parallel parts of speech in the list portion of your sentence.

Criteria are principles or standards by which something may be judged, selected, or decided. A single one is called a criterion (like media/medium or phenomena/phenomenon).

Criteria are not solutions; they are ways to evaluate solutions. They are things important to the decision maker.

On what two to four things should the decision maker evaluate possible solutions?

A one or two word phrase is not always helpful when attempting to be persuasive. Clauses with a verb or a prepositional phrase usually make better criteria. They force you to take a clearer position. Readers like this, and it keeps you focused during exams, boosting your document-wide coherence. This is also good advice for PowerPoint slideshows. “Sales” is an OK criterion, but “sales within one week” or “sales of the new juice brand” or “likelihood to hurt sales with teens” are clearer.

Sometimes these are measurable in numbers, and sometimes they are not.

Quantitative (as in quantity) criteria are measurable in numbers. They are objective. Two different people will see it the same. There’s little room for debate.
Quantitative criteria might include: cost of X, return on investment, market share, risk of X, productivity, turnover, time needed to X, effort, inventory, chance of X, delay, staff hours, or any items you might find on a balance sheet.
Qualitative (as in quality) criteria are not absolutely measurable. They are subjective. The viewer determines the value. Two people could see it very differently.
Qualitative criteria might include: competition, customer satisfaction, employee morale, image, ethics, goodwill, motivation, safety, or a culture of X.
A mix of qualitative and quantitative criteria is usually most persuasive. Measurable criteria are comfortable and easy to define, but tend to paint a narrow or shallow picture.

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