Problem is Such a Strong Word...Let's Go with Exciting Logical Exercise. It'll Catch On.
Roberts reiterates much of what I've covered before, whether in college or high school, concerning "problem papers." One way my high school English teacher taught us to write about problems and not questions was to ask why. For example, in the chapter, Roberts says: "The question, 'Who is the major character in Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet?" is not a problem...however, 'Why is it correct to say that Hamlet is the major character' [is a problem]" (Roberts 175). Admittedly, asking "why" will not always create a problem from a question, but it is a good place to start, because it asks us to explore literary conventions and pay attention to phrasing.
I thought the sample essay did a good job of breaking down the author's thought process into small, inarguable steps, so that the reader came naturally to a conclusion. When the author says that in order to claim that the change at the end of the poem did not come out of nowhere, there must be evidence of preparation beforehand (179), this seems so logically it is almost obvious. However, there is no rule that says that the change had to be built up to in order to be effective; this is the author's opinion. In the paper, though, the opinion is listed early on, and it is listed as a type of rule the essay is going to follow. More importantly, it is also listed convincingly. The writer is saying "This is how I'm going to look at the poem" and that is important so the author and reader are on the same page (pardon the pun). It's important that the author be convincing from the start, not wait until the body of the paper to persuade. If the writer fails to convince the reader that these rules are sensible, then the paper is lost before it even begins.