This type of essay
is a typical approach to academic questions: it is also known as the
Situation-Problem-Solution-Evaluation pattern. In your essay, you are
basically identifying the topic as a problem to be solved. The actual
question won’t explicitly specify this approach: you will need
to identify it from the context. Look at these questions:
Why has privatisation of the
railways been opposed by those who favour a public service?
Lack of lowland national parks
in the UK is regarded as a “striking weakness”.
Discuss to what extent you agree with this statement.
Outline current scientific
opinion on global warming. Is the situation irreversible?
The answer to these question will
involve varying amounts of argument, of showing that you are aware of
differing viewpoints. But whereas in a purely argumentative essay the
focus is on this argument and counter-argument, in an SPRE essay there
is more focus on the situation, with many points of view, perhaps all
Let’s look at another question
in a little more detail:
What were the main labour relations
problems facing the Conservative government in the 1980s? How did they
attempt to solve them and to what extent were they successful?
the situation is the UK in the 1980s led by a Conservative
the problem is labour relations
the response/solution is what the Government did about
the evaluation is your view (backed up by evidence)
on the level of success
As well as for a complete essay
or article, the approach can be used in an individual paragraph or longer
section of writing.
Here is another very simple example:
I left school 9 months ago with
good exam grades, but been unemployed since. I am considering moving
abroad and hope that this would increase my chances of finding employment.
The four components should be clear
Read and analyse the following short
text about the ozone layer and identify the four stages of the SPRE
Source of text: White, R. &
McGovern (1994), D. Writing Harlow : Prentice Hall
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How to create an 'S-P-R-E' outline
Your outline will have four main phases (although in a short essay or
examination answer, the 'situation' may form your introduction, and
the 'evaluation' your conclusion). We can illustrate this by looking
at the following title:
'Lack of lowland national parks in the UK is regarded as a "striking
weakness". Discuss to what extent you agree with this statement.'
Adapted from White, R. and Arndt, V. (1991) Process Writing,
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Here is the essay based on the above
‘Lack of lowland National
Parks in England and Wales is regarded as a "striking weakness".
Discuss to what extent you agree with this statement.’
England and Wales possess some of the finest national parks in Europe.
In terms of percentage of overall area protected, of natural beauty,
and as models of organisation, they have a great deal to offer the visitor.
However, controversy over the distribution of these parks has recently
grown. Some in Britain have commented that, though numerous, the parks
are not well-distributed (see, for example, Fisher  and Smith
). Marcus and Nabulsi (1999) have singled out the complete absence
of any national park in lowland areas for specific criticism. This essay
will examine the environmental/economic effects that have resulted from
this. It will then evaluate some of the responses that have been put
forward, and suggest that the argument in favour of lowland parks is
a persuasive one.
The first national park, the Peak District, was instituted at the end
of the Second World War to protect the highland area between Manchester
and Sheffield. Over the following thirty years, another nine parks were
added, but all cover highland areas (such as the Lake District), remote
areas (such as the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales). The fact that English
and Welsh national parks are found in hilly/inaccessible areas in the
North and West of the country can be explained in part by the natural
beauty of these areas, but also by their infertility and remoteness.
Though parts of the lowland in the South and East are also of exceptional
beauty, their value, whether as prime agricultural land or for building
houses, has prevented their inclusion within the national park organisation.
This is now becoming a problem. The last fifteen years in particular
have seen great pressure on lowland countryside, for several reasons.
Firstly, access to the existing parks from the main urban centres is
generally difficult; with the exception of the Peak District, most require
car journeys of two or three hours (Millmore, 1998). Secondly, the economy
(and hence indirectly the population) of S.E. England has expanded rapidly
in this period, bringing in its wake increasing demands upon the surrounding
rural area both for housing and recreational purposes (Slade, 1996).
Finally, as Wink (1997) points out, there have been distinct lifestyle
changes in recent years. Improved road communications, the birth of
‘teleworking’, and increased general wealth mean that many
choose to work in the city but live in the countryside, or even to relocate
completely to the countryside. Alongside relocation, lifestyle changes
have also brought increases in recreation time; the number of visitors
using the countryside for walking, cycling or (perhaps the greatest
threat) merely for a day trip in the car, has grown considerably.
Though almost all recognise that a problem exists, agreement on the
best response has not been easy to reach. Three main schools of thought
can perhaps be identified: that of local government, that favoured by
some economists, and the course of action preferred by environmentalists.
Responsibility for areas of natural beauty (other than those within
park boundaries) is currently held at local government level. These
local administrative bodies are generally happy with the existing situation,
which they argue is the best way to balance the need to protect the
countryside with the importance of ensuring employment and affordable
housing for local inhabitants. Adopting this viewpoint, Marchmont (1999:45)
the current situation has evolved over time, and clearly balances a
variety of needs. Any change is likely to be to upset this equilibrium,
and should therefore be regarded with considerable scepticism.
Certain economists, however, maintain that this situation presents an
overly-fragmented and excessively restrictive response, one unlikely
to sustain recent economic growth in Britain. Thomson (1999), and Linegan
(2000) argue that attempts by local government to protect the countryside
have had the effect of slowing prosperity. As the South and East of
the country are considered to be the ‘engine of growth’,
these economists argue that issues of conservation (regarding, for example,
agricultural practices or planning permission) should not be allowed
to outweigh decisions, whether agricultural, industrial or commercial,
likely to lead to increased wealth. They cite the computer-based industries
of the M4 corridor, leading Westward from London, as an example of what
might be achieved on a wider scale, if planning restrictions are relaxed.
A final viewpoint is represented by the environmentalists. They argue
that park status will not only protect the countryside, but also guarantee
local employment. Firstly, there will be few new restrictions regarding
agricultural practices. Secondly, the service industries required to
cater for visitors will become a growth sector, providing a net increase
in jobs. Wilkins and Nabulsi (1999: 55) note the overall gains in employment
in the regions of the Stelvio and PreAlpi Carniche, Italy, since the
foundation of national parks there, despite similar local worries.
Although these three schools of thought have been greatly simplified,
the complexity of the issue is clear. Nonetheless, it seems to me that
the approaches favoured by both local government and some economists
present certain unacceptable drawbacks. The tendency at local government
level to favour short-term employment over environmental considerations
is one problem, but a more serious one is that of administrative fragmentation;
an area of outstanding natural beauty may be divided between many councils,
each with conflicting priorities on, for example, road-building or conservation.
The response of the economists appears even less acceptable, as a course
of action decided on purely financial grounds would ultimately result
in large-scale loss of the countryside to roads and houses. For these
reasons, the lack of lowland parks in England and Wales is a striking
weakness. A national park allows the co-ordination of policy over a
wide area, which is likely to benefit both conservation and employment;
the government should act quickly in order to safeguard an irreplaceable
resource for future generations.
Fisher, P.W. (1999) The way forward: the future for Britain’s
parks, London, Barr
Linegan, J. P. (2000) "The engine of growth – the case for
lifting planning restriction in London’s green belt" Planning
and Leisure 14/3, Oxford, Hall
Marchmont, E. (1999) "Responses to increased pressure on the Lake
District National Park", Unpublished M.Phil thesis (Centre
for Higher Education), University of Maryport.
Marcus, S. and Nabulsi, D. (1999) "Leisure capitalisation: a theoretical
outline", Economic Review, University of Hexham
Millmore, V. (1998) Park access, Bristol, Clint free press
Slade, T. (1996) Housing in the UK, London, Carnaby Press
Smith, J. (2000) ‘The need for co-ordinated leisure’, Park
Thomson, M. (1999) Economic growth, Manchester, Mainline publishing
Wilkins, A. and Nabulsi, D. National parks in Italy, Milan,
Wink, F. (1997) ‘Has increased wealth brought a higher quality
of life?’, Market Bulletin 21/3:43-53