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- How to Write a Problem Statement | Guide & Examples
How to Write a Problem Statement | Guide & Examples
Published on November 6, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 20, 2023.
A problem statement is a concise and concrete summary of the research problem you seek to address. It should:
- Contextualize the problem. What do we already know?
- Describe the exact issue your research will address. What do we still need to know?
- Show the relevance of the problem. Why do we need to know more about this?
- Set the objectives of the research. What will you do to find out more?
Table of contents
When should you write a problem statement, step 1: contextualize the problem, step 2: show why it matters, step 3: set your aims and objectives.
Problem statement example
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Frequently asked questions about problem statements.
There are various situations in which you might have to write a problem statement.
In the business world, writing a problem statement is often the first step in kicking off an improvement project. In this case, the problem statement is usually a stand-alone document.
In academic research, writing a problem statement can help you contextualize and understand the significance of your research problem. It is often several paragraphs long, and serves as the basis for your research proposal . Alternatively, it can be condensed into just a few sentences in your introduction .
A problem statement looks different depending on whether you’re dealing with a practical, real-world problem or a theoretical issue. Regardless, all problem statements follow a similar process.
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The problem statement should frame your research problem, giving some background on what is already known.
Practical research problems
For practical research, focus on the concrete details of the situation:
- Where and when does the problem arise?
- Who does the problem affect?
- What attempts have been made to solve the problem?
Theoretical research problems
For theoretical research, think about the scientific, social, geographical and/or historical background:
- What is already known about the problem?
- Is the problem limited to a certain time period or geographical area?
- How has the problem been defined and debated in the scholarly literature?
The problem statement should also address the relevance of the research. Why is it important that the problem is addressed?
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to do something groundbreaking or world-changing. It’s more important that the problem is researchable, feasible, and clearly addresses a relevant issue in your field.
Practical research is directly relevant to a specific problem that affects an organization, institution, social group, or society more broadly. To make it clear why your research problem matters, you can ask yourself:
- What will happen if the problem is not solved?
- Who will feel the consequences?
- Does the problem have wider relevance? Are similar issues found in other contexts?
Sometimes theoretical issues have clear practical consequences, but sometimes their relevance is less immediately obvious. To identify why the problem matters, ask:
- How will resolving the problem advance understanding of the topic?
- What benefits will it have for future research?
- Does the problem have direct or indirect consequences for society?
Finally, the problem statement should frame how you intend to address the problem. Your goal here should not be to find a conclusive solution, but rather to propose more effective approaches to tackling or understanding it.
The research aim is the overall purpose of your research. It is generally written in the infinitive form:
- The aim of this study is to determine …
- This project aims to explore …
- This research aims to investigate …
The research objectives are the concrete steps you will take to achieve the aim:
- Qualitative methods will be used to identify …
- This work will use surveys to collect …
- Using statistical analysis, the research will measure …
The aims and objectives should lead directly to your research questions.
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You can use these steps to write your own problem statement, like the example below.
Step 1: Contextualize the problem A family-owned shoe manufacturer has been in business in New England for several generations, employing thousands of local workers in a variety of roles, from assembly to supply-chain to customer service and retail. Employee tenure in the past always had an upward trend, with the average employee staying at the company for 10+ years. However, in the past decade, the trend has reversed, with some employees lasting only a few months, and others leaving abruptly after many years.
Step 2: Show why it matters As the perceived loyalty of their employees has long been a source of pride for the company, they employed an outside consultant firm to see why there was so much turnover. The firm focused on the new hires, concluding that a rival shoe company located in the next town offered higher hourly wages and better “perks”, such as pizza parties. They claimed this was what was leading employees to switch. However, to gain a fuller understanding of why the turnover persists even after the consultant study, in-depth qualitative research focused on long-term employees is also needed. Focusing on why established workers leave can help develop a more telling reason why turnover is so high, rather than just due to salaries. It can also potentially identify points of change or conflict in the company’s culture that may cause workers to leave.
Step 3: Set your aims and objectives This project aims to better understand why established workers choose to leave the company. Qualitative methods such as surveys and interviews will be conducted comparing the views of those who have worked 10+ years at the company and chose to stay, compared with those who chose to leave.
If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Sampling methods
- Simple random sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Cluster sampling
- Likert scales
- Null hypothesis
- Statistical power
- Probability distribution
- Effect size
- Poisson distribution
- Optimism bias
- Cognitive bias
- Implicit bias
- Hawthorne effect
- Anchoring bias
- Explicit bias
Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .
Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.
I will compare …
All research questions should be:
- Focused on a single problem or issue
- Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
- Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
- Specific enough to answer thoroughly
- Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
- Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly
Research objectives describe what you intend your research project to accomplish.
They summarize the approach and purpose of the project and help to focus your research.
Your objectives should appear in the introduction of your research paper , at the end of your problem statement .
Your research objectives indicate how you’ll try to address your research problem and should be specific:
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- Research Process
What is a Problem Statement? [with examples]
- 5 minute read
- 694.4K views
Table of Contents
The statement of the problem is one of the first things that a colleague or potential client will read. With the vastness of the information available at one’s fingertips in the online9 world, your work may have just a few seconds to draw in a reader to take a deeper look at your proposal before moving on to the next option. It explains quickly to the reader, the problem at hand, the need for research, and how you intend to do it.
A strong, clear description of the problem that drew you to your research has to be straightforward, easy to read and, most important, relevant. Why do you care about this problem? How can solving this problem impact the world? The problem statement is your opportunity to explain why you care and what you propose to do in the way of researching the problem.
A problem statement is an explanation in research that describes the issue that is in need of study . What problem is the research attempting to address? Having a Problem Statement allows the reader to quickly understand the purpose and intent of the research. The importance of writing your research proposal cannot be stressed enough. Check for more information on Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal .
It is expected to be brief and concise , and should not include the findings of the research or detailed data . The average length of a research statement is generally about one page . It is going to define the problem, which can be thought of as a gap in the information base. There may be several solutions to this gap or lack of information, but that is not the concern of the problem statement. Its purpose is to summarize the current information and where a lack of knowledge may be presenting a problem that needs to be investigated .
The purpose of the problem statement is to identify the issue that is a concern and focus it in a way that allows it to be studied in a systematic way . It defines the problem and proposes a way to research a solution, or demonstrates why further information is needed in order for a solution to become possible.
What is Included in a Problem Statement?
Besides identifying the gap of understanding or the weakness of necessary data, it is important to explain the significance of this lack.
-How will your research contribute to the existing knowledge base in your field of study?
-How is it significant?
-Why does it matter?
Not all problems have only one solution so demonstrating the need for additional research can also be included in your problem statement. Once you identify the problem and the need for a solution, or for further study, then you can show how you intend to collect the needed data and present it.
How to Write a Statement of Problem in Research Proposal
It is helpful to begin with your goal. What do you see as the achievable goal if the problem you outline is solved? How will the proposed research theoretically change anything? What are the potential outcomes?
Then you can discuss how the problem prevents the ability to reach your realistic and achievable solution. It is what stands in the way of changing an issue for the better. Talk about the present state of affairs and how the problem impacts a person’s life, for example.
It’s helpful at this point to generally layout the present knowledge and understanding of the subject at hand, before then describing the gaps of knowledge that are currently in need of study. Your problem statement is a proposed solution to address one of these gaps.
A good problem statement will also layout the repercussions of leaving the problem as it currently stands. What is the significance of not addressing this problem? What are the possible future outcomes?
Example of Problem Statement in Research Proposal
If, for example , you intended to research the effect of vitamin D supplementation on the immune system , you would begin with a review of the current knowledge of vitamin D’s known function in relation to the immune system and how a deficiency of it impacts a person’s defenses.
You would describe the ideal environment in the body when there is a sufficient level of vitamin D. Then, begin to identify the problems associated with vitamin D deficiency and the difficulty of raising the level through supplementation, along with the consequences of that deficiency. Here you are beginning to identify the problem of a common deficiency and the current difficulty of increasing the level of vitamin D in the blood.
At this stage, you may begin to identify the problem and narrow it down in a way that is practical to a research project. Perhaps you are proposing a novel way of introducing Vitamin D in a way that allows for better absorption by the gut, or in a combination with another product that increases its level in the blood.
Describe the way your research in this area will contribute to the knowledge base on how to increase levels of vitamin D in a specific group of subjects, perhaps menopausal women with breast cancer. The research proposal is then described in practical terms.
How to write a problem statement in research?
Problem statements differ depending on the type and topic of research and vary between a few sentences to a few paragraphs.
However, the problem statement should not drag on needlessly. Despite the absence of a fixed format, a good research problem statement usually consists of three main parts:
Context: This section explains the background for your research. It identifies the problem and describes an ideal scenario that could exist in the absence of the problem. It also includes any past attempts and shortcomings at solving the problem.
Significance: This section defines how the problem prevents the ideal scenario from being achieved, including its negative impacts on the society or field of research. It should include who will be the most affected by a solution to the problem, the relevance of the study that you are proposing, and how it can contribute to the existing body of research.
Solution: This section describes the aim and objectives of your research, and your solution to overcome the problem. Finally, it need not focus on the perfect solution, but rather on addressing a realistic goal to move closer to the ideal scenario.
Here is a cheat sheet to help you with formulating a good problem statement.
1. Begin with a clear indication that the problem statement is going to be discussed next. You can start with a generic sentence like, “The problem that this study addresses…” This will inform your readers of what to expect next.
2. Next, mention the consequences of not solving the problem . You can touch upon who is or will be affected if the problem continues, and how.
3. Conclude with indicating the type of research /information that is needed to solve the problem. Be sure to reference authors who may have suggested the necessity of such research.
This will then directly lead to your proposed research objective and workplan and how that is expected to solve the problem i.e., close the research gap.
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Research Problem Statement — Find out how to write an impactful one!
Table of Contents
What Is a Research Problem Statement?
A research problem statement is a clear, concise, and specific statement that describes the issue or problem that the research project addresses. It should be written in a way that is easily understandable to both experts and non-experts in the field.
To write a research problem statement, you should:
- Identify the general area of interest: Start by identifying the general area of research that interests you.
- Define the specific problem: Narrow down the general area of interest to a specific problem or issue.
- Explain the significance of the problem: Provide context for the problem by explaining why it is important to study and what gap in current knowledge or understanding it fills.
- Provide a clear and concise statement: State the problem in a clear and concise manner, making sure to use language that is easily understood by your intended audience.
- Use a scientific and objective tone: The problem statement should be written in a neutral and objective tone, avoiding any subjective language and personal bias .
An Example of a Research Problem Statement
“The increasing prevalence of obesity in children is a growing public health concern. Despite the availability of information on healthy eating and physical activity, many children are still not engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors. The problem this study addresses is the lack of understanding of the barriers and facilitators to healthy lifestyle behaviors in children.”
When to Write a Problem Statement in Research?
A research problem statement should be written at the beginning of the research process, before any data collection or analysis takes place. This is because the statement sets the foundation for the entire research project by clearly defining the problem that the research is trying to address.
Writing a problem statement early in the research process helps to guide the research design and methodology , and ensures that the research is focused on addressing the specific problem at hand. It also helps to ensure that the research is relevant and addresses a gap in current knowledge or understanding.
In addition, a well-written problem statement effectively communicates the purpose and significance of the research to potential funders, collaborators, and other stakeholders. It also generates interest and support for the research project.
It’s also important to note that, during the research process, the statement can be refined or updated as new information is discovered or as the research progresses. This is normal and it’s a good idea to revise the statement as needed to ensure that it remains clear and concise and that it accurately reflects the current focus of the research project.
What Does a Research Problem Statement Include?
A research problem statement typically includes the following elements:
1. The research topic:
The general area of interest or field of study that the research project addresses.
2. The specific problem or issue:
A clear and concise statement of the problem or issue that the research project aims to address.
3. The significance of the problem:
A discussion of why the problem is important and what gap in current knowledge or understanding it fills.
4. The research questions:
A set of questions that the research project aims to answer, in order to address the problem or issue.
5. The research objectives:
A set of specific and measurable objectives that the research project aims to achieve.
6. The scope of the research:
A description of the specific population, setting, or context that the research project will focus on.
7. The theoretical framework:
A discussion of the theoretical concepts and principles that inform the research project.
8. The research design:
A description of the research methodologies that will be used to collect and analyze data in order to address the research questions and objectives.
It’s important to note that the problem statement is usually brief and concise, typically a few sentences or a short paragraph. But it should provide enough information to convey the main idea of the research project.
Important Features of Research Problem Statement
The problem statement should be clear and easy to understand. Write it in a way that is accessible to both experts and non-experts in the field.
The statement should be specific and clearly define the problem or issue that the research project aims to address. It should be narrow enough to be manageable, but broad enough to be of interest to others in the field.
The statement should explain why the problem is important and what gap in current knowledge or understanding it fills. It should provide context for the research project and help to justify its importance.
The statement should be relevant to the field of study and address an issue that is currently of concern to researchers.
5. Research questions
The statement should include a set of research questions that the research project aims to answer in order to address the problem or issue.
6. Research objectives
The statement should include a set of specific and measurable objectives that the research project aims to achieve.
The statement should define the specific population, setting, or context that the research project will focus on.
8. Theoretical framework
The statement should provide an overview of the theoretical concepts and principles that inform the research project.
9. Research design
The statement should provide an overview of the research methodologies. This will be useful collect and analyze data in order to address the research questions and objectives.
Difference Between a Thesis Statement and a Problem Statement
A thesis statement and a problem statement are related but distinct elements of a research project.
A thesis statement is a statement that summarizes the central argument or claim of a research paper or essay. It presents the main idea of the paper and sets the direction for the rest of the content. It’s usually located at the end of the introduction, and it’s often one sentence.
A problem statement, on the other hand, is a statement that describes a specific problem or issue that the research project aims to address. It sets the foundation for the entire research project by clearly defining the research problem. It is usually located at the beginning of a research paper or proposal, and is of one or a few paragraphs.
In summary, a thesis statement is a summary of the main point or key argument of the research paper. A problem statement describes the specific issue that the research project aims to address. A thesis statement is more focused on the final outcome of the research. While a problem statement is focused on the current state of knowledge and the gap in understanding that the research project aims to fill.
A problem statement is a critical component of the research project, as it provides a clear and concise roadmap for the research, and helps to ensure that the research is well-designed and addresses a significant and relevant issue.
We hope this blog has clarified your doubts and confusion associated with research problem statement and helps you write an effective statement for your research project!
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How to Write a Statement of a Problem in Research with Steps
Published by Grace Graffin at August 11th, 2021 , Revised On October 3, 2023
Research is a systematic investigation to find new techniques, products or processes to solve problems. Apart from being systematic, research is empirical in nature: it’s based on observations and measurement of those observations.
It’s what comes before the development. Impacts and policies that are born in society are borne out of the research.
The most important step to perform any research is to identify a problem that needs to be solved. Therefore, it is necessary to define a research problem before starting the actual research process. Once a research problem has been identified, the next step is to write a problem statement.
Philosopher Kaoru Ishikawa said: “You will have a problem half-solved by defining it correctly on the first day.”
This quote perfectly reflects the importance of a problem statement in research. Before writing a problem statement, it is essential to pinpoint a specific problem, the difficulties you can expect to face as you try to solve it and the research gaps you aim to fill with your research.
The last part—how your research aims to fill a gap in the existing literature—will act as a springboard to the solution(s) that policy makers, for instance, might eventually take to solve that problem.
Filling a gap, therefore, is very important towards solving an existing problem.
What is a Problem Statement?
A problem statement is a clear and concise description of an issue or challenge that needs to be addressed. It typically outlines the existing gap between the current state (what currently is) and the desired state (what should be). Crafting a well-defined problem statement is critical for problem-solving, research, or project planning, as it serves as a guidepost and sets the direction for the subsequent steps.
Research Problem and Research Method – A Cyclical Process
The type of research strategy used in research determines whether you will be analysing theoretical problems to add value to existing knowledge, discussing practical issues to become an agent of change for an organisation or industry or looking at both aspects in relation to any given problem.
However, the kind of problem you aim to tackle with your research, to begin with, will also help you narrow down which research design , method or strategy to opt for.
This is therefore a cyclical process. Your research aim guides your research design can help you focus on a specific kind of research gap/problem.
However, generally, your research will focus on one or the other.
Here is all you need to know about how to write a statement of the problem in research, also called problem statement by some research writers .
Why do you Need a Statement of the Problem, to Begin with?
You need a statement of the problem to transform a generalised problem into a well-defined, brief, targeted statement to perform research in the decision-making process. The problem statement helps the researcher to identify the purpose of the ongoing research.
The problem statement in the dissertation is the pillar of the introduction chapter through which the reader can understand the research questions and scope of the project. If you do not define the problem statement properly, the results might become unmanageable.
Writing Problem Statement for a Business or Organisation
In the business world, problem statements provide the basis for the enhancement and refinement of projects. Without identifying and understanding the problem, it will be hard to find and effectively implement solutions.
A stand-alone document that solely provides an in-depth and detailed problem statement is usually the answer for organisations and businesses when it becomes imperative to find the solution to a problem.
Writing Problem Statement for Academic Research
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Problem Statement – How to Write it
Ask yourself the following questions before writing the problem statement:
- What is wrong in the research area/subarea XYZ?
- Where did it happen?
- When did it happen?
- To what extent (how much)?
- I know that because…(evidence)
‘What’ always defines the defect of the problem at hand and explains why it matters? ‘Where’ defines the geological location of the problem. ‘When’ defines the history and the pattern of the problem, the goal of the stated problem and the scope of research.
‘How much’ defines the trend of the problem as to how many objects are facing the same defect and to what extent. The last part, ‘I know this because…’, will help the researcher identify the standard(s) that he must meet.
Step 1: Understanding the Problem
The problem statement should provide a clear and concise background to the research problem you are investigating. Before starting your research , review the literature about the specific problem and find a gap to fill with your own research.
Practical Research Problem Statement
If you are doing experimental research , you can identify problems by talking to people working in a relevant field, studying research reports, and reviewing previous research. Here are some examples of practical research problems:
- A problem that hinders the efficiency of a company
- An institutional process that needs interventions
- An area of concern in your field/sub-field of interest
- Members of a society facing a specific difficulty
The problem statement should focus on the details related to the problem, such as:
- When and where was the problem observed?
- Who is/are affected by it?
- What research has been conducted and what practical steps have been taken to resolve the problem?
Example of Practical Research Problem Statement
The production of a company is low for the months of July and August every year. Initial research has been conducted by the company, which revealed poor production in July and August is due to the unavailability of local raw material.
The company has made some effective attempts at engaging the local suppliers to ensure an uninterrupted supply of the raw material, but these efforts are yet to have any significant impact on the production levels.
Theoretical Research Problem Statement
According to USC Libraries, “A theoretical framework consists of concepts and, together with their definitions and reference to relevant scholarly literature, existing theory that is used for your particular study…theoretical framework must demonstrate an understanding of theories and concepts…relevant to the topic of your research paper and that relate to the broader areas of knowledge being considered.”
The theoretical research indirectly contributes to the change by identifying the problem, expanding knowledge and improving understanding. The researcher can find a specific problem by brainstorming the topic and reviewing already published theories and research.
When writing a problem statement based on a theoretical research problem , it is important to recognise the historical, geographical, social and scientific background. Here are the elements of the theoretical problem statement framework that you should consider:
- What are the facts about the problem?
- Does the problem relate to a certain geographical area or time period?
- How is the problem discussed and explained in the existing literature?
Example of Theoretical Research Problem Statement
The production of a company is low for July and August every year. Initial research has been conducted by the company, which revealed poor production in July and August is due to the unavailability of local raw material. The company has made some effective attempts to engage the local suppliers to ensure an uninterrupted raw material supply. Still, these efforts are yet to have any significant impact on the production levels.
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Step 2 – Show why it’s Important and Relevant
By discussing the importance of the problem under investigation, you are demonstrating the relevance of your research. However, this does not mean that you will end up discovering something unimaginable or extraordinary.
The objective here is to clearly state how and why your research problem is relevant in your chosen area of study and why it requires further research.
As indicated previously, practical research deals with a problem affecting society, social group, firm or organisation on a broader scale. To elaborate on why it is important to solve this problem and why your research is significant, you could consider the following questions:
- What will be the consequences if the problem remains unsolved?
- Who do these consequences have the most implications for?
- What is the wider relevance of the problem being investigated?
Low production in July and August negatively affects the company’s marketing capital, thereby becoming an area of deep concern for the directors and stakeholders. The marketing budget cut in July and August is hindering its ability to promote its products uninterruptedly.
Addressing this problem will have practical benefits for the company and help establish the reasons for disruption in raw material supply.
The relevance of all theoretical issues may not be too obvious, even though most theoretical problems do have practical implications. Here are some questions for you to ponder to establish the importance of your research problem:
- Will your research help to advance understanding of the topic under investigation?
- Are there any benefits of you resolving the problem for other researchers who wish to explore this topic further in the future?
- What are the direct or indirect implications (s) of the problem you are trying to solving?
The new forms of employment such as freelance, contract-based work and zero-hour work arrangements are recognised as either a manipulative last option or a flexible active choice. It is necessary to conduct comprehensive qualitative research to uncover why fresh graduates take up these types of employment in the gig economy. There is a need to advance more vigorous concepts relating to instability and flexibility in modern forms of employment from employees’ perspectives, which will also help shape future policies.
Also see: How to Write the Abstract for Dissertation
Step 3 – Declaring the Problem
Before you jump on to state your research’s problem statements, it’s important to devote a sentence or two to let your readers know the precise, narrowed-down research problem you will be discussing about.
For language clarity purposes, here are some strong opening statements to achieve this step:
- Recently, there has been growing interest in …
- The possibility of…has generated wide interest in …
- The development of…is a classic problem in…
- The development of…has led to the hope that …
- The…has become a favourite topic for analysis …
- Knowledge of…has great importance for …
- The study of…has become an important aspect of …
- A central issue in…is…
- The…has been extensively studied in recent years.
- Many investigators have recently turned to …
- The relationship between…has been investigated by many researchers.
- Many recent studies have found out…
Step 4 – Establishing Aim and Objectives
The last step in writing a problem statement is to provide a framework for solving the problem. This will help you, the researcher, stay focused on your research aims and not stray; it will also help you readers keep in mind the reason as to why you conducted this study, to begin with.
A good problem statement does not provide the exact solution to any problem. Rather, it focuses more on how to effectively understand or tackle a problem by establishing the possible causes.
The aim of a research study is its end goal or overall purpose. Following are some examples of how you can craft your research aim statements:
- This research study aims to investigate…
- This paper is aimed at exploring…
- This research aims to identify…
On the other hand, objectives are the smaller steps that a researcher must take to address the aim of the research. Once you have laid out the research problem your research will deal with, it’s important to next mention the how behind that. Objectives are mostly imperative statements, often beginning with transitive verbs like ‘to analyse,’ ‘to investigate,’ etc.
Some more examples are:
- Statistical analysis will be conducted to determine…
- Both quantitative and qualitative research methods will be employed to probe…
- Face-to-face interviews will be carried out with the participants to establish…
Practical Research Aim and Objectives
This project aims to identify the causes of disturbed supply of raw material in the region, which resulted in low production for the company in July and August. This will be achieved by conducting interviews and surveys with the suppliers to understand why the supply is unpredictable in those two months and what can be done to ensure orderliness. Practical experiments will also be conducted to observe the effectiveness of proposed solutions.
Theoretical Research Aim and Objectives
This study aims to understand and unearth the experiences of fresh graduates in the modern economy. The sample population will participate in this study through qualitative research methods, which are expected to provide a deeper insight into the perceptions and motives of these fresh graduates working as freelancers and contract-based employees. The data collected from this exercise and the existing literature on the topic will be analysed in statistical analysis software.
TIP: Search the common themes of the problem statement in your field of research before writing a problem statement.
Also see: Argumentative Essay Writing Service
Problem Statement versus Significance of the Study
Even though both may sound similar, the statement of the problem and the significance of your study are going to be different. The latter does develop upon and from the former, though.
The problem statement tells your readers what’s wrong, whereas the significance of the study will tell them how your research contributed to that problem. You can’t have a significance of a study without mentioning the problem statement first.
Furthermore, signifying your study implies mentioning 4 key points related to it:
- How your study will further develop the theory behind the existing problem
- Practical solutions that might be implemented to solve the problem (especially in field research work)
- Whether your study or research will pave way for innovative methods to solve the existing problem.
- How your study can help in policy making and implementation, impact studies, etc.
Problem statement in research is the description of an existing issue that needs to be addressed. The problem statement is a focal point of any research and a bridge between the literature review and the research methodology .
Problem statement often has three elements; the problem itself, the method of solving the problem, and the purpose. There are five aspects of every problem: What, Where, When, to what extent, and what defects you know about the topic. Here is an example of a problem statement in a research proposal for your better understanding.
If you wish to know more about how to start your research process, then you might want to take a look at the “ Starting the Research Process ” section on our website, which has several articles relating to a research problem , problem statement, research aim and objectives, and research proposal .
Research Prospect is a UK-registered business that offers academic support and assistance to students across the globe. Our writers can help you with individual chapters of your dissertation or the full dissertation writing service , no matter how urgent or complex your requirements might be.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it necessary to write a problem statement.
Yes, the most important step to perform any research is to identify a problem that needs to be solved. Therefore, it is necessary to define a research problem before starting the actual research process .
How is a problem statement different from a problem statement written for an organisation?
In the business world, problem statements provide the basis for the enhancement and refinement of projects. Whereas, in academic research, A problem statement helps researchers understand and realise organised the significance of a research problem .
What is a practical research problem?
Doing experimental research can identify problems by talking to people working in a relevant field, studying research reports, and reviewing previous research.
What is a theoretical research problem?
A theoretical research problem is when the researcher finds a specific problem by brainstorming and reviewing already published theories and research.
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A research problem is a definite or clear expression [statement] about an area of concern, a condition to be improved upon, a difficulty to be eliminated, or a troubling question that exists in scholarly literature, in theory, or within existing practice that points to a need for meaningful understanding and deliberate investigation. A research problem does not state how to do something, offer a vague or broad proposition, or present a value question. In the social and behavioral sciences, studies are most often framed around examining a problem that needs to be understood and resolved in order to improve society and the human condition.
Bryman, Alan. “The Research Question in Social Research: What is its Role?” International Journal of Social Research Methodology 10 (2007): 5-20; Guba, Egon G., and Yvonna S. Lincoln. “Competing Paradigms in Qualitative Research.” In Handbook of Qualitative Research . Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, editors. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994), pp. 105-117; Pardede, Parlindungan. “Identifying and Formulating the Research Problem." Research in ELT: Module 4 (October 2018): 1-13; Li, Yanmei, and Sumei Zhang. "Identifying the Research Problem." In Applied Research Methods in Urban and Regional Planning . (Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2022), pp. 13-21.
The purpose of a problem statement is to:
- Introduce the reader to the importance of the topic being studied . The reader is oriented to the significance of the study.
- Anchors the research questions, hypotheses, or assumptions to follow . It offers a concise statement about the purpose of your paper.
- Place the topic into a particular context that defines the parameters of what is to be investigated.
- Provide the framework for reporting the results and indicates what is probably necessary to conduct the study and explain how the findings will present this information.
In the social sciences, the research problem establishes the means by which you must answer the "So What?" question. This declarative question refers to a research problem surviving the relevancy test [the quality of a measurement procedure that provides repeatability and accuracy]. Note that answering the "So What?" question requires a commitment on your part to not only show that you have reviewed the literature, but that you have thoroughly considered the significance of the research problem and its implications applied to creating new knowledge and understanding or informing practice.
To survive the "So What" question, problem statements should possess the following attributes:
- Clarity and precision [a well-written statement does not make sweeping generalizations and irresponsible pronouncements; it also does include unspecific determinates like "very" or "giant"],
- Demonstrate a researchable topic or issue [i.e., feasibility of conducting the study is based upon access to information that can be effectively acquired, gathered, interpreted, synthesized, and understood],
- Identification of what would be studied, while avoiding the use of value-laden words and terms,
- Identification of an overarching question or small set of questions accompanied by key factors or variables,
- Identification of key concepts and terms,
- Articulation of the study's conceptual boundaries or parameters or limitations,
- Some generalizability in regards to applicability and bringing results into general use,
- Conveyance of the study's importance, benefits, and justification [i.e., regardless of the type of research, it is important to demonstrate that the research is not trivial],
- Does not have unnecessary jargon or overly complex sentence constructions; and,
- Conveyance of more than the mere gathering of descriptive data providing only a snapshot of the issue or phenomenon under investigation.
Bryman, Alan. “The Research Question in Social Research: What is its Role?” International Journal of Social Research Methodology 10 (2007): 5-20; Brown, Perry J., Allen Dyer, and Ross S. Whaley. "Recreation Research—So What?" Journal of Leisure Research 5 (1973): 16-24; Castellanos, Susie. Critical Writing and Thinking. The Writing Center. Dean of the College. Brown University; Ellis, Timothy J. and Yair Levy Nova. "Framework of Problem-Based Research: A Guide for Novice Researchers on the Development of a Research-Worthy Problem." Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline 11 (2008); Thesis and Purpose Statements. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Thesis Statements. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Selwyn, Neil. "‘So What?’…A Question that Every Journal Article Needs to Answer." Learning, Media, and Technology 39 (2014): 1-5; Shoket, Mohd. "Research Problem: Identification and Formulation." International Journal of Research 1 (May 2014): 512-518.
Structure and Writing Style
I. Types and Content
There are four general conceptualizations of a research problem in the social sciences:
- Casuist Research Problem -- this type of problem relates to the determination of right and wrong in questions of conduct or conscience by analyzing moral dilemmas through the application of general rules and the careful distinction of special cases.
- Difference Research Problem -- typically asks the question, “Is there a difference between two or more groups or treatments?” This type of problem statement is used when the researcher compares or contrasts two or more phenomena. This a common approach to defining a problem in the clinical social sciences or behavioral sciences.
- Descriptive Research Problem -- typically asks the question, "what is...?" with the underlying purpose to describe the significance of a situation, state, or existence of a specific phenomenon. This problem is often associated with revealing hidden or understudied issues.
- Relational Research Problem -- suggests a relationship of some sort between two or more variables to be investigated. The underlying purpose is to investigate specific qualities or characteristics that may be connected in some way.
A problem statement in the social sciences should contain :
- A lead-in that helps ensure the reader will maintain interest over the study,
- A declaration of originality [e.g., mentioning a knowledge void or a lack of clarity about a topic that will be revealed in the literature review of prior research],
- An indication of the central focus of the study [establishing the boundaries of analysis], and
- An explanation of the study's significance or the benefits to be derived from investigating the research problem.
NOTE : A statement describing the research problem of your paper should not be viewed as a thesis statement that you may be familiar with from high school. Given the content listed above, a description of the research problem is usually a short paragraph in length.
II. Sources of Problems for Investigation
The identification of a problem to study can be challenging, not because there's a lack of issues that could be investigated, but due to the challenge of formulating an academically relevant and researchable problem which is unique and does not simply duplicate the work of others. To facilitate how you might select a problem from which to build a research study, consider these sources of inspiration:
Deductions from Theory This relates to deductions made from social philosophy or generalizations embodied in life and in society that the researcher is familiar with. These deductions from human behavior are then placed within an empirical frame of reference through research. From a theory, the researcher can formulate a research problem or hypothesis stating the expected findings in certain empirical situations. The research asks the question: “What relationship between variables will be observed if theory aptly summarizes the state of affairs?” One can then design and carry out a systematic investigation to assess whether empirical data confirm or reject the hypothesis, and hence, the theory.
Interdisciplinary Perspectives Identifying a problem that forms the basis for a research study can come from academic movements and scholarship originating in disciplines outside of your primary area of study. This can be an intellectually stimulating exercise. A review of pertinent literature should include examining research from related disciplines that can reveal new avenues of exploration and analysis. An interdisciplinary approach to selecting a research problem offers an opportunity to construct a more comprehensive understanding of a very complex issue that any single discipline may be able to provide.
Interviewing Practitioners The identification of research problems about particular topics can arise from formal interviews or informal discussions with practitioners who provide insight into new directions for future research and how to make research findings more relevant to practice. Discussions with experts in the field, such as, teachers, social workers, health care providers, lawyers, business leaders, etc., offers the chance to identify practical, “real world” problems that may be understudied or ignored within academic circles. This approach also provides some practical knowledge which may help in the process of designing and conducting your study.
Personal Experience Don't undervalue your everyday experiences or encounters as worthwhile problems for investigation. Think critically about your own experiences and/or frustrations with an issue facing society or related to your community, your neighborhood, your family, or your personal life. This can be derived, for example, from deliberate observations of certain relationships for which there is no clear explanation or witnessing an event that appears harmful to a person or group or that is out of the ordinary.
Relevant Literature The selection of a research problem can be derived from a thorough review of pertinent research associated with your overall area of interest. This may reveal where gaps exist in understanding a topic or where an issue has been understudied. Research may be conducted to: 1) fill such gaps in knowledge; 2) evaluate if the methodologies employed in prior studies can be adapted to solve other problems; or, 3) determine if a similar study could be conducted in a different subject area or applied in a different context or to different study sample [i.e., different setting or different group of people]. Also, authors frequently conclude their studies by noting implications for further research; read the conclusion of pertinent studies because statements about further research can be a valuable source for identifying new problems to investigate. The fact that a researcher has identified a topic worthy of further exploration validates the fact it is worth pursuing.
III. What Makes a Good Research Statement?
A good problem statement begins by introducing the broad area in which your research is centered, gradually leading the reader to the more specific issues you are investigating. The statement need not be lengthy, but a good research problem should incorporate the following features:
1. Compelling Topic The problem chosen should be one that motivates you to address it but simple curiosity is not a good enough reason to pursue a research study because this does not indicate significance. The problem that you choose to explore must be important to you, but it must also be viewed as important by your readers and to a the larger academic and/or social community that could be impacted by the results of your study. 2. Supports Multiple Perspectives The problem must be phrased in a way that avoids dichotomies and instead supports the generation and exploration of multiple perspectives. A general rule of thumb in the social sciences is that a good research problem is one that would generate a variety of viewpoints from a composite audience made up of reasonable people. 3. Researchability This isn't a real word but it represents an important aspect of creating a good research statement. It seems a bit obvious, but you don't want to find yourself in the midst of investigating a complex research project and realize that you don't have enough prior research to draw from for your analysis. There's nothing inherently wrong with original research, but you must choose research problems that can be supported, in some way, by the resources available to you. If you are not sure if something is researchable, don't assume that it isn't if you don't find information right away--seek help from a librarian !
NOTE: Do not confuse a research problem with a research topic. A topic is something to read and obtain information about, whereas a problem is something to be solved or framed as a question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution, or explained as a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation. In short, a research topic is something to be understood; a research problem is something that needs to be investigated.
IV. Asking Analytical Questions about the Research Problem
Research problems in the social and behavioral sciences are often analyzed around critical questions that must be investigated. These questions can be explicitly listed in the introduction [i.e., "This study addresses three research questions about women's psychological recovery from domestic abuse in multi-generational home settings..."], or, the questions are implied in the text as specific areas of study related to the research problem. Explicitly listing your research questions at the end of your introduction can help in designing a clear roadmap of what you plan to address in your study, whereas, implicitly integrating them into the text of the introduction allows you to create a more compelling narrative around the key issues under investigation. Either approach is appropriate.
The number of questions you attempt to address should be based on the complexity of the problem you are investigating and what areas of inquiry you find most critical to study. Practical considerations, such as, the length of the paper you are writing or the availability of resources to analyze the issue can also factor in how many questions to ask. In general, however, there should be no more than four research questions underpinning a single research problem.
Given this, well-developed analytical questions can focus on any of the following:
- Highlights a genuine dilemma, area of ambiguity, or point of confusion about a topic open to interpretation by your readers;
- Yields an answer that is unexpected and not obvious rather than inevitable and self-evident;
- Provokes meaningful thought or discussion;
- Raises the visibility of the key ideas or concepts that may be understudied or hidden;
- Suggests the need for complex analysis or argument rather than a basic description or summary; and,
- Offers a specific path of inquiry that avoids eliciting generalizations about the problem.
NOTE: Questions of how and why concerning a research problem often require more analysis than questions about who, what, where, and when. You should still ask yourself these latter questions, however. Thinking introspectively about the who, what, where, and when of a research problem can help ensure that you have thoroughly considered all aspects of the problem under investigation and helps define the scope of the study in relation to the problem.
V. Mistakes to Avoid
Beware of circular reasoning! Do not state the research problem as simply the absence of the thing you are suggesting. For example, if you propose the following, "The problem in this community is that there is no hospital," this only leads to a research problem where:
- The need is for a hospital
- The objective is to create a hospital
- The method is to plan for building a hospital, and
- The evaluation is to measure if there is a hospital or not.
This is an example of a research problem that fails the "So What?" test . In this example, the problem does not reveal the relevance of why you are investigating the fact there is no hospital in the community [e.g., perhaps there's a hospital in the community ten miles away]; it does not elucidate the significance of why one should study the fact there is no hospital in the community [e.g., that hospital in the community ten miles away has no emergency room]; the research problem does not offer an intellectual pathway towards adding new knowledge or clarifying prior knowledge [e.g., the county in which there is no hospital already conducted a study about the need for a hospital, but it was conducted ten years ago]; and, the problem does not offer meaningful outcomes that lead to recommendations that can be generalized for other situations or that could suggest areas for further research [e.g., the challenges of building a new hospital serves as a case study for other communities].
Alvesson, Mats and Jörgen Sandberg. “Generating Research Questions Through Problematization.” Academy of Management Review 36 (April 2011): 247-271 ; Choosing and Refining Topics. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; D'Souza, Victor S. "Use of Induction and Deduction in Research in Social Sciences: An Illustration." Journal of the Indian Law Institute 24 (1982): 655-661; Ellis, Timothy J. and Yair Levy Nova. "Framework of Problem-Based Research: A Guide for Novice Researchers on the Development of a Research-Worthy Problem." Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline 11 (2008); How to Write a Research Question. The Writing Center. George Mason University; Invention: Developing a Thesis Statement. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Problem Statements PowerPoint Presentation. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Procter, Margaret. Using Thesis Statements. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Shoket, Mohd. "Research Problem: Identification and Formulation." International Journal of Research 1 (May 2014): 512-518; Trochim, William M.K. Problem Formulation. Research Methods Knowledge Base. 2006; Thesis and Purpose Statements. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Thesis Statements. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Pardede, Parlindungan. “Identifying and Formulating the Research Problem." Research in ELT: Module 4 (October 2018): 1-13; Walk, Kerry. Asking an Analytical Question. [Class handout or worksheet]. Princeton University; White, Patrick. Developing Research Questions: A Guide for Social Scientists . New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2009; Li, Yanmei, and Sumei Zhang. "Identifying the Research Problem." In Applied Research Methods in Urban and Regional Planning . (Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2022), pp. 13-21.
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The Research Problem & Statement
What they are & how to write them (with examples)
By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: Eunice Rautenbach (DTech) | March 2023
If you’re new to academic research, you’re bound to encounter the concept of a “ research problem ” or “ problem statement ” fairly early in your learning journey. Having a good research problem is essential, as it provides a foundation for developing high-quality research, from relatively small research papers to a full-length PhD dissertations and theses.
In this post, we’ll unpack what a research problem is and how it’s related to a problem statement . We’ll also share some examples and provide a step-by-step process you can follow to identify and evaluate study-worthy research problems for your own project.
Overview: Research Problem 101
What is a research problem.
- What is a problem statement?
Where do research problems come from?
- How to find a suitable research problem
- Key takeaways
A research problem is, at the simplest level, the core issue that a study will try to solve or (at least) examine. In other words, it’s an explicit declaration about the problem that your dissertation, thesis or research paper will address. More technically, it identifies the research gap that the study will attempt to fill (more on that later).
Let’s look at an example to make the research problem a little more tangible.
To justify a hypothetical study, you might argue that there’s currently a lack of research regarding the challenges experienced by first-generation college students when writing their dissertations [ PROBLEM ] . As a result, these students struggle to successfully complete their dissertations, leading to higher-than-average dropout rates [ CONSEQUENCE ]. Therefore, your study will aim to address this lack of research – i.e., this research problem [ SOLUTION ].
A research problem can be theoretical in nature, focusing on an area of academic research that is lacking in some way. Alternatively, a research problem can be more applied in nature, focused on finding a practical solution to an established problem within an industry or an organisation. In other words, theoretical research problems are motivated by the desire to grow the overall body of knowledge , while applied research problems are motivated by the need to find practical solutions to current real-world problems (such as the one in the example above).
As you can probably see, the research problem acts as the driving force behind any study , as it directly shapes the research aims, objectives and research questions , as well as the research approach. Therefore, it’s really important to develop a very clearly articulated research problem before you even start your research proposal . A vague research problem will lead to unfocused, potentially conflicting research aims, objectives and research questions .
What is a research problem statement?
As the name suggests, a problem statement (within a research context, at least) is an explicit statement that clearly and concisely articulates the specific research problem your study will address. While your research problem can span over multiple paragraphs, your problem statement should be brief , ideally no longer than one paragraph . Importantly, it must clearly state what the problem is (whether theoretical or practical in nature) and how the study will address it.
Here’s an example of a problem statement:
Rural communities across Ghana lack access to clean water, leading to high rates of waterborne illnesses and infant mortality. Despite this, there is little research investigating the effectiveness of community-led water supply projects within the Ghanaian context. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the effectiveness of such projects in improving access to clean water and reducing rates of waterborne illnesses in these communities.
As you can see, this problem statement clearly and concisely identifies the issue that needs to be addressed (i.e., a lack of research regarding the effectiveness of community-led water supply projects) and the research question that the study aims to answer (i.e., are community-led water supply projects effective in reducing waterborne illnesses?), all within one short paragraph.
Need a helping hand?
Wherever there is a lack of well-established and agreed-upon academic literature , there is an opportunity for research problems to arise, since there is a paucity of (credible) knowledge. In other words, research problems are derived from research gaps . These gaps can arise from various sources, including the emergence of new frontiers or new contexts, as well as disagreements within the existing research.
Let’s look at each of these scenarios:
New frontiers – new technologies, discoveries or breakthroughs can open up entirely new frontiers where there is very little existing research, thereby creating fresh research gaps. For example, as generative AI technology became accessible to the general public in 2023, the full implications and knock-on effects of this were (or perhaps, still are) largely unknown and therefore present multiple avenues for researchers to explore.
New contexts – very often, existing research tends to be concentrated on specific contexts and geographies. Therefore, even within well-studied fields, there is often a lack of research within niche contexts. For example, just because a study finds certain results within a western context doesn’t mean that it would necessarily find the same within an eastern context. If there’s reason to believe that results may vary across these geographies, a potential research gap emerges.
Disagreements – within many areas of existing research, there are (quite naturally) conflicting views between researchers, where each side presents strong points that pull in opposing directions. In such cases, it’s still somewhat uncertain as to which viewpoint (if any) is more accurate. As a result, there is room for further research in an attempt to “settle” the debate.
Of course, many other potential scenarios can give rise to research gaps, and consequently, research problems, but these common ones are a useful starting point. If you’re interested in research gaps, you can learn more here .
How to find a research problem
Given that research problems flow from research gaps , finding a strong research problem for your research project means that you’ll need to first identify a clear research gap. Below, we’ll present a four-step process to help you find and evaluate potential research problems.
If you’ve read our other articles about finding a research topic , you’ll find the process below very familiar as the research problem is the foundation of any study . In other words, finding a research problem is much the same as finding a research topic.
Step 1 – Identify your area of interest
Naturally, the starting point is to first identify a general area of interest . Chances are you already have something in mind, but if not, have a look at past dissertations and theses within your institution to get some inspiration. These present a goldmine of information as they’ll not only give you ideas for your own research, but they’ll also help you see exactly what the norms and expectations are for these types of projects.
At this stage, you don’t need to get super specific. The objective is simply to identify a couple of potential research areas that interest you. For example, if you’re undertaking research as part of a business degree, you may be interested in social media marketing strategies for small businesses, leadership strategies for multinational companies, etc.
Depending on the type of project you’re undertaking, there may also be restrictions or requirements regarding what topic areas you’re allowed to investigate, what type of methodology you can utilise, etc. So, be sure to first familiarise yourself with your institution’s specific requirements and keep these front of mind as you explore potential research ideas.
Step 2 – Review the literature and develop a shortlist
Once you’ve decided on an area that interests you, it’s time to sink your teeth into the literature . In other words, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the existing research regarding your interest area. Google Scholar is a good starting point for this, as you can simply enter a few keywords and quickly get a feel for what’s out there. Keep an eye out for recent literature reviews and systematic review-type journal articles, as these will provide a good overview of the current state of research.
At this stage, you don’t need to read every journal article from start to finish . A good strategy is to pay attention to the abstract, intro and conclusion , as together these provide a snapshot of the key takeaways. As you work your way through the literature, keep an eye out for what’s missing – in other words, what questions does the current research not answer adequately (or at all)? Importantly, pay attention to the section titled “ further research is needed ”, typically found towards the very end of each journal article. This section will specifically outline potential research gaps that you can explore, based on the current state of knowledge (provided the article you’re looking at is recent).
Take the time to engage with the literature and develop a big-picture understanding of the current state of knowledge. Reviewing the literature takes time and is an iterative process , but it’s an essential part of the research process, so don’t cut corners at this stage.
As you work through the review process, take note of any potential research gaps that are of interest to you. From there, develop a shortlist of potential research gaps (and resultant research problems) – ideally 3 – 5 options that interest you.
Step 3 – Evaluate your potential options
Once you’ve developed your shortlist, you’ll need to evaluate your options to identify a winner. There are many potential evaluation criteria that you can use, but we’ll outline three common ones here: value, practicality and personal appeal.
Value – a good research problem needs to create value when successfully addressed. Ask yourself:
- Who will this study benefit (e.g., practitioners, researchers, academia)?
- How will it benefit them specifically?
- How much will it benefit them?
Practicality – a good research problem needs to be manageable in light of your resources. Ask yourself:
- What data will I need access to?
- What knowledge and skills will I need to undertake the analysis?
- What equipment or software will I need to process and/or analyse the data?
- How much time will I need?
- What costs might I incur?
Personal appeal – a research project is a commitment, so the research problem that you choose needs to be genuinely attractive and interesting to you. Ask yourself:
- How appealing is the prospect of solving this research problem (on a scale of 1 – 10)?
- Why, specifically, is it attractive (or unattractive) to me?
- Does the research align with my longer-term goals (e.g., career goals, educational path, etc)?
Depending on how many potential options you have, you may want to consider creating a spreadsheet where you numerically rate each of the options in terms of these criteria. Remember to also include any criteria specified by your institution . From there, tally up the numbers and pick a winner.
Step 4 – Craft your problem statement
Once you’ve selected your research problem, the final step is to craft a problem statement. Remember, your problem statement needs to be a concise outline of what the core issue is and how your study will address it. Aim to fit this within one paragraph – don’t waffle on. Have a look at the problem statement example we mentioned earlier if you need some inspiration.
We’ve covered a lot of ground. Let’s do a quick recap of the key takeaways:
- A research problem is an explanation of the issue that your study will try to solve. This explanation needs to highlight the problem , the consequence and the solution or response.
- A problem statement is a clear and concise summary of the research problem , typically contained within one paragraph.
- Research problems emerge from research gaps , which themselves can emerge from multiple potential sources, including new frontiers, new contexts or disagreements within the existing literature.
- To find a research problem, you need to first identify your area of interest , then review the literature and develop a shortlist, after which you’ll evaluate your options, select a winner and craft a problem statement .
Psst… there’s more (for free)
This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
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How to write a problem statement
- What is a problem statement?
A problem statement is a clear and concise description of the problem or issue a team aims to address in a project.
A problem statement identifies a problem’s current state, desired future state, and the gaps that lie between the two. It doesn't define the solution to the problem or provide a road map for solving the problem; it only gives an outline of what the problem is.
However, the researcher or team can later use the problem statement to validate that their work delivered an outcome that resulted in the solution.
- Why write a problem statement?
A problem statement is a useful communication tool, as it keeps the whole team on track and tells them why the project is important. A problem statement helps someone to define and understand the problem, identify the goals of the project, and outline the scope of work.
A problem statement is especially relevant for projects that aim to improve processes, as it allows for the easier development of solutions. Referencing it helps guide the activities carried out and aids the research team in staying focused. The information in a problem statement also helps a team make important decisions.
When the desired solution is implemented later on, a problem statement can help make sure that steps are put into place to prevent the original problem from recurring in the future.
- When are problem statements commonly written?
Problem statements are used in both academic and business contexts. In a business environment, project managers can use them to help execute process improvement projects.
But in an academic setting, they can help researchers to contextualize and understand the significance of the problem in a research project. This guide focuses on academic problem statements.
- How do I write a problem statement?
Before planning or writing out your academic problem statement, ask yourself some important questions, and make notes with your answers:
- What is the problem?
- How often does the problem occur?
- Where does the problem occur?
- When does the problem occur?
- Who does the problem impact?
- What causes the problem?
- How would things ideally work if the problem wasn't present?
- Why is this a problem, and why does it matter?
- What impact does the problem cause?
- Which possible solution/s to the problem are you going to propose?
- What are the predicted benefits or outcomes of your solutions?
- The format of a problem statement
When you write your problem statement, split it into four sections:
- Problem: Here, simply define what your problem is, clearly and concisely. Make it no longer than one or two sentences.
- Background: This is the section where you can describe what causes the problem, how often it occurs, where and when it occurs, and who the problem impacts.
- Relevance: You'll want to show how the problem is relevant, as well as why it matters and requires a solution. This is a great space to specify why it's a problem and what impacts it causes. If it fits comfortably, you can also articulate how things would ideally work if the problem wasn't present.
- Objectives: This section doesn't require great detail or length, as the problem statement isn't the area of your research project in which to specifically problem-solve. However, you should lay out a brief plan of what you're going to do to investigate and how that should help you formulate solutions. You can also hypothesize on possible solutions you're going to propose, and the benefits you predict from these.
- The trademarks of a good problem statement
A quality problem statement should be:
- Concise: You should be able to summarize your problem, as well as the different elements of how and why it's a problem, in succinct sentences. If you can't, revisit your initial notes and clarify what you want to achieve with your project.
- Specific: Only write about one issue in a problem statement, even if there's more than one impact of that issue. Your research and actions then only have to focus on solving the one problem, and there's no confusion.
- Measurable: Be clear about how you're able to measure and convey both the problem and your proposed objectives. This is usually by communicating the problem in terms of degree and frequency.
- An example of a problem statement
Below is an academic problem statement example. You don't need to include any headers in your real problem statement, but we'll do so here to show you how the sections of the document function in practice.
There is worryingly low uptake of free cervical cancer screening in the UK amongst women aged 25 to 35.
According to an assessment conducted by X Health Trust, only 60% of 25- to 35-year-old female patients attended cervical cancer screening appointments within the last two years.
This could be due to several contributing factors:
- Female patients in this age group may be more likely to believe they are not susceptible to cervical cancer due to their younger age.
- There has been an absence of regular and informative public health announcements on this subject within the last seven years.
- Cervical cancer screening has a reputation for being an unpleasant experience, which could be off-putting for patients due to attend one.
Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer in females in the UK, representing a notable health risk. As of 2017, there were around 3,200 new cervical cancer cases, with 850 consequent deaths, in the UK every year.
Although mortality rates in the UK for cervical cancer are highest in females aged 85 to 89, incidence rates for the disease are still highest in females aged 30 to 34.
When cervical cancer is diagnosed at its earliest stage, 96% of people diagnosed will survive their disease for one year or more. This is compared with only 50% of people when the disease is diagnosed at the latest stage.
Screening is a vital health service as many cervical cancer patients will be symptomless until they are in a later stage of the disease.
We are going to conduct a survey of 10,000 females in the UK between the ages of 25 and 35. We will first ask them the question of whether they have attended a cervical screening appointment in the last five years. For those who answer “no,” we will then present them with multiple-choice options that answer the question, “why not?”
From the results we gather, we should be able to accurately assess the most common reasons why there is a low uptake in cervical cancer screening in this age group. We will then propose interventions to the medical community based on our findings.
Our ultimate goal is to increase the uptake of cervical cancer screening by females between 25 and 35 in the UK over the next five years.
- Frequently Asked Questions about problem statements
A problem statement helps you define and understand a problem, identify the goals of your project, and outline the scope of your work. A problem statement is especially important for projects that aim to improve processes, as it allows for the easier development of solutions.
A good problem statement is concise, specific and measurable. It summarizes the different elements of how and why it's a problem. It focusses on solving this one problem, and there is no confusion as to what the problem is and how it is solved. It is clear how the problem can be solved and how this can be measured.
To start a problem statement, first ask yourself some important questions to define the problem, like:
- Which possible solutions to the problem are you going to propose?
When you write your problem statement, split it into these sections:
A smart problem statement is concise, specific and measurable. It should briefly describe the problem, where it is occurring, the timeframe over which it has been occurring, and the size and magnitude of the problem.
- Related Articles
- A Research Guide
- Research Paper Guide
How to Write a Problem Statement for a Research Paper
- What is problem statement
- When it is the most effective
- Main components
- Step-by-step guide
Example of a problem statement
What is a problem statement in a research paper?
A problem statement is your scientific opportunity to explain why you care for a specific subject and why you prefer to approach this or that as a way to address the problem. It should represent a clear explanation in your research or proposal paper that offers an accessible description of a particular issue that has to be studied. Ask yourself what you want to address with your research. In addition to the thesis part and offering enough evidence, you must provide a clear position and outline why something represents a problem and why it must be researched.
How to work with the problem statement?
Before you start to write a research problem statement, outline it for yourself first and think about what things you would like to address in your paper and how to make it condensed and clear for your target audience. The importance and relevance of the problem must be made clear by the first lines as you show the purpose and the intent of your research work.
Remember to keep things brief and always to the point, as it is not the paper where you must offer detailed data or present your research findings . The purpose of this paper is only to state the problem and tell how exactly you will address the issue you have identified. Discuss why it poses a concern and focus on systematic studies with a clear methodology .
When is a problem statement the most effective?
When creating a problem statement for your paper, you must consider the main rules before starting. The efficiency will depend on the clarity and formatting of your content. Since problem statement writing rarely takes place alone without an accompanying paper, remember the following rules:
- Keep your problem statement always brief and concise without turning to your research findings or specific data you have already obtained for your paper.
- Define the problem clearly and state why it’s relevant for your course and the thesis statement (main definition of an issue).
- Your problem statement becomes efficient only when it tends to fill the gap in the information base.
- The average length of your problem statement structure must not exceed one page unless specified otherwise by your grading rubric.
- Don’t focus on the solution and avoid discussing the different problem-solving methods. It should not be your immediate concern for your problem statement work.
Your main task here is to define a clear problem to research and process scientifically. Think about summarizing current information that is already known and discuss the aspects showing a lack of knowledge. It should present a problem and explain why research is important! For example, when dealing with bullying in England, you may talk about specifics of the British culture and educational system. Look at what other researchers have conducted by checking at least one relevant paper. Then, pursue something less researched. Talk about those aspects that are less studied!
If you wish to write a good problem statement and make it truly effective, think about how you can persuade your audience and scientific community that more research must be done. It will always make your work effective and relevant for the scientific community!
Main components of the problem statement
The most challenging part of a research problem statement is knowing how to structure your thoughts correctly. While there is no strict formula or method to approach this part of your writing, following a certain order of events is necessary. It will help your target audience follow your logic and identify your problem. Here are the important points to consider:
- Identify the significance of the problem you are researching.
- Talk about the lack of information on the topic (if relevant).
- Explain why the problem is significant for the academic community.
- Discuss how and why it matters by making the meaning obvious.
- Show the need for additional research and include at least one methodology you favor (no need to list or explain them all).
- Show how exactly you plan to collect the necessary data and have it presented in further research.
- Provide specifics of your planned research by showing the differences.
Remember that writing problem statements always takes time, which means that your final structure and order of sentences may change. Still, if we sum things up, it should present at least four main points in your paper template:
- Problem identification.
- Talking about the causes of the problem.
- Why does it represent an issue worth researching?
- How would you like to represent the problem?
As you try your best to fit within a single page, think about how you would describe the subject of your research in simple and accessible words. Your introductory part will have to talk about the problem first. The body parts talk about the causes and the reasons for the problem. You may also talk about why it is important to research it. The conclusion of your problem statement must discuss how you would approach this problem as you research. To create a problem statement, you must divide your information into three parts and approach it like a classic research assignment.
Step-by-step problem statement writing guide
Regardless if you wish to clarify research outcomes when dealing with a particular issue or plan to present something as guidance for an upcoming project, it’s essential to understand the main steps that must be taken. Let’s start with the checklist of things you must consider to make your problem statement assignment stand out!
- Narrow things down! The most important aspect of writing is related to explaining how the problem should be approached in general terms and why it’s researched. In developing a problem statement, you have to show that a certain problem has existed before and has been researched by others. Your task is to show how different your work is going to be.
- Explain why your problem matters. It may sound like a difficult part, but you have to go beyond saying what the problem is and discuss (briefly) why it is taking place. Talk about who is affected by the problem and why. If something has been tried before and did not work, talk about it, too.
- Mention limitations and costs. If certain challenges and financial issues exist, mention them by offering accurate numbers and examples.
- Support your claims with evidence. While it may be hard to do within a problem statement format and one-page scope, make your best to help the scientific community perceive your information with due attention and care. If you have evidence, provide it!
- Offer solutions and explain their benefits. If what you propose differs from research work done before, talk about it and explain why you hope to achieve success.
As you can see, problem statements are most effective when they provide clear details or relevant elements of a problem you want to explore. While it’s important to avoid being overly detailed, you still have to explain (in 2-3 sentences) what solution you will use and how it can resolve and address the problem.
If all of this sounds like rocket science to you, we can help you achieve better clarity with the research statement example. We would like to present you with a sample of scientific writing based on autistic children in the United Kingdom. Belonging to the U.S. audience, this subject will help you see how to approach something that may be rare for you. The reason it’s done is the necessity to research something that more scientists in the USA do not widely address.
As a rule, the problem statement in a research paper may be divided and presented this way:
Problem: The special education methods and focus on the educational, social, and emotional needs of an autistic child make boarding schools a safer option for most learners currently on the autistic spectrum. Nevertheless, the lack of information on boarding schools for autistic children and awareness of the benefits available in the United Kingdom often make parents avoid the boarding system of education as such.
Background : Surveys that NHS specialists have conducted suggest that boarding schools in the UK can provide a deeper educational focus on the special needs of autistic children and avoid emotional turmoil and damage that may be encountered in public schools. The information provided by the National Autistic Society Academies Trust and questionnaires by the schools like Vanguard, Church Lawton, and Thames Valley shows that most students can adapt differently and achieve better academic results.
Relevance: Turning to the advertisement and marketing of special education, the United Kingdom holds a particular stigma related to the cases of emotional and physical neglect and bullying in boarding schools. While it may have been true for the past decades, modern boarding schools use complex monitoring processes to ensure that every autistic learner is in a safe and child-friendly environment. It makes it necessary to research the benefits of boarding schools for autistic children and help parents become aware by systematizing surveys and relevant information offered by the schools mentioned above.
Objectives: This research paper aims to examine the information provided by boarding schools in the UK and turn it into promotional material that will inspire parents of autistic youngsters and help spread a positive message. It will also help distinguish major and minor differences between schools and showcase their methodologies.
This sample research statement describes a problem to help you understand how to get your research’s main objectives clear as you write them down. Take your time to examine this guide again and use our example for guiding purposes as you work on your paper. We wish you the best of luck in your studies and await your thoughts, tips, and comments!
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How to Write a Problem Statement in Research
What is a Research Problem Statement?
A research problem statement is a concise statement describing the problem or issue addressed by the research study. The research problem should be composed in a way that both experts and non-experts in the field can understand.
Every research paper describes the investigation of a problem: by adding knowledge to the existing literature, revisiting known observations, or finding concrete solutions. What contribution your publication makes to your field or the scientific community at large depends on whether your research is “basic” (i.e., mainly interested in providing further knowledge that researchers can later apply to specific problems) or “applied” (i.e., developing new techniques, processes, and products).
In any case, a research proposal or research paper must clearly identify and describe the “problem” that is being investigated, so that the reader understands where the research comes from, why the study is relevant, if the applied methods are appropriate, and if the presented results are valid and answer the stated questions. This is known as the “statement of the problem.”
Table of Contents:
- What is a Research Problem?
How to Write a Problem Statement in a Research Paper
- Statement of the Problem Example
- Where Does the Problem Statement Go in Your Paper?
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Understanding how to write a research problem.
Your research problem defines the gap in existing knowledge you want to address (e.g., global warming causes), an issue with a certain process (e.g., voter registration) or practices (e.g., patient treatment) that is known and well documented and needs a solution, or some surprising phenomena or earlier findings that point to the need for further investigation. Your approach can be theoretical or practical, and the specific type of problem you choose to address depends on the type of research you want to do.
In any case, your paper should not repeat what other studies have already said. It also should not ask a question that is too broad in scope to be answered within your study, nor should it be so vague that your reader cannot grasp your motivation or focus. To avoid such problems, you need to clearly define your research question, put it into context, and emphasize its significance for your field of research, the wider research community, or even the general public.
When including your statement of the research problem, several key factors must be considered in order to make a statement that is clear, concise, relevant, and convincing to readers. Think about the following elements not as “steps” to writing your problem statement, but as necessary conditions on which your statement can be firmly grounded and stand out.
Provide context for your study
Putting your research problem in context means providing the reader with the background information they need to understand why you want to study or solve this particular problem and why it is relevant. If there have been earlier attempts at solving the problem or solutions that are available but seem imperfect and need improvement, include that information here.
If you are doing applied research, this part of the problem statement (or “research statement”) should tell the reader where a certain problem arises and who is affected by it. In basic or theoretical research, you make a review of relevant literature on the topic that forms the basis for the current work and tells the reader where your study fits in and what gap in existing knowledge you are addressing.
Establish the relevance of this research
The problem statement also needs to clearly state why the current research matters, or why future work matters if you are writing a research proposal. Ask yourself (and tell your readers) what will happen if the problem continues and who will feel the consequences the most. If the solution you search for or propose in your study has wider relevance outside the context of the subjects you have studied, then this also needs to be included here. In basic research, the advancement of knowledge does not always have clear practical consequences—but you should clearly explain to the reader how the insights your study offers fit into the bigger picture, and what potential future research they could inspire.
Define specific aims and Objectives
Now that the reader knows the context of your research and why it matters, briefly introduce the design and the methods you used or are planning to use. While describing these, you should also formulate your precise aims more clearly, and thereby bring every element in your paper together so that the reader can judge for themselves if they (a) understand the rationale behind your study and (b) are convinced by your approach.
This last part could maybe be considered the actual “statement of the problem” of your study, but you need to prepare the reader by providing all the necessary details before you state it explicitly. If the background literature you cite is too broad and the problem you introduced earlier seems a bit vague, then the reader will have trouble understanding how you came up with the specific experiments you suddenly describe here. Make sure your readers can follow the logical structure of your presentation and that no important details are left out.
Research Problem Statement Example
The following is a sample statement of the problem for a practical research study on the challenges of online learning. Note that your statement might be much longer (especially the context section where you need to explain the background of the study) and that you will need to provide sources for all the claims you make and the earlier literature you cite. You will also not include the headers “context”, “relevance” and “aims and objectives” but simply present these parts as different paragraphs. But if your problem statement follows this structure, you should have no problem convincing the reader of the significance of your work.
Providing context: Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, most educational institutions around the world have transitioned to a fully online study model, at least during peak times of infections and social distancing measures. This transition has not been easy and even two years into the pandemic, problems with online teaching and studying persist (reference needed) . While the increasing gap between those with access to technology and equipment and those without access has been determined to be one of the main challenges (reference needed) , others claim that online learning offers more opportunities for many students by breaking down barriers of location and distance (reference needed) .
Establishing relevance: Since teachers and students cannot wait for circumstances to go back to normal, the measures that schools and universities have implemented during the last two years, their advantages and disadvantages, and the impact of those measures on students’ progress, satisfaction, and well-being need to be understood so that improvements can be made and demographics that have been left behind can receive the support they need as soon as possible.
Defining aims and objectives: To identify what changes in the learning environment were considered the most challenging and how those changes relate to a variety of student outcome measures, we conducted surveys and interviews among teachers and students at ten institutions of higher education in four different major cities, two in the US (New York and Chicago), one in South Korea (Seoul), and one in the UK (London). Responses were analyzed with a focus on different student demographics and how they might have been affected differently by the current situation.
Where Does the Problem Statement Go in Your Paper?
If you write a statement of the problem for a research proposal, then you could include it as a separate section at the very beginning of the main text (unless you are given a specific different structure or different headings, however, then you will have to adapt to that). If your problem statement is part of a research paper manuscript for publication in an academic journal, then it more or less constitutes your introduction section , with the context/background being the literature review that you need to provide here.
If you write the introduction section after the other parts of your paper, then make sure that the specific research question and approach you describe here are in line with the information provided in the research paper abstract , and that all questions you raise here are answered at the end of the discussion section —as always, consistency is key. Knowing where to put the research question can depend on several important contextual factors.
Receive instant editing with Wordvice.AI, our automated grammar checker . Then hand over your manuscript or paper to a professional English editing service for paper editing , thesis editing , or other academic editing services .
And if you need advice on how to write the other parts of your research paper , on how to make a research paper outline if you are struggling with putting everything you did together, or on how to come up with a good research question in case you are not even sure where to start, then head over to the Wordvice academic resources website where we have a lot more articles and videos for you.
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Creating the best statement of the problem in research paper.
June 1, 2021
What is statement of the problem in research paper? A problem statement in research paper is a type of writing assignment where you identify a problem and propose a process by which you can solve it through a well-thought and researched approach. The problem statement should be two or three sentences long and appear in the introduction.
An example of statement of the problem in research paper may look like this:
“The current staffing model in a major bookstore does not allow for financial profit and sustainability. Managers are not using staff efficiently or effectively enough to stay in business beyond the foreseeable future.”
A student must state the problem clearly and precisely. There are problem statement examples in research paper you can look at to see how this is best achieved.
Follow the problem statement with a couple of sentences that put it into context. This may be background information, history, or a specific example. Your thesis statement should be your proposed process. The following components follow the same structure as most essays, including body paragraphs that present your solution process and a conclusion that summarizes and synthesizes the information of your problem statement research paper.
How to Write Statement of the Problem in Research Paper?
Writing a statement of the problem in research paper is a lot like writing other types of academic assignments. You need to carefully choose a topic, research the topic, organize supporting points, create an outline, draft a paper, revise a paper, and edit and proofread a paper. Here is a step-by-step process for crafting a great assignment:
- Identify the Problem and State Why It Is Important
In your problem statement for research paper, be sure you concisely contextualize the problem and provide some context by giving relevant background information that demonstrates why it is important. You can address questions like “Who does the problem impact?” “Why did the problem arise?” and “What attempts have been made to fix the problem?”
- Set Your Aims and Objectives for Solving the Problem
If you look at an example of problem statement in research paper, you will see that it has a clear framework that addresses your approach towards solving the problem. You may not have a conclusive solution, but you need to present a process that would lead to a positive outcome. Your aims and objectives must show what you intend to explore and investigate. The section is similar to a methods section of a research paper.
- Research and Outline Your Topic and Argument
Your problem statement in a research paper needs to be researched thoroughly for you to submit a completed assignment worthy of a high score. You can start by doing some background research on the web to get familiar with discussions, issues, and questions regarding your topic. Next, you should do academic research at the library where you have access to government and academic resources. If you need assistance, you can always consult the research librarian to address your inquiries. A research librarian can also introduce you to resources available through interlibrary loans.
- Write the First Draft and then Revise the Paper Draft
When you write the first draft, you should always refer to your research paper outline. It helps keep your argument on track and is a great resource to have as you move from one point to the another. Try to write your first draft as quickly as possible, preferably in one sitting. Don’t worry about mistakes you make along the way.
Set your research paper aside for a few days before you start making revisions. It’s a great idea to do this exercise with a fresh perspective. You need to re-imaging your arguments and presentation. It may be necessary to add, rearrange, and delete everything from sentences to entire paragraphs.
- Edit and Proofread the Revised Draft before Submission
When editing, you must check the core features of the document, including word choice, sentence structure, phrases, and language clarity. When proofreading, you must check for mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It’s a good idea to go through these two exercises separately to increase your chances of finding as many instances to make improvements.
Problem Solution Research Paper Topics
When you write a statement of the problem in research paper, choosing a great topic is extremely important toward putting together a great assignment. You should always be sure you understand the assignment in its entirety so that you are not penalized for not following directions. Choose a topic that is interesting to you to make the work more fun and engaging. Be sure to also consider the scope of the topic to ensure you will find relevant information online and in print. Here are some ideas to consider:
- How can we increase medical services to the homeless community?
- How can colleges change major declaration processes to give students better opportunities?
- How can the government provide affordable housing to lower-income families?
- How can cities encourage people to take more public transportation?
- How can the NCAA find ways to compensate players to deter illegal benefits?
- How can universities and colleges help provide services to survivors of suicide?
- How to motivate college basketball players to finish their education instead of turning pro?
- How can we provide equal pay to female athletes in professional sports?
- What is the best way to deal with legal and illegal immigration?
- How can the U.S. provide universal health coverage to all its citizens?
- How to prevent parents from pushing their kids to be financially successful?
- How can we reduce the number of failing students in our high schools?
- What can be done to prevent teacher turnaround in public schools?
- How can parents effectively monitor their children’s use of social media?
- What can teachers do to encourage students to stay focused outside of the classroom?
- How can penalties help minimize texting while driving?
- How can traffic around your community be improved to minimize pollution?
- How to prepare children that are homeschooled for college life?
- How can parents do to keep their children motivated during the pandemic?
- How to help people when you are aware of their depression?
- What can governments do to help parents care for a child with mental disabilities?
- What can schools do to help students learn about managing their finances?
- What can university and college campuses do to make their communities safer?
- How can students finance their way through college?
- How to decide what college or university to attend when there are multiple options?
The above research paper problem statement can be used for free as written or can be modified to fit personal interests and assignment requirements. You are encouraged to come up with topics that interest you, but if you are having trouble brainstorming or are limited in time, then the ones above should get you one step closer.
If you need more assistance with a statement of the problem research paper, we are an academic writing and editing agency that can provide you with a statement of the problem sample research paper or assist you in other ways. Our experts know how to write and edit academic assignments that earn the highest scores. Contact us via chat, email, or phone 24/7 for help.
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+91 80562 90962.
- Jul 11, 2017
How to identify problem statement in research? Overview in general
Here, we will have some description about the main component of research.
Once you set with research domain and field the next thing we need to focus is problem statement. Ah! We know that many researchers or master degree student are struggling to write or identify problem statement for research/project. Yes, this blog here to provide some key ideas about writing or identifying problem statement for your thesis/dissertation/research paper writing.
A problem statement can describe as “statement which usually describes issues with a certain statement about issue, vision, and method adopted to solve problem”. Usually, problem statement needs to have four important factors i.e:
Problem Background : Here you need to reflect the problem facts and reader able to gain knowledge about a key element of the issue.
Anchor : How identified problem is resolved by other methods is evaluate
General problem : Impact of identified problem over larger aspects
Specific Problem : Impact of a problem on a sample or selected area (i.e. narrow – downed/ specified area).
5 W’s of Problem Statement
A problem statement focuses the effort of word to convert into solvable problem for this 5’W’ s are spark the discussion with pertinent information;
Once you all set answers for all those things; Good! Now you can start developing with your novel concept to resolve the problem in the selected domain. Even you able to provide clear justification for your research.
#problemstatement #research #masterdegreestudent #thesiswriting #dissertationwriting #researchpaper #ProblemBackground #5WsofProblemStatement
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How to Write a Statement of the Problem for Your Research Proposal
Defining your research problem is essential when conducting an experiment. In this article, you will learn how to write a statement of the problem for your research proposal. Learn about the characteristics of a good statement of the problem and examples of research questions.
Updated on May 17, 2022
You are a great researcher. You are full of ideas and questions as to where to go next with your work. You would not be in this position if you were not good at coming up with interesting questions within your area.
One problem, though, is knowing where to spend your time, energy, and money. Which ideas, questions, and problems are worthwhile?
You need to be able to define a good research problem. A research problem addresses an existing gap in knowledge in your field and leads to further investigations by you and other researchers. Inspiring others with your research problem will lead to citations, enhancing your and your institution's impact.
In order to write a clear and useful problem statement, you need to describe a question and its consequences.
One key way to assess the ‘usefulness' of your research ideas is to learn how to express them as clear problems.
In this article, we will talk about how to write a statement of the problem for your next research proposal. This is important not just for assessing the ‘usefulness' of research ideas, but also for formulating a grant application or proposal. We'll talk about how to explain your research ideas to others in the form of a problem statement in your proposal.
What is a statement of the problem in research?
All research projects should start with a clear problem statement. A problem statement is a formulation of an issue which is usually a ‘gap' within your area. A research gap is an unanswered question, an issue, controversy, or untested hypothesis that has not yet been addressed.
The trick with research problems is working out whether they are actually worth investing the time, energy, and money to figure out. This comes with experience, or you could just read on!
Since a clear problem statement is going to form the basis of your next research project, the question is: How can I write one?
How is this done? The first step is to become familiar with the basic elements of a problem statement in effective research.
Characteristics of a problem statement
A research problem statement has two key attributes:
- The problem must be challenging and original, but also potentially achievable by your team.
- The problem must not be incremental. In other words, don't try to address a small change or advance on an existing study that leads to no new scientific insight. This could be damaging to your and your team's reputation, and will likely not lead to a meaningful publication.
Developing a ‘good' research problem statement, therefore, involves systematic planning and setting time-based, realistic objectives. Your problem has to be achievable.
You'll also need to apply feasible research methods based on an approach that best suits the research question. Your methods have to make sense. They must be usable. In other words, you must be able to acquire statistically sufficient and relevant data that is reproducible.
Finally, the problem you define means you'll need to train team members in this particular research area and methods.
Writing a statement of the problem
Stating a research problem is done by defining it within the general area of your research. This depends on your previous work and experience. It may be an area you want to move into or a topic related to what you have already worked on as a researcher. Examples could include a question in astrophysics within physics, robotics within engineering, nutrition within medicine, or marine biology within ocean and Earth science.
Once you've determined your overall area (and you'll know this already of course), it's time to drill down, decide, and define a research problem within that field.
First , your statement should identify a problem that needs to be addressed within your selected sub-area.
This will almost certainly require literature work, but the idea may arise from:
- Discussions you've had with colleagues;
- Discussions at a conference;
- A paper you've read.
Second , your problem statement should be a “good research problem.” This will require further investigation and reading as you consider “what has been done?” and “what needs to be done?”
Third , search for more information, perhaps by:
- Locating relevant books, papers and other materials;
- Evaluating the quality and authority of the information collected;
- Maintaining a regular literature review throughout the project;
- Making regular notes on background material;
- Deciding how this literature search will be carried out within the research group;
- Deciding how information gained will be disseminated to the group (e.g., via each researcher carrying out a regular literature review in their sub-area and information disseminated at group meetings or via email at regular intervals).
This process may well change or modify how your research problem is stated or formulated.
Once your research problem has been identified, research questions within the problem need to be specified.
How long should your statement of the problem be?
Not too long. One page is more than enough for a clear and effective problem statement.
Research questions within your problem
The first stage of writing your research problem statement involves formulating your questions in a meaningful way. In the context of important questions, we are looking for things that many readers across different disciplines find to be interesting. But at the same time, set your question within your field.
Thus, once a research problem has been established, several questions can be written down. These questions should specify exactly what needs to be determined to address the problem.
These questions should also be specific enough that they can be answered using appropriate available research methods - or methods that could be made available to the research group (e.g. by buying or borrowing equipment).
These questions should require complex in-depth investigation, analysis, and argument. They should not be simple enough that they can be answered easily with well-established facts or yes/no answers.
All research questions should be focused, specific, appropriately complex, and relevant to the overall aims of the project.
Examples of questions and next steps
- How do government regulations prevent companies from polluting water systems?
- What factors have influenced population growth in the fastest growing countries?
- How can a bespoke thermal desorption unit be designed and built for use in detection of trace particulate matter in a polluted environment (e.g., a busy city street)?
- What methods and procedures can be used to understand, and hence control, fundamental chemical processes that occur in flames?
- How can measurement protocols used in mass spectrometry in a university research laboratory be developed and standardized to enable direct comparison with related measurements in a government laboratory?
Once the problem and questions have been identified, the resources required to carry out the research will need to be assessed. This will involve:
- Identifying the equipment needed. Find out what is available and what needs to be purchased.
- Assessing which consumables (e.g., chemicals) are needed for the project, and determining if they can be obtained on a regular basis (i.e., in the right quantities at the appropriate times).
- Identifying the software, data-analyses and other computer support needed. Assess what needs to be purchased.
- Assessing what laboratory and office space is needed. And if more is required, discuss this with the relevant laboratory manager.
- Identifying what support for travel is needed for the group, as well as what resources are required for the group to attend relevant conferences and training of group personnel.
Defining and writing a clear statement of a problem as the basis of a project is the first - and most important - step in any research. The tips and ideas in this article will help you clearly identify the purpose of the research you are developing.
A clear research problem statement will likely form the skeleton of the Introduction of your final article. If you are able to clearly direct your reader (the most important person in the publishing process) to an important and interesting question, they will likely stay engaged, and use and cite your article in the future.
The AJE Team
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- Statement of the Problem
Q: How to write a problem statement for my research?
How can I write a good problem statement for my research paper? The topic is food safety in the school feeding scheme.
Asked by PATRICIA MANGALADZI on 18 Aug, 2017
A research problem is an area of concern or a gap in the existing knowledge that points to the need for further understanding and investigation. A problem statement is used in research work as a claim that outlines the problem addressed by a study. The problem statement briefly explains the problem that the research will address. If the topic of your research is food safety in the school feeding system, you need to first identify why food safety is lacking in schools. Your problem statement can explain that food safety in school feeding systems is an inmportant concern and point towards a gap in research that shows that this problem has not been addressed.
Here is a step-by-step guide that will tell you how exactly you can write a great problem statemnt for your paper: The basics of writing a statement of the problem for your research proposal
You might find this in-depth course helpful: How to write a statement of the problem
Answered by Editage Insights on 01 Sep, 2017
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Answered by Gebruu Hagoss on 26 Aug, 2018
hello thank you for ask me. please can you help to me?
what are the statement of problem ?
Answered by firomsa firee on 29 Nov, 2018
how can i write a good problem statement for academic purpose
Answered by OPUS HERBERT on 19 Feb, 2019
plz help the problem statement
Answered by Zeeshan Babar on 30 Apr, 2019
I need problem statement for topic related to development algorithms for Security information event management using ML algorithm, and applying Ns3 simulations to generate data
Answered by Elem Srs on 08 Dec, 2019
the records of borrowing members book, book issue and return transaction.
I need description for problem statement.
Answered by Hayma Lachume on 28 Oct, 2021
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A problem statement is a concise description of a specific issue that needs to be addressed in a study. It is an important component of any research project. By indentifying the main problem or concern, it provides a rationale for why the study is necessary.
This article will shed more light on the basics of a research statement, its purpose and how you can create it. A brief step by step guide on writing robust issue descriptions will be provided below. Stay with us and you will get prepared for conducting your own research! Also, you can check out paper writing service by StudyCrumb to get proficient help with this important task.
What Is a Problem Statement?
A problem statement provides an effective definition of an issue that you must examine in your work. It also servers the following purposes:
- Put an issue into a context.
- Explain the relevance of an issue and why you have chosen it for your project.
- Define objectives of your research. You should specify main steps you're planning on in order to can solve it.
At the same time, your problem statement should not be too wordy. It should contain only relevant details. It should be direct when describing all things mentioned above.
Why Problem Statement Is Important in Research?
Role of the problem statement in a research paper lies in creating a solid, well-organized basis for your study. It is an essential step in understanding the significance of an issue and finding effective solutions. This is why you should write a strong approach to an issue before planning your research steps. It will serve as a guide for you. Also, with its help you can quickly solve any issue you can encounter when writing a paper.
How to Write a Problem Statement for Research: Step-By-Step Guide
How to write a good problem statement? Most importantly, it should help you better understand full meaning and context of an issue. Better make sure you don't miss anything at the start of your project. We have prepared this quick guide on writing good approach to an issue. Let us explain it in detail. Help with research paper writing is there for you always.
Step 1. Offer Background in Your Problem Statement
Begin writing a problem statement by examining background of selected issue. Depending on the type of your research, focus on its practical or theoretical aspects. For practical issue, explain who or what is affected by this process. Tell what attempts have been made to find some solution. For theoretical one, explain what is already known about an issue from credible sources. Tell whether it is limited to any certain geographic location or period of time. Second, give it some context. Explain how this particular issue stands in a way of different processes. You may even explain those processes! After all, it is way easier for readers to sympathize with topic if they understand it.
Step 2. Explain Why the Problem Statement Matters
Statement of the problem should provide clear arguments for relevance of an issue. Unless it is obvious from context, you need to start with clear answers to questions like these:
- Is your problem connected to some other important ones?
- Which direct or indirect consequences can this issue bring for society, economics or environment?
- What can happen if it is not solved?
- What benefits can be gained by solving it?
- Will solving an issue contribute to better understanding of related area(s)?
Step 3. Find Effective Approaches in Your Problem Statement
Next step is exploring your possibilities given the context. Science project problem statement should determine the paths you are going to take with your research. Your approaches may:
- Address the aspects that make the heaviest impact and, therefore, need to be solved as soon as possible.
- Investigate connection with similar issues to find whether other solutions could be applied to this one.
- Explore the solutions suggested by other researchers if any are available.
Step 4. Show Research Objectives in Your Problem Statement
A statement of the problem in research paper should provide full description of your aim and objectives. The aim is typically not only about finding some solution. It examines the factors causing the issues and sets the research strategy. The following objectives can be used:
- Research methodology to identify different aspects of an issue and relations between factors.
- Research activities you perform to collect necessary data.
- Mathematical or statistical operations to measure the data you have collected.
Problem Statement Examples
We have prepared an example of problem statement in a research paper for your convenience. Jow to write my research papers ? Keep in mind that you need to focus on composing proper structure of your report for maximum efficiency.
There are a lot of different blogs we have for our users. For example, if you are looking for an example discussion section for a reasearch paper , we have got you covered.
Writing a Problem Statement: Final Thoughts
Today we have provided you with a quick guide on how to write a problem statement. Feel free to use it for your own research ideas.
Our paper writers are experts in various academic areas and they create high quality texts on a variety of topics, always delivering orders on time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Writing a Problem Statement
1. what is a good problem statement.
A good problem statement should provide clear definition of an issue at the beginning. You must include clear and concise explanation of its context. Also, add some absolute or relative measurements that quantify that gap. However you should not focus on possible causes or specific solutions at this stage.
2. Where do you put a problem statement in a research paper?
A problem statement in a research paper is to be put after thesis and research questions. Its purpose is to provide more details about specific area around your topic that is described in the thesis and to explain your objectives to show how you will obtain answers to the research questions.
3. What is the significance of a problem statement in a research paper?
A problem statement plays an important role in your research as it organizes the information you initially have about your subject. The purpose is to introduce the reader to the importance of the topic being studied. Besides, it helps you find appropriate ways to conduct the research and find the answers.
4. How long should a problem statement be in research proposal?
In problem statement you'd usually need 1 page to explain an issue your process improvement project will address. Depending on which format your tutor or your institution recommends, it also may include your approaches and your objectives. List of three or four items is enough for each of these two elements.
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The first step in research is to outline the research problem – this might be an area of concern, a gap in the existing knowledge or a deviation in something that has been previously established, which warrants further investigation.
Importance of the problem statement
The statement of a problem defines and describes the research hypothesis or question(s), along with the broad method that will be used to solve the problem . The statement of the problem serves as the basis for the introductory section of your project proposal. A well-formulated statement of the problem sets the stage for the rest of your study , including how you will address the problem and any anticipated outcomes or answers. Once you have very clearly laid out the core issue, problem or question that you’re investigating, you’ll have a much sharper focus for conducting and writing up the rest of your study. A clear and straightforward statement will also inform and impress your reader in grasping the issues that your proposed project will address.
Defining the ‘problem’
The research question should be compelling and must have an underlying basis. While formulating the problem statement, as a keen researcher, you should consider the current state of the topic in question, along with any other observations or educated guesses.
As you are defining the ‘problem’ that you are addressing in your research, consider the following questions:
- What is the problem?
- Why is it a problem, and why does it need to be resolved?
- What are the likely benefits of solving the problem?
- Besides the central question, what are smaller, specific questions that need to be asked and answered?
Clarifying and refining the problem statement
In the initial stages of writing, the problem statement might be a bit rough around the edges. A final and more refined form will emerge as you reflect more deeply over the topic and delve into the literature. The current status of the topic , including what is known and what is not , will help you refine your original problem statement to a clearer and more specific one.
Wrapping it up
To conclude the section, briefly summarise the problem and emphasise the need to fix it. All potential advantages and anticipated outcomes and implications should be mentioned here. Contextualising the problem in a broad sense will also strengthen your case.
Sample problem statement
In a detailed project proposal, the statement of the problem could be nearly a page long, over several paragraphs . In a report or paper, the problem is typically expressed in a few sentences in the Introduction . Here is an example based on a fictional study.
Early and targeted warning of dengue outbreaks is critical for vector control. Current studies have primarily focused on the role of weather conditions in dengue forecasting. Environmental and microenvironmental suitability for mosquito breeding has been sorely neglected as a crucial factor, particularly in the urban setting. The surge in dengue and other mosquito-borne infections in India metropolitan cities in 2020–2021 highlights the urgent need to identify conducive features to better track and predict outbreaks. This study proposes a framework for implementing intra-urban dengue forecasting by… Through this investigation, we aim to develop a set of early predictors for improved surveillance of dengue in large urban swathes in Indian metropolitan cities.
Dos and don’ts of writing a problem statement
- Write the actual problem statement as a declarative statement or as a question .
- Explain in the statement how previous studies have not addressed the issue or have fallen short due to certain limitations.
- Outline in your statement how you plan to overcome or circumvent previous roadblocks to fill these deficiencies.
- Ensure the statement is lucid and to the point, without any distracting information.
- Cite credible sources where needed.
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How to Write a Problem Statement In a Research Paper
In just about every sphere of life, problems, big and small, can arise at any time. The purpose of problem statements is to identify these and get them resolved. In the world of business, they’re used to improve projects and potentially increase profitability. In academia, people write such statements to narrow their focus and help them understand the significance of their research project.
On this page, we’ll discuss these in more detail and explain the process of writing a problem statement. Carry on reading to learn more and see how this particular piece of writing can benefit a research essay.
Table of contents
What is a problem statement, 3 main parts of the problem statement, how to write a statement of the problem in 5 steps, example of a problem statement in research, faqs about problem statements in research papers.
The definition of a problem statement is this: a summary of the research problem you’re addressing in your academic writing. It describes whatever your academic research is all about and explains why you’re writing about the topic. In essence, it says that there’s a particular research problem, and you’re trying to propose a solution or at least encourage others to come up with one. It’s not to be confused with a thesis statement , which is a summary of your text as a whole.
It’s important that you know how to write a problem statement because it’s a key part of your document. Having a convincing statement can make readers feel more engaged with what you’ve written. If they’re encouraged to read your research more carefully and concentrate more, they’re likely to respond to it better.
There are lots of interesting topics to research for academic essays. They can be grouped into two categories: theoretical and practical. A theoretical piece of writing is all about gathering knowledge about a particular topic, examining debates on it and improving understanding of it. On the other hand, a practical research essay seeks to find and implement solutions to real-world problems, bringing about some kind of social change.
You should come up with a structured research paper outline before you start writing. Being organised helps you write better and put together your research more coherently. This, in turn, makes it easier for people to read and engage with your writing.
There are three main parts to writing a research problem statement. These are explained in more detail below:
Summarising the Research Problem
For practical pieces of writing, the problem statement should be a detailed summary of the concern along with its causes and effects. It also helps to mention any previous attempts at solving the problem and how yours differs. Having facts and figures makes your problem statement more effective
If your subject matter is theoretical, you should think about the social aspects of your topic and how it’s been addressed in the past. You should also look at current debates on it and how the topic fits into today’s world
Explaining its Importance
In practical essays, the problem statement should stress the importance of the concern and why it needs to be addressed. It should highlight the negative effects that the problem has caused, is causing and may continue to cause if not solved
For a theoretical one, the problem statement is meant to justify the need for the research. It should prove to the reader that the topic is worthwhile and that your research can be beneficial to those interested in the topic
Showing What You’re Going to Do
If it’s a practical essay, the third part should be about your intentions. You should explain what your objectives are and how you’re going to achieve them. These should come with set targets and goals. You may not come up with a definitive answer to the research problem, but you’re making a contribution at least
In a theoretical one, the last part should be a summary of the steps you’re taking in your research. It should explain what you want to add to the topic and how you’re going to go about doing so
If you visit a site that writes papers for you , some of the writers may approach problem statements in different ways. There’s no set structure; you won’t get penalised if you deviate from the one above. However, as long as the statement is organised and clear, it should pass as a valuable part of your research document.
Some students hire research paper writers to produce first-draft essays for them. You should always hand in written texts that are yours only. However, having others produce essays can help you think about how you’re going to write your final copy.
- 1️⃣ Identify the Problem . Ask yourself what the problem is. What’s the key fault or concern that’s driven you to undertake your research?
- 2️⃣ Assess its Effects . For this part, consider the effects the problem is having. If your subject matter’s practical, think about how these may change or even worsen if the problem doesn’t get resolved. If it’s theoretical, concentrate your thoughts on how your research may improve another person’s understanding of the topic
- 3️⃣ Determine Your Desired Outcome . Come up with a realistic scenario that you want your research to produce. For practical essays, you should have a tangible fix to a real-world concern in mind. If it’s a theoretical essay, your desired outcome could be more awareness of or debates about the topic
- 4️⃣ List the Benefits of Your Desired Outcome . For your research to be worthwhile, your proposal should solve the central problem and have positive, long-lasting effects. Think about how your desired outcome may affect not just the problem, but other areas too
- 5️⃣ Outline What You Intend to Do . This part should be a summary of the steps you’re going to take to hopefully solve the problem
Now that we’ve looked at the steps of writing a problem statement, we’ll show you two examples.
This first one is a statement for a practical essay on getting more women into engineering job s:
Statistics show that just 16.5% of engineers in the UK are female. This deters some women from applying to jobs in an industry they may well prosper in. Ideally, the female sex would have greater representation in engineering. If this were the case, women would have more choices of careers. The intention of this research essay is to highlight the reasons why so few engineers are female and propose methods to get more young girls interested in the subject
This second example is for a theoretical piece of writing :
The representation of children in the plays of Shakespeare is an under-researched topic. The lack of focus on this area results in the playwright’s treatment of minors being largely ignored. It would be encouraging to see more articles, essays and even books written about child characters in Shakespearean players. Having more research into this area could improve our understanding of children in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. This essay intends to discuss the role and contribution of children in Shakespearean players to encourage further debate about them.
Both of the examples above highlight the research problem, talk about its effects, and explain what the overall aim of the work is. They’re succinct and concise. Each of them summarises the aim of the research and discusses it in enough detail for the reader to understand. Problem statements can be short, like these, or even shorter. Sometimes, they’re up to a page long.
It’s important to point out that the problem statement shouldn’t include the findings of the research. It should explain what the intention is, of course, but the results should be kept until the end of the text. After the statement, the rest of the text should be an in-depth discussion of the topic, which should build up to the results.
If you’re buying research papers online to help with your writing process, read through the problem statements and see how they compare. This can help you come up with a direct and informative problem statement of your own. Moreover, a problem or personal statement writing service is the right option to get a professionally written essay. Make sure to evaluate all your options before making a decision.
Having a problem statement in your research is important because it identifies the reason you’re producing the essay. The best problem statements convince the reader that the issue exists and that the course of action you’re proposing could be effective at solving it. Writing them is straightforward, so long as you know your topic and believe in what you’re writing. Be sure to include one in every academic document so your research is taken more seriously. If you are unaware of how to do that, you can order a research paper outline online. It will help you deliver the best paper and get good grades.
How long should a problem statement be?
It’s generally accepted that a problem statement should be roughly a page in length or less. For some papers, it can be just one or two sentences in length. For more in-depth pieces of writing, make the problem statement longer.
What does a problem statement look like?
The problem statement is simply some text outlining the reason for your research. It should be part of the introduction to your writing. It should identify the problem and let the reader know your intentions for solving it.
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How to Write a Statement of the Problem in Research
Table of Contents
The problem statement is a foundation of academic research writing , providing a precise representation of an existing gap or issue in a particular field of study.
Crafting a sharp and focused problem statement lays the groundwork for your research project.
- It highlights the research's significance .
- Emphasizes its potential to influence the broader academic community.
- Represents the initial step for you to make a meaningful contribution to your discipline.
Therefore, in this article, we will discuss what is a statement of the problem in research and how to craft a compelling research problem statement.
What is a research problem statement?
A research problem statement is a concise, clear, and specific articulation of a gap in current knowledge that your research aims to bridge. It not only sets forth the scope and direction of your research but also establishes its relevance and significance.
Your problem statement in your research paper aims to:
- Define the gap : Clearly identify and articulate a specific gap or issue in the existing knowledge.
- Provide direction : Serve as a roadmap, guiding the course of your research and ensuring you remain focused.
- Establish relevance : Highlight the importance and significance of the problem in the context of your field or the broader world.
- Guide inquiry : Formulate the research questions or hypotheses you'll explore.
- Communicate intent : Succinctly convey the core purpose of your research to stakeholders, peers, and any audience.
- Set boundaries : Clearly define the scope of your research to ensure it's focused and achievable.
When should you write a problem statement in research?
Initiate your research by crafting a clear problem statement. This should be done before any data collection or analysis, serving as a foundational anchor that clearly identifies the specific issue you aim to address.
By establishing this early on, you shape the direction of your research, ensuring it targets a genuine knowledge gap.
Furthermore, an effective and a concise statement of the problem in research attracts collaborators, funders, and supporters, resonating with its clarity and purpose. Remember, as your research unfolds, the statement might evolve, reflecting new insights and staying pertinent.
But how do you distinguish between a well-crafted problem statement and one that falls short?
Effective vs. ineffective research problem statements
Imagine a scenario where medical researchers aim to tackle a new strain of virus. Their effective problem statement wouldn't merely state the existence of the virus. Instead, it would delve into the specifics — the regions most affected, the demographics most vulnerable, and the current limitations in medical interventions.
Whereas an ineffective research problem statement is vague, overly broad, or ambiguous, failing to provide a clear direction for the research. It may not be rooted in existing literature, might lack clarity on its significance, or could be framed in a way that makes the research objectives unachievable or irrelevant.
To understand it better, let's consider the topic of “Remote work and employee productivity.”
Effective problem statement
“Over the past decade, there has been a 70% increase in organizations adopting remote work policies. While some studies suggest remote work enhances employee productivity, others indicate potential declines due to distractions at home.
However, there’s a lack of comprehensive research examining the specific factors in a remote environment that influence productivity. This study aims to identify and analyze these factors, providing organizations with actionable insights to optimize remote work policies.”
Why is this statement of a problem in research effective?
- Specificity : The statement provides a clear percentage to highlight the rise in remote work.
- Context : It acknowledges existing research and the conflicting findings.
- Clear gap identification : It points out the lack of comprehensive research on specific factors affecting productivity in remote work.
- Purpose : The statement concludes with a clear aim for the research.
Ineffective problem statement
"People are working from home a lot now, especially since there are so many internet tools. Some say it's good; others say it's not that great. This research will just look into the whole work-from-home thing and see what's up."
Why is this statement of a problem in research ineffective?
- Informal language : Phrases like "what's up" and "the whole work-from-home thing" are not suitable for academic writing.
- Vagueness : The statement doesn't provide any specific data or context about the rise of remote work.
- Lack of clear focus : It's unclear what aspect of remote work the research will address.
- Ambiguous purpose : The statement doesn't specify the research's objectives or expected outcomes.
After gaining an understanding of what an effective research problem statement looks like, let's dive deeper into how to write one.
How to write a problem statement in research?
Drafting your research problem statement at the onset of your research journey ensures that your research remains anchored. That means by defining and articulating the main issue or challenge you intend to address at the very beginning of your research process; you provide a clear focus and direction for the entire study.
Here's a detailed guide to how you can write an effective statement of the problem in research.
Identify the research area : Before addressing a specific problem, you need to know the broader domain or field of your study. This helps in contextualizing your research and ensuring it aligns with existing academic disciplines.
Example: If you're curious about the effects of digital technology on human behavior, your broader research area might be Digital Sociology or Media Studies.
Conduct preliminary literature review : Familiarize yourself with existing research related to your topic. This will help you understand what's already known and, more importantly, identify gaps or unresolved questions in the existing knowledge. This step also ensures you're advancing upon existing work rather than replicating it.
Example: Upon reviewing literature on digital technology and behavior, you find many studies on social media's impact on youth but fewer on its effects on the elderly.
Read how to conduct an effective literature review .
Define the specific problem : After thoroughly reviewing the literature, pinpoint a particular issue that your research will address. Ensure that this chosen issue is not only of substantial importance in its field but also realistically approachable given your resources and expertise. To define it precisely, you might consider:
- Highlighting discrepancies or contradictions in existing literature.
- Emphasizing the real-world implications of this gap.
- Assessing the feasibility of exploring this issue within your means and timeframe.
Example: You decide to investigate how digital technology, especially social media, affects the mental well-being of the elderly, given the limited research in this area.
Articulate clearly and concisely : Your problem statement should be straightforward and devoid of jargon. It needs to convey the essence of your research issue in a manner that's understandable to both experts and non-experts.
Example: " The impact of social media on the mental well-being of elderly individuals remains underexplored, despite the growing adoption of digital technology in this age group. "
Highlight the significance : Explain why your chosen research problem matters. This could be due to its real-world implications, its potential to fill a knowledge gap or its relevance to current events or trends.
Example: As the elderly population grows and becomes more digitally connected, understanding the psychological effects of social media on this demographic could inform digital literacy programs and mental health interventions.
Ensure feasibility : Your research problem should be something you can realistically study, given your resources, timeframe, and expertise. It's essential to ensure that you can gather data, conduct experiments, or access necessary materials or participants.
Example: You plan to survey elderly individuals in local community centers about their social media usage and perceived mental well-being, ensuring you have the means to reach this demographic.
Seek feedback : Discuss your preliminary problem statement with peers, mentors, or experts in the field. They can provide insights, point out potential pitfalls, or suggest refinements.
Example: After discussing with a gerontologist, you decide to also consider the role of digital training in moderating the effects of social media on the elderly.
Refine and Revise : Based on feedback and further reflection, revise and improve your problem statement. This iterative process ensures clarity, relevance, and precision.
Example: Your refined statement reads: Despite the increasing digital connectivity of the elderly, the effects of social media on their mental well-being, especially in the context of digital training, remain underexplored.
By following these detailed steps, you can craft a research problem statement that is both compelling and academically rigorous.
Having explored the details of crafting a research problem statement, it's crucial to distinguish it from another fundamental element in academic research: the thesis statement.
Difference between a thesis statement and a problem statement
While both terms are central to research, a thesis statement presents your primary claim or argument, whereas a problem statement describes the specific issue your research aims to address.
Think of the thesis statement as the conclusion you're driving towards, while the problem statement identifies a specific gap in current knowledge.
For instance, a problem statement might highlight the rising mental health issues among teenagers, while the thesis statement could propose that increased screen time is a significant contributor.
Refer to the comparison table between what is a thesis and a problem statement in the research below:
Common mistakes to avoid in writing statement of the problem in research
Mistakes in the research problem statement can lead to a domino effect, causing misalignment in research objectives, wasted resources, and even inconclusive or irrelevant results.
Recognizing and avoiding these pitfalls not only strengthens the foundation of your research but also ensures that your efforts concede impactful insights.
Here's a detailed exploration of frequent subjective, qualitative, quantitative and measurable mistakes and how you can sidestep them.
Being too broad or too narrow
A problem statement that's too broad can lack focus, making it challenging to derive specific research questions or objectives. Conversely, a statement that's too narrow might limit the scope of your research or make it too trivial.
Example of mistake: "Studying the effects of diet on health" is too broad, while "Studying the effects of eating green apples at 3 pm on heart health" is overly narrow.
You can refine the scope based on preliminary research. The correct way to write this problem statement will be "Studying the effects of a high-fiber diet on heart health in adults over 50." This statement is neither too broad nor too narrow, and it provides a clear direction for the research.
Using unnecessary jargon or technical language
While academic writing often involves academic terms, overloading your problem statement with jargon can alienate readers and obscure the actual problem.
Example of Mistake: "Examining the diurnal variations in macronutrient ingestion vis-à-vis metabolic homeostasis."
To ensure it’s not complicated, you can simplify and clarify. "Examining how daily changes in nutrient intake affect metabolic balance" conveys the same idea more accessible.
Not emphasizing the "Why" of the problem
It's not enough to state a problem; you must also convey its significance. Why does this problem matter? What are the implications of not addressing it?
Example of Mistake: "Many students are not engaging with online learning platforms."
You can proceed with the approach of highlighting the significance here. "Many students are not engaging with online learning platforms, leading to decreased academic performance and widening educational disparities."
Circular reasoning and lack of relevance
Your problem statement should be grounded in existing research or observed phenomena. Avoid statements that assume what they set out to prove or lack a clear basis in current knowledge.
Example of Mistake: "We need to study X because not enough research has been done on X."
Instead, try grounding your statement based on already-known facts. "While several studies have explored Y, the specific impact of X remains unclear, necessitating further research."
Being overly ambitious
While it's commendable to aim high, your problem statement should reflect a challenge that's achievable within your means, timeframe, and resources.
Example of Mistake: "This research will solve world hunger."
Here, you need to be realistic and focused. "This research aims to develop sustainable agricultural techniques to increase crop yields in arid regions."
By being mindful of these common mistakes, you can craft a problem statement that is clear, relevant and sets a solid foundation for your research.
Over-reliance on outdated data
Using data that is no longer relevant can mislead the direction of your research. It's essential to ensure that the statistics or findings you reference are current and pertinent to the present scenario.
Example of Mistake: "According to a 1995 study, only 5% of the population uses the internet for daily tasks."
You always cross-check the dates and relevance of the data you're using. For a contemporary study on internet usage, you'd want to reference more recent statistics.
Not specifying the sample size or demographic
A problem statement should be clear about the population or sample size being studied, especially when making generalizations or claims.
Example of Mistake: "People prefer online shopping to in-store shopping."
Here, you would benefit from specifying the demographic or sample size when presenting data to avoid overgeneralization. " In a survey of 1,000 urban residents aged 18-35, 70% expressed a preference for online shopping over in-store shopping. "
Ignoring conflicting data
Cherry-picking data that supports your hypothesis while ignoring conflicting data can lead to a biased problem statement.
Example of Mistake: "Research shows that all students benefit from online learning."
You’ve to ensure a balanced view by considering all relevant data, even if it contradicts your hypothesis. " While many studies highlight the advantages of online learning for students, some research points to challenges such as decreased motivation and lack of face-to-face interaction. "
Making unsubstantiated predictions
Projecting future trends without solid data can weaken the credibility of your problem statement.
Example of Mistake: "The demand for electric cars will increase by 500% in the next year."
Base your predictions on current trends and reliable data sources, avoiding hyperbolic or unsupported claims. " With the current growth rate and recent advancements in battery technology, there's potential for a significant rise in the demand for electric cars. "
A well-crafted problem statement ensures that your research is focused, relevant, and contributes meaningfully to the broader academic community.
However, the consequences of an incorrect or poorly constructed problem statement can be severe. It can lead to misdirected research efforts, wasted resources, compromised credibility, and even ethical concerns. Such pitfalls underscore the importance of dedicating time and effort to craft a precise and impactful problem statement.
So, as you start your research journey , remember that a well-defined problem statement is not just a starting point; it guides your entire research journey, ensuring clarity, relevance, and meaningful contributions to your field.