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  • Research Process

What is a Problem Statement? [with examples]

  • 5 minute read

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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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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 .

Free Webinar: How To Find A Dissertation Research Topic

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 statement of the problem in a research context:

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?

sample problem statement for research paper

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.

The relationship between the research problem and research gap

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.

Key Takeaways

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 .

sample problem statement for research paper

Psst... there’s more!

This post was based on one of our popular Research Bootcamps . If you're working on a research project, you'll definitely want to check this out ...

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I APPRECIATE YOUR CONCISE AND MIND-CAPTIVATING INSIGHTS ON THE STATEMENT OF PROBLEMS. PLEASE I STILL NEED SOME SAMPLES RELATED TO SUICIDES.

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Very pleased and appreciate clear information.

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Your videos and information have been a life saver for me throughout my dissertation journey. I wish I’d discovered them sooner. Thank you!

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Effective problem statements have these 5 components

problem-statement-colleagues-gathered-talking-in-office

We’ve all encountered problems on the job. After all, that’s what a lot of work is about. Solving meaningful problems to help improve something. 

Developing a problem statement that provides a brief description of an issue you want to solve is an important early step in problem-solving .

It sounds deceptively simple. But creating an effective problem statement isn’t that easy, even for a genius like Albert Einstein. Given one hour to work on a problem, he’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes finding solutions. (Or so the story goes.)

Einstein was probably exaggerating to make a point. But considering his success in solving complex problems, we think he was on to something. 

As humans, we’re wired to jump past the problem and go directly to the solution stage. In emergencies, this behavior can be lifesaving, as in leaping out of the way of a speeding car. But when dealing with longer-range issues in the workplace, this can lead to bad decisions or half-baked solutions. 

That’s where problem statements come in handy. They help to meaningfully outline objectives to reach effective solutions. Knowing how to develop a great problem statement is also a valuable tool for honing your management skills .

But what exactly is a problem statement, when should you use one, and how do you go about writing one? In this article, we'll answer those questions and give you some tips for writing effective problem statements. Then you'll be ready to take on more challenges large and small.

What is a problem statement?

First, let’s start by defining a problem statement. 

A problem statement is a short, clear explanation of an issue or challenge that sums up what you want to change. It helps you, team members, and other stakeholders to focus on the problem, why it’s important, and who it impacts. 

A good problem statement should create awareness and stimulate creative thinking . It should not identify a solution or create a bias toward a specific strategy.

Taking time to work on a problem statement is a great way to short-circuit the tendency to rush to solutions. It helps to make sure you’re focusing on the right problem and have a well-informed understanding of the root causes. The process can also help you take a more proactive than reactive approach to problem-solving . This can help position you and your team to avoid getting stuck in constant fire-fighting mode. That way, you can take advantage of more growth opportunities.  

When to use a problem statement

The best time to create a problem statement is before you start thinking of solutions. If you catch yourself or your team rushing to the solution stage when you’re first discussing a problem, hit the brakes. Go back and work on the statement of the problem to make sure everyone understands and agrees on what the real problem is. 

Here are some common situations where writing problem statements might come in handy: 

  • Writing an executive summary for a project proposal or research project
  • Collaborating   on a cross-functional project with several team members
  • Defining the customer issue that a proposed product or service aims to solve
  • Using design thinking to improve user experience
  • Tackling a problem that previous actions failed to solve 

How to identify a problem statement

Like the unseen body of an iceberg, the root cause of a specific problem isn’t always obvious. So when developing a problem statement, how do you go about identifying the true, underlying problem?

These two steps will help you uncover the root cause of a problem :

  • Collect information from the research and previous experience with the problem
  • Talk to multiple stakeholders who are impacted by the problem

People often perceive problems differently. Interviewing stakeholders will help you understand the problem from diverse points of view. It can also help you develop some case studies to illustrate the problem. 

Combining these insights with research data will help you identify root causes more accurately. In turn, this methodology will help you craft a problem statement that will lead to more viable solutions. 

What are problem statements used for?

You can use problem statements for a variety of purposes. For an organization, it might be solving customer and employee issues. For the government, it could be improving public health. For individuals, it can mean enhancing their own personal well-being . Generally, problem statements can be used to:

  • Identify opportunities for improvement
  • Focus on the right problems or issues to launch more successful initiatives – a common challenge in leadership
  • Help you communicate a problem to others who need to be involved in finding a solution
  • Serve as the basis for developing an action plan or goals that need to be accomplished to help solve the problem
  • Stimulate thinking outside the box  and other types of creative brainstorming techniques

3 examples of problem statements

When you want to be sure you understand a concept or tool, it helps to see an example. There can also be some differences in opinion about what a problem statement should look like. For instance, some frameworks include a proposed solution as part of the problem statement. But if the goal is to stimulate fresh ideas, it’s better not to suggest a solution within the problem statement. 

In our experience, an effective problem statement is brief, preferably one sentence. It’s also specific and descriptive without being prescriptive. 

Here are three problem statement examples. While these examples represent three types of problems or goals, keep in mind that there can be many other types of problem statements.        

Example Problem Statement 1: The Status Quo Problem Statement

Example: 

The average customer service on-hold time for Example company exceeds five minutes during both its busy and slow seasons.

This can be used to describe a current pain point within an organization that may need to be addressed. Note that the statement specifies that the issue occurs during the company’s slow time as well as the busy season. This is helpful in performing the root cause analysis and determining how this problem can be solved. 

The average customer service on-hold time for Example company exceeds five minutes during both its busy and slow seasons. The company is currently understaffed and customer service representatives are overwhelmed.

Background:

Example company is facing a significant challenge in managing their customer service on-hold times. In the past, the company had been known for its efficient and timely customer service, but due to a combination of factors, including understaffing and increased customer demand, the on-hold times have exceeded five minutes consistently. This has resulted in frustration and dissatisfaction among customers, negatively impacting the company's reputation and customer loyalty.

Reducing the on-hold times for customer service callers is crucial for Example company. Prolonged waiting times have a detrimental effect on customer satisfaction and loyalty, leading to potential customer churn and loss of revenue. Additionally, the company's declining reputation in terms of customer service can have a lasting impact on its competitive position in the market. Addressing this problem is of utmost importance to improve customer experience and maintain a positive brand image.

Objectives:

The primary objective of this project is to reduce the on-hold times for customer service callers at Example company. The specific objectives include:

  • Analyzing the current customer service workflow and identifying bottlenecks contributing to increased on-hold times.
  • Assessing the staffing levels and resource allocation to determine the extent of understaffing and its impact on customer service.
  • Developing strategies and implementing measures to optimize the customer service workflow and reduce on-hold times.
  • Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the implemented measures through key performance indicators (KPIs) such as average on-hold time, customer satisfaction ratings, and customer feedback.
  • Establishing a sustainable approach to maintain reduced on-hold times, taking into account both busy and slow seasons, through proper resource planning, training, and process improvements.

Example Problem Statement 2: The Destination Problem Statement

Leaders at Example company want to increase net revenue for its premium product line of widgets by 5% for the next fiscal year. 

This approach can be used to describe where an organization wants to be in the future. This type of problem statement is useful for launching initiatives to help an organization achieve its desired state. 

Like creating SMART goals , you want to be as specific as possible. Note that the statement specifies “net revenue” instead of “gross revenue." This will help keep options open for potential actions. It also makes it clear that merely increasing sales is not an acceptable solution if higher marketing costs offset the net gains. 

Leaders at Example company aim to increase net revenue for its premium product line of widgets by 5% for the next fiscal year. However, the company currently lacks the necessary teams to tackle this objective effectively. To achieve this growth target, the company needs to expand its marketing and PR teams, as well as its product development teams, to prepare for scaling. 

Example company faces the challenge of generating a 5% increase in net revenue for its premium product line of widgets in the upcoming fiscal year. Currently, the company lacks the required workforce to drive this growth. Without adequate staff in the marketing, PR, and product development departments, the company's ability to effectively promote, position, and innovate its premium product line will be hindered. To achieve this kind of growth, it is essential that Example company expands teams, enhances capabilities, and strategically taps into the existing pool of loyal customers.

Increasing net revenue for the premium product line is crucial for Example company's overall business success. Failure to achieve the targeted growth rate can lead to missed revenue opportunities and stagnation in the market. By expanding the marketing and PR teams, Example company can strengthen its brand presence, effectively communicate the value proposition of its premium product line, and attract new customers.

Additionally, expanding the product development teams will enable the company to introduce new features and innovations, further enticing existing and potential customers. Therefore, addressing the workforce shortage and investing in the necessary resources are vital for achieving the revenue growth objective.

The primary objective of this project is to increase net revenue for Example company's premium product line of widgets by 5% in the next fiscal year. The specific objectives include:

  • Assessing the current workforce and identifying the gaps in the marketing, PR, and product development teams.
  • Expanding the marketing and PR teams by hiring skilled professionals who can effectively promote the premium product line and engage with the target audience.
  • Strengthening the product development teams by recruiting qualified individuals who can drive innovation, enhance product features, and meet customer demands.
  • Developing a comprehensive marketing and PR strategy to effectively communicate the value proposition of the premium product line and attract new customers.
  • Leveraging the existing base of loyal customers to increase repeat purchases, referrals, and brand advocacy.
  • Allocating sufficient resources, both time and manpower, to support the expansion and scaling efforts required to achieve the ambitious revenue growth target.
  • Monitoring and analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs) such as net revenue, customer acquisition, customer retention, and customer satisfaction to measure the success of the growth initiatives.
  • Establishing a sustainable plan to maintain the increased revenue growth beyond the next fiscal year by implementing strategies for continuous improvement and adaptation to market dynamics.

Example Problem Statement 3 The Stakeholder Problem Statement

In the last three quarterly employee engagement surveys , less than 30% of employees at Eample company stated that they feel valued by the company. This represents a 20% decline compared to the same period in the year prior. 

This strategy can be used to describe how a specific stakeholder group views the organization. It can be useful for exploring issues and potential solutions that impact specific groups of people. 

Note the statement makes it clear that the issue has been present in multiple surveys and it's significantly worse than the previous year. When researching root causes, the HR team will want to zero in on factors that changed since the previous year.

In the last three quarterly employee engagement surveys, less than 30% of employees at the Example company stated that they feel valued by the company. This indicates a significant decline of 20% compared to the same period in the previous year.

The company aspires to reduce this percentage further to under 10%. However, achieving this goal would require filling specialized roles and implementing substantial cultural changes within the organization.

Example company is facing a pressing issue regarding employee engagement and perceived value within the company. Over the past year, there has been a notable decline in the percentage of employees who feel valued. This decline is evident in the results of the quarterly employee engagement surveys, which consistently show less than 30% of employees reporting a sense of value by the company.

This decline of 20% compared to the previous year's data signifies a concerning trend. To address this problem effectively, Example company needs to undertake significant measures that go beyond superficial changes and necessitate filling specialized roles and transforming the company culture.

Employee engagement and a sense of value are crucial for organizational success. When employees feel valued, they tend to be more productive, committed, and motivated. Conversely, a lack of perceived value can lead to decreased morale, increased turnover rates, and diminished overall performance.

By addressing the decline in employees feeling valued, Example company can improve employee satisfaction, retention, and ultimately, overall productivity. Achieving the desired reduction to under 10% is essential to restore a positive work environment and build a culture of appreciation and respect.

The primary objective of this project is to increase the percentage of employees who feel valued by Example company, aiming to reduce it to under 10%. The specific objectives include:

  • Conducting a comprehensive analysis of the factors contributing to the decline in employees feeling valued, including organizational policies, communication practices, leadership styles, and cultural norms.
  • Identifying and filling specialized roles, such as employee engagement specialists or culture change agents, who can provide expertise and guidance in fostering a culture of value and appreciation.
  • Developing a holistic employee engagement strategy that encompasses various initiatives, including training programs, recognition programs, feedback mechanisms, and communication channels, to enhance employee value perception.
  • Implementing cultural changes within the organization that align with the values of appreciation, respect, and recognition, while fostering an environment where employees feel valued.
  • Communicating the importance of employee value and engagement throughout all levels of the organization, including leadership teams, managers, and supervisors, to ensure consistent messaging and support.
  • Monitoring progress through regular employee surveys, feedback sessions, and key performance indicators (KPIs) related to employee satisfaction, turnover rates, and overall engagement levels.
  • Providing ongoing support, resources, and training to managers and supervisors to enable them to effectively recognize and appreciate their teams and foster a culture of value within their respective departments.
  • Establishing a sustainable framework for maintaining high employee value perception in the long term, including regular evaluation and adaptation of employee engagement initiatives to address evolving needs and expectations.

problem-statement-man-with-arms-crossed-smiling

What are the 5 components of a problem statement?

In developing a problem statement, it helps to think like a journalist by focusing on the five Ws: who, what, when, where, and why or how. Keep in mind that every statement may not explicitly include each component. But asking these questions is a good way to make sure you’re covering the key elements:

  • Who: Who are the stakeholders that are affected by the problem?
  • What: What is the current state, desired state, or unmet need? 
  • When: When is the issue occurring or what is the timeframe involved?
  • Where: Where is the problem occurring? For example, is it in a specific department, location, or region?
  • Why: Why is this important or worth solving? How is the problem impacting your customers, employees, other stakeholders, or the organization? What is the magnitude of the problem? How large is the gap between the current and desired state? 

How do you write a problem statement?

There are many frameworks designed to help people write a problem statement. One example is outlined in the book, The Conclusion Trap: Four Steps to Better Decisions, ” by Daniel Markovitz. A faculty member at the Lean Enterprise Institute, the author uses many case studies from his work as a business consultant.

To simplify the process, we’ve broken it down into three steps:

1. Gather data and observe

Use data from research and reports, as well as facts from direct observation to answer the five Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. 

Whenever possible, get out in the field and talk directly with stakeholders impacted by the problem. Get a firsthand look at the work environment and equipment. This may mean spending time on the production floor asking employees questions about their work and challenges. Or taking customer service calls to learn more about customer pain points and problems your employees may be grappling with.    

2. Frame the problem properly  

A well-framed problem will help you avoid cognitive bias and open avenues for discussion. It will also encourage the exploration of more options.

A good way to test a problem statement for bias is to ask questions like these:

3. Keep asking why (and check in on the progress)

When it comes to problem-solving, stay curious. Lean on your growth mindset to keep asking why — and check in on the progress. 

Asking why until you’re satisfied that you’ve uncovered the root cause of the problem will help you avoid ineffective band-aid solutions.

Refining your problem statements

When solving any sort of problem, there’s likely a slew of questions that might arise for you. In order to holistically understand the root cause of the problem at hand, your workforce needs to stay curious. 

An effective problem statement creates the space you and your team need to explore, gain insight, and get buy-in before taking action.

If you have embarked on a proposed solution, it’s also important to understand that solutions are malleable. There may be no single best solution. Solutions can change and adapt as external factors change, too. It’s more important than ever that organizations stay agile . This means that interactive check-ins are critical to solving tough problems. By keeping a good pulse on your course of action, you’ll be better equipped to pivot when the time comes to change. 

BetterUp can help. With access to virtual coaching , your people can get personalized support to help solve tough problems of the future.

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Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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Research Method

Home » Problem Statement – Writing Guide, Examples and Types

Problem Statement – Writing Guide, Examples and Types

Table of Contents

Problem Statement

Problem Statement

Definition:

Problem statement is a clear, concise, and well-defined statement that outlines the issue or challenge that needs to be addressed. It is a crucial element in any project or research as it provides a clear understanding of the problem, its context, and its potential impact.

Types of Problem Statements

There are various types of problem statements, and the type of problem statement used depends on the context and purpose of the project or research. Some common types of problem statements are:

Business Problem Statement

Business Problem Statement identifies a problem or challenge within an organization that needs to be solved. It typically includes the impact of the problem on the organization and its stakeholders, such as customers, employees, or shareholders.

Research Problem Statement

Research Problem Statement outlines the research question or problem that the study aims to address. It describes the research objectives, the significance of the research, and the potential impact of the research findings.

Design Problem Statement

Design Problem Statement defines the problem or challenge that a design project aims to solve. It includes the user’s needs, the design constraints, and the desired outcomes of the design project.

Social Problem Statement

Social Problem Statement describes a problem or challenge in society that needs to be addressed. It typically includes the social, economic, or political impact of the problem and its effect on individuals or communities.

Technical Problem Statement

Technical Problem Statement defines a problem or challenge related to technology or engineering. It includes the technical requirements, constraints, and potential solutions to the problem.

Components of Problem Statement

The components of a problem statement may vary depending on the context and purpose of the project or research, but some common components include:

  • Problem description : This component provides a clear and concise description of the problem, its context, and its impact. It should explain what the problem is, who is affected by it, and why it needs to be addressed.
  • Background information : This component provides context for the problem by describing the current state of knowledge or practice related to the problem. It may include a review of relevant literature, data, or other sources of information.
  • Objectives : This component outlines the specific objectives that the project or research aims to achieve. It should explain what the project or research team hopes to accomplish by addressing the problem.
  • Scope : This component defines the boundaries of the problem by specifying what is included and excluded from the problem statement. It should clarify the limits of the project or research and ensure that the team remains focused on the core problem.
  • Methodology : This component outlines the approach or methodology that the project or research team will use to address the problem. It may include details about data collection, analysis, or other methods used to achieve the objectives.
  • Expected outcomes : This component describes the potential impact or outcomes that the project or research aims to achieve. It should explain how the solution or findings will address the problem and benefit the stakeholders.

How to write Problem Statement

Here are some general steps to follow when writing a problem statement:

  • Identify the problem : Clearly identify the problem that needs to be addressed. Consider the context, stakeholders, and potential consequences of the problem.
  • Research the problem: Conduct research to gather data and information about the problem. This may involve reviewing literature, analyzing data, or consulting with experts.
  • Define the problem: Define the problem clearly and concisely, using specific language and avoiding vague or ambiguous terms. Be sure to include the impact of the problem and the context in which it occurs.
  • State the objectives : Clearly state the objectives that the project or research aims to achieve. This should be specific and measurable, with clear outcomes that can be evaluated.
  • Identify the scope: Identify the boundaries of the problem, including what is included and excluded from the problem statement. This helps to ensure that the team remains focused on the core problem.
  • Outline the methodology : Outline the approach or methodology that the project or research team will use to address the problem. This should be based on research and best practices, and should be feasible and realistic.
  • Describe the expected outcomes : Describe the potential impact or outcomes that the project or research aims to achieve. Be specific about how the solution or findings will address the problem and benefit the stakeholders.
  • Revise and refine : Review the problem statement and revise it as needed to ensure clarity, accuracy, and completeness.

Applications of Problem Statement

Here are some of the applications of problem statements:

  • Research : In academic research, problem statements are used to clearly define the research problem, identify the research question, and justify the need for the study. A well-crafted problem statement is essential for the success of any research project.
  • Project management: In project management, problem statements are used to identify the issues or challenges that a project team needs to address. Problem statements help project managers to define project scope, set project goals, and develop project plans.
  • Business strategy: In business strategy, problem statements are used to identify business challenges and opportunities. Problem statements help businesses to define their strategic objectives, develop action plans, and allocate resources.
  • Product development : In product development, problem statements are used to identify customer needs and develop new products that address those needs. Problem statements help product developers to define product requirements, develop product features, and test product prototypes.
  • Policy-making: In public policy-making, problem statements are used to identify social, economic, and environmental issues that require government intervention. Problem statements help policymakers to define policy objectives, develop policy options, and evaluate policy outcomes.

Examples of Problem Statements

Examples of Problem Statements are as follows:

  • High student-to-teacher ratios are leading to decreased individualized attention and lower academic achievement.
  • Limited funding for extracurricular activities is limiting opportunities for student development and engagement.
  • The lack of diversity and inclusion in curriculum is limiting cultural understanding and perpetuating inequalities.
  • The need for continuous professional development for teachers is crucial to improving teaching quality and student outcomes.
  • Unequal access to education due to socio-economic status, geographical location, or other factors is contributing to disparities in academic achievement.
  • The shortage of healthcare professionals is leading to increased patient wait times and decreased quality of care.
  • Limited access to mental health services is contributing to the high prevalence of mental health issues and suicides.
  • The over-prescription of opioids is contributing to the current opioid epidemic and increasing rates of addiction and overdose.
  • Limited access to affordable and nutritious food is leading to poor nutrition and increased rates of chronic diseases.
  • The lack of standardized electronic health record systems is limiting coordination of care and leading to medical errors.

Environmental Science

  • Pollution from industrial and agricultural practices is contributing to climate change and increased health risks.
  • The overexploitation of natural resources is leading to decreased biodiversity and ecological imbalance.
  • Limited access to clean water is leading to health issues and affecting agriculture and economic development.
  • The destruction of natural habitats is leading to the extinction of many species and disrupting ecosystems.
  • Climate change is leading to more frequent and severe natural disasters, causing significant damage to infrastructure and displacement of populations.

Engineering

  • The inadequate design and maintenance of bridges and roads is leading to increased accidents and fatalities.
  • The lack of reliable and sustainable energy sources is contributing to environmental degradation and limiting economic growth.
  • The lack of cybersecurity measures in critical infrastructure is making it vulnerable to cyber attacks and compromising public safety.
  • The lack of efficient waste management systems is contributing to pollution and environmental degradation.
  • The need for developing technologies that are environmentally friendly and sustainable is crucial to addressing climate change.

Social Work

  • The lack of resources for mental health and social services is contributing to homelessness and the need for emergency assistance.
  • The high prevalence of child abuse and neglect is leading to long-term physical and emotional harm to children.
  • The lack of affordable and accessible childcare is limiting the opportunities for working parents, especially mothers.
  • The stigmatization of mental health issues is limiting access to mental health services and perpetuating discrimination.
  • The limited access to education, employment, and housing opportunities is contributing to poverty and social inequality.
  • The increasing use of ad-blocking software is limiting the effectiveness of traditional digital advertising.
  • The lack of transparency in digital advertising is leading to ad fraud and decreased trust in online marketing.
  • The need to adapt marketing strategies to changing consumer behaviors and preferences is crucial to reaching target audiences effectively.
  • The high competition in the marketplace is making it challenging for small businesses to compete with larger corporations.
  • The need to balance marketing goals with ethical considerations is crucial to maintaining consumer trust and avoiding negative publicity.
  • The high prevalence of anxiety and depression is leading to decreased productivity and increased healthcare costs.
  • The limited access to mental health services in certain geographic areas is limiting access to care and contributing to disparities in mental health outcomes.
  • The need for effective prevention and intervention programs for substance abuse and addiction is crucial to reducing rates of addiction and overdose.
  • The lack of awareness and understanding of mental health issues is perpetuating stigma and limiting access to care.
  • The need for culturally sensitive mental health services that are tailored to the needs of diverse populations is crucial to improving mental health outcomes.

Purpose of Problem Statement

The purpose of a problem statement is to clearly and concisely describe a specific problem or issue that needs to be addressed. It serves as a clear and succinct explanation of the problem, its context, and its importance, providing the necessary information to understand why the problem is worth solving. A well-crafted problem statement also helps to define the scope of the problem, which in turn helps to guide the research or problem-solving process. In essence, a problem statement sets the stage for identifying potential solutions and determining the best approach to solve the problem.

Characteristics of Problem Statement

The characteristics of a good problem statement include:

  • Clear and concise : A problem statement should be written in clear and concise language, free of technical jargon, and easily understandable to the intended audience.
  • Specific : The statement should clearly define the problem and its scope. It should identify the who, what, where, when, and why of the problem.
  • Measurable : A problem statement should be measurable in some way, whether through quantitative or qualitative methods. This allows for objective assessment of progress towards solving the problem.
  • Relevant : The problem statement should be relevant to the context in which it is presented. It should relate to the needs and concerns of stakeholders and the broader community.
  • Feasible : The problem statement should be realistic and achievable, given the available resources and constraints.
  • Innovative: A good problem statement should inspire creative and innovative solutions.
  • Actionable : The problem statement should lead to actionable steps that can be taken to address the problem. It should provide a roadmap for moving forward.

Advantages of Problem Statement

Advantages of Problem Statement are as follows:

  • Focus : A problem statement helps to clearly define the problem at hand and provides focus to the problem-solving process. It helps to avoid wasting time and resources on issues that are not relevant.
  • Alignment : A well-written problem statement ensures that everyone involved in the problem-solving process is on the same page and understands the issue at hand. This alignment helps to ensure that efforts are focused in the right direction and that everyone is working towards the same goal.
  • Clarity : A problem statement provides clarity about the nature of the problem and its impact. This clarity helps to facilitate communication and decision-making, making it easier to develop effective solutions.
  • Innovation : A well-crafted problem statement can inspire creativity and encourage innovative thinking. By clearly defining the problem, it can help to identify new approaches and solutions that may not have been considered before.
  • Measurability : A problem statement that is clear and specific can be used to measure progress and success. It helps to ensure that efforts are focused on addressing the root cause of the problem and that progress towards a solution can be tracked and evaluated.

Limitations of Problem Statement

While problem statements have many advantages, they also have some limitations, such as:

  • Limited Scope: A problem statement is usually focused on a specific issue or challenge. As a result, it may not capture the full complexity of a larger problem, which can limit the effectiveness of the solutions developed.
  • Lack of Detail : In some cases, problem statements may be too broad or lack sufficient detail, which can make it difficult to develop effective solutions. It’s important to ensure that the problem statement is specific enough to guide the problem-solving process.
  • Bias : The way in which a problem statement is written can sometimes reflect the biases or assumptions of the person or group writing it. This can lead to a narrow or incomplete understanding of the problem and limit the effectiveness of the solutions developed.
  • Inflexibility : A problem statement may be too rigid or inflexible, which can limit the exploration of alternative solutions. It’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to adapt the problem statement as new information or perspectives emerge.

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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.

2. Specificity

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.

3. Significance

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.

4. Relevance

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.

In Conclusion

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 problem statement

sample problem statement for research paper

What is a problem statement?

Why write a problem statement, when are problem statements commonly written, how do i write a problem statement, the format of a problem statement, the trademarks of a good problem statement, an example of a problem statement, frequently asked questions about problem statements, related articles.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

🔲 Background

🔲 Relevance

🔲 Objectives

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.

How to write a grant proposal

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

A researcher working on a problem statement for a new article

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.

Final thoughts

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.

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How to Write a Problem Statement in Research

sample problem statement for research paper

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?

Consider Using Professional Editing Services

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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Problem Statement Overview

How to write a problem statement.

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The dissertation problem needs to be very focused because everything else from the dissertation research logically flows from the problem. You may say that the problem statement is the very core of a dissertation research study. If the problem is too big or too vague, it will be difficult to scope out a purpose that is manageable for one person, given the time available to execute and finish the dissertation research study.

Through your research, your aim is to obtain information that helps address a problem so it can be resolved. Note that the researcher does not actually solve the problem themselves by conducting research but provides new knowledge that can be used toward a resolution. Typically, the problem is solved (or partially solved) by practitioners in the field, using input from researchers.

Given the above, the problem statement should do three things :

  • Specify and describe the problem (with appropriate citations)
  • Explain the consequences of NOT solving the problem
  • Explain the knowledge needed to solve the problem (i.e., what is currently unknown about the problem and its resolution – also referred to as a gap )

What is a problem?

The world is full of problems! Not all problems make good dissertation research problems, however, because they are either too big, complex, or risky for doctorate candidates to solve. A proper research problem can be defined as a specific, evidence-based, real-life issue faced by certain people or organizations that have significant negative implications to the involved parties.

Example of a proper, specific, evidence-based, real-life dissertation research problem:

“Only 6% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women” (Center for Leadership Studies, 2019).

Specific refers to the scope of the problem, which should be sufficiently manageable and focused to address with dissertation research. For example, the problem “terrorism kills thousands of people each year” is probably not specific enough in terms of who gets killed by which terrorists, to work for a doctorate candidate; or “Social media use among call-center employees may be problematic because it could reduce productivity,” which contains speculations about the magnitude of the problem and the possible negative effects.

Evidence-based here means that the problem is well-documented by recent research findings and/or statistics from credible sources. Anecdotal evidence does not qualify in this regard. Quantitative evidence is generally preferred over qualitative ditto when establishing a problem because quantitative evidence (from a credible source) usually reflects generalizable facts, whereas qualitative evidence in the form of research conclusions tend to only apply to the study sample and may not be generalizable to a larger population. Example of a problem that isn’t evidence-based: “Based on the researcher’s experience, the problem is that people don’t accept female leaders;” which is an opinion-based statement based on personal (anecdotal) experience.

Real-life means that a problem exists regardless of whether research is conducted or not. This means that “lack of knowledge” or “lack of research” cannot be used as the problem for a dissertation study because it’s an academic issue or a gap; and not a real-life problem experienced by people or organizations.  Example of a problem that doesn’t exist in real life: “There is not enough research on the reasons why people distrust minority healthcare workers.” This type of statement also reveals the assumption that people actually do mistrust minority healthcare workers; something that needs to be supported by actual, credible evidence to potentially work as an underlying research problem.

What are consequences?

Consequences are negative implications experienced by a group of people or organizations, as a result of the problem. The negative effects should be of a certain magnitude to warrant research. For example, if fewer than 1% of the stakeholders experience a negative consequence of a problem and that consequence only constitutes a minor inconvenience, research is probably not warranted. Negative consequences that can be measured weigh stronger than those that cannot be put on some kind of scale.

In the example above, a significant negative consequence is that women face much larger barriers than men when attempting to get promoted to executive jobs; or are 94% less likely than men to get to that level in Corporate America.

What is a gap?

To establish a complete basis for a dissertation research study, the problem has to be accompanied by a gap . A gap is missing knowledge or insights about a particular issue that contributes to the persistence of the problem. We use gaps to “situate” new research in the existing literature by adding to the knowledge base in the business research field, in a specific manner (determined by the purpose of the research). Identifying gaps requires you to review the literature in a thorough fashion, to establish a complete understanding of what is known and what isn’t known about a certain problem.  In the example from above about the underrepresentation of female CEOs, a gap may be that male-dominated boards have not been studied extensively in terms of their CEO hiring decisions, which might then warrant a study of such boards, to uncover implicit biases and discriminatory practices against female candidates.

How to Write a Problem Statement

  • Here is one way to construct a problem section (keep in mind you have a 250-300 word limit, but you can write first and edit later):

It is helpful to begin the problem statement with a sentence :  “The problem to be addressed through this study is… ”  Then, fill out the rest of the paragraph with elaboration of that specific problem, making sure to “document” it, as NU reviewers will look for research-based evidence that it is indeed a problem (emphasis also on timeliness of the problem, supported by citations within the last 5 years).

Next, write a paragraph explaining the consequences of NOT solving the problem. Who will be affected? How will they be affected? How important is it to fix the problem? Again, NU reviewers will want to see research-based citations and statistics that indicate the negative implications are significant.

In the final paragraph, you will explain what information (research) is needed in order to fix the problem. This paragraph shows that the problem is worthy of doctoral-level research. What isn’t known about the problem? Ie, what is the gap? Presumably, if your problem and purpose are aligned, your research will try to close or minimize this gap by investigating the problem. Have other researchers investigated the issue? What has their research left unanswered?

  • Another way to tackle the Statement of the Problem:

The Statement of the Problem section is a very clear, concise identification of the problem. It must stay within the template guidelines of 250-300 words but more importantly, must contain four elements as outlined below. A dissertation worthy problem should be able to address all of the following points:

-->identification of the problem itself--what is "going wrong" (Ellis & Levy, 2008)

-->who is affected by the problem

-->the consequences that will result from a continuation of the problem

-->a brief discussion of 1) at least 3 authors’ research related to the problem; and 2)   their stated suggestion/recommendation for further research related to the problem

Use the following to work on the Statement of the Problem by first outlining the section as follows:

1. One clear, concise statement that tells the reader what is not working, what is “going wrong”. Be specific and support it with current studies.

2. Tell who is affected by the problem identified in #1. 

3. Briefly tell what will happen if the problem isn’t addressed.

4. Find at least 3 current studies and write a sentence or two for each study that

i. briefly discusses the author(s)’ work, what they studied, and

ii. state their recommendation for further research about the problem

  • Finally, you can follow this simple 3-part outline when writing the statement of the problem section:

Your problem statement is a short (250-300 words), 3 paragraph section, in which you

  • Explain context and state problem (“the problem is XYZ”), supported by statistics and/or recent research findings
  • Explain the negative consequences of the problem to stakeholders, supported by statistics and/or recent research findings
  • Explain the gap in the literature.

Example of a problem statement that follows the 3-part outline (295 words):

The problem to be addressed by this study is the decline of employee well-being for followers of novice mid-level managers and the corresponding rise in employee turnover faced by business leaders across the financial services industry (Oh et al., 2014).  Low levels of employee well-being are toxic for morale and result in expensive turnover costs, dysfunctional work environments, anemic corporate cultures, and poor customer service (Compdata, 2018; Oh et al., 2014).  According to Ufer (2017), the financial services industry suffers from one of the highest turnover rates among millennial-aged employees in all industries in the developed world, at 18.6% annually.  Starkman (2015) reported that 50% of those surveyed in financial services were not satisfied with a single one of the four key workplace aspects: job, firm, pay or career path. 

Low levels of employee well-being interrupt a financial services’ company’s ability to deliver outstanding customer service in a world increasingly dependent on that commodity (Wladawsky-Berger, 2018).Mid-level managers play an essential role in support of the success of many of top businesses today (Anicich & Hirsh, 2017). 

The current body of literature does not adequately address the well-being issue in the financial services industry from the follower’s perspective (Uhl-Bien, Riggio, Lowe, & Carsten, 2014). Strategic direction flows top-down from senior executives and passes through mid-level leadership to individual contributors at more junior grades.  The mid-level managers’ teams are tasked with the achievement of core tasks and the managers themselves are expected to maintain the workforce’s morale, motivation and welfare (Anicich & Hirsh, 2017).  Unless industry leaders better understand the phenomenon of employee well-being from the follower perspective and its role in positioning employees to provide a premium client experience, they may be handicapped from preserving their most significant principal market differentiator: customer service (Wladawsky-Berger, 2018). 

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45 Research Problem Examples & Inspiration

research problems examples and definition, explained below

A research problem is an issue of concern that is the catalyst for your research. It demonstrates why the research problem needs to take place in the first place.

Generally, you will write your research problem as a clear, concise, and focused statement that identifies an issue or gap in current knowledge that requires investigation.

The problem will likely also guide the direction and purpose of a study. Depending on the problem, you will identify a suitable methodology that will help address the problem and bring solutions to light.

Research Problem Examples

In the following examples, I’ll present some problems worth addressing, and some suggested theoretical frameworks and research methodologies that might fit with the study. Note, however, that these aren’t the only ways to approach the problems. Keep an open mind and consult with your dissertation supervisor!

chris

Psychology Problems

1. Social Media and Self-Esteem: “How does prolonged exposure to social media platforms influence the self-esteem of adolescents?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Social Comparison Theory
  • Methodology : Longitudinal study tracking adolescents’ social media usage and self-esteem measures over time, combined with qualitative interviews.

2. Sleep and Cognitive Performance: “How does sleep quality and duration impact cognitive performance in adults?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Cognitive Psychology
  • Methodology : Experimental design with controlled sleep conditions, followed by cognitive tests. Participant sleep patterns can also be monitored using actigraphy.

3. Childhood Trauma and Adult Relationships: “How does unresolved childhood trauma influence attachment styles and relationship dynamics in adulthood?

  • Theoretical Framework : Attachment Theory
  • Methodology : Mixed methods, combining quantitative measures of attachment styles with qualitative in-depth interviews exploring past trauma and current relationship dynamics.

4. Mindfulness and Stress Reduction: “How effective is mindfulness meditation in reducing perceived stress and physiological markers of stress in working professionals?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Humanist Psychology
  • Methodology : Randomized controlled trial comparing a group practicing mindfulness meditation to a control group, measuring both self-reported stress and physiological markers (e.g., cortisol levels).

5. Implicit Bias and Decision Making: “To what extent do implicit biases influence decision-making processes in hiring practices?

  • Theoretical Framework : Cognitive Dissonance Theory
  • Methodology : Experimental design using Implicit Association Tests (IAT) to measure implicit biases, followed by simulated hiring tasks to observe decision-making behaviors.

6. Emotional Regulation and Academic Performance: “How does the ability to regulate emotions impact academic performance in college students?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Cognitive Theory of Emotion
  • Methodology : Quantitative surveys measuring emotional regulation strategies, combined with academic performance metrics (e.g., GPA).

7. Nature Exposure and Mental Well-being: “Does regular exposure to natural environments improve mental well-being and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Biophilia Hypothesis
  • Methodology : Longitudinal study comparing mental health measures of individuals with regular nature exposure to those without, possibly using ecological momentary assessment for real-time data collection.

8. Video Games and Cognitive Skills: “How do action video games influence cognitive skills such as attention, spatial reasoning, and problem-solving?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Cognitive Load Theory
  • Methodology : Experimental design with pre- and post-tests, comparing cognitive skills of participants before and after a period of action video game play.

9. Parenting Styles and Child Resilience: “How do different parenting styles influence the development of resilience in children facing adversities?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Baumrind’s Parenting Styles Inventory
  • Methodology : Mixed methods, combining quantitative measures of resilience and parenting styles with qualitative interviews exploring children’s experiences and perceptions.

10. Memory and Aging: “How does the aging process impact episodic memory , and what strategies can mitigate age-related memory decline?

  • Theoretical Framework : Information Processing Theory
  • Methodology : Cross-sectional study comparing episodic memory performance across different age groups, combined with interventions like memory training or mnemonic strategies to assess potential improvements.

Education Problems

11. Equity and Access : “How do socioeconomic factors influence students’ access to quality education, and what interventions can bridge the gap?

  • Theoretical Framework : Critical Pedagogy
  • Methodology : Mixed methods, combining quantitative data on student outcomes with qualitative interviews and focus groups with students, parents, and educators.

12. Digital Divide : How does the lack of access to technology and the internet affect remote learning outcomes, and how can this divide be addressed?

  • Theoretical Framework : Social Construction of Technology Theory
  • Methodology : Survey research to gather data on access to technology, followed by case studies in selected areas.

13. Teacher Efficacy : “What factors contribute to teacher self-efficacy, and how does it impact student achievement?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Bandura’s Self-Efficacy Theory
  • Methodology : Quantitative surveys to measure teacher self-efficacy, combined with qualitative interviews to explore factors affecting it.

14. Curriculum Relevance : “How can curricula be made more relevant to diverse student populations, incorporating cultural and local contexts?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Sociocultural Theory
  • Methodology : Content analysis of curricula, combined with focus groups with students and teachers.

15. Special Education : “What are the most effective instructional strategies for students with specific learning disabilities?

  • Theoretical Framework : Social Learning Theory
  • Methodology : Experimental design comparing different instructional strategies, with pre- and post-tests to measure student achievement.

16. Dropout Rates : “What factors contribute to high school dropout rates, and what interventions can help retain students?”

  • Methodology : Longitudinal study tracking students over time, combined with interviews with dropouts.

17. Bilingual Education : “How does bilingual education impact cognitive development and academic achievement?

  • Methodology : Comparative study of students in bilingual vs. monolingual programs, using standardized tests and qualitative interviews.

18. Classroom Management: “What reward strategies are most effective in managing diverse classrooms and promoting a positive learning environment?

  • Theoretical Framework : Behaviorism (e.g., Skinner’s Operant Conditioning)
  • Methodology : Observational research in classrooms , combined with teacher interviews.

19. Standardized Testing : “How do standardized tests affect student motivation, learning, and curriculum design?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Critical Theory
  • Methodology : Quantitative analysis of test scores and student outcomes, combined with qualitative interviews with educators and students.

20. STEM Education : “What methods can be employed to increase interest and proficiency in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields among underrepresented student groups?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Constructivist Learning Theory
  • Methodology : Experimental design comparing different instructional methods, with pre- and post-tests.

21. Social-Emotional Learning : “How can social-emotional learning be effectively integrated into the curriculum, and what are its impacts on student well-being and academic outcomes?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence Theory
  • Methodology : Mixed methods, combining quantitative measures of student well-being with qualitative interviews.

22. Parental Involvement : “How does parental involvement influence student achievement, and what strategies can schools use to increase it?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Reggio Emilia’s Model (Community Engagement Focus)
  • Methodology : Survey research with parents and teachers, combined with case studies in selected schools.

23. Early Childhood Education : “What are the long-term impacts of quality early childhood education on academic and life outcomes?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development
  • Methodology : Longitudinal study comparing students with and without early childhood education, combined with observational research.

24. Teacher Training and Professional Development : “How can teacher training programs be improved to address the evolving needs of the 21st-century classroom?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Adult Learning Theory (Andragogy)
  • Methodology : Pre- and post-assessments of teacher competencies, combined with focus groups.

25. Educational Technology : “How can technology be effectively integrated into the classroom to enhance learning, and what are the potential drawbacks or challenges?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)
  • Methodology : Experimental design comparing classrooms with and without specific technologies, combined with teacher and student interviews.

Sociology Problems

26. Urbanization and Social Ties: “How does rapid urbanization impact the strength and nature of social ties in communities?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Structural Functionalism
  • Methodology : Mixed methods, combining quantitative surveys on social ties with qualitative interviews in urbanizing areas.

27. Gender Roles in Modern Families: “How have traditional gender roles evolved in families with dual-income households?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Gender Schema Theory
  • Methodology : Qualitative interviews with dual-income families, combined with historical data analysis.

28. Social Media and Collective Behavior: “How does social media influence collective behaviors and the formation of social movements?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Emergent Norm Theory
  • Methodology : Content analysis of social media platforms, combined with quantitative surveys on participation in social movements.

29. Education and Social Mobility: “To what extent does access to quality education influence social mobility in socioeconomically diverse settings?”

  • Methodology : Longitudinal study tracking educational access and subsequent socioeconomic status, combined with qualitative interviews.

30. Religion and Social Cohesion: “How do religious beliefs and practices contribute to social cohesion in multicultural societies?”

  • Methodology : Quantitative surveys on religious beliefs and perceptions of social cohesion, combined with ethnographic studies.

31. Consumer Culture and Identity Formation: “How does consumer culture influence individual identity formation and personal values?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Social Identity Theory
  • Methodology : Mixed methods, combining content analysis of advertising with qualitative interviews on identity and values.

32. Migration and Cultural Assimilation: “How do migrants negotiate cultural assimilation and preservation of their original cultural identities in their host countries?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Post-Structuralism
  • Methodology : Qualitative interviews with migrants, combined with observational studies in multicultural communities.

33. Social Networks and Mental Health: “How do social networks, both online and offline, impact mental health and well-being?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Social Network Theory
  • Methodology : Quantitative surveys assessing social network characteristics and mental health metrics, combined with qualitative interviews.

34. Crime, Deviance, and Social Control: “How do societal norms and values shape definitions of crime and deviance, and how are these definitions enforced?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Labeling Theory
  • Methodology : Content analysis of legal documents and media, combined with ethnographic studies in diverse communities.

35. Technology and Social Interaction: “How has the proliferation of digital technology influenced face-to-face social interactions and community building?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Technological Determinism
  • Methodology : Mixed methods, combining quantitative surveys on technology use with qualitative observations of social interactions in various settings.

Nursing Problems

36. Patient Communication and Recovery: “How does effective nurse-patient communication influence patient recovery rates and overall satisfaction with care?”

  • Methodology : Quantitative surveys assessing patient satisfaction and recovery metrics, combined with observational studies on nurse-patient interactions.

37. Stress Management in Nursing: “What are the primary sources of occupational stress for nurses, and how can they be effectively managed to prevent burnout?”

  • Methodology : Mixed methods, combining quantitative measures of stress and burnout with qualitative interviews exploring personal experiences and coping mechanisms.

38. Hand Hygiene Compliance: “How effective are different interventions in improving hand hygiene compliance among nursing staff, and what are the barriers to consistent hand hygiene?”

  • Methodology : Experimental design comparing hand hygiene rates before and after specific interventions, combined with focus groups to understand barriers.

39. Nurse-Patient Ratios and Patient Outcomes: “How do nurse-patient ratios impact patient outcomes, including recovery rates, complications, and hospital readmissions?”

  • Methodology : Quantitative study analyzing patient outcomes in relation to staffing levels, possibly using retrospective chart reviews.

40. Continuing Education and Clinical Competence: “How does regular continuing education influence clinical competence and confidence among nurses?”

  • Methodology : Longitudinal study tracking nurses’ clinical skills and confidence over time as they engage in continuing education, combined with patient outcome measures to assess potential impacts on care quality.

Communication Studies Problems

41. Media Representation and Public Perception: “How does media representation of minority groups influence public perceptions and biases?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Cultivation Theory
  • Methodology : Content analysis of media representations combined with quantitative surveys assessing public perceptions and attitudes.

42. Digital Communication and Relationship Building: “How has the rise of digital communication platforms impacted the way individuals build and maintain personal relationships?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Social Penetration Theory
  • Methodology : Mixed methods, combining quantitative surveys on digital communication habits with qualitative interviews exploring personal relationship dynamics.

43. Crisis Communication Effectiveness: “What strategies are most effective in managing public relations during organizational crises, and how do they influence public trust?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT)
  • Methodology : Case study analysis of past organizational crises, assessing communication strategies used and subsequent public trust metrics.

44. Nonverbal Cues in Virtual Communication: “How do nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and gestures, influence message interpretation in virtual communication platforms?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Social Semiotics
  • Methodology : Experimental design using video conferencing tools, analyzing participants’ interpretations of messages with varying nonverbal cues.

45. Influence of Social Media on Political Engagement: “How does exposure to political content on social media platforms influence individuals’ political engagement and activism?”

  • Theoretical Framework : Uses and Gratifications Theory
  • Methodology : Quantitative surveys assessing social media habits and political engagement levels, combined with content analysis of political posts on popular platforms.

Before you Go: Tips and Tricks for Writing a Research Problem

This is an incredibly stressful time for research students. The research problem is going to lock you into a specific line of inquiry for the rest of your studies.

So, here’s what I tend to suggest to my students:

  • Start with something you find intellectually stimulating – Too many students choose projects because they think it hasn’t been studies or they’ve found a research gap. Don’t over-estimate the importance of finding a research gap. There are gaps in every line of inquiry. For now, just find a topic you think you can really sink your teeth into and will enjoy learning about.
  • Take 5 ideas to your supervisor – Approach your research supervisor, professor, lecturer, TA, our course leader with 5 research problem ideas and run each by them. The supervisor will have valuable insights that you didn’t consider that will help you narrow-down and refine your problem even more.
  • Trust your supervisor – The supervisor-student relationship is often very strained and stressful. While of course this is your project, your supervisor knows the internal politics and conventions of academic research. The depth of knowledge about how to navigate academia and get you out the other end with your degree is invaluable. Don’t underestimate their advice.

I’ve got a full article on all my tips and tricks for doing research projects right here – I recommend reading it:

  • 9 Tips on How to Choose a Dissertation Topic

Chris

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ Social-Emotional Learning (Definition, Examples, Pros & Cons)
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ What is Educational Psychology?
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ What is IQ? (Intelligence Quotient)
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 5 Top Tips for Succeeding at University

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  • How to Write a Problem Statement | Guide & Examples

How to Write a Problem Statement | Guide & Examples

Published on 8 November 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George.

A problem statement is a concise and concrete summary of the research problem you seek to address. It should:

  • Contextualise 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: contextualise the problem, step 2: show why it matters, step 3: set your aims and objectives.

Problem statement example

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 contextualise 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 organisation, 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.

Learn how to formulate research questions

You can use these steps to write your own problem statement, like the example below.

Step 1: Contextualise 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.

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 …

Research objectives describe what you intend your research project to accomplish.

They summarise 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 .

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis – a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

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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 .

ResearchProspect 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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Anyone who supports you in your research should be acknowledged in dissertation acknowledgments. Learn more on how to write dissertation acknowledgements.

Repository of ten perfect research question examples will provide you a better perspective about how to create research questions.

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Problem Statement – When to Use it & Examples

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Problem-statement-Definition

In the process of crafting a research proposal , the problem statement holds paramount importance as it captures the reader’s attention from the get-go. Thus, it is imperative to comprehend its essence and what it encompasses. This article offers a thorough set of guidelines for determining and articulating a well-defined problem statement in the research process . Further, it emphasizes that an effective problem statement can not only frame the study but also serve as a foundation for the subsequent research steps.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

  • 1 Problem Statement – In a Nutshell
  • 2 Definition: Problem statement
  • 3 When is a problem statement required?
  • 4 1. Contextualize the problem statement
  • 5 2. Why does the problem statement matter?
  • 6 3. Objectives and aims for the problem statement

Problem Statement – In a Nutshell

  • The problem statement is a description of the topic or issue that a researcher will explore.
  • The statement should feature four primary elements: context, precise problem, relevance, and objectives.
  • Problem statements may differ in theoretical and practical research.

Definition: Problem statement

A problem statement is a research proposal or paper description that explains what the research will address and why the issue needs to be addressed.

The statement is important in research and business proposals because it is one of the first things your instructor, colleagues, or potential customers will read in your document.

Once you have recognized the problem you want to explore in your project, you can come up with a problem statement by asking the questions below:

  • What information is currently available about the problem? (Give context)
  • What should we know about the topic? (Explain the precise issue)
  • Why is this topic important? (Explain its relevance)
  • What do you intend to do to find out more about the issue? (Explain the research objectives)

When is a problem statement required?

A problem statement is applicable in various situations. Also, you can use the statement when dealing with a practical or theoretical problem, like in science.

In each case, the problem statement will look different. However, the basic principles for writing it are constant.

A problem statement is required in:

Problem-statement-3-steps-

1. Contextualize the problem statement

The first thing you should do when preparing a problem statement is to contextualize the problem. Here, you should give some background about the issue and what is already known.

For instance, you can quote findings from a previous study about the issue. The approach may differ depending on the problem.

Practical problem statement

A practical problem involves everyday issues arising in institutions, businesses, and lives.

In such cases, your problem statement should answer the following questions:

  • Who does the problem affect?
  • Where does the problem arise?
  • When does it happen?
  • What steps have been made to resolve the issue?

The number of college dropouts in Texas has been increasing rapidly over the past decade compared to other states in the US. Studies show that around 1/5 of students that enroll in colleges do not see their studies through to graduation. The state has tried making colleges a friendlier environment to resolve the issue. However, this approach has not provided the expected results.

Theoretical problem statements

A theoretical problem results from abstract thinking and does not necessarily apply to everyday life. Theoretical research usually applies to scientific, historical, and geographical subjects. Therefore, your approach to theoretical research is usually different from a practical one.

When writing the problem statement for theoretical research problems, you should answer the questions below:

  • What existing knowledge is there about the problem?
  • Is the problem restricted to a specific period?
  • Is the problem restricted to a specific geographical region?
  • Is there scholarly literature that defines or debates the problem?

Over the past decade, social media “influencing” has become a significant element in the marketing sector. Research indicates that most people between 13 and 45 years old are likely to respond better to product marketing via public figures than traditional methods. Therefore, research on effective marketing schemes has shifted its focus to social media and the internet. However, little has been done to explore why this shift is happening and whether it is positive or negative.

2. Why does the problem statement matter?

Another significant element of the statement is the relevance of the research. In other words, why is the research problem worth exploring?

In practical research, you can explain the relevance of the problem by answering the questions below:

  • What will transpire if the issue is not addressed?
  • Who will be affected the most?
  • Do similar issues exist in other contexts?

The high college dropout rate has already adversely affected Texas’ economy. However, if the issue is not addressed, students will no longer see the need to join colleges. Also, it may trickle down to the high school level as the value of education decreases among students. Besides the students, parents will also be affected by the dropouts because of increased crime rates and the declining economy. Therefore, addressing this issue will benefit Texas and other states.

Theoretical problem statement

For theoretical research, you can explain the relevance of the problem by asking the following questions:

  • How will the problem’s resolution advance the comprehension of the subject?
  • What benefits will the research have in future studies?
  • Does the issue impact society directly or indirectly?

The social media “influencing” era can be viewed as positive or negative. In-depth research is required to fully understand why this generation responds to influences from social media. Expounding on social media habits may help develop more theories regarding the influences of the internet and social media on the current generation. It will also help with policy development.

3. Objectives and aims for the problem statement

After explaining the context of the research problem and its relevance, the next step is describing how you aim to address it.

The overall goal of any research is to find conclusive solutions for a specific problem and suggest the best ways to implement the solutions. However, you can only achieve this by determining the causes or reasons for the issue.

  • I intend to investigate (the dropout rates in Texas).
  • This project seeks to explore (the increasing college dropout rates in Texas).
  • I purpose to determine (the causes of the increased college dropout rates in Texas).

The objectives are slightly different from the aims. Instead, objectives are steps you intend to apply to achieve your aim.

  • I will use surveys to gather data (on the reasons students drop out of college in Texas).
  • Using qualitative procedures, this research will identify (the number of college dropouts in the past decade).
  • Statistical analysis will be applied to identify (the rates of college acceptance in Texas).

This project seeks to understand students’ college experiences and factors contributing to the increasing dropout rates in Texas. I will use statistical analysis to gather insight into the rates of college acceptances and graduations in the region.

This study intends to investigate the impact of the social media “influencing” era on the marketing sector and what practitioners can expect. Qualitative methods will be applied to identify the impact of social media and the success rates of social media marketing.

What is a problem statement?

A problem statement is a precise explanation of the issues a research project pursues to address. It includes:

  • Precise issue
  • Relevance of the study

When should you write a problem statement?

This statement is necessary for academic projects by university or college students.

However, businesses and institutions also need project statements (independent documents) when recommending improvement projects.

What is the value of a problem statement?

This statement provides readers with an overview of your project.

It also serves as a communication tool for those working on the project (it helps them know issues they should address).

What are the key fundamentals of a statement problem?

The key elements of a statement problem are:

  • Precise problem identification

Therefore, your statement should explain each of these elements.

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IMAGES

  1. Research Problem Statement Examples : 6+ Problem Statement Examples

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Problem Statement

    Step 3: Set your aims and objectives. 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.

  2. What is a Problem Statement? [with examples]

    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.

  3. The Research Problem & Problem Statement

    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.

  4. How to Write a Problem Statement (With 3 Examples)

    Example Problem Statement 1: The Status Quo Problem Statement. Example: The average customer service on-hold time for Example company exceeds five minutes during both its busy and slow seasons. This can be used to describe a current pain point within an organization that may need to be addressed.

  5. What is a Problem Statement in Research? How to Write It with Examples

    A research problem statement is the descriptive statement which conveys the issue a researcher is trying to address through the study with the aim of informing the reader the context and significance of performing the study at hand. The research problem statement is crucial for researchers to focus on a particular component of a vast field of ...

  6. Problem Statement

    Here are some general steps to follow when writing a problem statement: Identify the problem: Clearly identify the problem that needs to be addressed. Consider the context, stakeholders, and potential consequences of the problem. Research the problem: Conduct research to gather data and information about the problem.

  7. How to Write a Research Problem Statement

    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.

  8. How to write a 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 ...

  9. How to Write a Statement of the Problem in Research

    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 ...

  10. How to Write a Statement of the Problem for Your Research Proposal

    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.

  11. How to Write a Problem Statement in Research

    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.

  12. PDF How to write an effective research problem statement

    1) branding is important - a good title will help the reviewer establish a connection with your proposal 2) a negative first impression will likely linger with the reviewer while reading the rest of the problem statement, and 3) if the title is confusing, chances are the rest of the problem statement will be just as hard to understand.

  13. Problem Statement

    Use the following to work on the Statement of the Problem by first outlining the section as follows: 1. One clear, concise statement that tells the reader what is not working, what is "going wrong". Be specific and support it with current studies. 2. Tell who is affected by the problem identified in #1. 3.

  14. Problem Statement Example ~ A Comprehensive Guide

    The problem statement poses a crucial section of any dissertation, research project, and thesis, providing a concise and clear outline of the issue the study seeks to address. A well-written problem statement serves as a cornerstone in guiding the research process and sets the foundation for your methodology, findings, and research questions.This article will provide problem statement examples ...

  15. The basics of writing a statement of the problem for your research

    The ultimate goal of a statement of the problem is to transform a generalized problem (something that bothers you; a perceived lack) into a targeted, well-defined problem; one that can be resolved through focused research and careful decision-making. Writing a statement of the problem should help you clearly identify the purpose of the research ...

  16. HOW TO WRITE A SIMPLE PROBLEM STATEMENT IN 4 STEPS WITH ...

    From the statements the problem is low uptake of technological advancements and this is. localized or experienced in South African low income earning villages. STEP 3: The Gap the Research Intends ...

  17. 45 Research Problem Examples & Inspiration (2024)

    45 Research Problem Examples & Inspiration. By Chris Drew (PhD) / November 30, 2023. A research problem is an issue of concern that is the catalyst for your research. It demonstrates why the research problem needs to take place in the first place. Generally, you will write your research problem as a clear, concise, and focused statement that ...

  18. How to Write a Problem Statement

    Step 3: Set your aims and objectives. 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.

  19. How to Write a Statement of a Problem in Research

    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.

  20. Problem Statement ~ When to Use it & Examples

    Definition: Problem statement. A problem statement is a research proposal or paper description that explains what the research will address and why the issue needs to be addressed.. The statement is important in research and business proposals because it is one of the first things your instructor, colleagues, or potential customers will read in your document.

  21. PDF FROM PROBLEM STATEMENT TO RESEARCH QUESTIONS

    A single sentence. A statement such as, "The purpose of this study . . . The central phenomenon. A statement identifying the type of qualitative design. Qualitative words (e.g., "explore," "understand," "discover") The participants. The research site.

  22. (PDF) Statement of Problem Template

    52. Statement of Problem Template. Haidy Henry Dusim. Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Sabah. [email protected]. ABSTRACT. Writing a clear problem statement in rese arch helps the rea der to ...