A problem statement is a short, half-page call providing the need and reason for your research. It ties the problem to your research question and your methodology.
- Why is your research important? Or, why should I be interested in your topic? These are just a couple questions that you'll be able to provide a quick and straightforward answer to so anyone can understand your research. But you might be wondering how to distill your research, methodology, data, and assessment into an elevator pitch. Being able to summarize your call to action is important for your paper, but your ability to synthesize the key components of your work into a brief space has even more benefit. This is called a problem statement, and it's a universal feature across the various research methodologies.
A problem statement is a short, half-page call providing the need and reason for your research. This is your point of reference for the purpose of your research through all the obstacles you'll encounter, like reviewing literature, accumulating data, and providing assessments and a critique. The ability to return to a simple but powerful statement about the purpose of your research is vital. There are key elements to a problem statement, but no one right way to draft one. So, where do you begin? It makes the most sense to start from the place you feel the most strength, either in identifying the problem, defining key terms, or providing background about why the problem exists.
You always want to begin your writing process from the place you feel comfortable. If that is a quick summation of the problem, start there. If that is providing brief definitions of the important terms for your study, do that first. If, however, you're uncertain of where your strengths are on the topic, start with providing the background of the problem, and build the rest out from the background in a narrative format. Starting from the background, it's important to look at what authors would call the ordinary world, or what your field should look like if the problem did not exist.
If there was a suitable intervention addressing your problem, what would society look like? What should be happening in day-to-day life for your human subjects? For example, ideally, the success of students in college would not be dependent on their financial security during childhood. The next step is to clearly state the problem. Good research writing is succinct. It uses the minimum number of words to deliver the maximum effect. We've provided an ordinary world. Now it's time to note what is troublesome about our current world.
You can use a word like "unfortunately" or "however" to kickstart your sentence like this: "However, students who experience financial hardship in school consistently graduate at significantly lower percentages than those who do not." The next step is to back up your claims with reasons and evidence. Where is your evidence to show not only the truth of your assertion, but why this problem is significant? Last, you must provide a link between the problem and your research. Specifically, how your research can help to affect the problem.
If you're testing an intervention, how will you determine if that intervention's successful? If you're gauging attitudes, how will that information better inform the field and further movements? If you're looking to find the cause of a problem, what will an alternative hypothesis yield for the population? A problem statement is the call to action for a researcher. It is not a summary of the topic, or a place to dilute evidence for an easy read. Use your problem statement to deliver the key purpose of your research, but not as an elementary rewrite of your proposal.
- Reviewing the types of research design
- Generalizing your research
- Writing research questions
- Creating research objectives
- Developing a literature review
- Anonymity and confidentiality in research studies
- Narrowing your idea to a research topic
- Developing a problem statement
- Outlining your research proposal
- Presenting your data in written form and numeric form
- Writing your abstract and final summary