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Writing a Problem Statement

The next step after the identification of a research problem for your academic paper is writing a problem statement. It should be consistent, concrete and concise. Its main points to be highlighted are the following:

  • The problem should be put in context, meaning the identification of the main postulates that you already know.
  • The description of a precise issue should answer the question of what we need to find out from our research for a successful problem solution.
  • The explanation of why we need to know certain details for an effective solution needs to be related to the relevance of this problem.
  • The objectives of future research are essential to be set, so you will explain what you are going to do to find out something that is unknown yet.

Why Do You Need to Create a Problem Statement?

The needs for writing a problem statement may be different and quite pacific. Such statements are used both for business and academic purposes. When a business or other organization requires a problem statement, it means that it is looking for ways to solve some operational issues or improve its performance effectively. The statement here should be clearly defined and well-understood for the most successful implementation of all the proposed solutions. When a problem statement is created for business needs, it is a standalone document that can be used as a comprehensive guideline to further actions.

When you deal with academic research, the purpose of a problem statement can shift or be quite different from real practical value. It is usually meant to help one understand the importance of certain academic research, relevance and contextualization. Such a problem statement is several paragraphs in length, and it makes the basis of your research proposal. Some academic institutions or organizations can skip this part of the research process and just require including a problem statement in the introduction to the paper. In this case, it just contains the condensed information of several sentences about the problem and possible ways of its solution.

Your problem statement may also be different in its design and content. It depends on whether your research is practical, deals with a real-world problem, or concerns a purely theoretical issue resulting from the gap in existing scientific knowledge or contradictions that should be resolved.

Infographic on how to write a problem statement.

Contextualization of the Problem

Anyway, the first step on the way of creating a problem statement is framing the research problem and defining its position in some well-known context. It means that providing the background for this problem is essential. The methods and techniques of taking this first step can differ depending on whether the research problem is purely theoretical or practical as well.

Practical Research Problems

If you are going to conduct some practical research, you should concentrate on the most important details of your practical situation. They involve:

  • the time and place of the problem's appearance;
  • the target groups of people or organizations that will be affected by this problem;
  • what attempts have already been made to find a solution for this problem.

Theoretical Research Problems

In this case, you should consider different types of backgrounds for the problem. They can be historical, cultural, geographic, social, scientific, and others. You need to consider what the problem is about and which knowledge related to it is already available. Then, you should define whether the problem is limited by a certain period, geographical area, group of people or other contexts.

Finally, the important question to answer is how this problem has already been defined and whether it has been debated in the scientific literature. You may also need to know which arguments have been used in the debate and what gaps they have left neglected or under-explored.

Showing the Importance of the Problem

The relevance of the overall research depends a lot on the importance of the problem you are going to resolve. That is why your problem statement should focus on such relevance. Highlight both in general and in detail why it is important for the problem to be solved.

You don't need to create something huge and groundbreaking which could change the world. Your task is to show that the problem has all the perspectives to be researched and addresses all the matters that have emerged or existed in the field. Once again, what you will highlight in your problem statement, which refers to the issue's importance, depends much on whether the problem is theoretical or practical.

Practical Research Problems

If you are working for a certain organization or business, it is crucial that a specific problem you are going to research should be relevant to the organization’s goals and objectives. It can also concern the needs of a certain social group, institution, community, or society as a whole. You should clarify for yourself why this research problem is significant. That is why you have to predict:

  • what will happen next if this problem is not solved;
  • who will be influenced by the outcomes of the failure to solve this problem.

You should also consider the wider relevance of the problem. It means that similar issues have been found in other contexts and have never been resolved. The answer to the question ‘What will such lack of relevant resolution lead to?’ is also quite relevant and adequate to regard in this context.

Theoretical Research Problems

The theory is most often closely connected with the practice. It means that any theoretical issues may have certain practical outcomes. It is obvious in many cases, but it is not so clear in others. You need to define first why the problem matters. So, you need to know whether understanding the topic and advancements in the field will improve if you find the solution to this problem.

You can also deduce:

  • whether the issue's solution will provide some benefits to the field;
  • what kind of benefits can influence future research.

Finally, it is important to consider whether the problem and its solution may have some indirect or direct consequences for the entire society.

Setting Goals and Objectives

To complete the preliminary process for creating a problem statement, you should explain in detail how you are going to frame the problem. Remember that you are not expected to find an ultimate solution but just offer the most effective approaches to understanding and dealing with the issue.

That is why it is essential to set the goal of your research, which means finding its overall purpose of it. The best phrases to be used here, therefore, may include:

  • ✔️ My aim is to investigate…
  • ✔️ The research project is aimed at exploring…
  • ✔️ The goal of this study is to define (determine)...

Then, you have to formulate the research objectives, which work as concrete steps to achieve the goal. They may look like the following:

  • ✔️ I will involve surveys to gather the information about…
  • ✔️ By the application of statistical analysis, the project will measure…
  • ✔️ Quantitative (Qualitative methods will be utilized to define (identify, detect) ...

Remember that there are differences between theoretical and practical problem statements, which should also be considered. All these aims, objectives and predetermined tasks will create a perfect basis for formulating your research questions.

Final Thoughts

Now you know what a problem statement for your research project is, what it should look like for either theoretical or practical investigation and what to consider while making up this statement.

However, remember to conclude your writing with the repeated explanation of the importance of your research work and summarizing all the arguments and contradictory points which are likely to be resolved by your research. In this case, your problem statement will sound persuasive and compelling. As a result, that will account for the fast approval of your project and its future success.

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