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How to Write Statement of a Problem in Research

Published by at August 11th, 2021 , Revised On February 9, 2022

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.

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 organization 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 organizations and businesses when it becomes imperative to find the solution to a problem.

Writing Problem Statement for Academic Research

On the other hand, the use of problem statements in academic research is slightly different. A problem statement helps researchers to understand and realise the significance of a research problem. It can be limited to just a few sentences or expanded to several paragraphs, depending on your academic level.

example of problem statement

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Problem Statement – How to Write it

Ask yourself the following questions before writing the problem statement:

  1. What is wrong in the research area/subarea XYZ?
  2. Where did it happen?
  3. When did it happen?
  4. To what extent (how much)?
  5. 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?

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?

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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.

Practical Research Problem Statement

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?

Theoretical Research Problem Statement

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?

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:

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.

Conclusion

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.

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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.

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.

Doing experimental research can identify problems by talking to people working in a relevant field, studying research reports, and reviewing previous research. 

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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