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Research Problem – Definition, Steps & Tips

Published by at August 12th, 2021 , Revised On October 3, 2023

Once you have chosen a research topic, the next stage is to explain the research problem: the detailed issue, ambiguity of the research, gap analysis, or gaps in knowledge and findings that you will discuss.

Here, in this article, we explore a research problem in a dissertation or an essay with some research problem examples to help you better understand how and when you should write a research problem.

“A research problem is a specific statement relating to an area of concern and is contingent on the type of research. Some research studies focus on theoretical and practical problems, while some focus on only one.”

The problem statement in the dissertation, essay, research paper, and other academic papers should be clearly stated and intended to expand information, knowledge, and contribution to change.

This article will assist in identifying and elaborating a research problem if you are unsure how to define your research problem. The most notable challenge in the research process is to formulate and identify a research problem. Formulating a problem statement and research questions while finalizing the research proposal or introduction for your dissertation or thesis is necessary.

Why is Research Problem Critical?

An interesting research topic is only the first step. The real challenge of the research process is to develop a well-rounded research problem.

A well-formulated research problem helps understand the research procedure; without it, your research will appear unforeseeable and awkward.

Research is a procedure based on a sequence and a research problem aids in following and completing the research in a sequence. Repetition of existing literature is something that should be avoided in research.

Therefore research problem in a dissertation or an essay needs to be well thought out and presented with a clear purpose. Hence, your research work contributes more value to existing knowledge. You need to be well aware of the problem so you can present logical solutions.

Formulating a research problem is the first step of conducting research, whether you are writing an essay, research paper, dissertation, or research proposal.

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Step 1: Identifying Problem Area – What is Research Problem

The most significant step in any research is to look for unexplored areas, topics, and controversies. You aim to find gaps that your work will fill. Here are some research problem examples for you to better understand the concept.

Practical Research Problems

To conduct practical research, you will need practical research problems that are typically identified by analysing reports, previous research studies, and interactions with the experienced personals of pertinent disciplines. You might search for:

  • Problems with performance or competence in an organization
  • Institutional practices that could be enhanced
  • Practitioners of relevant fields and their areas of concern
  • Problems confronted by specific groups of people within your area of study

If your research work relates to an internship or a job, then it will be critical for you to identify a research problem that addresses certain issues faced by the firm the job or internship pertains to.

Examples of Practical Research Problems

Decreased voter participation in county A, as compared to the rest of the country.

The high employee turnover rate of department X of company Y influenced efficiency and team performance.

A charity institution, Y, suffers a lack of funding resulting in budget cuts for its programmes.

Theoretical Research Problems

Theoretical research relates to predicting, explaining, and understanding various phenomena. It also expands and challenges existing information and knowledge.

Identification of a research problem in theoretical research is achieved by analysing theories and fresh research literature relating to a broad area of research. This practice helps to find gaps in the research done by others and endorse the argument of your topic.

Here are some questions that you should bear in mind.

  • A case or framework that has not been deeply analysed
  • An ambiguity between more than one viewpoints
  • An unstudied condition or relationships
  • A problematic issue that needs to be addressed

Theoretical issues often contain practical implications, but immediate issues are often not resolved by these results. If that is the case, you might want to adopt a different research approach to achieve the desired outcomes.

Examples of Theoretical Research Problems

Long-term Vitamin D deficiency affects cardiac patients are not well researched.

The relationship between races, sex, and income imbalances needs to be studied with reference to the economy of a specific country or region.

The disagreement among historians of Scottish nationalism regarding the contributions of Imperial Britain in the creation of the national identity for Scotland.

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Step 2: Understanding the Research Problem

The researcher further investigates the selected area of research to find knowledge and information relating to the research problem to address the findings in the research.

Background and Rationale

  • Population influenced by the problem?
  • Is it a persistent problem, or is it recently revealed?
  • Research that has already been conducted on this problem?
  • Any proposed solution to the problem?
  • Recent arguments concerning the problem, what are the gaps in the problem?

How to Write a First Class Dissertation Proposal or Research Proposal

Particularity and Suitability

  • What specific place, time, and/or people will be focused on?
  • Any aspects of research that you may not be able to deal with?
  • What will be the concerns if the problem remains unresolved?
  • What are the benefices of the problem resolution (e.g. future researcher or organisation’s management)?

Example of a Specific Research Problem

A non-profit institution X has been examined on their existing support base retention, but the existing research does not incorporate an understanding of how to effectively target new donors. To continue their work, the institution needs more research and find strategies for effective fundraising.

Once the problem is narrowed down, the next stage is to propose a problem statement and hypothesis or research questions.

If you are unsure about what a research problem is and how to define the research problem, then you might want to take advantage of our dissertation proposal writing service. You may also want to take a look at our essay writing service if you need help with identifying a research problem for your essay.

Frequently Asked Questions

A research problem is a specific challenge that requires investigation. Example: “What is the impact of social media on mental health among adolescents?” This problem drives research to analyse the relationship between social media use and mental well-being in young people.

  • Descriptive: Describing phenomena as they exist.
  • Explanatory: Understanding causes and effects.
  • Exploratory: Investigating little-understood phenomena.
  • Predictive: Forecasting future outcomes.
  • Prescriptive: Recommending actions.
  • Normative: Describing what ought to be.
  • Relevance: Addresses a significant issue.
  • Re searchability: Amenable to empirical investigation.
  • Clarity: Clearly defined without ambiguity.
  • Specificity: Narrowly framed, avoiding vagueness.
  • Feasibility: Realistic to conduct with available resources.
  • Novelty: Offers new insights or challenges existing knowledge.
  • Ethical considerations: Respect rights, dignity, and safety.

A research problem is crucial because it identifies knowledge gaps, directs the inquiry’s focus, and forms the foundation for generating hypotheses or questions. It drives the methodology and determination of study relevance, ensuring that research contributes meaningfully to academic discourse and potentially addresses real-world challenges.

To write a research problem, identify a knowledge gap or an unresolved issue in your field. Start with a broad topic, then narrow it down. Clearly articulate the problem in a concise statement, ensuring it’s researchable, significant, and relevant. Ground it in the existing literature to highlight its importance and context.

To solve a research problem, start by conducting a thorough literature review. Formulate hypotheses or research questions. Choose an appropriate research methodology. Collect and analyse data systematically. Interpret findings in the context of existing knowledge. Ensure validity and reliability, and discuss implications, limitations, and potential future research directions.

About Jamie Walker

Avatar for Jamie WalkerJamie is a content specialist holding a master's degree from Stanford University. His research focuses on the Internet of Things, as well as areas such as politics, medicine, sociology, and other academic writing. Jamie is a member of the content management team at ResearchProspect.