A problem statement illustrates the issues that the researcher intends to address during his or her research. Therefore, in every research, the researcher must be driven by a specific goal that he or she want to achieve and as a result he or she must have the problem statement that he or she is going to follow in order to arrive at the intended goal.
The statement of the problem
One of the main roles played by the problem statement is to describe the context of the study being undertaken besides identifying the approach followed to conduct the analysis. Willis (p 112) points out that a problem statement should be elaborate and that it should include a thorough discussion of the theoretical framework under which it is going to be embedded to during the entire period of research.
According to him, the problem statement helps in providing the foundation of the study by explaining the kind of research being undertaken. He observes that, a problem statement helps the researcher stick to his or her objectives to avoid researching on irrelevant materials that may not be needed in the research.
In addition, he asserts that problem statement helps the researcher identify the limitations that he or she will be faced with during the actual research work and therefore provides an opportunity for him or her to make appropriate measures to counter such limitations.
Therefore, if a researcher is able to formulate a good problem statement, then he or she will be in a very good position to build a strong foundation for his work and as a result be able to address his or her issues well.
What are the characteristics of a good problem statement?
According to Neuman (p 19) a good problem statement should be clear in that the researcher and the reader are in a position to understand what is going on in the research. As a result he points out that such kind of a problem statement should have a purpose at the beginning.
By this he argues that, the problem statement should inform the reader what to expect in the body. He notes that in the first sentence of the problem statement, the reader should be informed of the purpose as to why such a research was carried out. Consequently, the reader will be able to know what to expect in the body without going through the whole body simply because his or her mind has been tuned on the content of the research by the problem statement.
Leedy (p 81) claims that a good problem statement should have a background. He states the researcher should tell the reader the reason behind him or her choosing that kind of topic to research on. According to him, the reader should be informed on what the researcher aims to achieve that has not been done by other researchers.
That is, how will the research been undertaken be beneficial to the people being researched on, or what will the research add in the body of knowledge. Therefore, having a background in a research is very important so that the reader become aware the reasons behind the research being conducted.
Furthermore, a good problem statement should indicate the materials and resources that will be used when carrying out a research. According to Willis (p 115) different researches calls for different kinds of materials and therefore the researcher should explain clearly the materials that he or she would use when collecting data.
He points out the researcher should indicate the study would look like and how the resources he intends to use will be of benefit to him in the entire research.
What pitfalls might lead to a poorly written problem statement?
Kuhn (p 14) has noted that, when writing a problem statement, many people and especially students do suffer from certain weaknesses that make their work unacceptable or not applicable for purposes of research. He points out that many of such people have a tendency of writing problem statements that do not have a proper flow and therefore suffers from lack of organization.
According to him, a good problem statement should have a good structure that will guide the researcher in his work. In addition, he observes that many people rely heavily on secondary sources other than primary sources. He acknowledges that, many people fail to go in the field to collect information that may prove very crucial in writing his or her problem statement.
There is also the issue of being repetitive when writing a problem statement. Leedy (p 87) says that students have this problem which makes their problem statements lack the quality needed.
Researches are here to stay and therefore it is very important to make sure that we have a well written problem statement so that we can achieve what we are intending to research on. Students should be taught on what a good research entails so that as they grow up they are able to perfect ways of conducting research. This will ensure that future researches are reliable and accurate.
Kuhn, Tom. The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996
Leedy, Peter. Practical research: Planning and design (9th Ed.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2010
Neuman. Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (6th Ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2005
Willis, John. Foundations of qualitative research: Interpretive and critical approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2007