Generally, problem statement or statement of the problem is usually argued by many authors as the most important part of the research work. According to Saunders et al (2009), it determines every other aspect of the research, your research question, objectives and hypothesis are derived from the problem statement. Once, you fail to get it right, your research work is sure it will fail because there was no problem in the first place that you are trying to solve.
A problem statement is usually one or more sentences that explain the problem your project, dissertation, thesis or research work seek to address. It is that statement that clearly explain that pending issue that call for concern and investigation. In general, a problem statement outline negative points of the current situation and explain in briefly why this matters to us.
It also serve as a great communication tools helping to get buy-in and support for others. I clearly state the challenges in the society, organization, individuals that require attention and solution and why it is necessary for policy makers.
Why is Problem statement or statement of problem important?
The problem statement define the part of the research why the research is necessary at such point in time. It should be noted that one of the important goal of problem statement is to define the problem being addressed in such a manner that is clear and concise. It aim is to identify the problem that needs to be addressed.
Steps in Writing Problem Statement in Project, Dissertation and thesis
Start with a lead in statement: A brief description of the social, economic, political and cultural context as it relates to the problem or issue. Use statistics from recognised bodies to support your claim that the issue you are talking about is problematic.
A concise description of the nature of the problem (the discrepancy between what is and what should be) or issue and of its size, the distribution and severity (who is affected, where, since when, and what are the consequences for those affected and for the available resources and services). Elaborate on the different components of the problem or issue where applicable.
Statement of originality or Evidence that the problem exist: Do a concise review of relevant studies that have been carried on the problem under discussion in different part of the world, Africa, Nigeria. Discuss the different view of the works reviewed, group the findings in terms of those supporting the view, those against the view, those that find no correlation at all.
Show how this your current study/research is different from all the other ones mentioned, this is called “Gap in Knowledge”
Introducing your topic and purpose of the study: having identified the gap in knowledge the next step is to introduce your research topic. It is important to note that, statement problem or problem statement must not be captured by one or two sentences but should clearly discuss and identify a problem that need to be solved and the severity of the problem.
The context of a statement of problem differs depending on the type of research one is embarking. The steps explained here is mostly necessary when writing project, dissertation and thesis. A problem statement for journal article often slightly differs from the one discussed here.
For instance, problem statement when writing journal article should answer the question of “so what?” It should clearly state why the research is necessary and should be embarked on.
Yes we know there is problem, the question is why should one be interested in solving the problem or be devoting resources in solving this particular problem among the competing problems for the scarce available resources.
You should also note that a problem statement in research differs from research question or mere asking question. Asking question that need answer should not be seen as a problem statement.
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I did a little video for my students about the “problem statement”. The common misunderstanding is the word “problem” at least in the area I am chairing, Psychology.
So as an example, a student will say something like this:”The problem is that most people don’t understand the ethnic differences in mental health coping strategies and so many people are left untreated”.
The Problem Statement, however, should say something like this:”The problem to be addressed is possible differences within various ethnic community groups in coping strategies if struggling with mental health issues. By identifying those, if any, a targeted approach to mental health care could be helpful in treating specific ethno-cultural groups”
Of course, the problem section should have past research basis for suggested research.
A problem statement describes a problem or issue that needs to be solved in your dissertation. Before you write a problem statement, you should always define the problem that you will address in your dissertation. To best write a problem statement, describe the ideal situation and explain what problem is preventing your ideal situation from happening. Include the financial costs of the problem and provide evidence to back up your claims.
There are lots of different ways to— some sources will recommend jumping right to the problem itself, while others recommend providing background context first so that problem (and its solution) are easier to understand for the reader. Start by describing how things should work. Before you even mention your problem, explain in a few sentences how things would be if the problem didn’t exist.