When writing a research proposal, the problem statement is one of the most important sections because it is the first thing people will read. Therefore, you need to understand what it is and what it entails.
This post provides comprehensive guidelines for defining and writing a problem statement.
Definition: Problem statement
A problem statement is a research proposal or paper description that explains what the research will address and why the issue needs to be addressed.
The statement is important in research and business proposals because it is one of the first things your instructor, colleagues, or potential customers will read in your document.
Once you have recognized the problem you want to explore in your project, you can come up with a problem statement by asking the questions below:1
- What information is currently available about the problem? (Give context)
- What should we know about the topic? (Explain the precise issue)
- Why is this topic important? (Explain its relevance)
- What do you intend to do to find out more about the issue? (Explain the research objectives)
When is a problem statement required?
A problem statement is applicable in various situations. Also, you can use the statement when dealing with a practical or theoretical problem, like in science.
In each case, the problem statement will look different. However, the basic principles for writing it are constant.
A problem statement is required in:
|Academic research:||• The statement here helps readers, including your instructor, to understand your research problem and its significance.
• It gives a contextual overview of your research subject.
• The problem statement in academic research can feature several paragraphs, as long as they are relevant and serve as a basis for your project.
• You can condense the statement into a few sentences and include it in your thesis paper’s introduction.
|Business:||• The problem statement here is a significant element in proposals for improvement projects.
• It explains the issues that need to be addressed in a business or institution and the most effective solutions.
• It provides an overview of how the solutions can be implemented.
• In businesses and institutions, the problem statement is usually an independent document.2
1. Contextualize the problem statement
The first thing you should do when preparing a problem statement is to contextualize the problem. Here, you should give some background about the issue and what is already known.
For instance, you can quote findings from a previous study about the issue. The approach may differ depending on the problem.
Practical problem statement
A practical problem involves everyday issues arising in institutions, businesses, and lives.
In such cases, your problem statement should answer the following questions:3
- Who does the problem affect?
- Where does the problem arise?
- When does it happen?
- What steps have been made to resolve the issue?
Theoretical problem statements
A theoretical problem results from abstract thinking and does not necessarily apply to everyday life. Theoretical research usually applies to scientific, historical, and geographical subjects. Therefore, your approach to theoretical research is usually different from a practical one.
When writing the problem statement for theoretical research problems, you should answer the questions below:3
- What existing knowledge is there about the problem?
- Is the problem restricted to a specific period?
- Is the problem restricted to a specific geographical region?
- Is there scholarly literature that defines or debates the problem?
2. Why does the problem statement matter?
Another significant element of the statement is the relevance of the research. In other words, why is the research problem worth exploring?
Practical problem statement
In practical research, you can explain the relevance of the problem by answering the questions below:
- What will transpire if the issue is not addressed?
- Who will be affected the most?
- Do similar issues exist in other contexts?
Theoretical problem statement
For theoretical research, you can explain the relevance of the problem by asking the following questions:
- How will the problem’s resolution advance the comprehension of the subject?
- What benefits will the research have in future studies?
- Does the issue impact society directly or indirectly?
3. Objectives and aims for the problem statement
After explaining the context of the research problem and its relevance, the next step is describing how you aim to address it.
The overall goal of any research is to find conclusive solutions for a specific problem and suggest the best ways to implement the solutions. However, you can only achieve this by determining the causes or reasons for the issue.1
The objectives are slightly different from the aims. Instead, objectives are steps you intend to apply to achieve your aim.3
A problem statement is a precise explanation of the issues a research project pursues to address. It includes:
- Precise issue
- Relevance of the study
This statement is necessary for academic projects by university or college students.
However, businesses and institutions also need project statements (independent documents) when recommending improvement projects.
This statement provides readers with an overview of your project.
It also serves as a communication tool for those working on the project (it helps them know issues they should address).
The key elements of a statement problem are:
- Precise problem identification
Therefore, your statement should explain each of these elements.
1 Elsevier Author Service. “What is a Problem Statement? [with examples].” Accessed December 15, 2022. https://scientific-publishing.webshop.elsevier.com/research-process/what-problem-statement-examples/.
2 Indeed Editorial Team. “How to Write a Problem Statement (With an Example).” Indeed. February 25, 2020. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-write-a-problem-statement.
3 Kwan, Michael. “Effective Problem Statement Examples.” YourDictionary. Accessed December 15, 2022. https://examples.yourdictionary.com/problem-statement-examples.html.
4 Birt, Jamie. “What Is a Problem Statement: Definition, How-To and Example.” Indeed. February 25, 2020. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/what-is-a-problem-statement.