Tips to write a Powerful Problem Statement for a Research

Last Updated: 05 February 2024

Every research paper must have a clearly defined problem, usually a knowledge gap. Once this is done, the next step is writing the problem statement. A problem statement quickly tells the reader what the problem is, what the research needs are, and how you plan to solve the problem. It sets the groundwork for how a systematic investigation will be conducted.

Now that you know a problem statement is at the core of your research process, it makes sense to understand how to write one.

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The following article defines what a problem statement is, the features of a problem statement, and the papers that require a problem statement. The article will also outline all the steps for writing a problem statement and tips for writing a good one.

What is a Problem Statement?

A problem statement is a clear, concrete, and concise statement that points out the research problem that needs to be solved. It answers the question: What is the research trying to address? A problem statement quickly informs the readers of the research's purpose and intention. It:

A problem statement identifies the main issue in the research and puts it in a way that allows you to conduct systematic research. It identifies the problem's current state, the proposed future state, and the existing gaps between the two.

All the elements should be clearly and briefly stated so the reader does not miss them. Writing the problem statement at the beginning of the research process before data collection or analysis is essential.

The problem statement helps identify and outline the project's goals and scope. In addition, writing a problem statement initially will guide the research design and methodology.

While your research paper could span dozens if not hundreds of pages long, your problem statement should be short, ideally not longer than a paragraph, but more importantly, it should state the practical or theoretical problem and how your research will address it.

Problem statements have a variety of uses. In an organization, it is about solving issues affecting clients and employees. In government institutions, they are used for policy analysis. Generally, problem statements are used:

What Papers Require a Problem Statement?

A problem statement is an important and necessary communication tool used to guide a research process.

Problem statements are used in the academic and business world. In academic settings, problem statements help researchers understand a problem's importance and how to solve it. A problem statement in a research paper should be written in the introduction.

A problem statement is written as the first step to kick-start a project in the corporate world. A problem statement is written as a stand-alone document in such a situation. The following are common situations when a problem statement is necessary:

Steps for Writing a Problem Statement

The following is a cheat sheet for writing a good problem statement for your research.

Step 1: Provide Your Research Context

First, you must provide context for the research, simply background information. This will help them understand where you are coming from and why solving the problem is important.

A great tip for this is to describe an ideal world where that problem does not exist. The aim is for readers to know that the world would be much better if the problem is solved.

In applied research, the problem statement must tell the reader the source of the problem and those affected by it.

Focus on the following to help you contextualize the problem statement:

When writing theoretical research, you must review the relevant literature on the assigned topic and show how your research fits it. Consider the scientific, social, geographical, and historical background and try to answer the following:

Step 2: Show How the Problem is Relevant

Your statement should show the justification of the problem and why you must address it. Please discuss the consequences of not fixing the problem and how the future generation will be affected.

Consider including the solutions, especially if it has wider relevance beyond your subject area. If there are no practical consequences, you must explain how your "solutions" fit into the bigger picture.

Step 3: Explain the Financial Cost

Does your problem bring about any financial implications? If yes, it's important to state it. This part is necessary if your research is about pitching for funding from potential donors.

State the problem and frame it in terms of financial costs.

As donors are the decision-makers, you should make them understand why they should sign the check.

Step 4: Write Down the Objectives of the Research

Provide a concise explanation of the research design and methodology you intend to use. As you do this, clearly state the aims you intend to achieve by doing the research. It would be best to show effective approaches to dealing with the problem.

The objectives and aims are the purpose of the research. Write these using the infinitive form of the verb. For example, the aim of this research is to:

Remember that objectives are the steps you must take to achieve your goals and should lead to the research questions.

Step 5: Provide Evidence for Your Claims

After showing your claims, provide evidence to convince the readers. This step is important; your target audience will dismiss it if you do not write it well. So, ensure you conduct sufficient research to have all the facts in place.

Step 6: Recommend Great Solutions

It is not enough that you identify or provide evidence for the problem or claims; there must be a laid-out plan for solving them.

Readers want to know the kind of solutions you have for the identified problem. Therefore, you must recommend possible solutions to the problem.

Ensure you demonstrate a solid understanding of the causes of the problem and how the proposed solutions will solve them.

Step 7: Importance of the Solutions

Tell the readers how your solutions will work and why they are better. As you do this, focus on its efficiency and financial implications.

Go into details of what the solution will solve. Talk about the expenses that would be eliminated if the solution is implemented.

Also, talk about the intangible benefits of those solutions, such as client satisfaction.

Step 8: Summary of the Problem and Solutions

Finally, as you come to the end of the statement, write a conclusion about the problem. State the problem, what is needed to solve it, why it is necessary, and why your solutions are the best. This part should be brief because you have already discussed all this in the body of the text.

Take note that it is all about reminding the reader of why your statement matters and giving them a sense of finality.

Tips for Writing a Good Problem Statement

You must start with a clear, written problem statement to develop a great solution. However, writing a problem statement is challenging. It takes coherent thoughts and a lot of research, writing, and rewriting. Therefore, it is easy for you to be stuck along the way.

The following tips will help you write a good problem statement.

1. Start with a Vision Statement

To know what problem you want to solve, you must first know the vision of your project.

A vision statement shows what you want to achieve by carrying out the research.

It also shows whether the steps you plan to take will lead to your ultimate goal.

Ensure the vision statement is clear, concise, and specific to your problem.

2. State the Problem

Writing a vision statement is not enough.

You must also clearly describe your problem and why it is important to solve it.

Make sure to write it in a way that readers can understand.

Additionally, the statement should be brief so readers can easily spot the issue.

3. Identify the Context

Putting your research problem in context means giving the reader the background information to understand why the study is necessary.

For instance, does the problem impact people negatively? If yes, then you must show this.

Also, share whether some factors or conditions are worsening the problem.

4. Show the Impact

Consider the impact your problem is likely to have. Does it lead to loss of income?

If the research is for a company, talk about how the company will face difficulties trying to generate income when the problem arises.

Consider also if the customers and employees will be impacted.

5. Use Persuasive Language

Using convincing language to convince your target audience to decide the problem would be best.

Make sure you effectively describe the context of the problem and its impact. Consider using facts and numbers to show the seriousness of your research.

Use logical arguments and personal experiences to appeal to the reader's emotions.

Your attention should be on why the action needs to be taken.

6. Show the Cause of the Gap

A problem statement identifies the gap between a problem and an expected goal. As you write the problem, identify what causes lead to this gap.

If there are many causes of the problem, address them individually.

If there are some issues that you are not certain could be the cause of the problem, it is important to state them. This will help decision-makers decide whether they should be explored before solving the issue.

7. Provide a Problem-Solving Method

A big element of a problem statement is showing that the issue can be solved. It's important to show the method you intend to use to solve the issue.

Your readers will also want to know whether you are concerned about fixing it. Therefore, you must state which method to use to deal with the problem.

8. What Next?

Show your plan to move forward while solving the problem. Describe all the steps you will take in dealing with the issue.

If you require more research, additional resources, or a change of location to solve the problem, then you must describe it.

9. Verify the Existence of the 5Ws

5ws represent who, what, where, why, and when. Make sure you also include "how." A good problem statement must have all of these questions answered.

So, before submitting your problem statement to the target audience, review it closely and ensure it has all of these.

To help you achieve this, try using a problem statement template. Taking advantage of this template will make it easy for you to write one. A template will help you write a concise statement with all the necessary information.

Note that a good problem statement should be able to check all of the following boxes, which is exactly what a template will help you do.

A good template will enhance your ability to understand the problem and thus find the solution much more quickly.

Attributes of a Problem Statement

To answer the so what question, your problem question should be:

Example of a Well-Done Problem Statement

A problem statement will always follow the same general format, but this can vary in length. The following is an example of the type of format you should follow:

Over the past few years, the difference between blacks and nonblack in voter turnout has remained steady. Except during former president Barack Obama's elections, there was a consistent 12-point difference between blacks and nonblacks (context). Following the presidential elections 2020, Georgia became one of the 14 states that laid the first stone of requirements for new voter IDs and registration (problem). Reviewing these laws' effect on voter turnout will provide more information on whether the new laws are causing the huge gap (relevance). This study addresses how the 2021 law in Georgia influenced voter turnout. The research will look at data from pre-2020 elections and compare it to post-2020 elections after the new laws were passed. Statistical analysis will be used to measure the difference in voter turnout between the two periods (Aims and Objectives). In other words, what is the impact of these new laws?

It is important to indicate that you will address the problem in your statement. For instance, in the above example, this research aims to addressee. Doing this allows the readers to know what to expect next.

Final Word

A research problem is a clear and brief summary of the problem you are trying to address by conducting a study. Writing a problem statement is an important step in conducting research. It will guide you in conducting systematic research and help you solve the identified problem. When writing your problem statement, you must start with identifying all the crucial elements: the problem itself and its context, why it is a problem, its relevance, and what needs to be done to solve it.