define statement of the problem in research

  • Research Process

What is a Problem Statement? [with examples]

  • 5 minute read

Table of Contents

The statement of the problem is one of the first things that a colleague or potential client will read. With the vastness of the information available at one’s fingertips in the online9 world, your work may have just a few seconds to draw in a reader to take a deeper look at your proposal before moving on to the next option. It explains quickly to the reader, the problem at hand, the need for research, and how you intend to do it.

A strong, clear description of the problem that drew you to your research has to be straightforward, easy to read and, most important, relevant. Why do you care about this problem? How can solving this problem impact the world? The problem statement is your opportunity to explain why you care and what you propose to do in the way of researching the problem.

A problem statement is an explanation in research that describes the issue that is in need of study . What problem is the research attempting to address? Having a Problem Statement allows the reader to quickly understand the purpose and intent of the research. The importance of writing your research proposal cannot be stressed enough. Check for more information on Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal .

It is expected to be brief and concise , and should not include the findings of the research or detailed data . The average length of a research statement is generally about one page . It is going to define the problem, which can be thought of as a gap in the information base. There may be several solutions to this gap or lack of information, but that is not the concern of the problem statement. Its purpose is to summarize the current information and where a lack of knowledge may be presenting a problem that needs to be investigated .

The purpose of the problem statement is to identify the issue that is a concern and focus it in a way that allows it to be studied in a systematic way . It defines the problem and proposes a way to research a solution, or demonstrates why further information is needed in order for a solution to become possible.

What is Included in a Problem Statement?

Besides identifying the gap of understanding or the weakness of necessary data, it is important to explain the significance of this lack.

-How will your research contribute to the existing knowledge base in your field of study?

-How is it significant?

-Why does it matter?

Not all problems have only one solution so demonstrating the need for additional research can also be included in your problem statement. Once you identify the problem and the need for a solution, or for further study, then you can show how you intend to collect the needed data and present it.

How to Write a Statement of Problem in Research Proposal

It is helpful to begin with your goal. What do you see as the achievable goal if the problem you outline is solved? How will the proposed research theoretically change anything? What are the potential outcomes?

Then you can discuss how the problem prevents the ability to reach your realistic and achievable solution. It is what stands in the way of changing an issue for the better. Talk about the present state of affairs and how the problem impacts a person’s life, for example.

It’s helpful at this point to generally layout the present knowledge and understanding of the subject at hand, before then describing the gaps of knowledge that are currently in need of study. Your problem statement is a proposed solution to address one of these gaps.

A good problem statement will also layout the repercussions of leaving the problem as it currently stands. What is the significance of not addressing this problem? What are the possible future outcomes?

Example of Problem Statement in Research Proposal

If, for example , you intended to research the effect of vitamin D supplementation on the immune system , you would begin with a review of the current knowledge of vitamin D’s known function in relation to the immune system and how a deficiency of it impacts a person’s defenses.

You would describe the ideal environment in the body when there is a sufficient level of vitamin D. Then, begin to identify the problems associated with vitamin D deficiency and the difficulty of raising the level through supplementation, along with the consequences of that deficiency. Here you are beginning to identify the problem of a common deficiency and the current difficulty of increasing the level of vitamin D in the blood.

At this stage, you may begin to identify the problem and narrow it down in a way that is practical to a research project. Perhaps you are proposing a novel way of introducing Vitamin D in a way that allows for better absorption by the gut, or in a combination with another product that increases its level in the blood.

Describe the way your research in this area will contribute to the knowledge base on how to increase levels of vitamin D in a specific group of subjects, perhaps menopausal women with breast cancer. The research proposal is then described in practical terms.

How to write a problem statement in research?

Problem statements differ depending on the type and topic of research and vary between a few sentences to a few paragraphs.

However, the problem statement should not drag on needlessly. Despite the absence of a fixed format, a good research problem statement usually consists of three main parts:

Context: This section explains the background for your research. It identifies the problem and describes an ideal scenario that could exist in the absence of the problem. It also includes any past attempts and shortcomings at solving the problem.

Significance: This section defines how the problem prevents the ideal scenario from being achieved, including its negative impacts on the society or field of research. It should include who will be the most affected by a solution to the problem, the relevance of the study that you are proposing, and how it can contribute to the existing body of research.

Solution: This section describes the aim and objectives of your research, and your solution to overcome the problem. Finally, it need not focus on the perfect solution, but rather on addressing a realistic goal to move closer to the ideal scenario.

Here is a cheat sheet to help you with formulating a good problem statement.

1. Begin with a clear indication that the problem statement is going to be discussed next. You can start with a generic sentence like, “The problem that this study addresses…” This will inform your readers of what to expect next.

2. Next, mention the consequences of not solving the problem . You can touch upon who is or will be affected if the problem continues, and how.

3. Conclude with indicating the type of research /information that is needed to solve the problem. Be sure to reference authors who may have suggested the necessity of such research.

This will then directly lead to your proposed research objective and workplan and how that is expected to solve the problem i.e., close the research gap.

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Research Problem Statement — Find out how to write an impactful one!

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Table of Contents

What Is a Research Problem Statement?

A research problem statement is a clear, concise, and specific statement that describes the issue or problem that the research project addresses. It should be written in a way that is easily understandable to both experts and non-experts in the field.

To write a research problem statement, you should:

  • Identify the general area of interest: Start by identifying the general area of research that interests you.
  • Define the specific problem: Narrow down the general area of interest to a specific problem or issue.
  • Explain the significance of the problem: Provide context for the problem by explaining why it is important to study and what gap in current knowledge or understanding it fills.
  • Provide a clear and concise statement: State the problem in a clear and concise manner, making sure to use language that is easily understood by your intended audience.
  • Use a scientific and objective tone: The problem statement should be written in a neutral and objective tone, avoiding any subjective language and personal bias .

An Example of a Research Problem Statement

“The increasing prevalence of obesity in children is a growing public health concern. Despite the availability of information on healthy eating and physical activity, many children are still not engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors. The problem this study addresses is the lack of understanding of the barriers and facilitators to healthy lifestyle behaviors in children.”

When to Write a Problem Statement in Research?

A research problem statement should be written at the beginning of the research process, before any data collection or analysis takes place. This is because the statement sets the foundation for the entire research project by clearly defining the problem that the research is trying to address.

Writing a problem statement early in the research process helps to guide the research design and methodology , and ensures that the research is focused on addressing the specific problem at hand. It also helps to ensure that the research is relevant and addresses a gap in current knowledge or understanding.

In addition, a well-written problem statement effectively communicates the purpose and significance of the research to potential funders, collaborators, and other stakeholders. It also generates interest and support for the research project.

It’s also important to note that, during the research process, the statement can be refined or updated as new information is discovered or as the research progresses. This is normal and it’s a good idea to revise the statement as needed to ensure that it remains clear and concise and that it accurately reflects the current focus of the research project.

What Does a Research Problem Statement Include?

A research problem statement typically includes the following elements:

1. The research topic:

The general area of interest or field of study that the research project addresses.

2. The specific problem or issue:

A clear and concise statement of the problem or issue that the research project aims to address.

3. The significance of the problem:

A discussion of why the problem is important and what gap in current knowledge or understanding it fills.

4. The research questions:

A set of questions that the research project aims to answer, in order to address the problem or issue.

5. The research objectives:

A set of specific and measurable objectives that the research project aims to achieve.

6. The scope of the research:

A description of the specific population, setting, or context that the research project will focus on.

7. The theoretical framework:

A discussion of the theoretical concepts and principles that inform the research project.

8. The research design:

A description of the research methodologies that will be used to collect and analyze data in order to address the research questions and objectives.

It’s important to note that the problem statement is usually brief and concise, typically a few sentences or a short paragraph. But it should provide enough information to convey the main idea of the research project.

Important Features of Research Problem Statement

The problem statement should be clear and easy to understand. Write it in a way that is accessible to both experts and non-experts in the field.

2. Specificity

The statement should be specific and clearly define the problem or issue that the research project aims to address. It should be narrow enough to be manageable, but broad enough to be of interest to others in the field.

3. Significance

The statement should explain why the problem is important and what gap in current knowledge or understanding it fills. It should provide context for the research project and help to justify its importance.

4. Relevance

The statement should be relevant to the field of study and address an issue that is currently of concern to researchers.

5. Research questions

The statement should include a set of research questions that the research project aims to answer in order to address the problem or issue.

6. Research objectives

The statement should include a set of specific and measurable objectives that the research project aims to achieve.

The statement should define the specific population, setting, or context that the research project will focus on.

8. Theoretical framework

The statement should provide an overview of the theoretical concepts and principles that inform the research project.

9. Research design

The statement should provide an overview of the research methodologies. This will be useful collect and analyze data in order to address the research questions and objectives.

Difference Between a Thesis Statement and a Problem Statement

A thesis statement and a problem statement are related but distinct elements of a research project.

A thesis statement is a statement that summarizes the central argument or claim of a research paper or essay. It presents the main idea of the paper and sets the direction for the rest of the content. It’s usually located at the end of the introduction, and it’s often one sentence.

A problem statement, on the other hand, is a statement that describes a specific problem or issue that the research project aims to address. It sets the foundation for the entire research project by clearly defining the research problem. It is usually located at the beginning of a research paper or proposal, and is of one or a few paragraphs.

In summary, a thesis statement is a summary of the main point or key argument of the research paper. A problem statement describes the specific issue that the research project aims to address. A thesis statement is more focused on the final outcome of the research. While a problem statement is focused on the current state of knowledge and the gap in understanding that the research project aims to fill.

In Conclusion

A problem statement is a critical component of the research project, as it provides a clear and concise roadmap for the research, and helps to ensure that the research is well-designed and addresses a significant and relevant issue.

We hope this blog has clarified your doubts and confusion associated with research problem statement and helps you write an effective statement for your research project!

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How to Write a Problem Statement in Research

define statement of the problem in research

What is a Research Problem Statement?

A research problem statement is a concise statement describing the problem or issue addressed by the research study. The research problem should be composed in a way that both experts and non-experts in the field can understand.

Every research paper describes the investigation of a problem: by adding knowledge to the existing literature, revisiting known observations, or finding concrete solutions. What contribution your publication makes to your field or the scientific community at large depends on whether your research is “basic” (i.e., mainly interested in providing further knowledge that researchers can later apply to specific problems) or “applied” (i.e., developing new techniques, processes, and products).

In any case, a research proposal or research paper must clearly identify and describe the “problem” that is being investigated, so that the reader understands where the research comes from, why the study is relevant, if the applied methods are appropriate, and if the presented results are valid and answer the stated questions. This is known as the “statement of the problem.”

Table of Contents:

  • What is a Research Problem?

How to Write a Problem Statement in a Research Paper

  • Statement of the Problem Example 
  • Where Does the Problem Statement Go in Your Paper?

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Understanding how to write a research problem.

Your research problem defines the gap in existing knowledge you want to address (e.g., global warming causes), an issue with a certain process (e.g., voter registration) or practices (e.g., patient treatment) that is known and well documented and needs a solution, or some surprising phenomena or earlier findings that point to the need for further investigation. Your approach can be theoretical or practical, and the specific type of problem you choose to address depends on the type of research you want to do. 

In any case, your paper should not repeat what other studies have already said. It also should not ask a question that is too broad in scope to be answered within your study, nor should it be so vague that your reader cannot grasp your motivation or focus. To avoid such problems, you need to clearly define your research question, put it into context, and emphasize its significance for your field of research, the wider research community, or even the general public.

When including your statement of the research problem, several key factors must be considered in order to make a statement that is clear, concise, relevant, and convincing to readers. Think about the following elements not as “steps” to writing your problem statement, but as necessary conditions on which your statement can be firmly grounded and stand out.

Provide context for your study

Putting your research problem in context means providing the reader with the background information they need to understand why you want to study or solve this particular problem and why it is relevant. If there have been earlier attempts at solving the problem or solutions that are available but seem imperfect and need improvement, include that information here.

If you are doing applied research, this part of the problem statement (or “research statement”) should tell the reader where a certain problem arises and who is affected by it. In basic or theoretical research, you make a review of relevant literature on the topic that forms the basis for the current work and tells the reader where your study fits in and what gap in existing knowledge you are addressing.

Establish the relevance of this research

The problem statement also needs to clearly state why the current research matters, or why future work matters if you are writing a research proposal. Ask yourself (and tell your readers) what will happen if the problem continues and who will feel the consequences the most. If the solution you search for or propose in your study has wider relevance outside the context of the subjects you have studied, then this also needs to be included here. In basic research, the advancement of knowledge does not always have clear practical consequences—but you should clearly explain to the reader how the insights your study offers fit into the bigger picture, and what potential future research they could inspire.

Define specific aims and Objectives

Now that the reader knows the context of your research and why it matters, briefly introduce the design and the methods you used or are planning to use. While describing these, you should also formulate your precise aims more clearly, and thereby bring every element in your paper together so that the reader can judge for themselves if they (a) understand the rationale behind your study and (b) are convinced by your approach.

This last part could maybe be considered the actual “statement of the problem” of your study, but you need to prepare the reader by providing all the necessary details before you state it explicitly. If the background literature you cite is too broad and the problem you introduced earlier seems a bit vague, then the reader will have trouble understanding how you came up with the specific experiments you suddenly describe here. Make sure your readers can follow the logical structure of your presentation and that no important details are left out.   

Research Problem Statement Example

The following is a sample statement of the problem for a practical research study on the challenges of online learning. Note that your statement might be much longer (especially the context section where you need to explain the background of the study) and that you will need to provide sources for all the claims you make and the earlier literature you cite. You will also not include the headers “context”, “relevance” and “aims and objectives” but simply present these parts as different paragraphs. But if your problem statement follows this structure, you should have no problem convincing the reader of the significance of your work.

Providing context: Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, most educational institutions around the world have transitioned to a fully online study model, at least during peak times of infections and social distancing measures. This transition has not been easy and even two years into the pandemic, problems with online teaching and studying persist (reference needed) . While the increasing gap between those with access to technology and equipment and those without access has been determined to be one of the main challenges (reference needed) , others claim that online learning offers more opportunities for many students by breaking down barriers of location and distance (reference needed) .  

Establishing relevance: Since teachers and students cannot wait for circumstances to go back to normal, the measures that schools and universities have implemented during the last two years, their advantages and disadvantages, and the impact of those measures on students’ progress, satisfaction, and well-being need to be understood so that improvements can be made and demographics that have been left behind can receive the support they need as soon as possible.

Defining aims and objectives: To identify what changes in the learning environment were considered the most challenging and how those changes relate to a variety of student outcome measures, we conducted surveys and interviews among teachers and students at ten institutions of higher education in four different major cities, two in the US (New York and Chicago), one in South Korea (Seoul), and one in the UK (London). Responses were analyzed with a focus on different student demographics and how they might have been affected differently by the current situation.

Where Does the Problem Statement Go in Your Paper? 

If you write a statement of the problem for a research proposal, then you could include it as a separate section at the very beginning of the main text (unless you are given a specific different structure or different headings, however, then you will have to adapt to that). If your problem statement is part of a research paper manuscript for publication in an academic journal, then it more or less constitutes your introduction section , with the context/background being the literature review that you need to provide here.

If you write the introduction section after the other parts of your paper, then make sure that the specific research question and approach you describe here are in line with the information provided in the research paper abstract , and that all questions you raise here are answered at the end of the discussion section —as always, consistency is key. Knowing where to put the research question can depend on several important contextual factors.

Receive instant editing with Wordvice.AI, our automated grammar checker . Then hand over your manuscript or paper to a professional English editing service for paper editing , thesis editing , or other academic editing services .

And if you need advice on how to write the other parts of your research paper , on how to make a research paper outline if you are struggling with putting everything you did together, or on how to come up with a good research question in case you are not even sure where to start, then head over to the Wordvice academic resources website where we have a lot more articles and videos for you.

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  • How to Write a Problem Statement | Guide & Examples

How to Write a Problem Statement | Guide & Examples

Published on November 6, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 20, 2023.

A problem statement is a concise and concrete summary of the research problem you seek to address. It should:

  • Contextualize the problem. What do we already know?
  • Describe the exact issue your research will address. What do we still need to know?
  • Show the relevance of the problem. Why do we need to know more about this?
  • Set the objectives of the research. What will you do to find out more?

Table of contents

When should you write a problem statement, step 1: contextualize the problem, step 2: show why it matters, step 3: set your aims and objectives.

Problem statement example

Other interesting articles

Frequently asked questions about problem statements.

There are various situations in which you might have to write a problem statement.

In the business world, writing a problem statement is often the first step in kicking off an improvement project. In this case, the problem statement is usually a stand-alone document.

In academic research, writing a problem statement can help you contextualize and understand the significance of your research problem. It is often several paragraphs long, and serves as the basis for your research proposal . Alternatively, it can be condensed into just a few sentences in your introduction .

A problem statement looks different depending on whether you’re dealing with a practical, real-world problem or a theoretical issue. Regardless, all problem statements follow a similar process.

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define statement of the problem in research

The problem statement should frame your research problem, giving some background on what is already known.

Practical research problems

For practical research, focus on the concrete details of the situation:

  • Where and when does the problem arise?
  • Who does the problem affect?
  • What attempts have been made to solve the problem?

Theoretical research problems

For theoretical research, think about the scientific, social, geographical and/or historical background:

  • What is already known about the problem?
  • Is the problem limited to a certain time period or geographical area?
  • How has the problem been defined and debated in the scholarly literature?

The problem statement should also address the relevance of the research. Why is it important that the problem is addressed?

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to do something groundbreaking or world-changing. It’s more important that the problem is researchable, feasible, and clearly addresses a relevant issue in your field.

Practical research is directly relevant to a specific problem that affects an organization, institution, social group, or society more broadly. To make it clear why your research problem matters, you can ask yourself:

  • What will happen if the problem is not solved?
  • Who will feel the consequences?
  • Does the problem have wider relevance? Are similar issues found in other contexts?

Sometimes theoretical issues have clear practical consequences, but sometimes their relevance is less immediately obvious. To identify why the problem matters, ask:

  • How will resolving the problem advance understanding of the topic?
  • What benefits will it have for future research?
  • Does the problem have direct or indirect consequences for society?

Finally, the problem statement should frame how you intend to address the problem. Your goal here should not be to find a conclusive solution, but rather to propose more effective approaches to tackling or understanding it.

The research aim is the overall purpose of your research. It is generally written in the infinitive form:

  • The aim of this study is to determine …
  • This project aims to explore …
  • This research aims to investigate …

The research objectives are the concrete steps you will take to achieve the aim:

  • Qualitative methods will be used to identify …
  • This work will use surveys to collect …
  • Using statistical analysis, the research will measure …

The aims and objectives should lead directly to your research questions.

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You can use these steps to write your own problem statement, like the example below.

Step 1: Contextualize the problem A family-owned shoe manufacturer has been in business in New England for several generations, employing thousands of local workers in a variety of roles, from assembly to supply-chain to customer service and retail. Employee tenure in the past always had an upward trend, with the average employee staying at the company for 10+ years. However, in the past decade, the trend has reversed, with some employees lasting only a few months, and others leaving abruptly after many years.

Step 2: Show why it matters As the perceived loyalty of their employees has long been a source of pride for the company, they employed an outside consultant firm to see why there was so much turnover. The firm focused on the new hires, concluding that a rival shoe company located in the next town offered higher hourly wages and better “perks”, such as pizza parties. They claimed this was what was leading employees to switch. However, to gain a fuller understanding of why the turnover persists even after the consultant study, in-depth qualitative research focused on long-term employees is also needed. Focusing on why established workers leave can help develop a more telling reason why turnover is so high, rather than just due to salaries. It can also potentially identify points of change or conflict in the company’s culture that may cause workers to leave.

Step 3: Set your aims and objectives This project aims to better understand why established workers choose to leave the company. Qualitative methods such as surveys and interviews will be conducted comparing the views of those who have worked 10+ years at the company and chose to stay, compared with those who chose to leave.

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.


  • Sampling methods
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  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
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Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

All research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly

Writing Strong Research Questions

Research objectives describe what you intend your research project to accomplish.

They summarize the approach and purpose of the project and help to focus your research.

Your objectives should appear in the introduction of your research paper , at the end of your problem statement .

Your research objectives indicate how you’ll try to address your research problem and should be specific:

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The first step in research is to outline the research problem – this might be an area of concern, a gap in the existing knowledge or a deviation in something that has been previously established, which warrants further investigation. 

Importance of the problem statement

The statement of a problem defines and describes the research hypothesis or question(s), along with the broad method that will be used to solve the problem . The statement of the problem serves as the basis for the introductory section of your project proposal. A well-formulated statement of the problem sets the stage for the rest of your study , including how you will address the problem and any anticipated outcomes or answers. Once you have very clearly laid out the core issue, problem or question that you’re investigating, you’ll have a much sharper focus for conducting and writing up the rest of your study. A clear and straightforward statement will also inform and impress your reader in grasping the issues that your proposed project will address.

Defining the ‘problem’

The research question should be compelling and must have an underlying basis. While formulating the problem statement, as a keen researcher, you should consider the current state of the topic in question, along with any other observations or educated guesses. 

As you are defining the ‘problem’ that you are addressing in your research, consider the following questions: 

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is it a problem, and why does it need to be resolved? 
  • What are the likely benefits of solving the problem? 
  • Besides the central question, what are smaller, specific questions that need to be asked and answered?

Clarifying and refining the problem statement

In the initial stages of writing, the problem statement might be a bit rough around the edges. A final and more refined form will emerge as you reflect more deeply over the topic and delve into the literature. The current status of the topic , including what is known and what is not , will help you refine your original problem statement to a clearer and more specific one.

Wrapping it up

To conclude the section, briefly summarise the problem and emphasise the need to fix it. All potential advantages and anticipated outcomes and implications should be mentioned here. Contextualising the problem in a broad sense will also strengthen your case.

Sample problem statement

In a detailed project proposal, the statement of the problem could be nearly a page long, over several paragraphs . In a report or paper, the problem is typically expressed in a few sentences in the Introduction . Here is an example based on a fictional study.

Early and targeted warning of dengue outbreaks is critical for vector control. Current studies have primarily focused on the role of weather conditions in dengue forecasting. Environmental and microenvironmental suitability for mosquito breeding has been sorely neglected as a crucial factor, particularly in the urban setting. The surge in dengue and other mosquito-borne infections in India metropolitan cities in 2020–2021 highlights the urgent need to identify conducive features to better track and predict outbreaks. This study proposes a framework for implementing intra-urban dengue forecasting by… Through this investigation, we aim to develop a set of early predictors for improved surveillance of dengue in large urban swathes in Indian metropolitan cities. 

Dos and don’ts of writing a problem statement

  • Write the actual problem statement as a declarative statement or as a question .
  • Explain in the statement how previous studies have not addressed the issue or have fallen short due to certain limitations.
  • Outline in your statement how you plan to overcome or circumvent previous roadblocks to fill these deficiencies.
  • Ensure the statement is lucid and to the point, without any distracting information.
  • Cite credible sources where needed.

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The Research Problem & Statement

What they are & how to write them (with examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: Eunice Rautenbach (DTech) | March 2023

If you’re new to academic research, you’re bound to encounter the concept of a “ research problem ” or “ problem statement ” fairly early in your learning journey. Having a good research problem is essential, as it provides a foundation for developing high-quality research, from relatively small research papers to a full-length PhD dissertations and theses.

In this post, we’ll unpack what a research problem is and how it’s related to a problem statement . We’ll also share some examples and provide a step-by-step process you can follow to identify and evaluate study-worthy research problems for your own project.

Overview: Research Problem 101

What is a research problem.

  • What is a problem statement?

Where do research problems come from?

  • How to find a suitable research problem
  • Key takeaways

A research problem is, at the simplest level, the core issue that a study will try to solve or (at least) examine. In other words, it’s an explicit declaration about the problem that your dissertation, thesis or research paper will address. More technically, it identifies the research gap that the study will attempt to fill (more on that later).

Let’s look at an example to make the research problem a little more tangible.

To justify a hypothetical study, you might argue that there’s currently a lack of research regarding the challenges experienced by first-generation college students when writing their dissertations [ PROBLEM ] . As a result, these students struggle to successfully complete their dissertations, leading to higher-than-average dropout rates [ CONSEQUENCE ]. Therefore, your study will aim to address this lack of research – i.e., this research problem [ SOLUTION ].

A research problem can be theoretical in nature, focusing on an area of academic research that is lacking in some way. Alternatively, a research problem can be more applied in nature, focused on finding a practical solution to an established problem within an industry or an organisation. In other words, theoretical research problems are motivated by the desire to grow the overall body of knowledge , while applied research problems are motivated by the need to find practical solutions to current real-world problems (such as the one in the example above).

As you can probably see, the research problem acts as the driving force behind any study , as it directly shapes the research aims, objectives and research questions , as well as the research approach. Therefore, it’s really important to develop a very clearly articulated research problem before you even start your research proposal . A vague research problem will lead to unfocused, potentially conflicting research aims, objectives and research questions .

Webinar - How to find a research topic

What is a research problem statement?

As the name suggests, a problem statement (within a research context, at least) is an explicit statement that clearly and concisely articulates the specific research problem your study will address. While your research problem can span over multiple paragraphs, your problem statement should be brief , ideally no longer than one paragraph . Importantly, it must clearly state what the problem is (whether theoretical or practical in nature) and how the study will address it.

Here’s an example of a problem statement:

Rural communities across Ghana lack access to clean water, leading to high rates of waterborne illnesses and infant mortality. Despite this, there is little research investigating the effectiveness of community-led water supply projects within the Ghanaian context. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the effectiveness of such projects in improving access to clean water and reducing rates of waterborne illnesses in these communities.

As you can see, this problem statement clearly and concisely identifies the issue that needs to be addressed (i.e., a lack of research regarding the effectiveness of community-led water supply projects) and the research question that the study aims to answer (i.e., are community-led water supply projects effective in reducing waterborne illnesses?), all within one short paragraph.

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define statement of the problem in research

Wherever there is a lack of well-established and agreed-upon academic literature , there is an opportunity for research problems to arise, since there is a paucity of (credible) knowledge. In other words, research problems are derived from research gaps . These gaps can arise from various sources, including the emergence of new frontiers or new contexts, as well as disagreements within the existing research.

Let’s look at each of these scenarios:

New frontiers – new technologies, discoveries or breakthroughs can open up entirely new frontiers where there is very little existing research, thereby creating fresh research gaps. For example, as generative AI technology became accessible to the general public in 2023, the full implications and knock-on effects of this were (or perhaps, still are) largely unknown and therefore present multiple avenues for researchers to explore.

New contexts – very often, existing research tends to be concentrated on specific contexts and geographies. Therefore, even within well-studied fields, there is often a lack of research within niche contexts. For example, just because a study finds certain results within a western context doesn’t mean that it would necessarily find the same within an eastern context. If there’s reason to believe that results may vary across these geographies, a potential research gap emerges.

Disagreements – within many areas of existing research, there are (quite naturally) conflicting views between researchers, where each side presents strong points that pull in opposing directions. In such cases, it’s still somewhat uncertain as to which viewpoint (if any) is more accurate. As a result, there is room for further research in an attempt to “settle” the debate.

Of course, many other potential scenarios can give rise to research gaps, and consequently, research problems, but these common ones are a useful starting point. If you’re interested in research gaps, you can learn more here .

How to find a research problem

Given that research problems flow from research gaps , finding a strong research problem for your research project means that you’ll need to first identify a clear research gap. Below, we’ll present a four-step process to help you find and evaluate potential research problems.

If you’ve read our other articles about finding a research topic , you’ll find the process below very familiar as the research problem is the foundation of any study . In other words, finding a research problem is much the same as finding a research topic.

Step 1 – Identify your area of interest

Naturally, the starting point is to first identify a general area of interest . Chances are you already have something in mind, but if not, have a look at past dissertations and theses within your institution to get some inspiration. These present a goldmine of information as they’ll not only give you ideas for your own research, but they’ll also help you see exactly what the norms and expectations are for these types of projects.

At this stage, you don’t need to get super specific. The objective is simply to identify a couple of potential research areas that interest you. For example, if you’re undertaking research as part of a business degree, you may be interested in social media marketing strategies for small businesses, leadership strategies for multinational companies, etc.

Depending on the type of project you’re undertaking, there may also be restrictions or requirements regarding what topic areas you’re allowed to investigate, what type of methodology you can utilise, etc. So, be sure to first familiarise yourself with your institution’s specific requirements and keep these front of mind as you explore potential research ideas.

Step 2 – Review the literature and develop a shortlist

Once you’ve decided on an area that interests you, it’s time to sink your teeth into the literature . In other words, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the existing research regarding your interest area. Google Scholar is a good starting point for this, as you can simply enter a few keywords and quickly get a feel for what’s out there. Keep an eye out for recent literature reviews and systematic review-type journal articles, as these will provide a good overview of the current state of research.

At this stage, you don’t need to read every journal article from start to finish . A good strategy is to pay attention to the abstract, intro and conclusion , as together these provide a snapshot of the key takeaways. As you work your way through the literature, keep an eye out for what’s missing – in other words, what questions does the current research not answer adequately (or at all)? Importantly, pay attention to the section titled “ further research is needed ”, typically found towards the very end of each journal article. This section will specifically outline potential research gaps that you can explore, based on the current state of knowledge (provided the article you’re looking at is recent).

Take the time to engage with the literature and develop a big-picture understanding of the current state of knowledge. Reviewing the literature takes time and is an iterative process , but it’s an essential part of the research process, so don’t cut corners at this stage.

As you work through the review process, take note of any potential research gaps that are of interest to you. From there, develop a shortlist of potential research gaps (and resultant research problems) – ideally 3 – 5 options that interest you.

The relationship between the research problem and research gap

Step 3 – Evaluate your potential options

Once you’ve developed your shortlist, you’ll need to evaluate your options to identify a winner. There are many potential evaluation criteria that you can use, but we’ll outline three common ones here: value, practicality and personal appeal.

Value – a good research problem needs to create value when successfully addressed. Ask yourself:

  • Who will this study benefit (e.g., practitioners, researchers, academia)?
  • How will it benefit them specifically?
  • How much will it benefit them?

Practicality – a good research problem needs to be manageable in light of your resources. Ask yourself:

  • What data will I need access to?
  • What knowledge and skills will I need to undertake the analysis?
  • What equipment or software will I need to process and/or analyse the data?
  • How much time will I need?
  • What costs might I incur?

Personal appeal – a research project is a commitment, so the research problem that you choose needs to be genuinely attractive and interesting to you. Ask yourself:

  • How appealing is the prospect of solving this research problem (on a scale of 1 – 10)?
  • Why, specifically, is it attractive (or unattractive) to me?
  • Does the research align with my longer-term goals (e.g., career goals, educational path, etc)?

Depending on how many potential options you have, you may want to consider creating a spreadsheet where you numerically rate each of the options in terms of these criteria. Remember to also include any criteria specified by your institution . From there, tally up the numbers and pick a winner.

Step 4 – Craft your problem statement

Once you’ve selected your research problem, the final step is to craft a problem statement. Remember, your problem statement needs to be a concise outline of what the core issue is and how your study will address it. Aim to fit this within one paragraph – don’t waffle on. Have a look at the problem statement example we mentioned earlier if you need some inspiration.

Key Takeaways

We’ve covered a lot of ground. Let’s do a quick recap of the key takeaways:

  • A research problem is an explanation of the issue that your study will try to solve. This explanation needs to highlight the problem , the consequence and the solution or response.
  • A problem statement is a clear and concise summary of the research problem , typically contained within one paragraph.
  • Research problems emerge from research gaps , which themselves can emerge from multiple potential sources, including new frontiers, new contexts or disagreements within the existing literature.
  • To find a research problem, you need to first identify your area of interest , then review the literature and develop a shortlist, after which you’ll evaluate your options, select a winner and craft a problem statement .

define statement of the problem in research

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  • How to Write a Problem Statement for your Research


Every research starts with identifying a problem which is usually an existing gap in your field of study. Once you do this, the next step is to craft a statement of the problem that captures this issue and how you plan to resolve it. A statement of problem forms the basis of every systematic investigation. 

Seeing as a problem statement forms the core of your research, it makes sense to know how to write an effective one. So how do you go about this? First, you need to get acquainted with the features of a good problem statement plus its elements and structure. 

Use this guide to know how to write an effective statement of the problem for your systematic investigation. 

What is the Statement of the Problem in Research?

A statement of problem refers to the critical issue that your research seeks to address. In other words, it captures the existing knowledge gap that your study aims to bridge using reliable results or outcomes. A problem statement can be as little as a few sentences or go all the way to several paragraphs—what matters is it communicates the central focus of your study. 

As your study bridges this gap, it also leaves room for future investigations. The implication is that your problem statement should not be too broad; instead, it should address one specific issue and contribute to the knowledge pool for further research. 

Use for Free: Research Form Templates

What are the Features of a Good Problem Statement?  

A good problem statement captures the core purpose of your study in simple, clear, and direct terms. Some other tell-tale signs of a well-written research statement of problem include: 

  • A good problem statement is concrete and concise. It doesn’t capture ideas vaguely or ambiguously.
  • It allows you to contextualize the research problem.
  • A good problem statement helps you to set the aims and objectives of your systematic investigation. 
  • It justifies your research and draws attention to the study’s significance. 

Why is a Problem Statement Important in Research Writing?

Writing a good problem statement serves both the researcher and the readers. For the researcher, the problem statement helps you visualize the scope of your project and outline it accordingly. Also, it allows you to map out specific aims and objectives for your study. 

On the flip side, the problem statement helps the reader identify the core reason for your research and see how your work fits into the existing body of knowledge. It helps them get on the same page as you regarding the importance and significance of your systematic investigation. 

If you require funding for your research, a problem statement can help potential financiers to see why investing in your project is the right move to make. It gives them an overview of the existing problem, your solution, and the impact of your solution on the field of study. 

Elements and Structure of a Problem Statement

In its most basic form, a problem statement comprises three(3) elements which are: 

  • The research problem
  • The claim or working thesis
  • The significance of the study

In other words, it tells the reader what you’re trying to solve, how you plan to solve it, and why you want to solve it. 

1. The Research Problem

Your research problem is the reason for your systematic investigation. It is the gap you identified and planned to fill based on the results of your study. You can also think of this as the primary research question. 

A few questions you should ask yourself here include: 

  • Is it clear what’s being described in this problem statement?
  • Do I understand the main problem being described here?
  • Do I have a good grasp of what the main issue is here?

2. The Claim or Working Thesis 

Your working thesis is the first attempt at asserting your position, and it spells out your stance on the matter at a specific point in time. It’s called a “working” thesis because it is subject to change as your study progresses. In your working thesis, you have the chance to justify your position by providing primary and secondary claims that support your position. 

3. The Significance of the Study 

This is the point where you communicate the value of your research and show readers why it is necessary in the first place. Here, you can discuss the impact of your work and its relevance to your field of study. Don’t forget to highlight the contributions of your work to existing knowledge and how others will benefit from it. 

Read: Research Report: Definition, Types + [Writing Guide]

What is the Difference Between a Thesis Statement and a Problem Statement? 

A problem statement focuses on the specific issue you’ve identified and hope to resolve with your research. It comprises the research problem, claim, or working statement and the significance of your research. On the other hand, a thesis statement makes a specific claim or assertion open for debate. 

For example, the statement “writing is more of a science than an art” is an excellent example of a thesis statement because it proposes an idea that may be true or false. Once you establish the thesis statement for your research, you are expected to provide evidence and build a strong argument that supports this claim.

What are the Steps for Writing a Problem Statement? 

  • Define Your Research Context 
  • State Why The Problem Matters 
  • State the Financial Cost
  • Back Up Your Claims
  • Propose A Solution
  • Conclude By Summarizing the Problem and Solution

1. Define Your Research Context 

The first thing you need to do is build a solid context that makes it easier for readers to understand the problem. A hack for this is to describe an ideal world where the problem doesn’t exist. In other words, help your readers to visualize how different things would be if they didn’t have to deal with this problem in the first place. 

For example, if you’re researching the rise in the number of train accidents in London, start by describing how the process would function if the current problem didn’t exist. When you’ve done this, you can refer to the research problem at the end of your explanation. 

2. State Why the Problem Matters

You should let readers in on why the problem matters and why you must address it at this point. In other words, answer the question, “why is it important that we fix this particular problem?” What difference would it make? 

Your job here is to show the reader why your research problem is the biggest elephant in the room. You may also consider including what attempts have already been made to solve the problem and why they didn’t work out. 

3. State the Financial Cost

If there’s a financial implication of not fixing the problem, then it’s a good idea to state it here. This is more useful if you’re pitching for funding for your research. 

4. Back Up Your Claims

It’s not enough to say that the problem has some negative impact on other people or your organization; you must back up all of these claims with well-researched data. This is the point where you pull up information from relevant secondary data sources and reference them in your work. 

5. Proffer a Solution

Now that we know the problem, the next question is, “what can be done about it”? To answer this, you need to propose a practical solution to the research problem. Take time to demonstrate why this is the most pragmatic solution and why it will work. More importantly, focus on the impact of your solution and hint at its benefits. 

6. Conclude By Summarizing the Problem and Solution

Your conclusion should consist of the problem, why it needs to be fixed, and a summarized argument of why your solution is the best answer to the problem.

Sample Problem Statement 

Problem : The use of hard drugs amongst teenagers in the District of Columbia has increased significantly over the past decade. 

Background : According to the Drug Abuse Statistics Organization data, 50% of teenagers have misused a drug at least once. Teenagers in the District of Columbia are 11.94% more likely to have used drugs in the last month than the average American teen. Existing data shows that this is a significant problem but fails to address the root causes of rising teenage drug abuse in the state. Therefore, more research is required to identify why teenagers in Colombia abuse drugs and proffer solutions to this menace. 

Relevance : Young people who abuse drugs expose themselves to many risks, including life-threatening conditions and mental health-related problems. Drug abuse can impact the brain’s ability to function in the short term and prevent proper growth and development in the long term. Data shows that teenagers who use hard drugs are more likely to be disillusioned. Addressing this problem will give concerned parties the much-needed insights to help them curtail drug abuse. 

Objectives : This research aims to identify the root causes of teenage drug abuse and map out actionable solutions to address this. 

Mistakes to Avoid when Writing Problem Statements  

A good problem statement sets the tone for the rest of your dissertation, so you want to get it right. That said, here are some things you should have at the back of your mind as you craft a problem statement for your research paper. 

1. Make sure your problem statement is straight to the point. Every sentence should reinforce the importance of your study. 

2. Narrow the scope of your problem statement.

3. Avoid unnecessary jargon and highly technical language.

4. Build a logical argument that will convince the reader

5. Emphasize the “why” of the problem 

FAQ About Writing a Statement of the Problem

How do you identify a research problem?

The best way to identify a research problem is to read through existing studies to discover any gaps in knowledge. You can also discover research problems by observing your environment and identifying any contradictions that exist among perspectives. 


Whether you’re seeking funding for your research or approval from your professor, you need to write a well-defined statement of the problem. A problem statement allows you to pitch the core idea of your study and show others why it is worth being addressed. It should draw attention to the core idea of your research, and convince others to invest in your systematic investigation. 


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How to Write a Statement of the Problem for Your Research Proposal

Defining your research problem is essential when conducting an experiment. In this article, you will learn how to write a statement of the problem for your research proposal. Learn about the characteristics of a good statement of the problem and examples of research questions.

Updated on May 17, 2022

A researcher working on a problem statement for a new article

You are a great researcher. You are full of ideas and questions as to where to go next with your work. You would not be in this position if you were not good at coming up with interesting questions within your area.

One problem, though, is knowing where to spend your time, energy, and money. Which ideas, questions, and problems are worthwhile?

You need to be able to define a good research problem. A research problem addresses an existing gap in knowledge in your field and leads to further investigations by you and other researchers. Inspiring others with your research problem will lead to citations, enhancing your and your institution's impact.

In order to write a clear and useful problem statement, you need to describe a question and its consequences.

One key way to assess the ‘usefulness' of your research ideas is to learn how to express them as clear problems.

In this article, we will talk about how to write a statement of the problem for your next research proposal. This is important not just for assessing the ‘usefulness' of research ideas, but also for formulating a grant application or proposal. We'll talk about how to explain your research ideas to others in the form of a problem statement in your proposal.

What is a statement of the problem in research?

All research projects should start with a clear problem statement. A problem statement is a formulation of an issue which is usually a ‘gap' within your area. A research gap is an unanswered question, an issue, controversy, or untested hypothesis that has not yet been addressed.

The trick with research problems is working out whether they are actually worth investing the time, energy, and money to figure out. This comes with experience, or you could just read on!

Since a clear problem statement is going to form the basis of your next research project, the question is: How can I write one?

How is this done? The first step is to become familiar with the basic elements of a problem statement in effective research.

Characteristics of a problem statement

A research problem statement has two key attributes:

  • The problem must be challenging and original, but also potentially achievable by your team.
  • The problem must not be incremental. In other words, don't try to address a small change or advance on an existing study that leads to no new scientific insight. This could be damaging to your and your team's reputation, and will likely not lead to a meaningful publication.

Developing a ‘good' research problem statement, therefore, involves systematic planning and setting time-based, realistic objectives. Your problem has to be achievable.

You'll also need to apply feasible research methods based on an approach that best suits the research question. Your methods have to make sense. They must be usable. In other words, you must be able to acquire statistically sufficient and relevant data that is reproducible.

Finally, the problem you define means you'll need to train team members in this particular research area and methods.

Writing a statement of the problem

Stating a research problem is done by defining it within the general area of your research. This depends on your previous work and experience. It may be an area you want to move into or a topic related to what you have already worked on as a researcher. Examples could include a question in astrophysics within physics, robotics within engineering, nutrition within medicine, or marine biology within ocean and Earth science.

Once you've determined your overall area (and you'll know this already of course), it's time to drill down, decide, and define a research problem within that field.

First , your statement should identify a problem that needs to be addressed within your selected sub-area.

This will almost certainly require literature work, but the idea may arise from:

  • Discussions you've had with colleagues;
  • Discussions at a conference;
  • A paper you've read.

Second , your problem statement should be a “good research problem.” This will require further investigation and reading as you consider “what has been done?” and “what needs to be done?”

Third , search for more information, perhaps by:

  • Locating relevant books, papers and other materials;
  • Evaluating the quality and authority of the information collected;
  • Maintaining a regular literature review throughout the project;
  • Making regular notes on background material;
  • Deciding how this literature search will be carried out within the research group;
  • Deciding how information gained will be disseminated to the group (e.g., via each researcher carrying out a regular literature review in their sub-area and information disseminated at group meetings or via email at regular intervals).

This process may well change or modify how your research problem is stated or formulated.

Once your research problem has been identified, research questions within the problem need to be specified.

How long should your statement of the problem be?

Not too long. One page is more than enough for a clear and effective problem statement.

Research questions within your problem

The first stage of writing your research problem statement involves formulating your questions in a meaningful way. In the context of important questions, we are looking for things that many readers across different disciplines find to be interesting. But at the same time, set your question within your field.

Thus, once a research problem has been established, several questions can be written down. These questions should specify exactly what needs to be determined to address the problem.

These questions should also be specific enough that they can be answered using appropriate available research methods - or methods that could be made available to the research group (e.g. by buying or borrowing equipment).

These questions should require complex in-depth investigation, analysis, and argument. They should not be simple enough that they can be answered easily with well-established facts or yes/no answers.

All research questions should be focused, specific, appropriately complex, and relevant to the overall aims of the project.

Examples of questions and next steps

  • How do government regulations prevent companies from polluting water systems?
  • What factors have influenced population growth in the fastest growing countries?
  • How can a bespoke thermal desorption unit be designed and built for use in detection of trace particulate matter in a polluted environment (e.g., a busy city street)?
  • What methods and procedures can be used to understand, and hence control, fundamental chemical processes that occur in flames?
  • How can measurement protocols used in mass spectrometry in a university research laboratory be developed and standardized to enable direct comparison with related measurements in a government laboratory?

Once the problem and questions have been identified, the resources required to carry out the research will need to be assessed. This will involve:

  • Identifying the equipment needed. Find out what is available and what needs to be purchased.
  • Assessing which consumables (e.g., chemicals) are needed for the project, and determining if they can be obtained on a regular basis (i.e., in the right quantities at the appropriate times).
  • Identifying the software, data-analyses and other computer support needed. Assess what needs to be purchased.
  • Assessing what laboratory and office space is needed. And if more is required, discuss this with the relevant laboratory manager.
  • Identifying what support for travel is needed for the group, as well as what resources are required for the group to attend relevant conferences and training of group personnel.

Final thoughts

Defining and writing a clear statement of a problem as the basis of a project is the first - and most important - step in any research. The tips and ideas in this article will help you clearly identify the purpose of the research you are developing.

A clear research problem statement will likely form the skeleton of the Introduction of your final article. If you are able to clearly direct your reader (the most important person in the publishing process) to an important and interesting question, they will likely stay engaged, and use and cite your article in the future.

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What is a Problem Statement in Research?

What is a Problem Statement in Research? How to Write It with Examples

What is a Problem Statement in Research?

The question, “What is a research problem statement?” is usually followed by “Why should I care about problem statements, and how can it affect my research?” In this article, we will try to simplify the concept so that you not only grasp its meaning but internalize its importance and learn how to craft a problem statement.

To put it simply, a “problem statement” as the name implies is any statement that describes a problem in research. When you conduct a study, your aim as a researcher is to answer a query or resolve a problem. This learned information is then typically disseminated by writing a research paper that details the entire process for readers (both for experts and the general public). To better grasp this concept, we’ll try to explain what a research problem statement is from the viewpoint of a reader. For the purpose of clarity and brevity the topic is divided into subsections.

Table of Contents

What is a research problem?

A research problem is a clearly defined issue in a particular field of study that requires additional investigation and study to resolve. Once identified, the problem can be succinctly stated to highlight existing knowledge gaps, the importance of solving the research problem, and the difference between a current situation and an improved state.

But why is it important to have a research problem ready? Keep in mind that a good research problem helps you define the main concepts and terms of research that not only guide your study but help you add to or update existing literature. A research problem statement should ideally be clear, precise, and tangible enough to assist you in developing a framework for establishing the objectives, techniques, and analysis of the research project. Hence, any research project, if it is to be completed successfully,  must start with a well-defined research problem.

define statement of the problem in research

What is research problem statement?

A research problem statement in research writing is the most crucial component of any study, which the researcher must perfect for a variety of reasons, including to get funding and boost readership. We’ve already established that a research article’s “research problem” is a sentence that expresses the specific problem that the research is addressing. But first, let’s discuss the significance of the problem statement in research and how to formulate one, using a few examples.

Do you recall the thoughts that went through your head the last time you read a study article? Have you ever tried to quickly scan the introduction or background of the research article to get a sense of the context and the exact issue the authors were attempting to address through the study? Were you stuck attempting to pinpoint the key sentence(s) that encapsulates the background and context of the study, the motivation behind its initial conduct, and its goals? A research problem statement is the descriptive statement which conveys the issue a researcher is trying to address through the study with the aim of informing the reader the context and significance of performing the study at hand . The research problem statement is crucial for researchers to focus on a particular component of a vast field of study, and for readers to comprehend the significance of the research. A well-defined problem allows you to create a framework to develop research objectives or hypotheses.

Now that we are aware of the significance of a problem statement in research, we can concentrate on creating one that is compelling. Writing a problem statement is a fairly simple process; first, you select a broad topic or research area based on your expertise and the resources at your disposal. Then, you narrow it down to a specific research question or problem relevant to that area of research while keeping the gaps in existing knowledge in mind. To give you a step-by-step instruction on how to write a problem statement for research proposal we’ve broken the process down into sections discussing individual aspects.

When to write a problem statement?

The placement of the research problem in the research project is another crucial component when developing a problem statement. Since the research problem statement is fundamental to writing any research project, it is best to write it at the start of the research process, before experimental setup, data collection, and analysis. Without identifying a specific research problem, you don’t know what exactly you are trying to address through the research so it would not be possible for you to set up the right conditions and foundation for the research project.

It is important to describe the research problem statement at the beginning of the research process to guide the research design and methodology. Another benefit of having a clear and defined research problem early on is that it helps researchers stay on track and focus on the problem at hand without deviating into other trajectories. Writing down the research problem statement also ensures that the current study is relevant, fitting, and fills a knowledge gap. However, note that a research statement can be refined or modified as the research advances and new information becomes available. This could be anything from further deconstructing a specific query to posing a fresh query related to the selected topic area. In fact, it is common practice to revise the problem statement in research to maintain specificity and clarity and to allow room to reflect advancement in the research field.

Bonus point:

A well-defined research problem statement that is referenced in the proper position in the research proposal/article is crucial to effectively communicate the goal and significance of the study to all stakeholders concerned with the research. It piques the reader’s interest in the research area, which can advance the work in several ways and open up future partnerships and even employment opportunities for authors.

What does a research problem statement include?

If you have to create a problem statement from scratch, follow the steps/important aspects listed below to create a well-defined research problem statement.

  • Describe the wide-ranging research topics

To put things in perspective, it is important to first describe the background of the research issue, which derives from a broad area of study or interest that the research project is concerned with.

  • Talk about the research problem/issue

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to state the problem or issues that the research project seeks to address in a clear, succinct manner, preferably in a sentence or two to set the premise of the entire study.

  • Emphasize the importance of the issue

After defining the problem your research will try to solve, explain why it’s significant in the larger context and how your study aims to close the knowledge gap between the current state of knowledge and the ideal scenario.

  • Outline research questions to address the issue

Give a brief description of the list of research questions your study will use to solve the problem at hand and explain how these will address various components of the problem statement.

  • Specify the key goals of the research project

Next, carefully define a set of specific and measurable research objectives that the research project aims to address.

  • Describe the experimental setup

Be sure to include a description of the experimental design, including the intended sample (population/size), setting, or context in the problem statement.

  • Discuss the theoretical framework

Mention the numerous theoretical ideas and precepts necessary to comprehend the study issue and guide the research activity in this section.

  • Include the research methodology

To provide a clear and concise research framework, add a brief description of the research methodologies, including collection and analysis of data, which will be needed to address the research questions and objectives.

Characteristics of a research problem statement

It is essential for a research statement to be clear and concise so that it can guide the development of the research project. A good research statement also helps other stakeholders in comprehending the scope and relevance of the research, which could further lead to opportunities for collaboration or exploration. Here is a list of the key characteristics of a research problem that you should keep in mind when writing an effective research problem statement.

  • The “need” to resolve the issue must be present.

It is not enough to choose a problem in your area of interest and expertise; the research problem should have larger implications for a population or a specific subset. Unless the significance of the research problem is elaborated in detail, the research is not deemed significant. Hence, mentioning the “need” to conduct the research in the context of the subject area and how it will create a difference is of utmost importance.

  • The research problem needs to be presented rationally and clearly

The research statement must be written at the start and be simple enough for even researchers outside the subject area to understand. The two fundamental elements of a successful research problem statement are clarity and specificity. So, check and rewrite your research problem statement if your peers have trouble understanding it. Aim to write in a straightforward manner while addressing all relevant issues and coherent arguments.

  • The research issue is supported by facts and evidence

Before you begin writing the problem statement, you must collect all relevant information available to gain a better understanding of the research topic and existing gaps. A thorough literature search will give you an idea about the current situation and the specific questions you need to ask to close any knowledge gaps. This will also prevent you from asking the questions or identifying issues that have already been addressed. Also, the problem statement should be based on facts and data and should not depend upon hypothetical events.

  • The research problem should generate more research questions

Ideally, the research problem should be such that it helps advance research and encourage more questions. The new questions could be specific to the research that highlights different components or aspects of the problem. These questions must also aid in addressing the problem in a more comprehensive manner which provides a solid foundation for the research study.

  • The research problem should be tangible

The research issue should be concrete, which means that the study project’s budget and time constraints should be met. The research problem should not call for any actions and experiments that are impractical or outside of your area of competence.

To summarize the main characteristics of a research problem statement, it must:

  • Address the knowledge gap
  • Be current and relevant
  • Aids in advancing the field
  • Support future research
  • Be tangible and should suit researcher’s time and interest
  • Be based on facts and data

  How to write a problem statement in research proposal

The format of a problem statement might vary based on the nature and subject of the research; there is no set format. It is typically written in clear, concise sentences and can range from a few sentences to a few pages. Three considerations must be made when formulating a problem statement for a research proposal:

  • Context: The research problem statement needs to be created in the right setting with sufficient background information on the research topic. Context makes it easier to distinguish between the current state and the ideal one in which the issue would not exist. In this section, you can also include instances of any prior attempts and significant roadblocks to solving the problem.
  • Relevance: The main goal of the researcher here is to highlight the relevance of the research study. Explain how the research problem affects society or the field of research and, if the study is conducted to mitigate the issue, what an ideal scenario would look like. Who your study will most affect if the issue is resolved and how it can impact future research are other arguments that might be made in this section.
  • Strategy: Be sure to mention the goals and objectives of your research, and your approach to solve the problem. The purpose of this section is to lay out the research approach for tackling various parts of the research subject.

Examples of problem statement in research proposal

To put what we learned into practice, let’s look at an example of a problem statement in a research report. Suppose you decide to conduct a study on the topic of attention span of different generations. After a thorough literature search you concluded that the attention span of university students is reducing over generations compared to the previous one, even though there are many websites and apps to simplify tasks and make learning easy . This decrease in attention span is attributed to constant exposure to digital content and multiple screens.

In this scenario, the problem statement could be written as – “The problem this study addresses is the lack of regulative measures to control consumption of digital content by young university students, which negatively impacts their attention span”. The research’s goals and objectives, which may employ strategies to increase university students’ attention span by limiting their internet exposure, can then be described in more detail in subsequent paragraphs.

Frequently asked questions

What is a problem statement.

A problem statement is a succinct and unambiguous overview of the research issue that the study is trying to solve.

What is the difference between problem statement and thesis statement?

A problem statement is different from a thesis statement in that the former highlights the main points of a research paper while emphasizing the hypothesis, whilst the latter identifies the issue for which research is being done.

Why is a problem statement needed in a research proposal?

A problem statement identifies the specific problem that the researchers are trying to solve through their research. It is necessary to establish a framework for the project, focus the researcher’s attention, and inform stakeholders of the study’s importance.

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