what is research problem
A research problem refers to some difficulty which a researcher experiences in either a theoretical or practical situation and want to get a solution for the same.
Another definition of research problem is an interrogative sentense or statement that ask what relation exist between two or more variables.
Identification of the research problem is the first and most important step in the research process, generally, a broad area is selected and a broad topic is delimited and narrowed down to specific one sentence which is the statement of the problem.
In other words, a research problem is a specific issue, difficulty, contradiction, or gap knowing that you will aim to address in your research.
You might look for practical problems aimed at contributing to change, or theoretical problems aimed at expanding knowledge.
purpose of research problem
research problem serve the following purpose
- it presents the importance of research topic
- it helps the researcher place the problem in the specific context to properly define the parameters of the investigation
- it provide the framework that can help in presenting the rsults in the future
CHARACTERISTICS OF RESEARCH PROBLEM
- The variables in the problem must be clear
- It should be limited in scope and should be specific,
- It must have a goal
- It should be free from ethical constraints
- Good research problems must be researchable.
- the researcher should be able to state the research problem clearly and concisely
- the research problem should be able to generate research questions
- it should relate to one or more academic field of study
- it should be able to be researched within the time frame or the given budget
- sufficient data to justify and conclude the soulution to the research problem should be available or capable of being obtained. since research require data, it is important during the planning that the researcher analyse beforehand whether or not data related to research problem can be obtained. if not, the research problem should be changed. for example if your research problem relate to confidential or top secret data it means even if you may decide to persue the chosen research problem you may fail to obtain the required data since they are restricted hence fail to make the conclusion related to your reserach problem.
- the research problem should be new that is not yet answered sufficiently by other researchers
- the research problem must base on the available research literature
- good research problem should be grounded on solid theory or conceptual framework
SOURCES OF RESEARCH PROBLEMS
Theories are ideas about how things relate to each other.
Theories may be general, commonly held beliefs (such as cats are the cause of the decline in birds population in new york) or more technical ideas (for example global warming causes the decline of certain species in the ocean).
Theories may be useful in suggesting interesting questions and generally guiding fieldwork, but should not restrict us from exploring alternative explanations.
Some the organizations such as universities and non-government organizations provide funding to researchers to do research on certain research problems.
For example, the university may provide funding to researchers to perform the research on the effects of climate change on tourism
Past researches and literature review
A body of knowledge should be developed on the sound foundation of research findings.
Usually, at the end of research further research problems are suggested, based on the shortcoming of previous research, which can be investigated.
The day-to-day personal experience of the researcher may serve as a good source of ideas to formulate a research problem.
For example, a researcher may have to experience violence from his or her alcoholic father and try to investigate the relationship between alcohol consumption and violence.
There may be so many life experiences that researcher may use to develop a research problem
Research problems may be formulated from challenges and problems experienced during day-to-day work for example nurses may get research problem ideas from their clinical experience.
For example, a nurse may observe that the application of ice at the site of heparin injection reduces the chance of ecchymosis.
Such clinical experience could be a rich source of ideas to identify a significant research problem
Sometimes casual observation of what is going on in our life and environment may trigger our desire to know more, and to have concrete knowledge of what is going on it can lead to the formulation of a hypothesis and conducting of systematic research.
Current social and economic issues
Sometimes topics are suggested by more global contemporary social or political issues.
For example HIV/AIDS, female feticide, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and gender equality.
The idea for a study may stem from a familiarity with a social concerns or controversial social issues.
Replication of previous studies
This occurs when the studies made in other fields or areas are conducted in different fields and areas.
For example, one can replicate the study of the effect of population pressure on the environment which was done in one district to another district to see if he will get the same results.
Clarification of contradictory research results
A research problem may be generated from the results of activities aimed to solicit consumer feedback.
Performance improvement activities
Performance improvement activities are also known as quality improvement activities, are used to improve processes and outcomes to meet the regulatory requirements.
In the process of performance activities, several issues merge that require answers through research.
Thus performance improvement activities also serve as an important source of the research problem
Brainstorming sessions are a good technique to find new questions, whereby an intensified discussion among interested people of the profession is conducted to find more ideas to formulate a research problem.
Traditionally, intuitions are considered good sources of knowledge as well as source to find new research problems.
It is believed that the reflective mind is a good source of ideas, which may be used to formulate a good research problem
Common beliefs could be right or wrong so research must be done to prove them.
For example, it is believed that studying just before the test may decrease your score.
Researchers can conduct a research study on whether one should study just before the test or not.
Consultation with experts
Experts are believed to have sound experience in their respective field, which may suggest significant problems to be studied.
In addition, experts may help in finding a current problem of discipline to be solved, which may serve as the basis for the formulation of the research problem.
Points to be observed by researcher in selecting research problem or subject for research
- Subject which is overdone should not be normally chosen, for it will be difficult task to throw any new light in such a case
- Controversial subjects should not become the choice of an average researcher
- Too narrow or too vague problems should be avoided
- The subject selected for research should be familiar and feasible so that the related research material or sources of research are within one’s reach.
- The importance of the subject, the qualification and the training of reseacher, the cost involved, the time factor are few other criteria, that must also be considered in selecting a problem. In other words, before the final selection of the problem is done, a researcher must ask himself the following questions:
a)whether he is well equipped in terms of his background to carry out the research?
whether the study falls within the budget he can afford?
c)whether the necessary cooperation can be obtained from those who must participate in research as the subjects?
if the answers to all these questions are in the affirmative, on may become sure so far as the practicability of the research is concerned
- The selection of the research problem must be preceded by a preliminary study. this may not be necessary when the problem requires the conduct of a research closely similar to one that has already been done. However when the field of inquiry is relatively new and does not have available the set of well developed techniques, a brief feasibility study must always be undertaken.
Technques involved in developing research problem
Defining the research problem properly and clearly is a crucial part of the research study and must be in no case be accomplished hurriedly.
The research problem should be defined in a systematic manner, giving due weightage to all relating points.
The techniques for the purpose of defining the research problem involves undertaking of the following steps generally one after another:
- statement of the problem in general way
- understanding the nature of the problem
- surveying the available literature
- developing the ideas through discussion, and;
- rephrasing the research problem into working proposition
Types of research problems
Research problems are of five types: descriptive research problem, relational research problem, causal research problem, casuist research problem and difference research problem
Descriptive research problem
Descriptive research problem focuses on anwering questions like what is?, with its main to desribe the situation, state or the existence of certain specific phenomena. They seek to depict what already exist in a group or population
It usually uses surveys or opinion polls to reach its conclusion because they require systematic observation of social issues
Examples of descriptive research problems are:
- what are main factors affecting consumer’s purchase decisions?
- what are causes of early pregnacy to primary school students in lilongwe?
Causal research problem
A causal research problem focuses on identifying the extent and nature of cause and effect relationships. Such research problems help in assessing the impact of some changes on existing norms and processes
Example of causal research problems ‘how does online education affect student learning abilities?
A popular way of collecting primary data to solve causal research problems is performing experiments (laboratory experiment and field experiment)
Relational research problem
A relational research problem states that some sort of relationship between two variables needs to be investigated. The aim is to investigate the qualities or characteristics that are connected in some way
An example of a relational research problem is ‘how is the experience of teacher-related to his teaching style
The method used to collect data in relational research problems include focus groups, surveys, and case studies
Casuist research problem
This type of research problem relates to the determination of right and wrong in questions of conduct or conscience by analyzing moral dilemmas through the application of general rules and careful distinction of special cases
Difference research problem
typically ask the question, ‘is there a difference between two or more groups or differences?’
This type of problem statement is used when the researcher compares or contrasts two or more phenomena.
What is research problem statement?
A problem statement is used in research work as the claim that outlines the problem addressed by a study.
A problem statement briefly explains the problem that the research will address.
For example, if the topic of your research is the causes of learning difficulty in schools, you need to first identify why there is learning difficulty among students in schools.
Your problem statement can explain that learning difficulties in the school system is an important concern and points towards the gap in research that shows that this problem has not been addressed
What is the format for writing a statement of the problem
A persuasive statement of the problem is usually written in three parts
- Part A ( the ideal): desribes a desired goal or ideal situation; explain how the things should be
- Part B (the reality): describes the condition that prevent the goal, state or value in part Afrom being achieved or relaized at this time; explains how the current situation falls in short of the goal or ideal
- Part C (the consequence) ; identifies the way you propose to improve the current situation and move it closer to the goal or ideal
A problem statement in the social science should contain
- A lead that helps ensure the reader will mantain the interest over the study
- A declaration of originality (for example mentioning a knowledge gap, that would be supported by literature review)
- An indication of the central focus of the study and;
- An explanation of the study significance or the benefits to be derived from investigating the research problem