A research problem is a specific issue, gap, contradiction, or area of uncertainty in existing knowledge or practice that serves as the foundation for a research study. It defines the focus and purpose of the research and identifies what the researcher intends to investigate, explore, or resolve.
When formulating a research problem, several factors are considered:
- Gap in Knowledge: The research problem arises from a gap in current knowledge or understanding. It could be a lack of information, conflicting findings, unanswered questions, or unresolved issues in a particular field or topic of study.
- Relevance and Importance: The research problem should be relevant and significant within the context of the discipline or field of study. It should address a problem or issue that has practical or theoretical implications and has the potential to contribute to existing knowledge or address a societal need.
- Scope and Manageability: The research problem should be well-defined and specific enough to be effectively addressed within the resources, time, and scope of the research study. It should be manageable in terms of data collection, analysis, and interpretation.
- Researchable: The research problem should be amenable to investigation using appropriate research methods and tools. It should be feasible to collect relevant data and analyze it to gain insights or answers.
To define a research problem, researchers typically engage in a literature review and critical analysis of existing studies, theories, and empirical evidence. They identify gaps, controversies, or unresolved issues that warrant further investigation. The research problem is then formulated as a clear, concise, and focused statement that outlines what the study aims to address, explore, or contribute to.
Example research problems:
- “What is the impact of social media usage on mental health among adolescents?”
- “What factors contribute to employee job satisfaction in the healthcare industry?”
- “How does access to clean water and sanitation facilities affect child mortality rates in rural communities?”
The research problem provides the basis for developing research questions, hypotheses, and objectives, guiding the entire research process, and shaping the study’s methodology and analysis.