Defining Research Problems – Step By Step Guide

Published 16 October, 2023

Defining research problems is the initial phase of research. It is the statement which in the research report helps the reader in developing the understanding of specific issues. A research problem is defined as an area of concern that requires a meaningful understanding of specific topics, conditions, contradictions, or difficulties.

A research problem, in general, refers to some difficulty which a researcher experiences in the context of either a theoretical or practical situation. While writing the research problems you need to make sure that it helps in fulfilling the gap in knowledge. While writing a problems statement you need to mainly focus on three things these are ideality, reality, and consequences.

For example: According to the agreement between employees and the company, an organization will provide workers with a well-furnished house. Furnishing is an important part of the house. Employees living in the house which their company has to allot presently do not have furniture because of which they have to face a number of issues. A researcher is performing an investigation to identify the reason because of which an organization has not been able to provide workers with proper housing facilities. Another purpose of an investigation is to help the organization in resolving specific problems in a cost-efficient manner.

Characteristics of research problems

To have effective research problems, make sure to fulfill the following crucial characteristics:

  1. Covers the most essential needs or issues
  2. The problem is expressed clearly and logically
  3. The research is based on actual facts and evidence (non-hypothetical)
  4. Research questions are generated and encouraged by the research problem
  5. Ensure that the research activity can be completed within the budget and schedule constraints
  6. Sufficient data can be obtained

Components of Research Problems

A research problem has the following components:

  • There must be an individual or a group which has some difficulty or the problem.
  • There must be some objective to be attained at.
  • There must be alternative means for obtaining the objective (it means that there must be
    at least two means available).
  • There must remain some doubt in the mind of the researcher with regard to the selection
    of alternatives.
  • There must be some environment to which the difficulty pertains.

Types of research problems

There are different types of problems in research, these are:

  1. Casual Research Problems
  2. Relational Research Problems
  3. Descriptive Research Problems

Casual Research Problems

Causal research problems focus on identifying the extent and nature of cause-and-effect relationships. These types of studies help assess impact by examining patterns between different elements, which in turn helps us identify any changes that occur because we make a certain change to an existing norm or process.
It is about what is right and wrong in questions of conduct or conscience. You apply general rules to the problem and carefully make distinctions about special cases.

Relational Research Problems

This research problem seeks to explore the relationship between two variables. The qualities or characteristics that are connected in some way need to be explored, but why they may be related?

Descriptive Research Problems

Descriptive research problems are those that ask, “What is…..?” with the goal of describing the situation, state, or presence of a given phenomenon. They are attempting to depict what is already there in a group or population. Surveys and opinion polls are the greatest tools for such research because they need systematic observation of social concerns.

Process of defining research problems

Defining your research problem allows you to make the goal of your study obvious to yourself and your intended audience. The procedure of defining the research problems include the following phases these are:

Step 1. Identify the broad problem area

Begin your research by deciding on a wide research area that reflects your interests, specialties, professions, expertise, and knowledge. This section must be significant in terms of your knowledge interests and specialization.
It is a phase where you need to develop an understanding of the different aspects of the issue. At this phase, you need to identify the gap which you can fill by facilitating investigation on a specific topic.

For example, If you’re doing a postgraduation in computer science with a specialization in cybersecurity, you’ll need to choose a research study area in cybersecurity. You can select issues relating to cyber risks, cybercrime, and cyber trends.

Step 2. Development of understanding about the research problems

This is a phase where it is very much essential for you to address and develop an understanding of a particular aspect of the issue. After developing a specific aspect of the issue, you would be able to resolve it by facilitating investigation. It is a stage where you need to make yourself aware of the effect of the problem on a specific group of people.

Here, you should also collect information about the investigation which you are performing by another researcher on similar issues, consequences of the problem, etc.

Example: ABX Ltd.  Is mainly concentrating on retaining its existing customer base. But due to lack of understanding about the different marketing technology management in a firm is facing the issue of identifying one of the best ways to reach existing customers. The management team in an enterprise needs to ask research ream to perform investigation and collect information about the factors which influence people to buy products or services.

Step 3. Formulation of a research problem statement

It is a stage where you need to finally design the problem statement. While drafting a problem statement you need to make sure that it is simple, short, and has a clear meaning. In addition to this, while defining the problem you should confirm that it is related to the topic which you have chosen for performing an investigation.

Importance of defining the research problems

Defining a research problem has great significance in research as it allows you to determine the series of activities.

  • The research problem aids you in avoiding the unwanted phases in the investigation procedure. It would help you in developing a good understanding of the investigation process.
  • A research problem helps to guide the intention and goals of a study. The methodology cannot be defined without a clear research problem.
  • Research problems can help you identify the approach that is best for your research. It can help in identifying each step that needs to be taken, such as sampling strategy and which instruments will need to be used.
  • Formulating a good research problem means that you are thinking about what you want to find out. If you identify your research problem well, then it will be easier to find the answer.
  • The research problem helps the reader in gaining knowledge about the significance of the topic or subject.
  • Defining the problem in a systematic and clear way is very much essential for research findings an appropriate as well as an effective solution.

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