The Problem Statement in a Research Study or Thesis
A problem statement is an assertion of an issue that is in need of further research. Problem statements are usually an important part of a proposal or thesis or research paper that contains an academic study.
To begin a research paper that contains a problem statement, be sure you describe the problem clearly. When working with a problem statement in a research paper, be sure to discuss one or more of the most effective measures identified to date and make recommendations for additional action to solve the problem. Your problem statement based research paper will want to have the following elements in it:
- Background of the problem
- Clear definition of the problem
- A literature review on the problem
- Analysis of the problem
- Possible solutions for the problem
- How to implement the solution for the problem
- Justification for the solution
Background of the Problem
Describe the problem you selected; identify the specific issues of interest or controversy; and present background/facts of the problem or situation that will enable the reader to clearly understand the issue.
Definition of the Problem
Identify and clearly state the problem in which an element of the identified problem or situation is not meeting expectations. Remember that what appears to be the problem may actually be just a symptom of a bigger problem dig deep to be sure you've identified the real problems. If there appears to be more than one problem/issue, decide if they are separate or related issues.
State the problem in the form of a question. For example, if a work group is not performing effectively, an effective problem statement might be "How can the staff shortage improve?" rather than simply "Short Staff problems."
Literature Review of the Problem
Present what you discovered in your search of the literature. Review issues, theories, concepts, and studies discussed in class and in our textbook, and review what other writers/researchers have to say about the subject of your analysis. Discuss the concepts, ideas, or insights that are most valuable in helping you make sense of your project. What theories can you use? What writers say something of value? Why is it of value? Which models are the least helpful, and why? What theories or concepts will you challenge or criticize because your findings are different? In short, demonstrate an understanding of the literature and apply it sensibly to the problem. This is not a course in applied commonsense; however, such practical intelligence is important, especially in the application stage.
A literature review is like playing a video game in which you are in a chamber with many doors. As you open each door, you uncover clues to help you progress to the next level. Similarly, in a literature review, your objective is to open the doors that can point the way to solving your business problem. You should approach your literature review with a broad look at your field of interest, then narrow your focus until you zero in on the essential issues of concern.
Analysis of the Problem
This section should provide a detailed analysis of the causes of the problem(s) you identified. A major objective is to clearly illustrate how you are using the healthcare course concepts (as well as what your learned from your literature review) to better understand the causes of the problem(s) or issue(s).
Possible Solutions to the Problem
Explore three solutions that could be appropriate ways to solve the identified problem. Be sure these solutions are logical based on your analysis and that they each would effectively treat the problem, not the symptoms. Also, discuss the anticipated outcomes (both positive and negative) of implementing each of the possible solutions you identified.
The Solution Chosen for the Problem
Outline your recommended solution to the problem, one of the alternatives explored in Section V, or a combination of those alternatives. State your solution clearly and specifically. Describe exactly what should be done and how it should be done, including by whom, with whom, and in what sequence. Here are some points to keep in mind as you write this section:
Have I indicated an awareness of the problem of implementation (the how aspect)?
Have I been specific enough? For example, a general solution might state, "The healthcare manager needs to realize that his or her style should match the situation."
- A specific solution would state what style is most appropriate for the situation and how you will attempt to the have the manager realize the appropriate style.
- What aspects of the problem statement remain unresolved by my solution?
- Does my recommended solution and implementation plan address the problem/issues and causes identified in the previous sections?
- Does my solution consider and resolve the identified pros and cons?
- How will I evaluate the effectiveness of the implemented recommended solution?
- What process checks or procedures will I put in place to institutionalize the improvement?
- Could my solution cause other problems/issues?
- What risks are inherent in the solution you recommend?
- What contingency plans do you recommend?
Assess the realism of your proposed action plan. For example, is there adequate time, money, or other resources for your solution? In addition, does your solution place too much reliance on other people being reasonable or what you think is reasonable?
Justification for the Solution
Justify why your recommended solution and its implementation will solve the identified problem statement. An important element of this section is to show very clearly how you applied theoretical concepts to arrive at a workable solution and a successful implementation.