Because it frames the entire study, preparing a research problem statement is often the hardest part of writing a research proposal or thesis. A research problem statement lays the foundation for work that needs to be done to correct a situation, in the case of international aid organizations, or presents a statement of research intent for a master’s or doctoral thesis. As well as background information, a research problem statement outlines the current situation, identifies the challenges, specifies the location and indicates the people involved.
Think about your research problem statement. List a few ideas about the topic. Ask yourself if your research problem is important and if anyone else cares about the topic.
Identify the purpose of your research problem statement and indicate who would benefit from your study. Support your statement with evidence and expert opinion.
Work with the five W's: who, what, when, where and why. This will help you frame your research problem statement.
Specify the population of your study and identify what will be measured. Your population group, for instance, might be senior citizens in Milwaukee and you might want to measure how frequently they use public transportation at different times of the year.
Keep your title and research problem statement question virtually identical. If the title of your research problem statement is “Public Transportation Use by Seniors in Milwaukee Relative to Seasonal Temperature,” your research problem statement should close with the question, “What is the public transportation use by seniors in Milwaukee relative to the seasonal temperature?”
Draft your research problem statement. Leave it for at least 24 hours -- 48 is better -- and then come back to it. Review it with a fresh eye and tighten the wording.
Review your research problem statement with your thesis adviser. She may be able to help you further hone the statement.
Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.