What is research problem?
It’s a clear and definite statement or expression about your chosen area of concern, a difficulty to eliminate, a condition to
improve, or a troubling problem that exists in theory, literature, and practice. A research problem indicates a need for its meaningful investigation.
Why is research problem important?
- It sets the scope.
- It ties your work to reach goals and actions.
Characteristics of research problem
- Specific – Problem should be stated specifically. A clear statement that describes the objectives will help you carry out successful and concrete research.
- Measurable – Data collection and other simulation/ real-time methods (current trend). The researcher should try to fix the expected output type which will be produced in future.
- Achievable – Data should be realistic and use correct statistical method to get precise results. It should be easily achieved, solved, and answered by Researcher.
- Realistic – Results should be real not manipulated. It should be possible for researchers to perform experiments to solve the problem.
- Time bound – Shorter the completion is the better with minimum cost.
Elements of a Research Problem
- Why ? – Why is there an investigation, inquiry or study.
- What? – What is to be investigated or studies.
- Where? – Where the research is to be conducted.
- When? – period of study or a data to be gathered .
- Who? – From whom the data can be collected.
Source of Research Problem
- Personal Experience – Day to day experience of the researcher.
- Practical Experience – worked under a project.
- From literature – Book materials/article/publication/patent.
- Previous Research – knowledge gathered from previous research.
- Existing theories – moving practical solution for proved theory.
- Social issues – familiarity with social concerns.
- Brainstorming – These sessions are good technique.
- Consultation with experts – experts have problem significant problem with them.
Formulation of a Research Problem
Identify a broad field or subject area of interest to you
Dissect the broad area into subareas
- You will realize that all the broad areas have many aspects.
- In preparing this list of subareas you should also consult others who have knowledge of the area and the literature in your subject area.
- Once you have developed an exhaustive list of the subareas from various sources, you proceed to the next stage where you select what will become the basis of your inquiry.
Select what is the most interest to you
- It is neither advisable nor feasible to study all subareas.
- Out of this list, select issues or subareas about which you are passionate.
Raise research question
- What is it that I want to find out about in this subarea?
- List down questions and then choose the best one.
Formulate your main objectives and sub objectives from your question.
Assess your objective
Examine your objectives to ascertain the feasibility of achieving them through your research endeavor.
Go back and give final consideration to whether or not you are sufficiently interested in the study and have adequate resources to undertake it.
Common mistakes in formulation
1. Not emphasizing on “why” the problem you are trying to solve is important
The importance or value of the research problem is not specified properly.
2. Weak structuring of problem
The structure of the problem should not be chaotic because it is an effective way of representing your current understanding of the research topic.
3. Insufficiently motivated research questions
Often times, we choose our “pet” problems that are interesting to us but not to the scientific community at large, i.e., it does not generate new knowledge or insight about the phenomenon being investigated. Because the research process involves a significant investment of time and effort on the researcher’s part, the researcher must be certain (and be able to convince others) that the research questions they seek to answer in fact deal with real problems (and not hypothetical problems)
4. Un-researchable problems
Some research problems may not be answered adequately based on observed evidence alone, or using currently accepted methods and procedures. Such problems are best avoided. However, some unresearchable, ambiguously defined problems may be modified or fine tuned into well-defined and useful researchable problems.
5. Favored research methods – tendency to recast a research
Many researchers have a tendency to recast a research problem so that it is amenable to their favorite research method (e.g., survey research). This is an unfortunate trend. Research methods should be chosen to best fit a research problem, and not the other way around.
6. Blind data mining
Some researchers have the tendency to collect data first (using instruments that are already available), and then figure out what to do with it. Note that data collection is only one step in a long and elaborate process of planning, designing, and executing research. In fact, a series of other activities are needed in a research process prior to data collection. If researchers jump into data collection without such elaborate planning, the data collected will likely be irrelevant, imperfect, or useless, and their data collection efforts may be entirely wasted. An abundance of data cannot make up for deficits in research planning and design, and particularly, for the lack of interesting research questions.