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A dissertation problem statement is an integral part of the paper. Now, why is that?
A dissertation problem statement ensures that the research is well-designed and addresses a substantial and relevant topic. It offers a clear and succinct roadmap for the research.
Early on in the research process, writing a problem statement can ensure that the research is concentrated on solving the particular problem at hand. A strong problem statement also clearly explains the goal and importance of the research to prospective funders, partners, and other stakeholders.
As simple as it may sound, writing a dissertation problem statement is trickier because you have to find the exact cause and it should be scientific. But let us make it a little less tricky for you!
That is precisely why we have curated this blog that covers all important aspects of a problem statement. Let’s explore, shall we?
A well-crafted problem statement can be an effective communication tool.
A clear and succinct problem statement helps in defining the issue, understanding it, and establishing workable solutions, whether the problem is a challenging road building project or the inadequate educational system in a particular region.
The statements can offer crucial information about the decision-making process in relation to the study if your justifications are sound.
In actuality, the problem statement is used to keep the project team on track and to retain focus. At the end of the project, it is reevaluated to make sure the chosen solution still solves the issue.
Therefore, if your problem statement is clear, it can also aid in root-cause analysis, which can help you determine why the issue occurred and what you can do to prevent it from happening again.
Now, formulating this statement is an elaborate process. To make it easier and more approachable, we have segmented the task into many manageable steps. Let’s start by identifying the research topic.
You must first identify the research problem before you create your dissertation’s problem statement.
Your problem statement results from a gap in the body of knowledge. A problem exists when there is anything that has to be researched and there is a good cause for doing so. The fundamental message of a problem statement is, “We don’t know enough about X, and we really should because of Y.”
Therefore, how can you identify a research problem? There are numerous methods for that –
A survey of the literature is frequently the quickest and most straightforward way to identify a research problem. Make sure to take notes as you go because you will need to do a literature review for your proposal.
Although it’s important to be conversant with foundational works, more recent studies frequently contain the actual gold. It’s possible that the “Recommendations for Further Research” section specifically identifies any research gaps that need to be filled, which would solve your issue.
The discovery of an issue by firsthand experience is another effective method. You may have worked in a field where there has been a recurring issue without a workable solution. Before going too far, though, make sure you are familiar with the literature because it’s possible that someone has previously examined it (in which case you might still build upon their work).
Asking subject-matter experts is not only a quick way to find a research challenge, but it frequently produces the most intriguing ones as well. Long-term professionals have a depth and breadth of expertise, and they frequently work at the cutting edge of their respective fields. They can offer a viewpoint that even a thorough literature review may not provide.
Here, the overused word “synergy” is appropriate. When two people have similar knowledge and expertise in a given area, engaging in conversation can lead to idea generation. Or perhaps your coworker just read something intriguing that points you in the direction of your research issue. In either case, having a different viewpoint is usually beneficial.
A research agenda may already be in place for an adviser or a faculty group to use. Although your scope will be constrained, you might gain by adding to a more comprehensive study effort.
Keep a look out for contradictory evidence by reading the literature or consulting your advisors. If results from comparable trials are inconclusive, further research is required. This is similar to “provocative exception,” which occurs when a previously established conclusion is refuted by a fresh discovery. Your awareness of these situations can be helped by keeping a close check on the studies.
There is a knowledge gap among all the scientists working in the field of your study; but what does gap supposed to mean?
A research gap is a topic or area where the availability of knowledge restricts the ability to answer a question. However, you must not confuse a gap statement with a research question.
For instance, if you search for studies and potential answers to the topic of what the healthiest diet for humans is, you may find several references. On the other hand, you will not discover a lot of information if you search for study on the effects of antidepressants on pregnant women.
This is a gap in research.
If you want to apply this knowledge into reality, try the steps as mentioned below –
It is the last step you may find the most challenging. It can be difficult to figure out what an article is not saying. For this you can keep a list of notes of biased or inconsistent information.
When you get the missing information or the one that can refer to your issue, you can work on problem statement. The important factor is missing gap will give you a new angle to your problem statement. Else, you will feel you are repeating the work of a published research.
Hence, receiving the new information from existing case will help you make your statement clearer.
In theory, these are a few features that must be present in your problem statement. Let us check out how your problem statement can tick all the correct boxes.
Although it may seem obvious, many PhD students have been obliged to work on a research project they have little to no interest in because a professor thought they should. A dissertation is too lengthy to devote to a subject that doesn’t interest you. So, if you are truly interested in the subject, your writing and research will be of far higher quality.
There are so many issue statements that students submit that go beyond what can be investigated in a single research topic. Keep in mind that the problem’s scope needs to be extremely narrow.
Making incremental progress is better than trying to make rapid progress by taking on more than you can handle at once. So, if your problem is a major issue but only has limited evidence, you have to dedicate more time on working from scratch. But for academic papers, ensure you choose the problem statement that offers you time and resources.
There are several issues in the world that do not always call for scientific investigation. A worm looks attempting to climb from one blade of grass to another but failing isn’t a problem worth investigation. But, if your problem statement is about the racial discrimination in the USA among teens, you can work on it with reference to the existing theories and practical evidence.
There has been a long history of unethical behaviour in scientific study. Also, there has been tremendous harm done in the name of knowledge, from the scientific investigations of the Nazis to psychologically destructive research here in the US to horrifying experiments that are being carried out on live animals. So, it is essential that you, as researchers, take into account the ethics of conducting any research endeavour.
When you plan to state the problem, you need to show that the issue exists, that it is important, and that it fills a significant gap in the body of knowledge.
Now, here is the detail process of how to write a problem statement for dissertation –
Your study problem should be framed by the problem statement, which should also provide some context for what is currently known. Ask these questions:
The relevance of the research should be mentioned in the problem statement. Why is it vital to address the issue?
The problem’s feasibility, research ability, and unambiguous treatment of a pertinent issue in your field are more crucial considerations.
The problem statement should outline your approach to solving it. Instead of coming up with a definitive answer, you can suggest improved methods for dealing with or comprehending the problem.
Typically, it is expressed in the infinitive form:
The specific actions you’ll take to accomplish the goal are the research objectives:
Any time you solve a problem, you’re going to have a lot of questions in your head. So here are the effective steps you can apply for a better celerity in your problem statement –
Setting goals, selecting the best method, organising the execution, and anticipating hazards are all steps in the process of designing effective experiments.
Your objective must be in line with what you hope to learn from the experiment and how it will aid in the improvement of your problem statement or underlying assumption.
The type of experiment you conduct, such as surveys, interviews, prototypes, simulations, or observations, should determine the methodology you choose.
Think about your participants and the recruitment process as you plan your implementation. Additionally, consider what difficulties or problems you might have while doing the experiment, as well as how you will quantify and document your results.
Gathering feedback gives you a third person perspective of how your work will stand out. You can talk to your professor or a senior and discuss if the problem statement has a better scope or follows the academic guideline or not.
To gather more such insightful feedback, ask focused, pertinent questions to respondents connected to your objective and experiment design. Additionally, get feedback from a variety of neutral sources (online forms, people in public platforms) so that you can see things from several angles.
Finally, thank them for their input without disputing or defending your problem assertion or assumption.
It is important to follow a methodical procedure that includes organising data, spotting trends and insights, and coming to conclusions and making recommendations in order to analyse feedback successfully.
Data should be organised and categorised in accordance with the objective and design of the experiment. The summary information should be shown visually using tables, charts, graphs, or diagrams. Then, by examining the data for recurring themes, trends, outliers, or abnormalities, patterns and insights can be found.
The problem statement or assumption should then be reviewed based on the findings and recommendations that may be made from these patterns and insights.
Finally, it is time to shape the ultimate case. Here is how you can do that –
Just like practising makes things better, you must also recheck the refined statement for assurance. For this, you must use a cyclical method to reiterate and refine your problem statement or assumption.
This includes experimenting with and getting feedback on a problem statement or assumption that has been improved or reframed.
You can start a fresh reframing cycle using the improved problem statement or assumption as the foundation. Create new options, pick the best one, and test it once more.
Although in the process of developing a product, a problem statement comes before design, as people we have a tendency to think in solutions. As a result, you’ll frequently discover that problems present themselves to you as features or solutions, and you’ll have to go backwards to the original issue. Asking what problem this solution would solve will help you achieve this.
It’s true to have difficulty identifying the correct problem.
So, using the job story format directs your problem statement to the appropriate magnification level. Here, imagining wrong solutions to your issue helps in defining the standards for an effective solution.
Include the answer to the question “What about the wrong solution makes it unacceptable?” in your problem statement. If you are unable to provide a customer-focused argument for excluding the incorrect option, it may actually be worth considering.
It’s normal to struggle with how to phrase a problem at the appropriate level, depending on whether you’re attempting to solve it for an entire community, or age groups or a city.
A good problem statement will be centred on a problem (or problems) for a person (or persons), as people are the ones who buy and utilise your product.
So, try outlining the precise issues that the persons involved feel if you’re having trouble understanding a problem area.
Problem statements are typically developed periodically. It can be far simpler to begin creating solutions than it is to fully specify all the limitations in a solution space up front.
This strategy can bring up viewpoints and options that you may not have previously thought of, especially while feeling blocked. This can also make it clear which issues are difficult to fix.
Good problem statements include information about your audience’s needs and wants.
Terms of judgement like ‘poor system’, ‘failed product’, etc., are imprecise and may be understood differently by each individual who reads the problem description.
You must swap out such phrases depending on data.
You can use phrases like ‘for the development’, ‘looking at the scope of positive traits’, ‘to find the flaws’, etc., in the context of your problem statement.
Writing a problem statement for a dissertation seems like a one liner question. But it’s more than a question. It gives you the direction of where to look into to make a complete research paper based on a case. This means if you provide an incomplete or ambiguous paper based simply on curiosity, it will be of no help.
Instead, your problem statement will focus on defining an issue and how to solve it looking at future aspects.
So follow the guidelines as mentioned above and write your dissertation problem statement with clarity.
The problem statement is important in a dissertation because it’s the main topic that will form the research paper. All the experiments, investigations, etc., will be based on the scope of the problem. Hence, it’s vital that the problem is genuine and can offer a significant solution.
You can choose a suitable problem statement for your dissertation based on how it has worked before. You can check if the problem has a wide area, and you can define your statement based on that.
You can include any issues that can be causing a failed infrastructure, or a problem that is affecting a community or a group or a society. Doing so, you will get a significant amount of issues to write your problem.
Your problem statement is basically the menu you will serve in your paper. Hence, keep it within a word limit of 250-300 maximum.
The answer is YES. In fact, it’s advised to refine and recheck your problem statement to make the case more direct and specific as per area.