The Definition of a Problem Statement

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The first step in the research process is to choose a problem to investigate. The researcher begins with a general topic and then narrows it to a specific problem statement, which is a detailed description of the problem and its importance.


A problem statement describes the research problem and identifies potential causes or solutions. A problem statement also conveys the reason the problem is important and who is affected by the problem.


There are two general types of problem statements: quantitative and qualitative. The problem statement in a quantitative research study names the variables and population to be studied, and asks a question about the relationship between the variables. A qualitative study, on the other hand, also begins with a problem statement, but it is stated much more broadly than in a quantitative study. In other words, it states the general purpose of the study, but the focus may change as the study progresses.


According to "Introduction to Research in Education," a good research problem has five basic characteristics. The problem must be significant enough to contribute to the existing body of research; the problem must be one that will lead to more research; it must be possible to investigate the problem through the collection of data; the problem must be interesting to the researcher and suit his skills, time and resources and the problem is ethical and will not harm others.


About the Author

Based in Houston, Jennifer Neel has been writing education-related articles since 2010. She is a Texas-certified mathematics teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and marketing from the University of Houston and is pursuing a Master of Education in instructional leadership from American Public University.

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