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The Definition of a Problem Statement

Updated July 19, 2017

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.

Features

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.

Types

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.

Characteristics

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.

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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.