Research is usually generated by a question since people are surrounded by unproven beliefs, unresolved problems as well as unanswered questions. Research thus seeks to answer the when, how, and why questions about events. Such question is referred to as the research problem and serves to guide the researcher on what to solve and the questions to answer. Further, the nature of the problem a researcher wants to tackle influences the form of the research to arrive at a systematic, controlled, and empirical investigation.
A research problem is defined as the question a researcher seeks to find answers to or solve and its formulation forms the first step in a research process (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010). The selection of a good research problem requires a considerable amount of time since it is dependent on the researcher’s creativity, expertise, skills, and knowledge with regard to the subject of inquiry. The researcher studies the literature and maps the findings to arrive at the final form of the problem. Therefore, a research problem is formulated as a question to assist the researcher to decide the way of research, which would seek to answer the question.
Characteristics of a Research Problem
The research problem should identify the need for the research, provide focus, show the possibility of an empirical investigation, as well as provide a brief research overview. This implies that the research problem should interest the researcher which would serve as an important incentive since the researcher would spend a considerable amount of time on the subject (Corbin & Strauss, 2014). Further, a research problem should be delineated to provide a detailed study as the researcher tries to cover a wider field by restricting the study. It should also be able to provide the required information to enable the researcher to tackle the problem through information collected from the relevant sources.
A research problem should be significant such that the researcher does not spend effort and time in repeating what has already been researched or on trivial matters (Collis & Hussey, 2013). The researcher, using the research problem, should be able to draw clear conclusions that relate to the problem. Further, the researcher should be able to provide an answer to the problem and be able to eliminate any false solutions. Since the identification of a good research problem should be considered a breakthrough in itself, a research problem should be clearly and concisely stated in a well-articulated sentence (Creswell, 2013).
A strong research question gives the project momentum as well as a good response from the target group and thus should be carefully selected. A researchable problem should have both practical and theoretical significance to increase the worth of investigation. Further, a researchable problem should be compelling to the researcher and the larger community with which the researcher is to share the project with and lead to a reasoned decision-making process. It should be able to support the exploration of various perspectives to avoid dichotomy (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010). This means the research problem should produce various viewpoints.
Above all, it should be researchable and supported by other sources available to the researcher, whether primary or secondary. The methods of collecting data should be able to provide the answers to the research problem. The problem should be original and should not have been thoroughly studied by other researchers before. However, the researcher may produce own views on what has been researched before. A researchable problem should be relevant to the situation and the findings should be useful (Corbin & Strauss, 2014). For instance, it would be irrelevant for a Marketing student to design research problems about Marriage and Counselling Therapy. By choosing a relevant research problem, the researcher would be able to sustain interest in the study by bridging the current research gaps thus add to the existing body of knowledge.
A researchable problem should be feasible. It should enable the researcher to conduct the study without wasting too much time, cost, and resources. Further, the means of carrying out the study should be within reachable means for the researcher using the available skills, experience, and knowledge as well as adequate financial resources (Hernon & Schwartz, 2007). A researchable problem should also narrow down the problem to decrease the scope of the project so that the relevant literature review can be covered and scale down the time and cost used in the research process.
It should also be set in an interrogative form and comprising of the why, where, what, when, who questions. The research problem should be ethical in nature since if one does not follow ethical means, respondents may fail to cooperate thereby thwarting the whole exercise (Collis & Hussey, 2013). This thus calls for researchers to formulate the research problem in a careful manner. A research problem should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bounded.
Components of a Well-Formed Problem Statement
Creswell (2013) states that a well-formed problem statement should provide the references for identifying the variables that intervene in the research process. The statement of the problem should give the magnitude of the research subject in terms of the rate of occurrence. The problem statement also gives an account of the persons affected by the problem or behavior under study in addition to providing the geographical span of the problem to enable the research user to identify the intervening variables (Collis & Hussey, 2013). Further, a research statement states when the variable under study occurs and states how serious the problem is as well as the response of the system to the problem.
The statement of the problem involves stating the problem clearly, sub-dividing the problem, and formulating the hypothesis (Hernon & Schwartz, 2007). The statement of the problem should be done with integrity with a careful phrasing to embody the goal of the research project. It should entail a minimum of 250 words and contain the general problem and purpose of the study and citations given. The problem must be specific, clear, precise, and identifying the purpose of the study. The research questions, boundaries of the study, generalization, and the importance of the study must be included without using jargon.
The problem is sub-divided to manageable levels since the research problem may be multifaceted thereby making it hard to examine and resolve. The sub-divisions of the problem should be independently researched and tied to the research data and thus contribute to the whole problem. A hypothesis is formulated to give direction to the relationship of the variables to enable the researcher to explore the problem deeply. It also acts as a yardstick to measure the test findings of the data.
Reasonable Theoretical Framework
A theoretical framework of a research serves as a link to the existing knowledge which guides researchers to formulate a hypothesis and come up with an appropriate research method. A researcher is able to answer questions of how and why by stating the theoretical assumptions of the research study (Hernon & Schwartz, 2007). Further, the theoretical framework serves to provide a broader view of uncountable phenomenon facets and deter researchers from merely explaining the phenomena. It also pinpoints the major variables that form the phenomenon of interest by identifying the confines of some generalizations (Ellis & Levy, 2008). It is through a theoretical framework that a researcher can investigate the differences in variables in multiple groups.
A theoretical framework is developed through brainstorming the major variables of the research project and examining the research problem, topic, or the thesis title. Through a review of the literature, a researcher is able to find the answers to the research problem in addition to identifying the variables and constructs relevant to the study to arrive at the relationship between the major variables of the study (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010). Lastly, a theoretical framework is developed through a discussion of the propositions with the researcher choosing the relevant parts of the process.
A research problem is the statement that completely and clearly lays down the rationale of the research process. Identifying a good research question is thus a constituent element of a reasonable theoretical framework for any research work. This leads the research users to new heights of inquiry as the researcher asks questions that have never been raised before. A research problem should show the possibility of investigation in an empirical manner in terms of data collection and analysis. This entails following some guidelines to resolve the original problem. The researcher should ensure that the research problem meets the set requirements of a researchable problem and applied conclusively.