If you are writing a research problem statement, it’s important to pay attention to the details. Your readers will be paying close attention to everything you say in this section, so any mistakes or careless language could cause your entire research to fall apart. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about writing effective research problem statements from start to finish!
Do not state things you cannot explain
Do not state things you cannot explain. If you say something and do not know how to explain it, then it is not a good idea to write about it. If readers do not understand what your point is, then they will not be able to follow along with the rest of your work.
This also applies if you use words that are too big for your audience—too complicated or specific terms that only experts would understand should be avoided by those who are writing on these topics for the first time. It might be tempting when writing an academic research paper but try not to get too technical in order to keep things simple and easy to understand!
Do not persuade your readers to accept your hypothesis
A research problem statement is not the same as a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an assumption about how two or more things relate to each other, and it must be test before it can be prove false or true. Your research problem statement is not a hypothesis—it is just a high-level summary of the question you are trying to answer in your paper. As such, there is no need to try and persuade your readers that your hypothesis is true! On the other hand, if your research problem statement seems like something that might be take from an advertisement for laundry detergent (e.g., “laundry stains happen because laundry detergent prevents them from happening”), then it probably shouldn’t be include in your actual paper.
Do not compose this section as if it is an introduction
An important thing to remember is that your problem statement should not be an introduction. If you are writing a research problem statement, then your intro should already be write and now it’s time to get down to business with your research paper.
It can be tempting to use the same words you would use in an introduction, but resist this urge! Instead of introducing the topic or problem, focus on describing its nature and scope.
Never state exact solutions to the problem
A research problem statement should never state the exact solutions to the problem. It is not your job to provide a solution; it is your job to identify one and then let others find it. Never say you will find a solution, that you will provide one, or even that you will solve the problem. All those statements are attempts to give yourself credit for answering the question when that is not your job at all! The only thing you can do in this section is describe what needs doing and why it matters—and then get out of the way so someone else can take care of things from there.
Do not describe how you are going to solve the problem
One of the most common mistakes people make when writing a research problem statement is to describe how they will solve the problem. This is not only unnecessary, but it can also be confusing and even misleading to your audience.
While you do need to mention how you are going to approach your research question, it needs to be written in a way that makes sense for your audience. For example, instead of saying “we will use X method” or “we will run an experiment on Y material”, you should write something like “We plan on conducting experiments using X method in order to gain insight into Y material.”
It may seem like a minor difference at first glance, but this subtle shift in language makes all the difference between stating what you want (a solution) versus describing why things are happening (your purpose). Let us look at another example:
Do not use a problem statement as an opening sentence to your paper
- Do not use a problem statement as an opening sentence to your paper. A problem statement is not a thesis statement, and it should not be use as such. If you do this, it will become difficult for your reader to follow your logic in the ensuing paragraphs of your research paper or proposal.
- Do not use the words “hypothesis,” “statements,” or “questions.” These are all words that belong in another section of your document: the background section (where you provide all relevant information about how you produced this idea). In fact, these words should not appear anywhere else but there—and certainly not in a problem statement!
- Do not describe how you are going to solve the problem. This is also something that belongs in another section: how will you approach solving this issue? What methods will be used? This kind of information belongs in what is called an introduction paragraph, which comes after the abstract and title page but before any other content within each chapter/section/page of your paper(s).
Do not use the words “hypothesis,” “statements,” or “questions”
You should avoid the words hypothesis, statements, and questions. These are very biased terms that imply a particular direction of thinking. They are also very loaded words that can make it seem like you already have all the answers to your problem. Instead of using these words, use a more neutral word that does not have any pre-established meaning for your research problem statement.
Instead of saying “I hypothesize…” try saying “I am trying to determine if…” or “I am looking into how…”
Instead of saying “The following questions will be answer through this study…” try saying “This study will address three issues in order to answer the following question(s)…”
Never use any kind of emotional language
Avoid using words, phrases, or statements that might be interrupt as emotional.
- For example, instead of writing “I am passionate about this topic” you should write something like: “I have a great interest in this topic.”
- Similarly, if you are writing about your own research experience, avoid saying anything to imply that your findings were directly related to your emotions (for example: “This is an important issue because it affects me personally.”). You want to stay objective and neutral while also showing respect for other viewpoints. It is possible! The key is knowing how much emotion needs to come through in order for readers not just understand but understand well what they’re reading.
Do not use first-person pronouns
Research problem statements are written in the first person, meaning that they use pronouns such as “I” and “we.” This is important for a number of reasons:
- It makes the writer seem more credible—who does your research sound like? You or someone else?
- It helps with clarity—who are you referring to in this sentence? Is it you or another person?
- It creates a sense of ownership—do people care about what you have to say because they know who is saying it (you)? Or do they care because they do not even know who said it (an anonymous third party)?
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As you can see, the process of writing a research problem statement is not difficult. But it requires a lot of attention, so make sure to double-check your work before submitting it. After all, the quality of your future research paper depends on how well you have defined the scope and significance of its problem statement!