Defining the problem statement
After the interviews and the literature review, the researcher is in a position to narrow down the problem from its original broad base and define the issues of concern more clearly. It is critical that the focus of further research, or in other words, the problem, be unambiguously identified and defined. No amount of good research can find solutions to the situation if the critical issue or the problem to be studied is not clearly pinpointed. A problem statement is a clear, precise, and succinct statement of the specific issue that a researcher wishes to investigate. There are three key criteria to assess the quality of the problem statement: it should be relevant, feasible, and interesting.
A good problem statement should answer questions such as:
1. What is the problem?
2. Who has the problem?
3. Where does the problem occur?
4. When does the problem occur?
5. How often does the problem occur?
6. What causes the problem?
7. What does the problem impact?
What makes a good problem statement?
A good problem statement should be:
Concise. The essence of your problem needs to be condensed down to a single sentence. A reader of the project statement should be able to say “Aha!! Now I now understand the problem.”
Specific. The problems statement should focus your thinking, research, and solutions toward a single population or issue.
Measurable. Problems can be measured in terms of degree and frequency. The strongest problem statements incorporate measurable aspects of both the degree and frequency of the problem.
Specify what is impacted. The problem statement should identify the population affected by the problem.
Examples of well-defined problem statements
• To what extent has the new advertising campaign been successful in creating the high-quality, customer centered corporate image that it was intended to produce?
• How has the new packaging affected the sales of the product?
• How do price and quality rate on consumers' evaluation of products?