Research Writing

Example of problem statement in research proposal/Stages

Problem Statement

The problem statement is the process that explains what is the difficulty to solve in an investigation. This is an essential part of the scientific method in any area of ​​science. Example of problem statement in research proposal

Knowing how to choose a problem is the starting point of any investigation. In science, a problem is a difficulty that needs research to be solved.

The problem-research-solution process is a chain of events, according to Mario Bunge. In turn, the solution of any problem can become a new problem.

To begin an investigation, the first consideration we must have is “Are we interested in this matter?”

The research work cannot come to a successful conclusion if there is not a curiosity and an associated free interest from the beginning.

Stages in posing the problem

Acknowledgment of the facts

First, we must start from the recognition of the facts, that is, examine the facts that support the problem , classify them and select them in such a way that they are relevant to the investigation. In short, it is the search for prior knowledge, that is, all the information that we know and that we have collected about what we want to solve. Example of problem statement in research proposal

The choice of problems is determined by the state of knowledge already existing on the subject. If knowledge is scarce, deep problems that can be solved cannot be formulated. For example, the problems faced by Einstein could not have been solved if he had not first studied the works of Isaac Newton and Max Plank.

Discovery of the problem

Once the facts have been established, we look for what does not agree with what is known so far and that we want to solve. Every problem is included in a pre-existing knowledge.

To get problems we can look for weak points in known solutions or apply known solutions to new situations and see if they continue to work.

It might also work to relate problems from different fields. As, for example, relating the uncontrolled growth of a population (social problem) with the uncontrolled growth of cells in a tumor (biological problem). Example of problem statement in research proposal

Problem formulation

It is the elaboration of the question with the greatest possibility of being the correct one based on what is known about the facts. 

Every problem must be well formulated. That is, it must contain as many variables as there are unknowns and it must present a correct assumption. For example, what is the effect of aspirin? This assumes that aspirin, which is a variable, has an effect, which is the unknown.

Questions that seek a “why?” they are not scientifically relevant. A scientific research work should focus on the “how?” In this sense, “how do earthquakes happen?” is a more valid question than “why do earthquakes happen?”

Decision problems, those where the answer is “yes” or “no”, are not valid either. For example, the question “what is the relationship between self-esteem and obesity?” it is preferable to the question “is there a relationship between self-esteem and obesity?”.

Richard Lockshin in his book The Joy of Science ( The joy of science ) puts it this way when talking about the brown rabbits: Example of problem statement in research proposal

“What is the selective advantage of the color brown? What is the inheritance mechanism of the color brown with respect to the other colors? What mechanism in development places the pigment on the back and not on the belly of the rabbit? (. ..). These questions suggest possible mechanisms that can be tested. For this reason these questions differ from the non-scientific questions, why are rabbits brown? “.

How to pose the problem?

To formulate the problem, it is advisable to answer the following questions according to Mario Bunge in his book Scientific research :

1. What is the problem?

Identify the problem. For example, how does sodium chloride (salt) intake affect blood pressure?

2. What are the data?

That is, the known information, previously done work of people who eat a lot or little salt and have high or low blood pressure.

3. What are the assumptions?

The ideas that generate the problem. For example, consuming too much salt increases blood pressure. Example of problem statement in research proposal

4. What are the means?

The techniques and procedures to address the problem. It could be experiments with animals or people where they are given a certain amount of salt and then their blood pressure is measured.

5. What are the logical relationships involved?

It refers to the conditions that relate the constituents of the problem.

6. What kind of solution do you want?

A scheme. In this case, it would be a representation of the effect of salt on blood pressure.

7. What kind of verification is needed?

We want to identify the solution.

8. Why is a solution being sought?

The purpose of the problem. For example, if salt increases your blood pressure this can be harmful to your health and you should then take steps to lower your salt intake. Example of problem statement in research proposal

Example of problem statement

If we wanted to do research on the effects of cell phones on human health, we would first have to look for information on how cell phones work. This would correspond to the stage of recognition of the facts . We will look for all known information that is related to cell phones, such as how the cell phone market has grown since its invention and who uses them.

We would also look at what diseases or behaviors have been associated with cell phone use. We would probably get some studies on the health status of adults who constantly use the cell phone.

At this stage of obtaining the information, we would be interested to know what happens to a child who is constantly surrounded by cell phones. We would be discovering a problem that does not appear in the information previously collected.

To formulate the problem , the most appropriate question would be: “How does cell phone use affect the development of the child?” At this point, we assume that a child’s cell phone use must have an effect on their development. The effect of the cell phone on the child is what we want to discover. Example of problem statement in research proposal

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