For starters, it’s important to know how to differentiate between these two.
- Theme: It is a more comprehensive proposition of the subject that you want to prove or develop in your research.
- Research problem: It is an explicit way of saying what is the difficulty or gap found in the subject of the work.
Thus, the problem is a question not answered by the theme and must be clear, understandable, operational and specific.
So it is often just a question in the form of “How…?”, “In what way…?”, “What differences are there between…?”, and so on.
So this research problem will be the starting point that will define:
- The methodology : That is, how will you answer this question;
- The goals: Why do you want to answer this question;
- The hypotheses: What do you expect to find in the answer. search problem
From there, your work is very well directed and both your research and your writing will be more fluid and direct.
First of all, I need to warn you that these are tips only to guide you, but most importantly, feel free to ask your questions and write.
So try to follow the steps in the way that makes the most sense for you, without rigidity, locks or judgments.
Remember: this step is not yet part of your research project, so there is no weight of a grade or someone correcting your work.
Of course, building a research problem isn’t just about figuring out questions, so it’s very important to know your topic well before going through the steps.
1. Write down everything you already know about the topic
First, you need to know what you don’t know, and then you want to seek an answer.
Therefore, our tip is to focus on the topic that interests you.
For starters, you can resort to readings and making summary records . search problem
Also, look for other references and write down any questions that the contents leave open or anything else that catches your attention.
But it’s okay if you don’t have enough readings yet, as your hands-on experience and casual observations are also important parts of note taking. That is, it is worth including all ideas related to the topic.
Finally, have you noticed that there are several doubts? It’s time to let the questioning take shape!
2. Start writing questions
From your notes, you are probably already full of doubts.
Therefore, get rid of existential doubts, such as those that refer to insecurities or your competence to deal with the subject. I know, it’s very common for this to happen, but don’t doubt your ability!
Then, select everything related to your own research object and use your creativity to start turning your notes into questions.
At this point, it’s time to ask whatever you want and get it, without worrying about whether they’re relevant, silly, or too difficult questions.
At the end of this process, you will have performed a super important brainstorming session for your work!
3. Critique your own questions
Well, if you were already judging yourself in the previous stage, you can go back and redo everything, because it is now that the big phase of cuts will start. Just follow the steps: search problem
Cut out the questions you already know the answer to
I know you don’t know everything, but how about looking for more information about your topic? If your questions are already answered out there, it’s time to save this knowledge to help you in your research, but leave the questions aside.
Separate the practical questions and save them
You know those questions that ask for concrete solutions, such as proposals for what to do?
So, normally these are not the main problems in a scientific research, but they can help you.
So separate these questions and save them for step 4.
In addition, practice questions can serve as further goals for your research.
That is, your work will build knowledge that can help guide solutions to real problems (and this should later be indicated in your proposal).
Also separate out the issues that are too broad
Of course, generic or vague questions aren’t very good for a research problem, as they probably won’t allow you to conduct well-targeted research. search problem
In fact, it is usually not even possible to outline a methodology based on questions that are too broad, either because we do not know which object to research or because it is very diverse, complex and requires more analysis time.
But they can be important starting points for your research problem. So save them and try to derive more specific questions from them.
Do you have questions that can be answered with yes or no? try to expand them
Finally, we will also explore the simplest questions, such as those that are answered with “yes” or “no”.
In these cases, try to expand them and think about the more complex problems that run through them. For example, you can compare situations, ask why or how.
At the end of this whole process, you will notice that you already have some questions , but there is no ideal number to complete this step. search problem
In fact, you don’t need to have many questions to build a research problem, because what matters, in addition to your enormous interest in the subject, is the relationship between the questions and, above all, their relevance.
4. Now organize the questions
To help you find the main problem in your work, divide the questions left over from brainstorming into categories, such as:
- Most relevant;
- More specific;
- Independent of each other;
- Related, by parallel or by subordination;
- More theoretical;
- More data oriented.
Of course, the standards for the organization can vary and will largely depend on the set of questions you have.
However, the main objective of this step remains the same: to go beyond the level of loose questions and create an integrated set of questions. search problem
Thus, this is already a guideline for defining the research problem and writing a good project.
So, play a game with the questions. Choose your research problem, assemble your text with the other questions, create templates that answer your questions, until you are satisfied.
In this case, the most relevant questions, the ones that are clear and precise, that can be researched and explored, are likely to be your research questions.
So, refine them, see which ones interest you the most and choose one that you can answer with the time you have to research.
But the tip is: don’t be satisfied at the beginning, play with the possibilities of your work.
5. Write a text
It’s finally time to write! When you have arrived at a satisfactory set for your research, see if you can make a text to explain your research problem. search problem
In it, you must explain the relationship between the set of questions, why your problem is interesting and why you are curious about the topic.
Thus, you will already have the materials you need to start writing even a research project .
So, make a clear text in order to make the reader understand your project. For this, a tip is to use the readings from the beginning of this stage and enrich the text.
Also, remember: you’re not writing an article, so avoid early responses and a terminal tone.
Therefore, keep the text open for future developments and do not hide your doubts.
After all that, you must have come across a search problem.
But if there are still doubts or insecurities, checking what is not a research problem can help you.
So you can rephrase your problem if it falls into one of these three categories:
- It’s not a search problem when you can answer it with a simple Google search;
- It is never a scientific problem when, in order to solve the problem, you need to take a practical action to interfere with the environment. search problem
- It is also not a scientific research problem when the question has values, moral judgments and subjective considerations.
Want to be inspired by some good examples of research problems? See some examples from the 2018 edition of the Capes de Theses Award!