How to Write Statement of Problem for a Research Work

Writing the statement of problem is always a challenge to students. Some get scared when they get to the stage in their work where they are required to write statement of problem. But it shouldn’t be so. All you need do is understand the meaning of statement of problem writing it.

Let’s look at it this way. When you decide to go to Shoprite there’s something that prompted you to make that move. Probably something finished in your house and you want to replace it so you feel like buying it at Shoprite. You might want to have a good time there with friends or look for a particular product you think you can get a good quality there. Whatever the case may be, something made you to stand up and decide to head to Shoprite. That thing is the problem. Going to Shoprite and returning to your house afterwards is the research work. Whatever satisfied you derived from going to Shoprite is the solution to the problem which your research work provided. Same applies to statement of problem. It is the basic reason why you are embarking on a study.

What is Statement of Problem?

A problem statement consists of description of an issue that currently exists which needs to be addressed. It gives the context for the research study and generates the questions which the research aims to answer. The statement of the problem is the primary reason why the research is being carried out.

The statement of problem is primarily the problem your work intends to address. It is a problem in the society that the results of your study will provide answers to. It is not always a negative problem that leads to catastrophe but it could be an issue that requires improvement and your research work could provide that knowledge. A problem statement consists of description of an issue that currently exists which needs to be addressed. It gives the context for the research study and generates the questions which the research aims to answer. The statement of the problem is the primary reason why the research is being carried out.

 

Basic Steps in Writing Statement of Problem

Follow these basic steps to make this process easy for you. This way you won’t get scared at al whenever you get to problem statement in your study.

Sight before you write: Don’t write anything yet. Identify the problem first. You have to be sure a problem exists which your work intends to solve. Identify the problem and tell yourself this is the problem that exists. For instance, someone wanted to study influence of television cartoons on children in a particular city. The problem identified was that children exposure to TV films and cartoons could have a lot of undesirable effects. While some of the cartoons are useful in developing the moral character of children, others especially violent ones produce anti-social behavior in them. The researcher then wanted to carry out a study to find out the kind of effect exposure to cartoon had on children in a particular city. So you see, it is easy to identify the problem of your study. If you’re not sure, brainstorm with your colleagues or even your lecturer. Another easy way is to look at similar studies done on the topic you are working on. The problem they identified in their own works could give you a clue on what the problem in your own work is. When you have identified the problem you can now start the process of writing it down.

 

Current State of things: Begin with a few citations from studies already done, showing existence of the problem in the society and what it could cause if left unchecked. Mention the current state of affairs which shows the problem existing in the society or organization which your work intends to solve. Existence of this problem prompted your own study. You should be able to identify the challenge that requires solution. It must not be negative or catastrophic. It could be the need for an improvement on what already exists. For instance, in the example we used earlier, a researcher wanted to study how exposure to television cartoons influenced children. The problem identified was that children exposure to TV films and cartoons could have a lot of undesirable effects. While some of the cartoons are useful in developing the moral character of children, others especially violent ones produce anti-social behavior in them. This can prompt a study to know what solutions to suggest. Another researcher wanted to study the influence of culture on communication between doctors and patients. He started by identifying a huge health problem, then a serious problem which poor communication between a doctor and his patient could cause. The researchers is worried that non-adherence to medication by patient in a rural community could be as a result of friction in communication between a doctor and his or her patient caused by the patients cultural health beliefs.Here’s what he wrote:

“There are mind boggling and frightening statistics about the clinical and economic consequences of medication non-adherence and poor healthcare seeking behaviours of patients in the world today. Unfortunately, studies have also shown that the goal of achieving effective communication between healthcare providers and patients has always been beset by a number of barriers prominent among which is patients’ cultural health beliefs.”

This is a very good example of how to present the current state of the problem you identified. Take a look at the examples we provided below for more on how to present the current state of things.

Someone could ask you, “since you’ve identified the problem why are you doing the study again when someone else had done it and provided solution?” Here’s your answer: your study will contribute to knowledge on that specific issue; it will contribute to literature in that area of study or on the specific issue you studied; then it is possible that other studies did not focus on the community or state you are studying; even if the study was done in the same city or community about five year ago or more, you want to embark on what is called replication study to know what the current situation of things is regarding the same problem (A replication study is done to validate the findings of a prior piece of research. By doing so, that prior research is confirmed as being accurate or probably things have changed). There’s always a reason to carry out a study that the problem has been identified.

Back it up with evidence: Back up your assertions with citations from works of others who have identified the same problem. You need evidence which you should provide by citing or referencing studies done by other researchers confirming the existence of such problem. It could be a statement made by stakeholders in the specific area such as World Health Organization (WHO), confirming the existence of a specific health challenge. Using our example on influence of cultural health beliefs on communication between a doctor and patient, see haw this researcher provided evidence of the problem with credible citations:

There are mind boggling and frightening statistics about the clinical and economic consequences of medication non-adherence and poor healthcare seeking behaviours of patients in the world today. Annual costing of medication non-adherence is estimated at 290 billion Dollars in the USA (New England Healthcare Institute, 2009); 1.25 billion Euros in Europe (Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union, 2009); 7 billion Australian Dollars in Australia (IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, 2012); with 125, 000 deaths per year in America being attributed to medication non-adherence. The World Health Organization (WHO), reports that adherence’ values in various medical conditions in the world is about 50%, being much lower in the developing countries than in the western countries (Sabate, 2003). Medication non-adherence in health conditions is thus a critical clinical and economic problem.

Unfortunately, studies have also shown that the goal of achieving effective communication between healthcare providers and patients has always been beset by a number of barriers prominent among which is patients’ cultural health beliefs. This is particularly so in Africa which, in the opinion of Andrews and Boyle, in Singleton, Elizbeth and Krause (2009) belongs to the magico-religious and deterministic cultural beliefs groups, who believe that health problems are caused by factors such as supernatural forces evil forces, enchantment, preordainment etc.; and that cure can only come from the intervention of powerful medicine men making use of their charms, herbs, and other paraphernalia of their calling.

 

You should learn how to backup the identified problem with credible evidence. The evidence is expressed through referencing or citation of other studies or statements confirming existence of the problem.

What actually happens: State what happens due to existence of the problem. What challenges are people encountering? What suffering is it causing to the public? Make sure you cite works or statements from other scholars emphasizing or confirming the problem. This is related to the point we discussed earlier on backing up the problem with evidence. As you provide the evidence you are also stating what is happening in the society or anywhere with the existence of the problem. If the problem is not negative state what the company or society is losing by not having an improvement on what currently exists. Probably a company is doing well in the market but what could happen if it does not improve on advertising?

The expected solution: State the likely improvement your work might bring out if well executed. It is part of the attempt to convince any reader that your study is worthwhile. Then end by linking your work to the solution by saying your work sets out to provide possible answers to the challenge. Look at how the researcher who “influence of cultural health beliefs on doctor-patient communication” provided expected solution:

This study fills the gap in knowledge by providing empirical evidence of how cultural health beliefs in clinical encounters between healthcare providers and patients within homogenous cultures influence communication, medication adherence and healthcare seeking behaviours of patients in Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs) in Delta state.

 

Another researcher did a study on “influence of body image on female civil servants in Awka” and this was how the researcher linked this study to expected solution:

Thus, ideal body images and objectification of women as is done in the mass media, puts women at risk for negative effect, body shame, body image disturbance, eating disorders, and depression (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). This study therefore seeks to ascertain whether exposure to social media by female civil servants in Awka influences their body image satisfaction with a view to finding out the forms in which this influence occurs.

Also, most studies on influence of media exposure on body image were on respondents outside Anambra state. None of these works has focused on civil servant in Anambra state. The current study seeks to fill the existing gap regarding research on social media exposure and body image among women in Anambra state, especially civil servants in the State.

You have to end the problem statement by making it clear to the reader that your work is very relevant. The problems you identified by carrying out your study will elicit recommendations which constitute solutions that should be beneficial to the society.

Summing Up

You can also take a look at similar done on related topics, study the way they presented their problem statement and follow the pattern. You can learn faster by looking at what those who know it better than you have done in the past.

 

Samples of Problem Statement

 

Sample One

 

Topic: Influence Of Cultural Health Beliefs On Healthcare Providers/Patients’ Communication

 

Statement of Problem

There are mind boggling and frightening statistics about the clinical and economic consequences of medication non-adherence and poor healthcare seeking behaviours of patients in the world today. Annual costing of medication non-adherence is estimated at 290 billion Dollars in the USA (New England Healthcare Institute, 2009); 1.25 billion Euros in Europe (Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union, 2009); 7 billion Australian Dollars in Australia (IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, 2012); with 125, 000 deaths per year in America being attributed to medication non-adherence. The World Health Organization (WHO), reports that adherence’ values in various medical conditions in the world is about 50%, being much lower in the developing countries than in the western countries (Sabate, 2003). Medication non-adherence in health conditions is thus a critical clinical and economic problem. Unfortunately, studies have also shown that the goal of achieving effective communication between healthcare providers and patients has always been beset by a number of barriers prominent among which is patients’ cultural health beliefs. This is particularly so in Africa which, in the opinion of Andrews and Boyle, in Singleton, Elizbeth and Krause (2009) belongs to the magico-religious and deterministic cultural beliefs groups, who believe that health problems are caused by factors such as supernatural forces evil forces, enchantment, preordainment etc.; and that cure can only come from the intervention of powerful medicine men making use of their charms, herbs, and other paraphernalia of their calling. This cultural belief system is usually expressed in defaults in allopathic medical care such as resort to alternative medicine, non-adherence to medical advice and prescriptions, self medication, procrastinated resort to medical advice and their attendant consequences for health outcomes such as deterioration of patient health condition, worsening disease, treatment failures, increased hospitalization, increased health care costs and even deaths (Osterberg and Blasche, 2005).

To solve this problem, the notion of cultural competent communication is now recognized by health policy makers, managed care administrators, academicians, healthcare providers and consumers as a strategy to eliminate the barrier of patients’ cultural health beliefs to effective provider/patient communication in healthcare (Statys, Simanskiene and Pauzuoliene, 2017). The problem of the study is that whereas the evidence of relevant literature reviewed shows that there is an avalanche of cultural competence literature on inter-cultural clinical encounters between healthcare providers and patients, this is not the case with intra-cultural settings. This study fills the gap in knowledge by providing empirical evidence of how cultural health beliefs in clinical encounters between healthcare providers and patients within homogenous cultures influence communication, medication adherence and healthcare seeking behaviours of patients in Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs) in Delta state.

(Source: Odishika, E. (2019). Influence Of Cultural Health Beliefs On Healthcare Providers/Patients’ Communication, a Ph.D Thesis work)

.

Sample Two

 

Topic: Media Employers’ Perception of IT Students’ Performances: A Study of Selected Organizations in Anambra

Statement of Problem

On yearly bases, a lot of mass communication students are prepared from school to their various destinations for industrial training in different media organizations around the country. These students went out of the school for a certain period of time depending on their level. Some of them go for training in print media or broadcast media while others go for theirs either in PR firms or Advertising agencies and come back after some months. It could be recalled that since this internship started, students have been going for it and coming back from the training yet Nigerians are still questioning the employability of graduates (Adebakin, 2015; Ramli, et al, 2013; Adeyamo, et al 2010).

Could it be that these students that are being admitted into internship on yearly basis are not well trained by the trainers or that they fail to learn what they were thought? Then what excuses are being advanced by the media employers that are substantial enough to establish the unemployability of these graduates? Whether the academic experiences of these graduates are significantly different from the requirement of practical experiences needed in real world situation has not been proved by any empirical research. It is therefore pertinent to state that the perception of media employers in Anambra state on Mass Communication students that justifies the claims of unemployability of media graduates cannot be ascertained without an empirical study of this nature.

(Dumaka, F. (2017), B.Sc Project Work)

 

Sample Three:

Topic: Evaluation of Subscribers’ Perception of Airtel’s Meet the In-Law’s advertising Messages among select Households in Anambra state

 

Statement of problem

Advert messages are designed by the advert agencies for firms with a view to creating awareness of a brand among the people, showing the advantages of the product and as well encouraging repeat purchase of the advertised brand (Nwabueze, 2014). The Airtel advert which captured marriage custom in traditional African setting is designed to appeal to the peoples’ cultural life style in order to command repeat purchase. It is the belief of earlier media scholars that adverts survive more when attached to the peoples’ culture, but little or not enough research studies had supported this view in this recent time (Olatunji, 2018; Nwabueze, 2012). Given the fact that the world has evolved into a digital age, it could be that the current generation has different response to culturally oriented advert messages. It is not certain whether exposure to the advert message among household subscribers encouraged patronage of Airtel data bundle among subscribers in Ihiala. Against this background, the researcher is interested in examining the relationship between the advert message and the subscribers’ patronage of Airtel data bundle using select households in Ihiala town of Anambra state. (From a B.Sc thesis)

Sample Four:

Topic: Co-viewing influence on ethnic-oriented programming: An examination of in-group and out-group exposure to select Nigerian movies

Statement of Problem

Varied opinions have been expressed on how Nigerian home videos in general and ethnic oriented movies in particular influence society (Ekeanyanwu, 2014; Odi, 2016). While some persons perceive the ethnic oriented movies as informative, entertaining, thought provoking and capable of defining, interpreting and exposing social life of the people as well as their cultural realities, some people view the Nigerian ethnic movies as simply barbaric, costume, witchcraft, cultism, rituals, fetish and presenting only one side of a group. Some of these negative portrayals are perceived as realities by the audience and this could lead to discrimination against the prejudiced group. The truthfulness or otherwise of these perception is part of what the study investigates.

Several studies have been done on Nollywood movies and the society. They include the attitude of the Nollywood audience toward its movies (Akpabio 2007); Nollywood in the context of spectatorship, audience and the location of consumption (Okome 2007); audience reception of Benin-language Nollywood movies (Omoera 2014); the contributions of the Africa Magic audience, television, and the Nollywood audience toward the growth of the Nollywood film (Eghagha, 2014)); a Kenyan audience’s perception of witchcraft in Nollywood movies (Waliaula 2014); and the assessment and the dominance of Nollywood movies as mirrored in Ugandan weekly TV programming (Dipio 2014); reaction of Nigerians living in Nigeria and South Africa to different aspects of Nollywood movies (Onuzulike, 2016). However, no prior study found has investigated how co-viewing of Nollywood movies by in-group and out-group members influence perception and interpretation of contents. This study is designed to fill the gap.

Again, even in the entertainment consumption of these movies, several co-viewing studies have examined parent-child viewing, in-groups versus in-group, only very few have examined viewing among in-group and out-group members. What happens when in-group members co-view a particular ethnic oriented movie with out-group members? Do they feel comfortable, relaxed and free to identify with the film characters? Do they see the portrayals as a true representation of their cultural realities in the presence of out-group members?

The purpose of the present study therefore, is to examine the in-group and out-group co-viewing of an ethnic oriented Nollywood movie The Billionaires  and its influence on viewers interpretation of what is being portrayed and the reality.

(Okonkwo, E. (2019), from a Ph.D seminar paper)

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

He is a Senior Lecturer in a Nigerian University.

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