How to Write an Effective Statement of the Problem

by Madhura Panse
How to write an effective statement of the problem

As PhD students or early career researchers, one of the most important tasks in your academic journey is drafting a research proposal that will help you get the necessary funds and support for performing your research. You may find that, among the different components of a proposal, writing the statement of the problem is perhaps the most challenging since it sets the tone for your proposal. A badly written statement of the problem not only sets the precedent for an unconvincing research proposal, but may also indirectly point to your lack of understanding about your own research. Therefore, it is essential to dedicate sufficient time and effort toward drafting this particular component of a research proposal. And, if you, like many others are struggling with writing statement of the problem in research proposal, then this article might help you out.  

What is the statement of the problem in research proposals?

Before we begin deep-diving into the details, let us understand what a statement of the problem actually signifies. A statement of the problem should ideally be a comprehensive summary of the question that will be addressed as a part of the research, while convincing the reader that the time spent on the research is worth the monetary investment.   

Naturally therefore, a lot needs to be taken into consideration while writing this component. Here are some of the key characteristics of the statement of problem in research proposals: 

  1. Addresses a distinct gap area – a research proposal will only be truly significant if you are describing a gap area that is distinct and unexplored. To identify this unique and distinct gap area, you may need to perform some background research regarding the current issues in your field as well as your ability to address them using your specific skill-set or knowledge. The more relevant a problem is to real-world issues, the better are your chances of getting it funded. Therefore, this is a key point you must remember even before writing a statement of the problem.  
  1. Provides a clear solution – apart from addressing a distinct gap area, the statement of the problem should also provide a clear solution to solve the issue at hand. Further, this clarity should be demonstrated adequately. Therefore, it is important to be practical while choosing the gap area and to ensure that the solution is attainable as well as feasible.  
  1. Leads to further research in the same or relevant field – the statement of the problem should not only describe the research that you are going to undertake, but should also set the stage for any further research that could be carried out in order to contribute toward the existing knowledge base. 
  1. Is reproducible and subject to investigation – a good statement of the problem is always subject to scrutiny and allows for a critical analysis of the feasibility and efficacy of the solution that is being provided. It is important to demonstrate that, although you are addressing a distinct gap area, the solution/research work is reproducible.  

The ideal structure when writing a statement of the problem

Apart from the above-mentioned key characteristics, there is also a structural approach that you can follow in order to draft a good statement of the problem.  

  1. Begin with a short background of the gap area that you wish to address with your research. In this part, you may also include some aspects about any previous work that was done to address the gap area. 
  1. After the background, you can proceed to discuss the consequences of not addressing that particular gap area. Additionally, you can also discuss about the potential benefits of addressing the gap area properly. Here, you can briefly introduce your solution and also talk about how your solution might help circumvent any roadblocks that previous studies might have encountered.  
  1. You can then proceed to describe your solution in depth, by talking about the specific areas that will be addressed with the help of your research. Avoid adding too many technical details in this part as you would be describing them in depth in the latter part of your proposal. Here you can also talk about the greater significance of your research – this should include indirect benefits that are not addressed by your research but are nonetheless relevant.  
  1. Keep the length crisp and precise – the main intention is to get the reader invested in your research proposal, and also keep him/her interested enough to read through the rest of the proposal.  

We hope that the above guidelines help you in drafting a strong statement of the problem, which can translate into a compelling research proposal. 

Further reading

1. The basics of writing a statement of the problem for your research proposal. Editage Insights (2018). 

2. Graffin, G. How to Write Statement of a Problem in Research. Research Prospect (2021). 

3. What is a Problem Statement? With Examples | Author Services Blog. Elsevier Author Services – Articles (2022). 

4. How to write the problem statement for your research | CW Authors. 

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