• Mon - FRI: 8.00 am - 4.00 pm
  • Sat - Sun: Closed

Problem Statement, Research Objectives, Research Questions: How Do The Three Link?

Dissertation writing boils down to achieving the set research objectives and answering the formulated or raised research questions regarding the identified research problem.

We can discuss certain things lightly in dissertation writing, such as things to do with one's text font size and line spacing. You simply have to highlight your document, know where to click in Microsoft Word and once you click, everything is sorted.

But issues to do with writing a problem statement, setting research objectives, and answering research questions are "weightier matters" of dissertation writing.

You are highly likely to write a poor-quality dissertation if you engage yourself in dissertation writing without having a sound understanding of how research objectives and research questions relate to a problem statement. I, therefore, suggest you read through this blog post to ensure that you do right things simply by considering the insights I am sharing with you.

Definition of a problem statement

First things first, let's start by defining a problem statement before exploring how research objectives and research questions relate to a problem statement. 

A problem statement in dissertation writing is simply a comprehensive expression that summaries everything about the identified research problem. It sums up all aspects of the identified research problem unambiguously and always in few words.

A sound problem statement tells the reader why the identified problem is a problem and how is it a problem? It may also highlight the expected solutions (where possible) to the identified problem. The problem statement, therefore, provides a clear picture of the entire identified research problem one intends to examine, and address through conducting a research study.

When the time for you to write a problem statement comes, please write it concisely and keep it brief. Remember, it's not a story.

The big question: What is a research problem?

Conducting a research study where there is no identified research problem is attempting an impossibility. Metaphorically, there is no egg where there is no hen; the hen comes first and the egg later. A research problem sets the stage for conducting a research study and everything else follows.

In dissertation writing, everything begins by identifying a research problem, or at least an issue. But, the big question is, what is a research problem? 

Here is the answer: a research problem is a practical or theoretical concern or difficulty that previous research studies completely overlooked or partially addressed, yet there is a compelling need to  examine it closely, understand it deeply,  and address if effectively.  

We usually describe a research problem in terms of missing information or knowledge deficits and conflicting scholarly findings or conclusions.

A research problem emerges either in literature or society. When you identify a research problem from the society, you also have to review related literature to establish knowledge gaps or knowledge deficits surrounding the identified problem. In doing that, you check if someone else ever tried to address the "identified problem."

As you work your way through the literature review, you may discover that the problem has already been examined and addressed. So, if your literature review reveals that the "problem" has been thoroughly examined and addressed, you may need to identify another problem. But if you put self-convincing evidence on the table that the problem was partially addressed and little is still known about it, there might be a valid reason to dig deep into it, but maybe from a different angle.

The bottom line is every research problem, either practical or theoretical should emerge from some knowledge deficits.

Two questions that a good problem statement answers are:

1. Why is it a problem?

A problem statement should tell the reader why the identified problem is a problem. It's not enough to announce that you have identified a problem worth studying; anyone can do that.

Tell the reader why the identified problem is a problem maybe someone else out there does not see things the way you do and it’s not the reader’s duty to figure out why is the identified problem a problem.

Know that a research problem differs from a personal problem in that a research problem is a universal problem; it should not be a problem only to you. Make a case for it, let the reader understand why the identified problem is a problem. Never assume the reader knows everything about the identified problem.

2. How is it a problem?

A problem statement briefly narrates how the identified problem is a problem. A well-written problem statement informs the reader about the intensity and magnitude of the identified problem.

We all known that a problem is a problem, but one may have a little picture of it if you do not spell out clearly its effects. You should, therefore, present the past, present and expected effects of the identified problem. By doing that you highlight the magnitude of the identified problem. Let the reader know how severe and critical the identified research problem is.

The Connection Between:

1.) A problem statement and research objectives

In dissertation writingyou set research objectives to stay guided as you work your way through the meandering journey.

Once you identify a research problem, you then have to examine and address the identified problem properly. By every means necessary you should avoid approaching the identified research problem anyhow. Instead of conducting the research study haphazardly, you set clear objectives that enable you to diagnose the identified problem thoroughly.

The primary purpose of setting the research objectives is to remain guided and avoid getting carried away along the way. You would want to avoid wondering in reviewing literature that does not closely relate to the identified problem. To avoid that, you need to adhere to the set research objectives to ensure that you remain focused on diagnosing the identified research problem.

Without setting and adhering to research objectives, you are likely to get distracted along the way. So by setting research objectives you are simply saying, I have identified a problem, and the problem exists. Now I want to do this to examine and address the identified research problem. And if I don’t do this, it means the research study never examines and addresses the identified problem.

2.) A problem statement and research questions

I know no one who has ever seriously investigated something they already fully understood.

In dissertation writing, we formulate research questions to fetch answers that provide an understanding of something that was not known. Let me once again remind you that a research problem (a practical one or a theoretical one) revolves around something that is partially known or wholly unknown. It points to something that is not yet fully understood, at least from research-based evidence.

To examine and address a research problem, you need to raise or formulate questions that, if well answered the unknown becomes known. Research questions should emerge and be derived from knowledge gaps that surround the identified research problem.

SO IT GOES LIKE THIS: (1) identify a research problem and establish the surrounding knowledge gaps, (2) informed by the established knowledge gaps raise questions that fetch answers about what is not known (knowledge gaps) regarding the identified problem. 

Relevant research questions, therefore are formulated after identifying a research problem and are informed by knowledge gaps surrounding the identified research problem. 

Let this sink in your mind: literature review, identified knowledge gaps in particular, shape the direction of research question. Data collection and analysis provide answers to the raised or formulated research questions.

Always remember these FIVE key points!

You should always have the following FIVE key points in mind each time when writing a problem statement, setting research objectives and formulating research questions.

• Dissertation writing boils down to achieving research objectives and answering research questions regarding a particular research problem.

• Research objectives and research questions are formulated with the identified research problem in mind.

• Research objectives guide you in the entire research process to remain focused on diagnosing the identified research problem.

• Research questions are set to fetch and establish answers regarding the knowledge gaps that surround the identified research problem.

• Every research problem, either theoretical or practical, builds on some knowledge deficit.