IDENTIFYING THE RESEARCH PROBLEM: SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE APPROACHES TO ADOPT

October 10, 2017 By Juliet Ugochi

Research stems from our disposition to ask questions. As human beings, we are naturally curious and want to find the answers to most of our questions. Most of our knowledge were acquired either through experience or research. That is why research is critical in our lives. Research plays an important role in helping us understand our natural world and even our society.

Research produces hard facts that lead credence to arguments. That’s why we are able to make an informed decision based on the results we get from research. Again, research expands your knowledge base, if the result of an outcome is unknown, you need to research and find it. Furthermore, to show the action to take in certain circumstances, you need research to find the facts that will help you analyze the problem and know the subsequent action to take.
Before we can conduct an effective research we need to define a research problem.

Without identifying this you can not make an effective research because it is the heart of the study. A research problem is defined as a definite, clear statement of the area of concern and its usually backed by evidence. It is this statement that drives the research processes and gives the foundation for understanding the research findings. Here are the 5 simple but effective approaches to adopt to systematically specify the research problem for any given topic.

1. Deciding on a research area
The first approach you should use in getting your research problem is to identify what area in your field of study to carry out your research. You can decide to focus on areas that you enjoyed most in your course, or you can choose areas that you got the most scores. Sometimes, you may be given the research problem from your supervisor in the department. Still, it will be a subject in your field of study and so you should identify the angle you are going to take. Choose an area that interest you, aligns with the interests of your supervisor and the possibility of relevant and qualitative process is available.

2. Specify the research objectives
If you do not have clear objectives, you will not be able to have an effective research.

This is what the decision makers will use to assess your research at the end so you need to be clear about it. Don’t make it too complicated, 2 or 3 research objectives is enough for a good research. You can easily find your own objectives by reviewing literature, database, and reports in your field of study. It is important to get your research questions from the relevant literature not guesswork. This will ensure that you do not go into a research work that has already been addressed, done, answered and concluded.

 3. Review the Chosen Research Problem
Once you have chosen your objectives, you now need to evaluate these objectives and see if it is relevant for research. A research problem is said to be relevant if it significant, timely, supported by literature, specific and researchable. If your chosen research problem can be supported with recent studies in your area of education, meets the current needs, is original, specific and can be solved through the scientific method, then you have an appropriate research topic.

4. Explore the nature of the problem
You need to understand the nature of the problem, whether it is simple or complex for you to better develop a solution to the problem. You should explore the context or environment of the problem in order to know if the findings of the research will be worth it. Ask questions at this stage like - is this problem worth researching? Will it add knowledge to the studies available? Most importantly, can qualitative approach be applied to this research? These set of questions will help in finding the answers in an adequate manner. Qualitative data comes in the form of text and images and can be analyzed in its raw form with any coding needed.

5. Write the research questions
After you have carried out the above steps, the next thing is to write out the research questions. To begin, list all the questions that you'd like to be answered, all linked to the research approach you’ll use. It may be large or a few number of questions. Start your questions with ‘how’ or ‘what’ and then inform the reader what your research work will do. Consider how you are going to analyze your data and the approach you are going to use. Then align your questions to be consistent with the approach you are using.

Conclusion
Though a challenging task, properly identifying your research problem will go a long way in helping you understand your project/thesis topic. First, identify the area you want to work on, then specify the objectives of the study. After that review the chosen problem to make sure it is relevant for research. Then develop the problem and write out the research question. These will help you in conducting and writing a very good and relevant research work.

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