Research Problems

After selection of topic of the research, the next step of researcher is to identify research problem and it should be defined. Here the question arises, what research problem? Let's try to define a research problem.

In common parlance research problem refers to some difficulty which a research experiences in the context of either a theoretical or practical situation and wants to obtain a solution for the same. A research problem is one which requires researcher to find out the best solution for the given problem.

The components of a research problem are:
  • There must be an individual or a group which has some difficulty or problem.
  • There must be some objective(s) to be attained at. If one wants nothing, one cannot have a problem.
  • There must be alternative means or the courses of action for obtaining objective(s) one wishes to attain. This means that there must be at least means available to a researcher for if he has no choice of means, he can have a problem.
  • There must remain some doubt in the mind of a researcher with regard to selection of alternatives. This means that researcher must answer the questions concerning the relative efficiency of the possible alternatives.
  • There must be some environment(s) to which the difficulty pertains.
The research problem has the following three characteristics:
  • It should raise a question about a relationship between variables.
  • The relationship between the variables should be stated and explained clearly.
  • The problem statement should suggest a method of researching the question.
Identifying the research problem is the preliminary steps in research process. With utmost care the researcher should identify and define the research problem. It should be within the scope of his own interests.

To identify the problem, it is better to discuss with one's own colleagues or with those having some expertise in the matter. In an academic institution, the researcher can seek the help from a guide who is usually an experienced man and has several research problems in mind. He may discuss with others. In private business units or in governmental organizations, the problem is identified by discussing with administrative agencies how the problem originally came about and what considerations are involved in its possible solution. The researcher must examine all available literature related with the selected topic. This will enable the researcher to specify his own research problem in a meaningful context.

Research problem are necessary to perform a descriptive or hypothesis testing research studies whereas exploratory of formulative research does not require a problem, their aim is to find a problem or the hypothesis to be tested. So on identifying the problem this factor may also be considered.

The following key points may be kept in mind while identifying a research problem:
  • Subject which is earlier done should not be normally chosen.
  • Controversial subject should not be selected.
  • Too narrow or too vague problems should be avoided.
  • The problem selected for research should be familiar and feasible so that the related research material or sources of research are within one's reach.
  • The importance of the subject, the qualifications and the training of a researcher, the costs involved, and the time factor are also considered on identifying a research problem.
Hence, the research problem should be identified by giving due weightage to all mentioned points. The research problem must spring from the researcher's mind like a plant springing from its own seed.

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