Steps in Defining the Research Problem

Steps in Defining the Research ProblemYou may have frequently read that defining the problem is the first step in a research process. But what is the meaning of defining the research problem? The answer may be that one wishes to express the problem as well as the limits within which it is to be studied. Put simply, defining a problem requires the task of setting up borders within which a researcher shall study the problem.

Following is the procedure or the main steps in defining the research problem :

  • Define the Problem in a General Way: To begin with, the problem must be expressed in a broad general way, keeping in view either some practical problem or some scientific or intellectual interest. The investigator can himself express the problem or he can seek the advice of the guide or the subject specialist in achieving this activity. Often, the guide puts forth the problem generally, and it is then up to the researcher to narrow it down and phrase the issue in operational terms.
  • Understanding the Nature of the Problem: The simplest way to understand the problem is to talk about it with people who first raised it to find out how the problem initially came into being and with what objectives in view. If the researcher has stated the problem himself, he should think about all those factors that prompted him to make a general statement in regards to the problem.
  • Survey the available literature: You will need to review and serve all the possible literature which can be found on the research area prior to defining the problem. It will help you to examine newer dimensions in that particular area and will lead to development of knowledge. It means that you should be well-conversant with relevant theories in the field, reports and records as also all the other related literature. Studies on linked problems are helpful for suggesting the kind of challenges that may be experienced in our study as also the possible analytical weak points.
  • Discuss to Get Ideas: You can get various new ideas through discussions. Hence, you must discuss the problem with your fellow workers and others who have ample experience in the same area or in working on comparable problems. This is usually referred to as an experience survey. People with abundant experience are in a position to enlighten you on various aspects of the proposed study and their advice and comments are in most cases invaluable.
  • Redefining the Research Problem: Last but not least, you must sit down to rephrase the research problem into a working proposition. Through rephrasing, you will put the research problem in as specific terms as you can so that it may become operationally viable and may help in the creation of working hypotheses.

Read Also: Techniques Involved in Defining a Research Problem

In practice, steps in defining the research problem are often ignored which in turn causes a lot of problems down the road. Defining the problem correctly and clearly is an important element of a research study and must in no case be completed in hurry.

Hence, you must define the problem in a systematic way, giving due weightage to all relating elements.

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