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Research Problem of the Study
It is a statement about an area of concern, a condition to be improved, a difficulty to be eliminated, or a troubling question that exists in scholarly literature, in theory, or in practice that points to the need for meaningful understanding and deliberate investigation (SH University, 2020). Usually in social sciences, this research problem is stated in the form of a question. The purpose of a research problem or statement of a problem is to help the readers understand the significance of the topic being studied. It also establishes the problem into a detailed context that defines the parameters of what is to be investigated. This is the backbone for reporting the results and indicates what is probably necessary to conduct the study and explain how the findings will present this information (SH University, 2020).
In social sciences, the relevance of research problem is very significant. Hence, these should possess the following attributes as listed by SH University (2020):
a. Clarity and precision. The research problem must be clearly stated and must be on point to help readers directly know its purpose.
b. Identification of what would be studied, while avoiding the use of value-laden words and terms.
c. Identification of key factors or variables, and of an overarching question.
d. Identification of key concepts and terms.
e. Articulation of the studies’ delimitation or parameters.
f. Some generalizability in regards to applicability and bringing results into general use.
g. Conveyance of the significance of the study, benefits, and justification.
h. Does not use unnecessary jargons.
i. Conveyance of more than the mere gathering of descriptive data providing only a snapshot of the issue or phenomenon under investigation.
General Conceptualizations of Research Problem in Social Sciences
According to SH University (2020), there are four general conceptualizations of research problems in the social sciences. These are the following:
a. Casuist Research Problem. This relates to determine the right and wrong in questions of conduct or conscience by analysing moral dilemmas through the application of general rules and the careful distinction of special cases.
b. Difference Research Problem. This is used to contrast or compare two or more phenomenon.
c. Descriptive Research Problem. This is used to describe a situation, state, or existence of a specific phenomenon.
d. Relational Research Problem. This suggests relationship between two or more variables being studied. It is more on investigating the characteristics that are connected in some way.
Selection of Research Problems
Identifying a research problem is quite challenging to a new researcher, it must be formulated in a way that it is relevant, specific, and feasible to study. It is advisable not to just duplicate the work of other researchers. There are some broad sources to make selection of research problems easier. SH University (2020) identified these as follows:
a. Deductions from Theory. Researchers can formulate research problems based on an existing theory. This can be done by fitting the theory in an empirical frame of reference through reference in which systematic investigation follows to confirm or reject the hypothesis and the theory.
b. Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Though most researchers conduct studies based on their field, others prefer to also use the context of interdisciplinary research. This involves new exploration and analysis in related disciplines to construct a more understanding of a complex issue than any discipline might provide.
c. Interviewing Practitioners. This approach helps researchers understand the real situations in the field hence helping them identify what problems needed to be investigated. It also allows researcher to know the practical body of knowledge which may help in designing the procedures and conduct of the study.
d. Relevant Literature. Most researchers based their researchers on a review of related literature and studies. Identifying the implications for further studies of other literature and studies can be a starting point to select the research problems. The gap which are not yet studied in particular literature may be used as a foundation to formulate research problem.
e. Personal Experience. Selection of research problems can be taken from personal observations of certain relationship for which there is no clear explanation or from witnessing an event that appears harmful to a person or group.
A specific and feasible research problem must introduce the general area under study and details the more narrow questions. Research problems must be compelling topic which means it should be relevant to specific discipline. Research problems must be researchable, this means that study units, materials, procedure or process must be available to you. Research problems must support multiple perspectives which mean it should not be biased and be opened variety of viewpoints and possibility.
Background, Scope and Limitations, and Significance of the Study
Typically, in writing research paper, there are 5 chapters to be included. First chapter of a research paper focuses on the problem of the study. It usually includes background of the study, statement of the problem, scope and delimitation of the study, and the significance of the study. In this section, we will discuss on how you can write these essential parts of your first chapter.
Background of the Study
This section of a research paper include the description that leads the reader to understanding the research topic, problems, purpose, and questions. A research topic is the broad or general subject matter addressed by the study. A research problem is a general issue, concern, or phenomenon addressed in the research that narrows the topic. Purpose of research is the major goal, objective or intention of the study to address the problems. A research question narrows the purpose into specific questions that the researcher would like to address in the study.
SH University (2020) defines background of the study as the information section which identifies and describes the history and nature of a well-defined research problem with reference to the existing literature. It should present the problem being studied, its scope, and the extent to which previous studies have successfully investigated the problem. It should highlight the where the gaps exist that the study attempts to address.
It is necessary to write the background of the study with enough information to help the reader determine that the researcher has the basic understanding of the research problem being investigated. Thus, it promotes confidence and trust in the quality of the analysis and findings. Enough information in the background of the study provides the reader with the essential context to understand the research problem. The context may be cultural, economic, historical, philosophical, physical/spatial, political, social, or temporal. Background of the study includes summaries of important and relevant literature.
Writing the Background of the Study
The general rule in writing the background of the study is to introduce and briefly define the variables under study. It should cite significant related literature and studies that necessitate the conduct of the study. To ensure that the reader captures the essence of the paper, background of the study can be written in broad to specific details. This means that this section must discuss the issue from international perspectives to national or local perspectives. It is advisable also to keep the terms used simple and consistent. The paragraphs must summarize unresolved issues, conflicting findings, social concerns, or educational, national or international issues.
Another guide in writing the background of the study is by following the CARS Model designed by John Swales. This model has steps to follow in order to write a comprehensive and concise background of the study.
Creating A Research Space (CARS) Model: Steps and Guides
1. Establish a Territory A researcher should demonstrate the area of research is important, critical, interesting, relevant and worthy of investigation. Thorough reviews of related literature and studies must be introduced to show that there are gaps needed to be addressed. The following steps can be followed to establish a territory in writing the background of the study.
a. Claim the importance of the study. This can be done by describing the research problems and providing evidence to support why the topic is important.
b. Make a generalization of the topic. This is done by providing statements about the current state of knowledge, consensus, practice, or description of the phenomena.
c. Review items of previous research. This means to synthesize prior research that further supports the need to study the research problem; this is can include gaps or recommendations from previous studies.
2. Establish a Niche (The Problem)
This refers to making a clear and cogent argument that a particular piece of research is important and possesses value. This can be done by indicating a specific gap in previous research, by challenging a broadly accepted assumption, a hypothesis, or need, or by extending previous knowledge in some ways.
a. Counter-claim. This is done by introducing an opposing viewpoint or perspective, or identifying a gap in prior research that you believe has weakened or undermined the prevailing argument.
b. Indicate a gap. The gap of the study must be clearly discussed to let the reader understood what area is understudied in the previous research.
c. Raise a question. This involves presenting key questions about the consequences of gaps in prior research that will be addressed by the present study. d. Continue a tradition. This is done by extending prior research to expand upon or clarify a research problem.
3. Occupy the Niche (The Solution)
This means that a researcher should state the significant contribution of the present to body of knowledge. This is established by following the steps below:
a. i. Outline the purpose. This is clearly done by explaining the purpose of the present study; typically, answering the ‘So what’ questions. ii. State the present research. Researchers can describe the purpose of the study in terms of what the research is going to do or accomplish.
b. State the principle findings. Researchers must present a brief, general summary of key findings written from previous research.
c. Indicate article structure. Clearly state how the paper is organized or presented.
Scope and Limitations
Scope of a study refers to the research area and parameters of the present study. It is also called as delimitations of the study which aim to narrow the scope of a study. It is about defining the boundary of the research. It is an important feature in a study that can be controlled so as to determine the parameters of the study. The scope of a study can include the general purpose, population or sample, time and duration, area of interest and local of the study.
Limitations of a study refer to the weaknesses of a study. This part of paper aims to identify and present the potential limitations of a study and influences in the study that the researcher cannot control or does not have control over it. These might also include weaknesses in the decisions made in the study. In presenting the limitations of the study, things to be considered can include nature of analysis, nature of self-reporting, instruments used, study units, or time constraints.
Significance of a Study
Significance of a study refers to the details that allows readers to understand the study’s contribution and who would benefit from it. It can also include explanation of the importance of a study as well as other benefits. In writing the details for the significance of the study, it is advisable to check your statement of the problems so as to establish a clear and concise explanation on the benefits and beneficiaries of the study. Your statement of the problems will help you identify the possible benefits the study might have.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.