1 WHAT IS A RESEARCH PROBLEM?
A research problem is the situation that causes the researcher to feel apprehensive, confused and ill at ease. It is the demarcation of a problem area within a certain context involving the WHO or WHAT, the WHERE, the WHEN and the WHY of the problem situation. There are many problem situations that may give rise to research. Three sources usually contribute to problem identification. Own experience or the experience of others may be a source of problem supply.
A second source could be scientific literature. You may read about certain findings and notice that a certain field was not covered. This could lead to a research problem. Theories could be a third source. Shortcomings in theories could be researched. Research can thus be aimed at clarifying or substantiating an existing theory, at clarifying contradictory findings, at correcting a faulty methodology, at correcting the inadequate or unsuitable use of statistical techniques, at reconciling conflicting opinions, or at solving existing practical problems.
2 IDENTIFICATION OF THE PROBLEM
The prospective researcher should think on what caused the need to do the research (problem identification). The question that he/she should ask is: Are there questions about this problem to which answers have not been found up to the present? Research originates from a need that arises. A clear distinction between the PROBLEM and the PURPOSE should be made. The problem is the aspect the researcher worries about, think about, wants to find a solution for. The purpose is to solve the problem, ie find answers to the question(s). If there is no clear problem formulation, the purpose and methods are meaningless. Keep the following in mind:
• Outline the general context of the problem area.
• Highlight key theories, concepts and ideas current in this area. • What appear to be some of the underlying assumptions of this area?
• Why are these issues identified important?
• What needs to be solved?
• Read round the area (subject) to get to know the background and to identify unanswered questions or controversies, and/or to identify the the most significant issues for further exploration. The research problem should be stated in such a way that it would lead to analytical thinking on the part of the researcher with the aim of possible concluding solutions to the stated problem. Research problems can be stated in the form of either questions or statements.
• The research problem should always be formulated grammatically correct and as completely as possible. You should bear in mind the wording (expressions) you use. Avoid meaningless words. There should be no doubt in the mind of the reader what your intentions are. • Demarcating the research field into manageable parts by dividing the main problem into subproblems is of the utmost importance. 3 SUBPROBLEM(S)
Subproblems are problems related to the main problem identified. Subproblems flow from the main problem and make up the main problem. It is the means to reach the set goal in a manageable way and contribute to solving the problem. 4 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The statement of the problem involves the demarcation and formulation of the problem, ie the WHO/WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY. It usually includes the statement of the hypothesis. 5 CHECKLIST FOR TESTING THE FEASIBILITY OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM | | |YES |NO | |1 |Is the problem of current interest? Will the research results have social, educational or scientific value? | | | |2 |Will it be possible to apply the results in practice? | | | |3 |Does the research contribute to the science of education? | | | |4 |Will the research opt new problems and lead to further research? | | | |5 |Is the research problem important? Will you be proud of the result? | | | |6 |Is there enough scope left within the area of reseach (field of research)? | | | |7 |Can you find an answer to the problem through research? Will you be able to handle the research problem? | | | |8 |Will it be pratically possible to undertake the research? | | | |9 |Will it be possible for another researcher to repeat the research?
| | | |10 |Is the research free of any ethical problems and limitations? | | | |11 |Will it have any value? | | | |12 |Do you have the necessary knowledge and skills to do the research? Are you qualified to undertake the | | | | |research? | | | |13 |Is the problem important to you and are you motivated to undertake the research? | | | |14 |Is the research viable in your situation? Do you have enough time and energy to complete the project? | | | |15 |Do you have the necessary funds for the research? | | | |16 |Will you be able to complete the project within the time available? | | | |17 |Do you have access to the administrative, statistic and computer facilities the research necessitates? | | | | |TOTAL: | | |