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Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Volume 11, 2008

Framework of Problem-Based Research:
A Guide for Novice Researchers on the
Development of a Research-Worthy Problem
Timothy J. Ellis and Yair Levy
Nova Southeastern University
Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
ellist@nova.edu, levyy@nova.edu

Abstract
This paper introduces the importance of a well-articulated, research-worthy problem statement as the centerpiece for any viable research. The aim of this work is to help novice researchers understand the value of problem-based research by providing a practical guide on the development of a well articulated and viable statement of a research-worthy problem as the starting point for all research. Additionally, this paper explores the interaction of the problem with the other fundamental elements of scholarly research including the research topic, goals, research questions, methodology, results, and conclusions. Scaffolding for articulating a ‘research-worthy problem’ is provided in the form of a deconstruction of the expression into definitions of its component terms, followed by a discussion of what is not a research-worthy problem. A roadmap on locating problems that could support scholarly research is provided. The theoretical foundation is placed into practice by examining some problem statements and proposing a template for crafting an effective statement.

Keywords: Research methodology, research problem, problem-based research, research questions, theory-based research, doctoral education.

Introduction
The importance of basing research on a well-articulated problem statement is well accepted across disciplines such as information systems, education, and engineering (Creswell, 2005; Hicks & Turner, 1999; Sekaran, 2003). Unfortunately, just what constitutes a research-worthy problem is not readily apparent, in particular for novice researchers. Although most scholars would agree that not everything that is problematic could serve as the starting point for meaningful research, it is not easy to identify just what does constitute such a problem. According to Kerlinger and Lee (2000), the identification of the research problem is “the most

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great extent, Supreme Court Justice Potprovided that the copies are not made or distributed for profit ter Stewart’s opinion regarding obscenor commercial advantage AND that copies 1) bear this notice ity seems to describe the feeling of

in full and 2) give the full citation on the first page. It is permissible to abstract these works so long as credit is given. To many scholars regarding researchcopy in all other cases or to republish or to post on a server or worthy problems: “I shall not today atto redistribute to lists requires specific permission and payment tempt further to define the kinds of maof a fee. Contact Publisher@InformingScience.org to request terial I understand to be embraced …

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Editor: Eli Cohen

Framework of Problem-Based Research

[b]ut I know it when I see it …” ("Jacobellis v. Ohio", 1964). Unfortunately, such an approach does not appear to be helpful, especially for novice researchers. Thus, this paper attempts to address the critical issue of identifying and establishing the research-worthiness of a problem. This paper explores the concept of problem-based research beyond the ‘know it when I see it’ approach. In the balance of this introduction, the argument for basing research on a well-defined problem will be detailed and the interaction of the problem with the other fundamental elements of...
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