Formulating Problem Statements

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Formulating Problem Statements:
Using Audience Awareness to Contextualize Your Research Goals  
A persuasive problem statement consists of three parts: 1) the ideal, 2) the reality, and 3) the consequences for the reader of the feasibility report. Well constructed problem statements will convince your audience that the problem is real and worth having you investigate. Your strategy is one of contrast: by situating the the ideal scenario next to the situation as it exists, you can not only persuade the reader that a problem exists, but then go on to emphasize the consequences of ignoring or addressing the problem.  

Remember, your problem statement is the backbone of the proposal and the feasibility report. By giving careful consideration to how you construct it now (for the proposal), you can use it when doing your research and writing for the proposal as well as the progress and the feasibility report.  

Describe the goals, desired state, or the values that your audience considers important and that are relevant to the problem.  
Connect statements 1 and 2 using a term such as "but," "however," "Unfortunately," or "in spite of";
Describe a condition that prevents the goal, state, or value discussed in statement 1 from being achieved or realized at the present time.
Using specific details, show how the situation in statement 2 contains little promise of improvement unless something is done. Then emphasize the benefits of research by projecting the consequences of possible solutions as well.  

RESEARCH (YOUR PROPOSED RESEARCH TO INVESTIGATE THE POSSIBILITY OF MAKING THE REALITY MORE LIKE THE IDEAL.) Describe the areas of inquiry you will use that could lead to solutions to the problem--- how will you research the problem? What sources of information, types of research (primary or secondary),or tools will you use to help you find solutions and make recommendations to resolve the clash?    

Example #1
In order to provide excellent patient care at a minimal cost, Middletown Hospital needs diagnostic procedures that are safe, efficient, and accurate. In addition, the procedures should not be overly painful for the patient.  STATEMENT 2

Right now, Middletown Hospital's main diagnostic tools are CAT scans and myelograms (spinal taps). The CAT scan fails to make clear diagnoses 60% of the time. When the CAT scan fails, doctors must resort to the myelogram. While the myelograms are accurate, this procedure is very painful and sometimes dangerous for the patient. STATEMENT 3

If Middletown Hospital continues to do the two procedures, they will not only be wasting time and money, which jeopardizes their overall efficiency and earning potential. Also, undue suffering could lead patients to choose another hospital with more advanced facilities.  

A new diagnostic technique, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) may surpass the CAT scan in accuracy and reduce the need to resort to the myelogram.  I propose to research the feasibility of establishing an NMR lab at Middletown hospital. I will investigate the accuracy, efficiency, and safety of NMR as well as implementation issues.  

Example #2
This proposal is directed to Alfred Academy’s headmaster, Dr. Smith Nyman. Alfred Academy is a private high school with approximately 200 students in attendance. Dr. Nyman is the primary liaison between the administration, the students and their parents. Nyman works with private educational funds and the alumni in order to raise money for student programs, e.g., a lecture series. Nyman then creates a task force of parents and students who execute the program for him.  

In order to continue the fifty-year tradition of pacifist values, Alfred Academy's administration needs a...
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