Formulating a Research Problem

Topics: Domestic violence, Clinical trial, Ethics, Research, Subject / Pages: 7 (1651 words) / Published: Feb 17th, 2013
Chapter 1 – Formulating a Research Problem
The importance of formulating a research problem The formulation of a research problem is the first and most important step of the research process.
It is like the identification of a destination before undertaking a journey. In the absence of a destination, it is impossible to identify the shortest – or indeed any – route. Similarly, in the absence of a clear research problem, a clear and economical plan is impossible. The research problem serves as the foundation of a research study, if it is well formulated, you can expect a good study to follow.

Initially, you may become confused but this is normal. Remember: confusion is often but a first step towards clarity. Take time over formulating your problem, for the clearer you are about your research problem/question, the easier it will be for you later on. Remember, this is the most crucial step.

Sources of research problems

Most research in the humanities revolves around four Ps:

• people
• problems
• programmes
• phenomena

The emphasis on a particular ‘P’ may vary from study to study but generally, in practice, most research studies are based upon at least a combination of two Ps.

Every research study has two aspects: the people provides you with the ‘study population’, whereas the other 3Ps furnish the subject areas. Your study population – individuals, groups and communities – is the people from whom the information is collected. Your subject area is a problem, programme or phenomenon about which the information is collected

Table 4.1 Aspects of a research problem
Aspects of a study About Study of
Study Population People Individuals, organizations,
Groups, communities They provide you with the required information or you collect information from or about them
Subject area



Phenomenon Issues, situations, associations, needs, population composition, profiles, etc.

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