A CHALLENGE TO STUDENTS OF EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SCIENCE: PROBLEM FORMULATION

PROBLEM FORMULATION

The problem provides the context for the research study and generates questions which the researcher will answer or hopes to get answers to.

Time should be spent in considering and rating research problem statement.

Problem statement should hook the reader and establish a persuasive context for what follows.You should answer the question “ what is the problem ?” and why is this problem worth my attention?.

PROBLEM FORMULATION

To formulate a problem, take a look at the world around you and discover where your interest lies. Regarding whether you conduct basic or applied research, research will definitely take a significant amount of your time and energy, so choose a problem that is worth your time and energy.

Two criteria or 2 tests are to be considered in identifying a suitable research problem

1. Your problem should address an important question such that the answer can actually make a difference

2. It should advance the frontier of knowledge and lead to new ways of thinking and if possible expose new ways of application or solving current issues and challenges

Some problems are not really reasonable because they do not elicit mental struggle or joggling example; ‘factors that enhance reading’ such a research will not elicit mental effort and does not contribute to knowledge as those factors are already known even without indulging in much analysis

An example is – how London bridge was built. The information finding effort would actually satisfy individuals by giving them information on how the bridge was built but it would not lead to any new knowledge. Because it will not add to knowledge, it is not a research topic. Another example is “steps in using lecture method to teach in Landers College”. This topic may appear catchy but it is not a researchable topic. It is a known fact that lecture method has a known pattern in subject delivery . It should not be any different in Landers College and therefore does not elicit mental struggle or effort. Energy or time is not vested and discovering the steps teachers use in lecture methods in Landers college and is not adding to new knowledge . This topic has not passed the criterion test- no difference and no additional knowledge and does not expose any new way or method of lecturing in field of teaching.

The assertion that the heart of any research project is the problem can never be over emphasized. Research process starts off is a smooth way and proceeds without much strain and stress on the researcher when the statement of the problem is unmistakably clear. Identifying the research problem helps the researcher articulate the methods to be used in population sampling, design of research, data collection and type of data analysis required.

Stating the Problem

Problem must be carefully phrased and represents the goal of the total research effort. The following are general guidelines to help a student researcher in statement writing.

1. State the problem clearly and completely. The problem statement should be clearly and simple so that anyone who reads English can read and understand it. If the problem is not stated in simple terms and clearly it will be confusing even for the researcher. It also means that the researcher is deceiving himself that he knows the problem when actually the problem is not clear to him.

You have to state the problem clearly only when you have stated it completely. At a minimum, you should describe it in one or more grammatically complete sentences. There are two main forms of writing problem statements. Problems can be stated in declarative form.

Example of declarative form

The problem of this research is to find out the level of satisfaction and the effectiveness of international support in Somaliland.

This can also be written in question form or interrogative.

What is the level of satisfaction and the effectiveness of international support in Somaliland?

Examine the following statement for various students.

From a student in sociology – welfare on children’s attitudes From a student of Law – Nigeria and the tort.

From a students in Education- Teaching methods in school From a student of Economics- Retirement plan for adults.

From all the five statements, no specific problem could be identified and all lack clarity. It is possible to take some fragments of the statements above and develop a more researchable example;

“Teaching methods in school” becomes;

What effect does lecture method have on student retention of subject matter?

This study will analyze the lecture method using a particular class of students and a topic in school(s) and compare their retention of the subject matter taught with lecture method to another method of teaching like experimental method, field-trip method, individualized instruction or any other known method of instruction.

Statements when written in full, limit the study to manageable size. Sometimes the problem statement does not limit the researcher to any length and this makes it difficult to know what direction the researcher should follow. Example “Attitude to work by employees in Uganda.” There are over 2 million employees in Uganda and in so many districts, organizations, factories, institutions and ministries. What is the peoblem?Which group of employees is referred to? Can this researcher cover the whole of Uganda? How long is he going to take to gather this enormous data. How is he going to analyze it? What is he looking for here and how much money does he have to cover the whole Uganda for this type of research. This takes us to the next point.

2. Think about the feasibility of the research and what it involves. This will definitely cause the above students so much money running in millions of shillings or dollars. It is obvious that the researcher did not consider the implications of such research undertaking. When research statements are made without considering the implication or involvement, the student meets a stonewall and cannot go ahead. Sometimes its complication cannot be adequately handled by the student and it becomes a problem to either continue or to abort the research.

3. State precisely what you mean and do not assume others will be able to read your mind. In research world, especially your status as a scholar, absolute honesty and integrity are assumed in every statement a scholar makes. Sometimes under the excuse that an introductory statement should be made, some students indulge so much in generalized discussion which obscures the problem and in the process the problem is never clearly articulated. Sometimes also pages are seen written by the student researcher while trying to state the problem but at the end of such a long essay, the reader cannot find the problem.

Usually, it is advised to state the problem before going into explanations that may carry one away from the problem. It is advisable to state the problem straight so that at the first glance it is identified without any difficulty.

4. Edit your work.

Editing helps the writer to sharpen a thought and helps eliminate verbiage. Verbiage are sentences or words which do not depict the writer’s exact mindset. Some words are distracting and distort the meaning of a sentence because of its length. Verbiage could also mean unnecessary big words which may not bring out the writer’s thought.