Problem statement

Structuring your text

Problem statement

Before you start writing an academic text, you should establish your problem statement. A problem statement is a question or statement you set out to answer in your text. In other words, the problem statement defineswhat you are going to research or investigate.

A good problem statement:

  • is specific about exactly what you set out to investigate
  • is clearly presented early in the text
  • summarizes the most important things you are going to do

In order to make your problem statement stand out, it can be a good idea to use a bold or italic typeface. The thesis problem should be short and to the point, but you can elaborate on it after presenting it.

Also check out: Defining a research topic for your paper from VIKO

Different types of problem statements

It is common to distinguish between research questions and hypotheses.

A research question is a question that addresses the problem, or the unknown element you seek to figure out. In some cases, the research question is made up of more than one question.

Examples of research questions

  • To what extent does a person’s level of education impact their television watching habits?
  • What is the ideal number of participants in a focus group?
  • How did the American invasion of Iraq affect the political situation in the Middle East?

A hypothesis is a statement about how something works that you set out to prove or disprove. It is important to remember that results proving the hypothesis wrong can be just as correct and relevant as results proving the hypothesis right.

Examples of hypotheses

  • Focus group interviews generate information more efficiently than one-on-one interviews.
  • Students who consume alcohol more than twice a week generally get lower grades than students who do not consume alcohol.
  • Children who play violent video games have a greater chance of developing violent behaviour.

Consistency between your problem statement and conclusion

Even though you should have the problem statement ready early in the writing process, it might be necessary to change it later. Sometimes, you might discover that the problem statement is not specific enough, or that your research has taken a surprising turn. The most important thing to remember is that your problem statement needs to correspond with your conclusion. In other words, your conclusion needs to either answer the question you asked, or confirm or reject of your hypothesis.

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