Every research starts with identifying a problem which is usually an existing gap in your field of study. Once you do this, the next step is to craft a statement of the problem that captures this issue and how you plan to resolve it. A statement of problem forms the basis of every systematic investigation. 

Seeing as a problem statement forms the core of your research, it makes sense to know how to write an effective one. So how do you go about this? First, you need to get acquainted with the features of a good problem statement plus its elements and structure. 

Use this guide to know how to write an effective statement of the problem for your systematic investigation. 

What is the Statement of the Problem in Research?

A statement of problem refers to the critical issue that your research seeks to address. In other words, it captures the existing knowledge gap that your study aims to bridge using reliable results or outcomes. A problem statement can be as little as a few sentences or go all the way to several paragraphs—what matters is it communicates the central focus of your study. 

As your study bridges this gap, it also leaves room for future investigations. The implication is that your problem statement should not be too broad; instead, it should address one specific issue and contribute to the knowledge pool for further research. 

Use for Free: Research Form Templates

What are the Features of a Good Problem Statement? 

A good problem statement captures the core purpose of your study in simple, clear, and direct terms. Some other tell-tale signs of a well-written research statement of problem include: 

  1. A good problem statement is concrete and concise. It doesn’t capture ideas vaguely or ambiguously.
  2. It allows you to contextualize the research problem.
  3. A good problem statement helps you to set the aims and objectives of your systematic investigation. 
  4. It justifies your research and draws attention to the study’s significance. 

Why is a Problem Statement Important in Research Writing?

Writing a good problem statement serves both the researcher and the readers. For the researcher, the problem statement helps you visualize the scope of your project and outline it accordingly. Also, it allows you to map out specific aims and objectives for your study. 

On the flip side, the problem statement helps the reader identify the core reason for your research and see how your work fits into the existing body of knowledge. It helps them get on the same page as you regarding the importance and significance of your systematic investigation. 

If you require funding for your research, a problem statement can help potential financiers to see why investing in your project is the right move to make. It gives them an overview of the existing problem, your solution, and the impact of your solution on the field of study. 

Elements and Structure of a Problem Statement

In its most basic form, a problem statement comprises three(3) elements which are: 

  1. The research problem
  2. The claim or working thesis
  3. The significance of the study

In other words, it tells the reader what you’re trying to solve, how you plan to solve it, and why you want to solve it. 

1. The Research Problem

Your research problem is the reason for your systematic investigation. It is the gap you identified and planned to fill based on the results of your study. You can also think of this as the primary research question. 

A few questions you should ask yourself here include: 

  1. Is it clear what’s being described in this problem statement?
  2. Do I understand the main problem being described here?
  3. Do I have a good grasp of what the main issue is here?

2. The Claim or Working Thesis 

Your working thesis is the first attempt at asserting your position, and it spells out your stance on the matter at a specific point in time. It’s called a “working” thesis because it is subject to change as your study progresses. In your working thesis, you have the chance to justify your position by providing primary and secondary claims that support your position. 

3. The Significance of the Study 

This is the point where you communicate the value of your research and show readers why it is necessary in the first place. Here, you can discuss the impact of your work and its relevance to your field of study. Don’t forget to highlight the contributions of your work to existing knowledge and how others will benefit from it. 

Read: Research Report: Definition, Types + [Writing Guide]

What is the Difference Between a Thesis Statement and a Problem Statement? 

A problem statement focuses on the specific issue you’ve identified and hope to resolve with your research. It comprises the research problem, claim, or working statement and the significance of your research. On the other hand, a thesis statement makes a specific claim or assertion open for debate. 

For example, the statement “writing is more of a science than an art” is an excellent example of a thesis statement because it proposes an idea that may be true or false. Once you establish the thesis statement for your research, you are expected to provide evidence and build a strong argument that supports this claim.

What are the Steps for Writing a Problem Statement? 

  1. Define Your Research Context 
  2. State Why The Problem Matters 
  3. State the Financial Cost
  4. Back Up Your Claims
  5. Propose A Solution
  6. Conclude By Summarizing the Problem and Solution

1. Define Your Research Context 

The first thing you need to do is build a solid context that makes it easier for readers to understand the problem. A hack for this is to describe an ideal world where the problem doesn’t exist. In other words, help your readers to visualize how different things would be if they didn’t have to deal with this problem in the first place. 

For example, if you’re researching the rise in the number of train accidents in London, start by describing how the process would function if the current problem didn’t exist. When you’ve done this, you can refer to the research problem at the end of your explanation. 

2. State Why the Problem Matters

You should let readers in on why the problem matters and why you must address it at this point. In other words, answer the question, “why is it important that we fix this particular problem?” What difference would it make? 

Your job here is to show the reader why your research problem is the biggest elephant in the room. You may also consider including what attempts have already been made to solve the problem and why they didn’t work out. 

3. State the Financial Cost

If there’s a financial implication of not fixing the problem, then it’s a good idea to state it here. This is more useful if you’re pitching for funding for your research. 

4. Back Up Your Claims

It’s not enough to say that the problem has some negative impact on other people or your organization; you must back up all of these claims with well-researched data. This is the point where you pull up information from relevant secondary data sources and reference them in your work. 

5. Proffer a Solution

Now that we know the problem, the next question is, “what can be done about it”? To answer this, you need to propose a practical solution to the research problem. Take time to demonstrate why this is the most pragmatic solution and why it will work. More importantly, focus on the impact of your solution and hint at its benefits. 

6. Conclude By Summarizing the Problem and Solution

Your conclusion should consist of the problem, why it needs to be fixed, and a summarized argument of why your solution is the best answer to the problem.

Sample Problem Statement 

Problem: The use of hard drugs amongst teenagers in the District of Columbia has increased significantly over the past decade. 

Background: According to the Drug Abuse Statistics Organization data, 50% of teenagers have misused a drug at least once. Teenagers in the District of Columbia are 11.94% more likely to have used drugs in the last month than the average American teen. Existing data shows that this is a significant problem but fails to address the root causes of rising teenage drug abuse in the state. Therefore, more research is required to identify why teenagers in Colombia abuse drugs and proffer solutions to this menace. 

Relevance: Young people who abuse drugs expose themselves to many risks, including life-threatening conditions and mental health-related problems. Drug abuse can impact the brain’s ability to function in the short term and prevent proper growth and development in the long term. Data shows that teenagers who use hard drugs are more likely to be disillusioned. Addressing this problem will give concerned parties the much-needed insights to help them curtail drug abuse. 

Objectives: This research aims to identify the root causes of teenage drug abuse and map out actionable solutions to address this. 

Mistakes to Avoid when Writing Problem Statements 

A good problem statement sets the tone for the rest of your dissertation, so you want to get it right. That said, here are some things you should have at the back of your mind as you craft a problem statement for your research paper. 

1. Make sure your problem statement is straight to the point. Every sentence should reinforce the importance of your study. 

2. Narrow the scope of your problem statement.

3. Avoid unnecessary jargon and highly technical language.

4. Build a logical argument that will convince the reader

5. Emphasize the “why” of the problem 

FAQ About Writing a Statement of the Problem

How do you identify a research problem?

The best way to identify a research problem is to read through existing studies to discover any gaps in knowledge. You can also discover research problems by observing your environment and identifying any contradictions that exist among perspectives. 


Whether you’re seeking funding for your research or approval from your professor, you need to write a well-defined statement of the problem. A problem statement allows you to pitch the core idea of your study and show others why it is worth being addressed. It should draw attention to the core idea of your research, and convince others to invest in your systematic investigation. 

  • busayo.longe
  • on 8 min read


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