Qualitative research involves capturing audio or video recordings of interviews, focus groups, etc. and getting these converted into text format with the help of an academic transcription service provider. Once the data is in written form, it can be analyzed. However, there are many steps that you need to successfully complete before you reach this stage.
The first step in writing a doctoral dissertation is developing the research proposal. This involves identifying and stating the research problem and purpose, asking research questions, stating the hypothesis, reviewing the literature in the field, and formulating the research method or plan. Identifying the problem prepares the ground for the research proposal.
In his book titled Writing a Research Proposal for Your Dissertation, academician Steven R. Terrell lists the features of a good research problem as follows:
- The subject is interesting to the researcher
- The problem has theoretical or practical significance
- Its scope is manageable by the researcher
- The researcher has the knowledge, time and resources needed to investigate the problem
- The problem can be researched through data collection and analysis
- It is ethical to investigate the problem
However, many doctoral students find it a challenge to write an effective problem statement that shows the relevance of the proposed study. Here are some expert tips for developing the problem statement for a research proposal:
- Know the exact focus of your research: The problem statement is the focus of your research. You need to explain how the problem was identified, the background of the problem, and the significance and the benefit of investigating it.
- Identify a good research problem: There are many opportunities for research and many ways to find a good research problem:
- Reviewing the literature in the field is a must. Knowledge of the literature in the field is necessary to provide a background of the problem and show that the problem is worth investigating. Read prior research and dissertations to learn how authors use the literature to support their problem area and to better define, understand and guide their study.
- Determine if you want to investigate a practical problem or a theoretical research problem.
- Suggestions for future research listed in existing studies can help you identify a potential area for research.
- Speaking to people who are acknowledged experts in the field would provide valuable insight into the problem.
- Attending conferences or meetings can help you learn more about a potential area. Attend sessions to your area of interest and ask questions about the topic you are interested in to get informational feedback.
- Write the problem statement: The statement should be clear and concise, and describe the problem and its significance. It should be free of personal bias. The problem statement must be backed up with references from relevant literature. The problem statement must:
- Introduce the reader to the significance of the study
- Provide a concise statement about the purpose of the research, the question and hypothesis
- Define the parameters of the topic being investigated
- Indicate what is necessary to conduct the study and how the results will be reported
The statement of the problem should have the following items: the methodology, the methods that will be used to collect data (e.g., interviews), the participants, where the study will take place, and the topic of the study. Documenting research interviews is an important part of writing the report. Researchers can save time and effort on this task with the help of audio transcription services.
Let’s look at the example of a problem statement for a study on work-life balance among American workers. Finding work-life balance is a top workplace challenge facing Americans and a key topic for research. For example, many research studies have focused on investigating whether work-life balance helps people be more productive. The problem statement for such a study could be: “Chronic stress affects employees’ physical and mental health, causes employee burnout, and leads to a decrease in work performance”. The hypothesis could be that employers can save money and maintain a healthier, more productive workforce by creating a work environment that prioritizes work-life balance.
The researcher should explain the ideal situation and explain what is preventing the ideal situation. Next, the researcher should review the relevant literature in the field and support the research problem with references from the literature. With a clearly-defined problem, it will be possible to formulate one or more research questions. Once the importance of the problem is explained, the appropriate solution should be proposed. This will address the problem statement and enhance the value of the research.