7 junio, 2024

Problem statement: what it is, how to do it, examples

We teach you what the problem statement is and how it is done. In addition, we show you several examples of problem statement.

What is the problem statement?

He Problem Statement It is a part of the research work in which the subject to be treated is delimited and described; that is, what is going to be investigated. To do this, a general theme is chosen and some particular aspect of it is addressed.

For example: A group of students wants to prove that there is a relationship between hours of sleep and academic performance. As it is such a broad subject, it is necessary to refine it.

After following all the corresponding steps, the formulation of the problem ends up being: «Relation between the hours of sleep and the academic performance of the third year students of the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Institute in Mexico City».

In the statement of the problem is the heart of the investigation. If it is poorly proposed, it can ruin the researcher’s work, wasting time and resources. When properly delimited, the problem statement is a guide indicating what and how to investigatemaking work flow in the right direction.

How to formulate the problem?

There are a series of steps to present the research problem correctly.

1. Identify the problem

Problem identification involves determining which aspects of the chosen topic are to be investigated.. It is not the same to identify the topic of study as to identify a problem related to said topic. A theme is a general aspect, while the problem is a particularity detected within that theme.

One way to go from the general to the particular is to ask questions that can lead to the identification of the problem.

For example, a social researcher wants to do a study on gastronomy in Spain, but that is a very broad topic. One of the aspects of gastronomy has to do with salaries, so the researcher might ask: Are there differences between the salaries of men and women dedicated to gastronomy? If those differences exist, who earns more money? How is the salary situation in Madrid, the capital of the country? So one of the problems identified in that area could be:

“Salary differences between men and women in Madrid gastronomy.”

2. Contextualize

Contextualizing a problem is mentioning the research that has been done previously to address it, either theoretically or practically.. This allows showing and understanding the current situation of the problem raised, as well as determining what level of knowledge exists about the problem at the time of carrying out the investigation.

For example, in the case of research on the difference in wages between men and women in the field of gastronomy in Madrid, there is a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science. One way to contextualize this finding would be:

“Although there is currently no variety in terms of research on salary disparity in the Spanish gastronomic field that can serve as a reference, the work carried out by Haddaji, Albors-Garrigós and García-Sigovia in 2017 can be highlighted, in which it is mentioned that the salary of gastronomic women was 28.3% below that of their male colleagues.”

3. Define the research problem

Delimiting the problem is to make it as specific as possible, going from the general to the particular.taking into account «a global vision of the society of reference where the problem arises, manifests itself and expresses itself».

This means that when considering the variables that are going to be taken into account to investigate the problem, the geographical, economic or cultural context in which the problem in question is expressed must also be considered.

For example, in an investigation on salary disparity in the gastronomic field, a definition of the problem could be:

“The gender pay gap is a global problem. And generally inequality falls against women, whose work tends to be not only less economically paid, but also less socially recognized.

In Spain, at least 40% of restaurants are led by women, according to a study by the European company Just Eat, published in 2021. However, that does not mean that the wage gap does not exist.

In the case of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, for 2019 the general wage gap is 18% in favor of men, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics. These data force us to ask ourselves if this general gap is also replicated in the Madrid gastronomic industry”.

4. Justify the problem

Justifying the problem means explaining why it is considered relevant enough to do research on it.. This relevance, as Miriam Balestrini explains in her book «How the research project is developed», can respond to a personal or professional interest of the author, to the feasibility of doing the research, to a social, regional or global importance, etc

An example of justification of the problem would be:

“A good part of Western governments have undertaken the task of analyzing the causes and consequences of the gender wage gap and there are even government and private initiatives to correct this phenomenon. Within this framework, it seems appropriate and relevant to know the salary situation in the gastronomic field of Madrid. We believe that the results of this research can provide data of interest for the study of this problem and, in this way, contribute in some way to the search for solutions that generate more equitable work environments.»

5. Formulate the problem statement

Identifying a problem and formulating it are two different actions. The formulation of the problem is the concrete presentation of the aspect to be investigated, described in such a way that its scope and limitations are clear.. This can be done in an interrogative or expository way.

An example of how the wage gap problem could be formulated would be:

«Is there a gender wage gap in the gastronomic industry of the Community of Madrid?»

Examples of problem statement

Relationship between air pollution and the incidence of asthma cases in infants in the Villa Crespo neighborhood, Buenos Aires.
Analysis of exposure time to screens in secondary school adolescents in Mexico.
How did the pandemic affect SMEs in the Colombian textile sector?
Consequences of prolonged use of headphones in young people from the Los Clarines educational institution, in Miranda, Venezuela.
What are the motivations for the study of teaching in Latin America?


Balestrini, Mirian (2006). How the research project is made. BL Associate Consultants. Caracas Venezuela.
Bolívar, Adriana and Belle, Rebecca (Ed.) (2011). Reading and writing for research. Caracas: Central University of Venezuela. Scientific and Humanistic Development Council.
Haddaji, M., Albors-Garrigós, J., and García-Segovia, P. (2017). Women chefs’ experience: kitchen barriers and success factors. International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science. Volume 9, p. 49-54.

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