A research problem is exactly that—a problem that someone would like to
research. A problem can be any-thing that a person finds unsatisfactory or
unsettling, a difficulty of some sort, a state of affairs that needs to be changed,
anything that is not working as well as it might. Problems involve areas of concern
to researchers, conditions they want to improve, difficulties they want to eliminate,
questions for which they seek answers.
Research problems are usually identified from several sources including:
(a) The research literature
(b) Problems in practice or work related contexts
Summary Chapter 2 (Fraenkel , et al 2012)
(c) Personal biography or history (such as current or past personal experiences or
identities, race, ethnicity, gender, class background, family customs, religion, and
• Many research problems are stated as questions.
• The essential characteristic of a researchable question is that there be some sort of
information that can be collected in an attempt to answer the question.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Good research questions possess four essential characteristics:
1. The question is feasible (i.e., it can be investigated without expending an
undue amount of time, energy, or money).
2. The question is clear (i.e., most people would agree as to what the key
words in the question mean).
3. The question is significant (i.e., it is worth investigating because it will
contribute important knowledge about the human condition).
4. The question is ethical (i.e., it will not involve physical or psychological harm
or damage to human beings or to the natural or social environment of which they
are a part). We will discuss the subject of ethics in detail
DEFINING TERMS IN RESEARCH
Three common ways to clarify ambiguous or unclear terms in a research question
involve the use of
Constitutive (dictionary-type) —that is, to use what is often referred to as the
clarification by example
An operational definition describes how examples of a term are to be
measured or identified. (require that researchers specify the actions or operations
necessary to measure or identify the term.)