The Problem Statement
By Dr. Marilyn Simon
Find this and many other dissertation guides and resources at
The problem statement is one of the most important components of your study. After
reading the problem statement, the reader will know why you are doing (or did) this study
and be convinced of its importance. In 180 -250 words you need to convince the reader
that this study MUST be done (or HAD to be done). Society or one of its institutions has
some pressing problem that needs (needed) closer examination. YOUR study will answer
(answered) some part of this serious problem in a unique and clever way.
The problem statement also explicates the paradigm (qualitative/quantitative/mixed) and the
methodology (correlation, evaluative, phenomenological, Delphi, historical, experimental,
etc.). A problem might be defined as an issue that exists in theory or practice that leads (lead)
to the need for your study. Never stray too far away from your problem as you conduct, or
discuss your research. Your dissertation will be judged on how well you solved the problem
posed, and how well you obtained your purpose.
The following template can be used to put your initial draft of your problem statement
together. This can then be converted into a lucid, scholarly, and clear problem statement
that meets all the items in the checklist that follows.
Template for initial draft of problem statement
There is a problem in ___________(societal organization). Despite _________________
(something that should be happening) ___________ is occurring (provide supporting
evidence). This problem has negatively impacted ____________(victims of problem)
because _________________. A possible cause of this problem is ___________ Perhaps
a study which investigates ___________ by a ________(paradigm/method) could remedy
“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”
John Dewey on Experiential Learning.http://www.dissertationrecipes.com/
PROBLEM STATEMENT Average of ½ – ¾ page
1. General Problem/Observation identifying the need for the study, with
sufficient current evidence to support the extent of the problem. This can be
current literature or current statistics.
2. Specific “Problem” proposed for research. Evidence is provided that this
is a current problem. However the words current or today should not be in
the problem statement. A time reference can be included.
3. Introductory words describing the paradigm (quantitative, qualitative, or
mixed), the method, and research design are given and are appropriate to the
4. General population group affected by the problem is identified.
5. The geographic area where the problem exists is identified, if appropriate.
6. The gap in the literature is explained. The gap in the literature is not
sufficient reason to conduct a doctoral study and is not, in itself, a problem,
but it explains where your study will fit in with other scholarly research.
7. The problem statement is written in a scholarly voice with APA
formatting and no grammatical errors. There are no, or a minimum number
of, quotations in the problem statement.
8. Sufficient evidence is provided to convince the reader that the problem is
real and solvable.
9. The problem statement is clear, concise, and in accord with the purpose
statement. The possible resolution is in accord with the chosen methodology.
10. There are no unnecessary words. The problems statement does not
exceed 250 words.
An Example Follows.
Bullying is one of the most critical issues facing middle school education in the
21 st century. When conflicts arise children can use their expertise with interactive
technologies to humiliate and bully their peers online, in what is referred to as
cyberbullying, and avoid reprimand from adults or foes. Parents often plead
technological ignorance regarding cyberbullying, and many schools decline to
discipline off-campus behavior.
Beane (2008) found that approximately 28% of middle school students are
subjected to cyberbullying, and that this affects about ten million middle school
children each year. E-mail messages and Web sites have increasingly become vehicles
to threaten, tease, and humiliate other students. Incidents of online bullying can be just
as hurtful as face to face bullying, yet are less likely to be detected or prevented by
adults. To date there has been little, if any, formal evaluation of how cyberbullying has
been addressed. In order to understand the complexities of online bullying, it is
important that a mixed-method case study be conducted to determine the ill effects of
online bullying and examine a case where online bullying was detected and dealt with.