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■ According to Kerlinger, ‘A problem is an interrogative sentence or
statement that asks what relation exists between two or more
variable.The answer to question will provide what is having
sought in the research.
■ R.S. Woodworth defines problem as ‘a situation for which we have
no ready & successful response by instinct or by previous acquired
habit. We must find out what to do’, i.e. the solution can be found
out only after an investigation.
■ In other words, ‘a research problem is an area of concern where
there is a gap in the knowledge base needed for professional
■ Research questions are those that the researcher would like to answer or
address in the study.
■ Depending on the complexity and breadth of the study, there could be
more than one research questions.
■ Identifying a research question will provide greater focus to the research.
■ It will clarify the direction of the search may it be a descriptive or
experimental in nature.
■ A well-written research question will also shed light on appropriate
■ There are certain characteristics of
a research question.
■ Each question should be clear and
■ It should refer to the problem or
phenomenon under study.
■ It should reflect an intervention in
■ To formulate a focused clinical
question "PICOT" format is used in
the following table.
P I C O T
Comparison Outcome Time
Who are the
What is the
What do we do
What are they
What do we
within patients in a
What is the
Routine care Changes in
ELEMENTS OF A RESEARCH PROBLEM
■ There are five distinct elements
(components) of a research
problem.These are also denoted
Who/from whom of a research
1. Objective or aim of the problem to be explored
This answers the question "Why" of a research problem.
This means why there is a need of carrying out this study.
2.The topic or theme which needs to be
■ This answers the question "What".What is to be
3.The time dimension
The period or time of the study when the data are to
This answers the question "When?"When is the
research to be performed?
4.The area or location where the
study is to be conducted
This answers the question
"Where?"Where we need to
conduct the study?
5. Population or universe from whom the data needs to be
■ This answers the question "Who?" or "from whom?"
■ Who are the respondents? From whom the data to
■ be collected?"These may include persons, groups of persons,
wound dressings, syringes, each activity etc.
■ FOR EXAMPLE:
Consider a research problem
■ "To assess the effectiveness of a structured exercise
protocol on back pain among the nurses working in
intensive care units of MDM, Jodhpur".
■ All the elements of this research problem are depicted
in Figure 1.
FACTORS/CRITERIA TO BE CONSIDERED
WHILE SELECTING A RESEARCH PROBLEM
■ One commonly used acronym to
define the criteria for a good
research problem or question is
F stands for feasible,
I for interesting,
N for novel,
E for ethical, and
■ However, there are many factors that
should be considered while deciding
credibility of a particular research
question for a scientific investigation.
■ Significance to nursing profession:A problem that a
researcher is selecting should ha significance to nursing
profession or it will not serve any purpose. A research
problem is a significant for nursing profession when it is
directed to develop or refine the body of professional
■ A research problem could be considered significant for
nursing profession if it fulfils the following criteria:
Benefits nursing profession and patients, nurses, and health
care fraternity through the study.
Improves clinical nursing practices through the results.
Promotes nursing theory development or testing.
Provides solutions of current nursing practice needs.
Generates information to get practical implications for nursing
The following are certain important factors which should be
taken into considerations while selecting a research topic.
There are numerous sources for generating
the appropriate nursing research problem.
However, the following are certain
important sources which could be helpful in
selecting a research topic.
1. Previous research
2. Personal Experience
3. Consumer feedback
7. Social issues
9. Brainstorming sessions
11. Consultation with the
12. Social issues
PHASES OF ESTABLISHING A PROBLEM
■ Formulation of research problem is a
complex and long process, which includes
following steps (Steps for formulation of
research problem along with specific
example are also illustrated in Fig):-
Selection of a research area
Reviewing literature and
Delimiting the research topic
Evaluating the research
Formulating the final statement
of the research problem
Example ofWell-Formulated Research Problem
‘A descriptive study on the prevalence of pin site infection among patients with external skeletal fixation
admitted in orthopedic wards of MDM Hospital, Jodhpur’
It is an example of declarative form of the statement of problem, where it is precisely and concisely stated
and includes most of the required components of a research statement.
■ Some of these components are listed below:
• Research study design: Descriptive
•Variable(s): It has only one research variables ‘prevalence of pin site infection’
• Population: Patients with external skeletal
• Research setting: Orthopedic wards of MDM Hospital, Jodhpur.