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Formulating A Research
Problem
Research Methodology
Girish Kumar K
V MSc Biomedical Science
The Research Problem
• Any question that we want answered and any assumption or assertion that we
want to challenge or investigate can become a research problem or a research
topic for our study.
• However, it is important to remember that not all questions can be transformed
into research problems and some may prove to be extremely difficult to study.
• According to Powers, Meenaghan and Twoomey ‘Potential research questions
may occur to us on a regular basis, but the process of formulating them in a
meaningful way is not at all an easy task.’
• As a newcomer it might seem easy to formulate a problem but it requires
considerable knowledge of both the subject area and research methodology.
• Once we examine a question more closely we will soon realize the complexity of
formulating an idea into a problem which is researchable.
• It is essential for the problem we formulate to be able to withstand scrutiny in
terms of the procedures required to be undertaken.
• Hence we should spend considerable time in thinking it through.
Importance of Formulating a Research
Problem
• Formulation of research problem is the first and important step of research
process. It is like the identification of a destination before undertaking a
journey.
• A research problem is like the foundation of a building. The type and design
of the building are dependent upon the foundation. If the foundation is well
designed and strong you can expect the building to be also.
• The research problem serves as the foundation of a research study: if it is
well formulated, you can expect a good study to follow.
• According to Kerlinger:
“If one wants to solve a problem, one must generally know what the
problem is. It can be said that a large part of the problem lies in knowing
what one is trying to do.”
• A research problem may take a number of forms, from the very simple to
the very complex.
• The way you formulate a problem determines almost every step that
follows:
i.) The type of study design that can be used.
ii.) The type of sampling strategy that can be employed.
iii.) The research instrument that can be used or developed.
iv.) The type of analysis that can be undertaken.
• It is important for you to understand that the way you formulate a research
problem determines all the subsequent steps that you have to follow during
your research journey.
Consideration in Selecting a Research
Problem
• When selecting a research problem there are a number of considerations to
keep in mind which will help to ensure that your study will be manageable
and that you remain motivated.
These considerations are:
Interest
Magnitude
Measurement of concepts
Level of expertise
Relevance
Availability of data
Ethical issues
Steps in Formulating a Research Problem
• The formulation of a research problem is the most crucial part of the research
journey as the quality and relevance of your research project entirely depends
upon it.
• The process of formulating a research problem consists of a number of steps.
Working through these steps presupposes a reasonable level of knowledge in
the broad subject area within which the study is to be undertaken and the
research methodology itself.
Step 1: Identify a broad field or subject area of
interest to you.
• It is a good idea to think about the field in which we would like to work after
graduation.
• This will help us to find an interesting topic, and one which may be of use to
us in the future it is a good idea to think about the field in which we would
like to work after graduation. This will help us to find an interesting topic,
and one which may be of use to us in the future.
• Example: As a student of public health, intending to work with patients who
have HIV/AIDS, you might like to conduct research on a subject area relating
to HIV/AIDS.
Step 2: Dissect the broad areas into subareas
• We can select any subject area from the field such as community health or
consumer research and go through the dissection process.
• In preparing this list of subareas we should also consult others who have
some knowledge of the area and the literature in our subject area.
• Once we have developed an exhaustive list of the subareas from various
sources, we proceed to the next stage where we select what will become the
basis of your enquiry.
Step 3: Select what is of most interest to you.
• It is neither advisable nor feasible to study all subareas. Out of this list, we
should select issues or subareas about which we are passionate.
• This is because our interest should be the most important determinant for
selection.
• One way to decide what interests us most is to start with the process of
elimination. We should go through our list and delete all those subareas in
which we are not very interested.
• We need to continue until we are left with something that is manageable
considering the time available to us, our level of expertise and other
resources needed to undertake the study.
• Once we are confident that we have selected an issue we are passionate
about and can manage, we are ready to go to the next step.
Step 4: Raise research questions
• At this step we ask ourselves, ‘What is it that I want to find out about in this
subarea?’
• We should make a list of whatever questions come to our mind relating to
our chosen subarea and if we think there are too many to be manageable,
go through the process of elimination, as we did in Step 3.
Step 5: Formulate objectives
• Both our main objectives and our sub-objectives now need to be formulated,
which grow out of our research questions. The main difference between
objectives and research questions is the way in which they are written.
• Research questions are obviously that – questions. Objectives transform these
questions into behavioral aims by using action-oriented words such as ‘to
find out’, ‘to determine’, ‘to ascertain’ and ‘to examine’.
• Some researchers prefer to reverse the process; that is, they start from
objectives and formulate research questions from them.
• Some researchers are satisfied only with research questions, and do not
formulate objectives at all.
• If we prefer to have only research questions or only objectives, this is fine,
but we should keep in mind the requirements of our institution for research
proposals.
Step 6: Assess your objectives
• Now, we examine our objectives to ascertain the feasibility of achieving them
through our research endeavor. Consider them in the light of the time,
resources (financial and human) and technical expertise at your disposal.
Step 7: Double-check
• We should go back and give final consideration to whether or not we are
sufficiently interested in the study, and have adequate resources to undertake
it.
• We should ask ourselves, ‘Am I really enthusiastic about this study?’ and ‘Do
I really have enough resources to undertake it?’ Answer these questions
thoughtfully and realistically.
• If we answer to one of them is ‘no’, reassess your objectives.
Formulation of ResearchObjectives
• Objectives are the goals we set out to attain in our study. Since these
objectives inform us of what we want to achieve through the study, it is
extremely important to word them clearly and specifically.
• Objectives should be listed under two headings:
Main objectives
Subobjectives
• The main objective is an overall statement of the thrust of our study. It is
also a statement of the main associations and relationships that we seek to
discover or establish.
• The subobjectives are the specific aspects of the topic that we want to
investigate within the main framework of our study.
Thank You

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Formulating a research problem - Research Methodology

  • 1. Formulating A Research Problem Research Methodology Girish Kumar K V MSc Biomedical Science
  • 2. The Research Problem • Any question that we want answered and any assumption or assertion that we want to challenge or investigate can become a research problem or a research topic for our study. • However, it is important to remember that not all questions can be transformed into research problems and some may prove to be extremely difficult to study. • According to Powers, Meenaghan and Twoomey ‘Potential research questions may occur to us on a regular basis, but the process of formulating them in a meaningful way is not at all an easy task.’ • As a newcomer it might seem easy to formulate a problem but it requires considerable knowledge of both the subject area and research methodology. • Once we examine a question more closely we will soon realize the complexity of formulating an idea into a problem which is researchable. • It is essential for the problem we formulate to be able to withstand scrutiny in terms of the procedures required to be undertaken. • Hence we should spend considerable time in thinking it through.
  • 3. Importance of Formulating a Research Problem • Formulation of research problem is the first and important step of research process. It is like the identification of a destination before undertaking a journey. • A research problem is like the foundation of a building. The type and design of the building are dependent upon the foundation. If the foundation is well designed and strong you can expect the building to be also. • The research problem serves as the foundation of a research study: if it is well formulated, you can expect a good study to follow. • According to Kerlinger: “If one wants to solve a problem, one must generally know what the problem is. It can be said that a large part of the problem lies in knowing what one is trying to do.”
  • 4. • A research problem may take a number of forms, from the very simple to the very complex. • The way you formulate a problem determines almost every step that follows: i.) The type of study design that can be used. ii.) The type of sampling strategy that can be employed. iii.) The research instrument that can be used or developed. iv.) The type of analysis that can be undertaken. • It is important for you to understand that the way you formulate a research problem determines all the subsequent steps that you have to follow during your research journey.
  • 5. Consideration in Selecting a Research Problem • When selecting a research problem there are a number of considerations to keep in mind which will help to ensure that your study will be manageable and that you remain motivated. These considerations are: Interest Magnitude Measurement of concepts Level of expertise Relevance Availability of data Ethical issues
  • 6. Steps in Formulating a Research Problem • The formulation of a research problem is the most crucial part of the research journey as the quality and relevance of your research project entirely depends upon it. • The process of formulating a research problem consists of a number of steps. Working through these steps presupposes a reasonable level of knowledge in the broad subject area within which the study is to be undertaken and the research methodology itself.
  • 7. Step 1: Identify a broad field or subject area of interest to you. • It is a good idea to think about the field in which we would like to work after graduation. • This will help us to find an interesting topic, and one which may be of use to us in the future it is a good idea to think about the field in which we would like to work after graduation. This will help us to find an interesting topic, and one which may be of use to us in the future. • Example: As a student of public health, intending to work with patients who have HIV/AIDS, you might like to conduct research on a subject area relating to HIV/AIDS.
  • 8. Step 2: Dissect the broad areas into subareas • We can select any subject area from the field such as community health or consumer research and go through the dissection process. • In preparing this list of subareas we should also consult others who have some knowledge of the area and the literature in our subject area. • Once we have developed an exhaustive list of the subareas from various sources, we proceed to the next stage where we select what will become the basis of your enquiry.
  • 9. Step 3: Select what is of most interest to you. • It is neither advisable nor feasible to study all subareas. Out of this list, we should select issues or subareas about which we are passionate. • This is because our interest should be the most important determinant for selection. • One way to decide what interests us most is to start with the process of elimination. We should go through our list and delete all those subareas in which we are not very interested. • We need to continue until we are left with something that is manageable considering the time available to us, our level of expertise and other resources needed to undertake the study. • Once we are confident that we have selected an issue we are passionate about and can manage, we are ready to go to the next step.
  • 10. Step 4: Raise research questions • At this step we ask ourselves, ‘What is it that I want to find out about in this subarea?’ • We should make a list of whatever questions come to our mind relating to our chosen subarea and if we think there are too many to be manageable, go through the process of elimination, as we did in Step 3.
  • 11. Step 5: Formulate objectives • Both our main objectives and our sub-objectives now need to be formulated, which grow out of our research questions. The main difference between objectives and research questions is the way in which they are written. • Research questions are obviously that – questions. Objectives transform these questions into behavioral aims by using action-oriented words such as ‘to find out’, ‘to determine’, ‘to ascertain’ and ‘to examine’. • Some researchers prefer to reverse the process; that is, they start from objectives and formulate research questions from them. • Some researchers are satisfied only with research questions, and do not formulate objectives at all. • If we prefer to have only research questions or only objectives, this is fine, but we should keep in mind the requirements of our institution for research proposals.
  • 12. Step 6: Assess your objectives • Now, we examine our objectives to ascertain the feasibility of achieving them through our research endeavor. Consider them in the light of the time, resources (financial and human) and technical expertise at your disposal.
  • 13. Step 7: Double-check • We should go back and give final consideration to whether or not we are sufficiently interested in the study, and have adequate resources to undertake it. • We should ask ourselves, ‘Am I really enthusiastic about this study?’ and ‘Do I really have enough resources to undertake it?’ Answer these questions thoughtfully and realistically. • If we answer to one of them is ‘no’, reassess your objectives.
  • 14. Formulation of ResearchObjectives • Objectives are the goals we set out to attain in our study. Since these objectives inform us of what we want to achieve through the study, it is extremely important to word them clearly and specifically. • Objectives should be listed under two headings: Main objectives Subobjectives • The main objective is an overall statement of the thrust of our study. It is also a statement of the main associations and relationships that we seek to discover or establish. • The subobjectives are the specific aspects of the topic that we want to investigate within the main framework of our study.