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Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging
Transdiscipline Volume 11, 2008
Editor: Eli Cohen
Framework of Problem-Based Research:
A Guide for Novice Researchers on the
Development of a Research-Worthy Problem
Timothy J. Ellis and Yair Levy
Nova Southeastern University
Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract
This paper introduces the importance of a well-articulated,
research-worthy problem statement as
the centerpiece for any viable research. The aim of this work is
to help novice researchers under-
stand the value of problem-based research by providing a
practical guide on the development of a
well articulated and viable statement of a research-worthy
problem as the starting point for all
research. Additionally, this paper explores the interaction of the
problem with the other funda-
mental elements of scholarly research including the research
topic, goals, research questions,
methodology, results, and conclusions. Scaffolding for
articulating a ‘research-worthy problem’
is provided in the form of a deconstruction of the expression
into definitions of its component
terms, followed by a discussion of what is not a research-worthy
problem. A roadmap on locating
problems that could support scholarly research is provided. The
theoretical foundation is placed
into practice by examining some problem statements and
proposing a template for crafting an
effective statement.
Keywords: Research methodology, research problem, problem-
based research, research ques-
tions, theory-based research, doctoral education.
Introduction
The importance of basing research on a well-articulated problem
statement is well accepted
across disciplines such as information systems, education, and
engineering (Creswell, 2005;
Hicks & Turner, 1999; Sekaran, 2003). Unfortunately, just what
constitutes a research-worthy
problem is not readily apparent, in particular for novice
researchers. Although most scholars
would agree that not everything that is problematic could serve
as the starting point for meaning-
ful research, it is not easy to identify just what does constitute
such a problem. According to Ker-
linger and Lee (2000), the identification
of the research problem is “the most
difficult and important part of the whole
[research] process” (p. 15). To a very
great extent, Supreme Court Justice Pot-
ter Stewart’s opinion regarding obscen-
ity seems to describe the feeling of
many scholars regarding research-
worthy problems: “I shall not today at-
tempt further to define the kinds of ma-
terial I understand to be embraced …
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Framework of Problem-Based Research
18
[b]ut I know it when I see it …” ("Jacobellis v. Ohio", 1964).
Unfortunately, such an approach
does not appear to be helpful, especially for novice researchers.
Thus, this paper attempts to ad-
dress the critical issue of identifying and establishing the
research-worthiness of a problem.
This paper explores the concept of problem-based research
beyond the ‘know it when I see it’
approach. In the balance of this introduction, the argument for
basing research on a well-defined
problem will be detailed and the interaction of the problem with
the other fundamental elements
of scholarly research will be explored. The second section
builds a scaffold for defining ‘re-
search-worthy problem’ by deconstructing the expression. The
third section places the theoretical
foundation laid in the first two sections into practice by
examining some effective problem state-
ments. The fourth section provides a practical guide on locating
problems that could support
scholarly research. Finally, a summary and recommendations
are provided.
Why Problem-Based Research?
“I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who”
(Kipling, 1902/1988, p. 3)
Kipling’s (1902/1988) “honest serving-men” have been used to
form the basis for enquiry in a
number of disciplines. Although the poem has long been the
accepted mantra of journalists, it
applies equally well to scientific enquiry (Sharp, 2002). A well -
structured, properly-reported
study must provide answers to all questions regarding the what,
why, when, how, where, and who
associated with the research. The problem statement offers the
context necessary for addressing
the why question (Tracy, 2007).
According to Kerlinger and Lee (2000), in essence a scientist is
driven by an inner desire to un-
derstand “why something is as it is” (p. 15). Moreover, they
note that scientists are restless until
they find an explanation to the phenomena. One cannot place
value on research without a clear
understanding of, first, why that research had been conducted
(Creswell, 2005). In the case of a
great deal of reported research, at least part of the answer to
why lies in the need to publish in or-
der to earn a degree, tenure, or promotion (Sharp, 2002). If such
rather practical considerations
are the only motivators for the research, it is hard to imagine
the research producing results of
much interest or value. What makes research of interest is how
it will impact future research and
other researchers, not the author. This impact is most clearly
evidenced by addressing a problem
that has some manner of impact on the reader.
Answering the question “Why conduct the research?” with an
effective statement of the problem
doesn’t just add meaningfulness to that research; it also serves
as the first step in addressing that
problem (Sternberg, in press). “A careful statement of the
problem goes a long way toward its
solution” (Hicks & Turner, 1999, p. 3). The nature of what is
going wrong – the problem – very
much sets the parameters for what can be done. Kerlinger and
Lee (2000) suggested that “if one
wants to solve a [research] problem, one must generally know
what the problem is” (p. 24). If, for
example, an institution is faced with a situation in which its
customer base is shrinking, the ap-
propriate course of action would be radically different if the
problem causing that undesirable
situation is one of poor service than if it is one of high prices or
one of not knowing just what the
customers value.
According to Kerlinger and Lee (2000), “adequate statement of
the research problem is one of the
most important parts of research” (p. 24). They continue to add
that the “difficulty of stating a
research problem satisfactorily at a given time should not cause
one to lose sight of the ultimate
Ellis & Levy
19
desirability and necessity of doing so” (Kerlinger & Lee, p. 24).
According to Jacobs (1997), ar-
gument to the problem statement “should present how the
research builds on previous theory or
contributes to the development of new theory, and should
describe the likely uses of the knowl-
edge to be gained and the potential importance of these uses”
(p. 1). A clear, precise, and well
structured problem statement leads to a quality research
(Jacobs). O'Connor (2000) noted that a
viable research problem is the central and most highly important
part of any quality research.
Leedy and Ormrod (2005) suggested that the research problem
“is the axis around which the
whole research effort revolves” (p. 49). The “heart of every
research project is the problem. It is
paramount to the success of the research effort” (Leedy &
Ormrod, p. 49). Furthermore, “to see
the problem with unwavering clarity and to state it in precise
and unmistakable terms is the first
requirement in the research process” (Leedy & Ormrod, p. 49).
Thus, it appears that there is a
clear consensus in literature that identification of a problem is a
cornerstone for any quality re-
search. Basing research on a well-articulated, well-supported,
and well-argued problem estab-
lishes the potential for producing meaningful results. Although
studies certainly can and have
been conducted without the anchor of a clearly defined problem,
such research is essentially
flawed; “No amount of good research can find solutions … if
the critical issue or the problem to
be studied is not clearly pinpointed” (Sekaran, 2003, p. 69).
Therefore, it is warranted that novice
researchers should learn to identify a research problem and
learn how to properly construct and
develop a logical argumentation for a problem statement.
The Role of the Problem in the Structure of the Research
A research endeavor might best be viewed as a structure that
incorporates a number of distinct but
related elements including the research problem that drives the
study, the goals, research ques-
tions, review of the literature, methodology, results, and
conclusions. The research problem
serves as the starting point for the research and is a unifying
thread that runs throughout all the
elements of the research endeavor (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005).
Kerlinger and Lee (2000) noted that
“without some sort of statement of problem, the scientist can
rarely go further and expect the
work to be fruitful” (p. 15). A viable research problem is
usually noted at the introduction of the
research manuscript to identify why the study is important
(Creswell, 2005).
Research Topic
Literature Review
Supports & Validates All
Results
Research
Problem
Research Questions/Hypotheses
Goals
Addresses Delimits
Methodology Conclusions
Determine
Produces
Answers
Permit
Figure 1: Conceptual Map of the Problem-Based Research Cycle
Framework of Problem-Based Research
20
The research problem also serves as the basis for the
interrelatedness of the distinct elements en-
tailed in research. Figure 1 illustrates this interrelatedness by
providing a conceptual map of the
problem-based research cycle indicating the centrality of the
research problem for the research
endeavor. The next few sections examine the relationships
between the problem driving the re-
search and the other aspects of the endeavor.
The topic, research problem, goals, and research questions
As illustrated in Figure 1, the topic is the general domain in
which the research is focused. Exam-
ples of topics in information systems include business process
management, customer relation-
ship management, enterprise information, electronic commerce,
e-government, database man-
agement, knowledge management, crisis management,
information security, human computer
interaction, procurement and supply chain management,
telecommunication, virtual teams, com-
puter ethics, decision support, online learning, etc. Problems are
drawn from the general domain
described by the topic.
As shown in Figure 1, there is a two-way relationship between
the research problem, the goals,
and the associated research questions and/or hypotheses. A
research study goal “is the major in-
tent or objective of the study used to address the problem”
(Creswell, 2005, p. 62). Research
goals essentially detail what the research study intends to do in
order to address the problem,
thereby answering the question: “What will this study do?” The
research goals are operationalized
by one or more research questions. Research questions “narrow
the purpose [or goal] into specific
questions that the researcher would like answered or addressed
in the study” (Creswell, 2005, p.
62). By attaining answers to those research questions, the study
goals are met and a contribution
towards solving the problem is made (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005).
Since problems that can inspire
scholarly research are generally rather difficult in their very
nature, the contribution towards reso-
lution is generally quite small. However, in order for the
research to be at all meaningful, there
has to be an identifiable connection between the answers to the
research questions and the re-
search problem inspiring the study (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000).
Figure 2 illustrates the relationship
among the general topic, research problem, goal, and research
questions with an example in the
context of knowledge management.
The nature of the research problem being addressed delimits the
possible goals for a study. In-
cluded in the goal is the type of study being conducted –
experimental, developmental, descrip-
tive, etc. Certain characteristics of the problem such as the
domain from which it is drawn, how
long it has been acknowledged, as well as how much and what
type of research has already been
conducted on it, impact what type or types of methodology is
appropriate (Nunamaker, Chen, &
Purdin, 1991). The type of methodology being used must be
appropriate for the nature of the
problem driving that research. The methodology produces the
results of the study, which in turn
produces the evidences needed to permit the conclusions
suggested.
Ellis & Levy
21
Conceptual
Basis . Artifact Example
General
Topic Knowledge Management
Research
Problem
Difficulty in retaining
organizational knowledge
Goal A descriptive study to
determine the constructs that
lead employees to resist the
implementation of knowledge
management systems (KMSs).
Research
Question
Does employee involvement in
the development of KMS affect
their resistance of KMS
implementation?
Specific
Figure 2: Relationship Among the Topic, Research Problem,
Goals, and Research Ques-
tions (Adapted from Creswell, 2005, p. 62)
Bringing in the methodology, results, and conclusions
Although not directly related to the research problem, the
methodology, results, and conclusions
of a study are directly impacted by the problem driving the
research. As illustrated in Figures 1
and 2, the methodology is structured by the research questions.
The methodology is, essentially,
the steps that will be taken in order to derive reliable and valid
answers to those questions. Pro-
fessionals from different domains uses their own set of tools to
conduct their work activities and
develop their desired outcomes (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005).
Researchers are knowledge workers, so
they use knowledge tools to conduct their work (Davis &
Parker, 1997). However, the methodol-
ogy determines the appropriateness of a given research tool.
According to Leedy and Ormrod,
novice researchers commonly confuse the research methodology
with the research tools. A re-
search methodology is defined as “the general approach the
researcher takes in carrying out the
research project” (Leedy & Ormrod, p. 14). Research tools, on
the other hand, is defined as “a
specific mechanism or strategy the researcher uses to collect,
manipulate, or interpret data”
(Leedy & Ormrod, p. 14). Research methods commonly used in
information systems studies in-
clude: descriptive (case study), empirical/quantitative,
qualitative, mixed methods (including both
qualitative and quantitative), experimental, quasi-experimental,
and simulations. Each type of
research method encompasses many specific research tools that
can be employed to address dif-
ferent research questions (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). In gener al,
the methodology must be detailed
and address the how, when, where, and who questions. The
methodology outlines the types of
research tools that the researcher will use to produce the study’s
results. The study results include
the data, or the evidences, that can be used to answer the
research questions. The results, in turn,
permit the researcher to draw conclusions that are, in fact, the
answers to the research questions.
Those answers, as mentioned in the previous section, constitute
the manner in which the research
addresses the underlying problem.
Framework of Problem-Based Research
22
Building upon a literature foundation
Although the research problem serves as the starting point for
research, the literature review, as
illustrated in Figure 1, serves as the foundation upon which that
research is built (Levy & Ellis,
2006). The presence of the research problem is almost always
established through the literature
review. However, there are occasional visionaries who see
research problems long before others,
the vast majority of research is built upon problems that are
well documented (Leedy & Ormrod,
2005, p. 14). The appropriateness of the research goals for the
study – the type of research to be
conducted and the research questions to be answered – is
similarly established through the litera-
ture. Likewise, although the methodology is structured by the
research questions, its appropriate-
ness must be established through the literature. The manner in
which the results are analyzed to
produce the study’s conclusions is also anchored in the
literature.
“Research-Worthy Problem” Deconstructed
Just as there is an almost universal sentiment that one should
lead a “good life”, most would agree
that one should use research to address problems.
Unfortunately, just as there are widely diverg-
ing views on just what constitutes a “good life”, there is no
universal agreement on just what con-
stitutes a “research-worthy problem”. Although there is
certainly room for honest differences in
opinion regarding the research-worthiness of any given
problem, it is important that there be a
clear understanding of “research-worthy problem” as a
construct.
Problem?
On the surface, “problem” appears to be very easily defined.
Dictionary definitions include “a
situation, person or thing that needs attention and needs to be
dealt with or solved” (Cambridge
online dictionary, 2007) and “a question raised for inquiry,
consideration, or solution” (Merrian-
webster online dictionary, 2007). From a scientific perspective,
a research problem is defined as a
general issue, concern, or controversy addressed in research.
Moreover, a research problem “must
integrate concepts and theoretical perspective of the literature
into the problem to be addressed”
(O'Connor, 2000, p. i). A research problem exists if at least two
elements are present. First, the
current state differs from the ideal state (Sekaran, 2003).
Second, there is not an “acceptable” so-
lution available. The absence of an acceptable solution can
entail either there being no solution
documented in the literature, or the solutions noted in the
literature leading to mixed results or
contradictions (i.e. not properly addressing the problem)
(Creswell, 2005). Implicit in the defini-
tion of a research problem are:
Problems are active. A missed opportunity does not necessarily
constitute a problem. Parents
have, for example, a missed opportunity for training toddlers to
use automatic weapons, but it
is doubtable if anyone in his right mind would seriously
consider that as a viable research
problem.
Problems have an impact. A favorite philosophical pursuit of
college freshmen is to ponder
the question “If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to
hear it fall, does it make a
sound?” One might similarly ask: “How can something be
considered a problem if one can-
not identify something that is going wrong or, at the very least,
not as well as it should?”
There are many ways the “going wrong” might be manifested,
ranging from physical pain
through inconvenience to intellectual angst associated with
vacuums or inconsistencies in our
understanding. The impact need not be gigantic, but it must be
identifiable. In this context, it
is important to not confuse topics – areas of interest – with
problems. Topics, such as “Im-
plementing a knowledge management system” and
“Personalizing training through the use of
computer managed instruction”, although of interest, lack any
impact and cannot serve as the
starting point for research.
Ellis & Levy
23
Problems do not have adequate solutions available. It is
important to distinguish between
problems and other unfavorable situations. One might, for
example, have an infestation of
ants in his house. Obviously, for most that state of affairs would
not correspond with the ideal
state, but a quick look through the “exterminators” section of
the phone book or Internet
would produce a large number of ready solutions to address this
unfavorable situation.
Research?
Research is defined as “the systematic process of collecting and
analyzing information (data) in
order to increase our understanding of the phenomenon about
which we are concerned or inter-
ested” (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p. 4). According to Creswell
(2005), research is “a process of
steps used to collect and analyze information in order to
increase our understanding of a topic or
issue” (p. 3). The key issue emerging from these definitions is
that research must collect and ana-
lyze new information and/or data that will enhance the body of
knowledge. There are a number of
ways in which original research contributions can be made to
the body of knowledge, including:
Establishing causal relationships by conducting a causal -
comparative study to address a
documented problem.
Evaluating the efficacy of an approach to addressing a
documented problem by conduct-
ing an experimental or quasi-experimental study.
Examining the impact of the element of time on the nature of
the documented problem in
a longitudinal study.
Exploring in depth the positive and negative aspects of an
approach to address the docu-
mented problem in a descriptive study.
Establishing a method for creating a product that could at least
potentially reduce the im-
pact of the documented problem through a developmental study.
Developing constructs from a pool of observations regarding
the causes or characteristics
of a well-documented problem through a factor analysis.
Developing a predictive model in an approach to address a
documented problem.
The list of possible approaches to making the necessary original
contribution inherent in research
could, of course, be extended considerably from the six items
listed above. The essential issue,
however, remains the same: in order for the endeavor to be
considered research, it must clearly
present the potential for creating identifiable new knowledge.
Although it might seem self-evident, a brief discussion of “new
knowledge” is warranted. In the
context of research, “new” refers to information not already
present in the body of knowledge in
the applicable domain. Just because information might be new
to a specific entity – an individual
or organization – is irrelevant if it was already present in the
research literature of that domain
(Hart, 1998). For example, an information systems department
might not know how to address
the resistance of employees to an enterprise resource planning
(ERP) system even though there
are numerous studies available about such a problem. A few
quick searches in scholarly databases
with backward and forward searchers may yield several studies
that investigated the very problem
and suggested numerous solutions (for additional information
on effective literature review in-
cluding searches techniques such as backward and forward, see
Levy & Ellis, 2006).
Research-Worthiness?
Unlike the previous terms, “research-worthy” is not definable
through a rather simple reference in
a dictionary or a scientific definition from peer-reviewed
literature. Its meaning can be extrapo-
lated from the concept of “research”. As discussed in the
previous section, research entails mak-
Framework of Problem-Based Research
24
ing an original contribution to the applicable body of
knowledge. In order for that type of contri-
bution to be possible, certain preconditions are necessary:
An exhaustive understanding of the body of knowledge related
to the field or topic of
study. Knowledge of what is known is a prerequisite for
identifying that which is un-
known (Davis & Parker, 1997).
A solid conceptual foundation for the research (Hart, 1998).
Although many discoveries
are certainly serendipitous, research is intentional, built upon a
theoretical basis
(Malinski, 2004; Verran, 1997). Research-worthiness entails
that there is a real, identifi-
able conceptual connection between the research problem
driving the study and the re-
search being conducted to address that problem (Creswell,
2005). Without that concep-
tual connection, one would be left with the impression that any
new insights resulting
from the study were more the result of random luck than
scholarly work.
A “yes” answer to one of the following questions (Creswell,
2005):
o Will a known gap in the body of knowledge be filled?
o Will previous research be replicated and expanded by looking
at a different cate-
gory of participants, environment, and/or constructs/variables?
o Will previous research be expanded by more thoroughly
examining some identi-
fiable aspect?
o Are there specific, identifiable, and documented problems
with the currently
available solutions?
Research-Worthy Problems Are Not …
In the quest for a research-worthy problem, novice researchers
should first understand what are
not research-worthy problems (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). First,
research-worthy problems should
not be based solely on personal observations and/or
experiences. Although a researcher may have
a “hunch for the problem”, an identifiable literature that
documents the problem or literature that
documents conflicting results should be the basis for a research-
worthy problem (Kerlinger &
Lee, 2000). Second, research-worthy problems should not be
based on a comparison of two sets
of data for the sake of comparison. Comparing groups is not a
research-worthy problem; rather it
is a methodology to address a problem. For example, comparing
employee productivity before
and after ERP training is a valid study, but it does not represent
a viable research-worthy prob-
lem. A viable research-worthy problem behind such a
comparison may be the issue of low pro-
ductivity level after ERP implementation and the goal of such a
study may be to investigate the
effectiveness of ERP training on increasing productivity. Hence,
the comparison itself doesn’t
constitute the research-worthy problem but is rather the
methodology used to address a problem.
Identifying the research-worthy problem behind such a
comparison is warranted. Third, research-
worthy problems should not be based on a correlation of two
sets of data. Leedy and Ormrod
noted that a “correlation coefficient is nothing more than a
statistic… It tells us nothing about why
that relationship exists” (p. 50). An example for a correlation
that is meaningless: the growth in e-
government use in North America was found to be highly
correlated to the growth in birth rate of
elephants in Africa. Such an example provides very little
contribution to the body of knowledge
because it does not appear to address any viable research-
worthy problem. Lastly, research-
worthy problems should not be based on an investigation that
yields a “yes” or “no” answer. An-
swers to such questions, again provide very little contribution to
the body of knowledge.
Ellis & Levy
25
Finding Research-Worthy Problems: Tips From the Field
From Where Do Research-Worthy Problems Emerge?
A viable research-worthy problem can emerge from various
areas. Leedy and Ormrod observed
“problems for research are everywhere. Take a good look at the
world around you. Where does
your interest lie?” (p. 49). Experienced researchers might
identify research-worthy problems by
speaking with colleagues, attending scholarly conferences, and
by observing a phenomenon (Ker-
linger & Lee, 2000). In many cases, however, seasoned scholars
might work on the same prob-
lem-area throughout their whole scholarly tenure (Kerlinger &
Lee, 2000; Leedy & Ormrod,
2005). In general “the problem usually begins with vague and/or
unscientific thoughts or unsys-
tematic hunches. It then goes through a series of refinement
steps” (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000, p.
15). Novice researchers may have some “hunches” but it is vital
that they properly anchor them in
the context of the existing body of knowledge.
Identifying a research-worthy problem for novice researchers
should be based on a four-step
process. The first key step deals with the process of looking or
attempting to identify a potential
research-worthy problem. The second key step in the process to
identify a potential research-
worthy problem is reading the literature and identifying valid
scholarly sources. The third key
step deals with the process of synthesizing the literature and
internalizing the body of knowledge.
The fourth step is to consult with others, seeking feedback on
the potential research-worthy prob-
lem from experts and/or experienced researchers. The following
four sections elaborate on this
four-step process.
Look
Personal interests, hunches, and ‘gut feelings’ are, for most
novice researchers, the most reason-
able starting point for locating research-worthy problems
(Kerlinger & Lee, 2000). Although, as
mentioned above, it is vital to not confuse topics such as
knowledge management or computer
managed instruction with research-worthy problems, researchers
often limit the domain in which
they search for a research-worthy problem. Limiting the domain
on the basis of personal interest
appears to be appropriate and may offer a viable starting point
towards identifying a research-
worthy problem.
Personal experiences also provide potentially fruitful insight
into possible research-worthy prob-
lems. Throughout the course of daily activities, individuals
encounter situations in which the cur-
rent state is far from the ideal state; each of these unfortunate
situations offers potential as a re-
search problem (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000). However, it is vital to
remember that just because a
given organization has a specific problem, doesn’t directly
constitute that problem as a research-
worthy one. It is entirely possible that the organization is
simply not aware of a number of solu-
tions to the problem that are well documented in the scholarly
literature (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000).
Read
Leedy and Ormrod (2005) emphasized that “one essential
strategy is to find out what things are
already known about your topic of interest; little can be gained
by reinventing the wheel” (p. 51).
Reading scholarly literature is one of the most important steps
in this process. The first critical
way that a researcher can identify if a problem observed is
indeed a specific instance of a more
general research-worthy problem, and not just an example of an
organization not being cognizant
of well-established solutions, is to read the scholarly literature.
The process of reading the schol-
arly literature must be purposive (Levy & Ellis, 2006). Such
process should include:
Identifying the leading journals, conference proceedings, and
scholars in the domain of
interest.
Framework of Problem-Based Research
26
Performing exhaustive searches, using techniques such as
searching on keywords as well
as forward and backward searches on names of scholars cited in
articles of interest (Levy
& Ellis, 2006). Additionally, reviewing recently finished
doctoral dissertations can pro-
vide a ‘gold mine’ for valid leads to scholarly liter ature on the
topic of interest.
Identifying “holes” in the body of knowledge identified in the
scholarly articles. More-
over, “in addition to telling you what is already known, the
existing literature is likely to
tell you what is not known in the area – in other words, what
still needs to be done”
(Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p. 51). Most quality research articles
will include recommenda-
tions for future research in the concluding remarks. Such
discussions provide scholarly
evidence for what is still needed and what research-worthy
problems still exist.
Synthesize
The viability of a problem as a starting point for scholarly
research cannot be established through
a single source (Creswell, 2005). It is highly unlikely that any
two journal articles would say pre-
cisely the same thing about where further research is needed.
The researcher must, therefore, de-
velop a research-worthy problem by weaving together the
threads derived from a number of
sources. The synthesizing process results in creating a w hole
that in a meaningful way exceeds
the sum of its parts (Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill, &
Krathwohl, 1956). Such synthesis usually
entails:
Combining the insights from a number of scholarly articles.
Integrating the work from different but related fields.
Composing a generalization based upon multiple specific
instances.
Consult
Once a potential research-worthy problem has been identified,
novice researchers are encouraged
to seek feedback (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). Feedback on the
potential research-worthiness of a
problem can be done via two main approaches. The first is by
seeking feedback from available
experienced researchers. According to Leedy and Ormrod, a
novice researcher may start to obtain
feedback on their proposed research problem simply by asking
their own professors: “what needs
to be done? What burning questions are still out there? What
previous research findings seem-
ingly don’t make sense?” (p. 51). The second way to seek
feedback from experienced researchers
is by attending scholarly and scientific conferences; “by
scanning the conference program and
attending sessions of interest, they [i.e. novice researchers] can
learn “what is hot and what’s not”
in their field” (p. 51). Following such feedback, researchers
may either find that their proposed
problem truly presents potential as a point of departure for
scholarly research or that they need to
go back to the starting point and look again. Figure 3 represents
flow-chart of the process of find-
ing research-worthy problems.
Ellis & Levy
27
Look Read Synthesize Seek
Feedback
Research-
Worthy
Problem?
No
Yes
May propose
a study to
address it
A topic of
interest
Figure 3: Process of Finding a Research-Worthy Problem
A Template for Crafting a Problem Statement
Prior to discussion about the problem statement, novice
researchers should fully understand the
difference between the statement of the problem and the
problem statement. A statement of the
problem is one or two sentences that outline the problem that
the study addresses. The statement
of the problem should briefly address the question: What is the
problem that the research will ad-
dress? (See number 1 in Figure 4). However, the problem
statement is the statement of the prob-
lem and the argumentation for its viability (see more about
argumentation theory and develop-
ment of valid argument in Levy and Ellis, 2006). The problem
statement should address all six
questions: what, how, where, when, why, and who (see Figure
4). Creswell (2005) observed that
the problem statement should be stated in the introductory
sections of the research manuscript and
provide the rationale for its importance by “developing
justifications for studying it [the research
problem]” (p. 8). Another clarification should be made about
the confusion between the statement
of the problem and the main research question guiding the
study. Research questions are formu-
lated in a question format and are narrowed enough to identify
the variables or construct under
study, while the statement of the problem should not be noted in
a question format and should be
in a higher theoretical level derived from the overall problem
the study addresses (Figure 2).
Framework of Problem-Based Research
28
The development of a problem statement “is an exercise in
logic” (O'Connor, 2000, p. i). Identi-
fying a research-worthy problem is far from a mechanical
process and depends on a combination
of inspiration, perspiration, and logical argumentation. There
are, as described above, steps that
can be taken to facilitate the process. The difficulty of
articulating a problem statement that can
indeed serve as a starting point for scholarly research
transcends simple solution. However, “a
well developed problem stateme nt appears simple. But writing a
good problem statement is far
from effortless. Rather it is a complex activity related to
preparing a logical argument”
(O'Connor, 2000, p. i). Leedy and Ormrod (2005) suggested that
the starting point of the problem
statement is in a well-articulated statement of the problem that
“must first be expressed with the
utmost precision” (p. 49).
A procedure in developing a problem statement cannot be a
complete solution to this difficulty.
There are some meaningful landmarks that can provide insight
into progress towards developing
such a statement. The Problem Statement Template (Figure 4)
provides an overview of how the
six questions of what, how, where, when, why, and who, should
be addressed. When identifying a
research-worthy problem based on the process noted above,
researchers may find it easier to ad-
dress these six questions.
Exploring a Sample Problem Statement
A well-articulated problem statement should answer the
questions outlined in the Problem State-
ment Template (Figure 4) in several well-focused sentences.
Since research is meaningful only in
the context of the problem being addressed, a succinct yet
complete statement of the problem
should be one of, if the not first thing the reader encounters
(Creswell, 2005). The exact wording
of a problem statement is, of course, dependent on the research
domain and the nature of the
problem being addressed. However, Leedy and Ormrod (2005)
noted that the key to successful
documentation of a viable research problem is articulating
precisely what the proposed problem
is. They noted that researchers should say exactly what they
mean and that researchers “should
not assume that others will be able to read your mind” (p. 53).
Moreover, they noted that failure
1. What: In no more than two sentences, what is the problem
that the research will address?
Remember, a problem is, essentially, something that is ‘going
wrong’.
Who: List three current, peer-reviewed references that support
the presence of that prob-
lem and briefly describe the nature of that support.
2. How, Where, and When: Again, in no more than two
sentences, describe the impact of
the problem. How are people or researchers’ understanding
negatively impacted by the
problem? When and where is the problem evident?
Who: List three current, peer-reviewed references that support
the impact of the problem
that the research proposes addressing and briefly describe the
nature of that support.
3. Why: In no more than two sentences, identify the conceptual
basis for the problem. That
is, what does the literature outline as the cause of the problem?
Who: List three current, peer-reviewed references that support
the conceptual basis of the
problem and briefly describe the nature of that support.
Figure 4: Problem Statement Template
Ellis & Levy
29
to carefully select the appropriate words “can have grave results
for your status as a scholar and a
researcher” (Leedy & Ormrod, p. 53). Accordingly, this section
will explore the specifics of what
constitutes a viable problem statement by first presenting as a
“straw man” a rather typical exam-
ple of a faulty problem statement, followed by an analysis of
the faults in the “straw man”, and
concluding with a revised statement of the problem.
A Sample of a Faulty Problem Statement
Figure 5 presents a rather typical faulty problem statement
submitted by a novice researcher as
part of an initial research proposal. Please note that, since the
material in Figure 5 is presented
only as an example, the citations listed in the example are not
included in the references of this
paper.
“One main obstacle of knowledge management is the lack of
developed culture in an or-
ganization to ensure the acceptance of a knowledge management
system (Becerra-
Fernandez & Sabherwal, 2001; Bossen & Palsgaard, 2005;
Kaweevisultrali & Chan,
2007; Pumareja & Sikkel, 2005). Non-acceptance of knowledge
management system oc-
curs with limited or no support when the proper culture for
utilizing knowledge manage-
ment is not practiced in the organization (Gottschalk, 2000;
Kruizinga, van Heijst, & van
der Spek, 1996; Swan, Newell, & Robertson, 2000). The basis
for the problem is the lack
of aligning knowledge management systems with the business
strategy in order to de-
velop knowledge management culture in the organization
(Braganza & Mollenkramer,
2002; Chua & Lam, 2005; Storey & Barnett, 2000).”
Figure 5: Example of Faulty Problem Statement
The Problem Statement Analysis
As is often the case, the problem statement noted in Figure 5
touches upon a research area with
potential, but does not really present the focus and depth
necessary to serve as a starting point for
problem-based research. Fitting the information presented into
the Problem Statement Template
(Figure 4) offers some insight on elevating this initial idea into
a viable problem statement that
properly articulates the research-worthy problem. The following
discussion is based on the exam-
ple of faulty problem statement noted in Figure 5.
1. What: In no more than two sentences, what is the problem
that the research will address?
Remember, a problem is, essentially, something that is ‘going
wrong’.
The statement “One main obstacle of knowledge management is
the lack of developed
culture in an organization to ensure the acceptance of a
knowledge management system”
– does not really establish the presence of a problem. It does
describe a situation, but
there is no indication that that situation is indicative of
“something going wrong”. What
difference does it make if knowledge management were blocked
in an organization or
not?
Who: List three current, peer-reviewed references that support
the presence of that problem
and briefly describe the nature of that support.
Although there are citations offered in support of the statement
describing the impact of
culture on success of knowledge management initiatives
(addressing the question of ‘says
Framework of Problem-Based Research
30
who?’), there is no indication of what was contained in the
articles cited and how they
supported the problem. It is not enough to just point to the
literature; there must be
enough discussion to establish just how the literature supports
the point being made.
When using references to back a claim, novice researchers
should also ensure they ad-
dress the ‘based on what?’ question. In other words, if
references are used, there must be
a clear argument in the problem statement to the evidences each
reference provides (for
additional discussion about argumentation theory see Levy and
Ellis, 2006).
2. How, Where, and When: Again, in no more than two
sentences, describe the impact of the
problem. How are people or researchers’ understanding
negatively impacted by the problem?
When and where is the problem evident?
There is no indication in the example provided in Figure 5 of
why a failed knowledge
management implementation is of any concern. Even though the
impact of such a failure
might seem intuitively obvious to the novice researcher who
wrote the problem state-
ment, it still must be articulated for the benefit of the reader
and the proper development
of the argument for the research-worthy problem.
3. Why: In no more than two sentences, identify the conceptual
basis for the problem. That is,
what does the literature might be the cause of the problem?
The statement “The basis for the problem is the lack of aligning
knowledge management
systems with the business strategy in order to develop
knowledge management culture in
the organization” offers a conceptual explanation for a problem,
but it is not clear just
what problem. The text should explicitly identify the conceptual
basis for the problem.
Who: List three current, peer-reviewed references that support
the conceptual basis of the
problem and briefly describe the nature of that support.
Similarly to the issue noted in the lack of addressing the “who”
in number one above, al-
though there are citations offered in support of the statement
that attempted to describe
the conceptual basis for the problem (addressing the question of
“says who?”), there is no
indication of what was contained in the articles cited and how
they identify the concep-
tual basis for the problem. Novice researchers should ensure the
references provided ad-
dress the “based on what?”
The Revised Problem Statement
Figure 6 presents a rephrased problem statement based on the
one noted in Figure 5 and attempts
to better describe the research being proposed by more
effectively addressing the questions in-
cluded in the Problem Statement Template. As noted before,
since the material in Figure 6 is pre-
sented only as an example, the citations listed in the example
are not included in the references of
this paper.
Ellis & Levy
31
“Knowledge management systems (KMS) have proven to be
quite difficult to implement
(Becerra-Fernandez & Sabherwal, 2001; Bossen & Palsgaard,
2005; Kaweevisultrali &
Chan, 2007; Pumareja & Sikkel, 2005). According to Pumareja
and Sikkel, such diffi-
culty was observed even when careful attention is paid to
involving upper management
and key stakeholders in the design and implementation process.
Additionally, some diffi-
culties in KMS implementation have been observed due to
technological barriers (Bossen
& Palsgaard) and users’ perceived knowledge satisfaction
(Becerra-Fernandez & Sab-
herwal). According to Kaweevisultrali and Chan, cultural values
place greater emphasis
on cooperation and team effort than individual goal attainment
during KMS implementa-
tion. The benefits of successful KMS implementations have
been documented. Wong,
Crowder, Wills, and Shadbolt (2006) found that KMS
implementation reduces product
development time, while Beis, Loucopoulos, Pyrgiotis, and
Zografos (2006) found that
such implementation creates complex models to facilitate
organizational change. How-
ever, KMS implementation coupled with the costs associated
with failed attempts like
lost revenues and reduced employee confidence make effective
implementation of KM
efforts vital (Braganza & Mollenkramer, 2002). Although a
number of factors have been
suggested as important elements in impacting the success of a
KMS, the impact of organ-
izational culture appears as a common thread (Bossen &
Palsgaard; Kaweevisultrali &
Chan; Pumareja & Sikkel). Unfortunately, very little attention
has been given in literature
to exactly what constitutes the optimal organizational culture
for an effective KMS and
how to foster that culture.”
Figure 6: Example of a Viable Problem Statement
Summary and Recommendations
This paper addressed a vital issue for novice researchers: the
development of a statement estab-
lishing the presence of a valid, research-worthy problem. The
paper started with an argument for
the value of problem-directed research and the centrality of a
well-articulated problem statement
in research. A discussion of the relationship between the
research problem and other fundamental
elements of scholarly research such as the research topic, goals,
research questions, methodology,
results, and conclusions followed. The phrase ‘research-worthy
problem’ was deconstructed and
definitions provided for each component, amplified by a
discussion of what does not constitute
research-worthiness. The paper concluded by outlining the
potential sources for locating research-
worthy problems and a practical guide for developing an
effective problem statement. A template
for crafting a problem statement is provided with an example of
a faulty problem statement fol-
lowed by the same example revised to properly indicate a viable
problem.
Although it appears easy to establish the value of problem-
directed research, it is much more dif-
ficult to prescribe just how the novice researcher can in fact
develop an acceptable problem
statement. Problem identification entails an element of
creativity and, therefore, defies a me-
chanical, highly structured process orientation. The process
described in this paper might best be
viewed as a roadmap that provides a framework in which a
problem statement can be developed
rather than a Global Positioning System (GPS) that provides
detailed, specific directions, on find-
ing one. Just as, when using a roadmap one can still get lost, it
is important to remember that fol-
lowing the framework described above will not guarantee
development of a viable problem
statement that can serve as the starting point for scholarly
research. Although looking at personal
experiences, reading and synthesizing the scholarly literature,
as well as consulting with domain
experts and experienced researchers have proven to be
successful in identifying and refining a
research-worthy problem, such steps are neither a magic
formula for producing a problem state-
ment nor the exclusive method for doing so. Further exploration
from experienced researchers in
Framework of Problem-Based Research
32
just how they identify problems that can serve as points of
departure for scholarly research would
be of interest. Similarly, the Problem Statement Template
illustrated in Figure 4 is certainly not
prescriptive and cannot be used as a ‘fill in the blanks’ form.
There would be little argument that
a problem statement supported by the literature is a necessary
starting point for scholarly re-
search. The process of specifying that problem statement can
certainly vary widely from that il-
lustrated in Figure 6. Further exploration from experienced
researchers in just how they explicate
a problem statement would be of interest.
References
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College Publishers.
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an effective literature review in support of
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Tracy, S. J. (2007). Taking the plunge: A contextual approach
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Biographies
Dr. Timothy Ellis obtained a B.S. degree in History from
Bradley
University, an M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Southern
Illi-
nois University, a C.A.G.S. in Rehabilitation Administration
from
Northeastern University, and a Ph.D. in Computing Technology
in
Education from Nova Southeastern University. He joined NSU
as As-
sistant Professor in 1999 and currently teaches computer
technology
courses at both the Masters and Ph.D. level in the School of
Computer
and Information Sciences. Prior to joining NSU, he was on the
faculty
at Fisher College in the Computer Technology department and,
prior to
that, was a Systems Engineer for Tandy Business Products. His
re-
search interests include: multimedia, distance education, and
adult
learning. He has published in several technical and educational
jour-
nals including Catalyst, Journal of Instructional Delivery
Systems, and Journal of Instructional
Multimedia and Hypermedia. His email address is
[email protected] His main website is located
at http://www.scis.nova.edu/~ellist/
Dr. Yair Levy is an associate professor at the Graduate School
of
Computer and Information Sciences at Nova Southeastern
University.
During the mid to late 1990s, he assisted NASA to develop e-
learning
systems. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace
Engineering
from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology). He received
his
MBA with MIS concentration and Ph.D. in Management
Information
Systems from Florida International University. His current
research
interests include cognitive value of IS, of online learning
systems, ef-
fectiveness of IS, and cognitive aspects of IS. Dr. Levy is the
author of
the book “Assessing the Value of e-Learning systems”. His
research
publications appear in the IS journals, conference proceedings,
invited
book chapters, and encyclopedias. Additionally, he chaired and
co-
chaired multiple sessions/tracks in recognized conferences.
Currently, Dr. Levy is serving as the
Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Doctoral Studies
(IJDS). Additionally, he is serv-
ing as an associate editor for the International Journal of Web-
based Learning and Teaching
Technologies (IJWLTT). Moreover, he is serving as a member
of editorial review or advisory
board of several refereed journals. Additionally, Dr. Levy has
been serving as a referee research
reviewer for numerous national and international scientific
journals, conference proceedings, as
well as MIS and Information Security textbooks. He is also a
frequent speaker at national and
international meetings on MIS and online learning topics. To
find out more about Dr. Levy,
please visit his site: http://scis.nova.edu/~levyy/
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12/5/21, 12:37 AM Rubric Assessment - 3FA2021 Craft
Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-01D) - Indiana
Wesleyan University
https://brightspace.indwes.edu/d2l/lms/competencies/rubric/rubr
ics_assessment_results.d2l?ou=154830&evalObjectId=642732&
evalObjectType=5&userId=50594&… 1/3
Discussion Rubric (20 points)
Course: 3FA2021 Craft Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-
01D)
Criteria Excellent Competent
Needs
Improvement
Inadequate/Faili
ng
Criterion Score
Quality of
Content
/ 1010 points
Thoroughly
addresses the
prompt(s).
Clearly
demonstrates
understanding of
relevant course
concepts using
course materials
and additional
resources (with
citations and
references).
Provides clear
evidence of
critical thinking.
9 points
Adequately
addresses the
prompt(s).
Demonstrates a
basic
understanding of
relevant course
concepts using
course materials
and additional
resources (with
citations and
references).
Provides some
evidence of
critical thinking.
7 points
Partially address
the prompt(s) or
addresses only
some of the
prompts.
Demonstrates a
limited
understanding of
relevant course
concepts using
course materials
and additional
resources (with
citations and
references).
Provides limited
evidence of
critical thinking.
6 points
Minimally
addresses or
does not address
the prompt(s).
Does not
adequately
demonstrate an
understanding of
relevant course
concepts or
provide evidence
of critical
thinking.
12/5/21, 12:37 AM Rubric Assessment - 3FA2021 Craft
Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-01D) - Indiana
Wesleyan University
https://brightspace.indwes.edu/d2l/lms/competencies/rubric/rubr
ics_assessment_results.d2l?ou=154830&evalObjectId=642732&
evalObjectType=5&userId=50594&… 2/3
Criteria Excellent Competent
Needs
Improvement
Inadequate/Faili
ng
Criterion Score
Response to
Classmates
/ 55 points
You
demonstrated
clear,
insightful critical
analysis of your
classmates'
postings when
using one or
more dialogue
techniques:
Extension,
Relevancy.
Exploratory,
Challenge,
Relational,
Diagnostic,
Action, Cause &
Effect,
Hypothetical,
Priority,
Summary
4 points
You
demonstrated
clear,
competent critica
l analysis of your
classmates'
postings when
using one or
more dialogue
techniques:
Extension,
Relevancy.
Exploratory,
Challenge,
Relational,
Diagnostic,
Action, Cause &
Effect,
Hypothetical,
Priority,
Summary
3 points
You
demonstrated li
mited critical
analysis of your
classmates'
postings when
using one or
more dialogue
techniques:
Extension,
Relevancy.
Exploratory,
Challenge,
Relational,
Diagnostic,
Action, Cause &
Effect,
Hypothetical,
Priority,
Summary
2 points
You
demonstrated no
critical analysis
of your
classmates'
postings when
using one or
more dialogue
techniques:
Extension,
Relevancy.
Exploratory,
Challenge,
Relational,
Diagnostic,
Action, Cause &
Effect,
Hypothetical,
Priority,
Summary
12/5/21, 12:37 AM Rubric Assessment - 3FA2021 Craft
Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-01D) - Indiana
Wesleyan University
https://brightspace.indwes.edu/d2l/lms/competencies/rubric/rubr
ics_assessment_results.d2l?ou=154830&evalObjectId=642732&
evalObjectType=5&userId=50594&… 3/3
Total / 20
Overall Score
Criteria Excellent Competent
Needs
Improvement
Inadequate/Faili
ng
Criterion Score
Written
Communicatio
n & APA
/ 55 points
Excellent
communication
when applying
English Grammar
Standards and
the 7 C's of
writing: clear,
concise,
complete,
correct,
correlated to the
research,
creative, and
with critical
thinking
evidenced.
Excellent use of
APA formatting
standards, as
applicable.
4 points
Proficient
communication
when applying
English Grammar
Standards and
the 7 C's of
writing: clear,
concise,
complete,
correct,
correlated to the
research,
creative, and
with critical
thinking
evidenced.
Proficient use of
APA formatting
standards, as
applicable.
3 points
Emergent
communication
when applying
English Grammar
Standards and
the 7 C's of
writing: clear,
concise,
complete,
correct,
correlated to the
research,
creative, and
with critical
thinking
evidenced.
Emergent use of
APA formatting
standards, as
applicable.
2 points
Inadequate
communication
when applying
English Grammar
Standards and
the 7 C's of
writing: clear,
concise,
complete,
correct,
correlated to the
research,
creative, and
with critical
thinking
evidenced.
Inadequate use
of APA
formatting
standards, as
applicable.
Excellent
18 points minimum
Competent
16 points minimum
Needs Improvement
14 points minimum
Inadequate/Failing
0 points minimum

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Informing Science the International Journal of an Emerging Tr

  • 1. Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline Volume 11, 2008 Editor: Eli Cohen Framework of Problem-Based Research: A Guide for Novice Researchers on the Development of a Research-Worthy Problem Timothy J. Ellis and Yair Levy Nova Southeastern University Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA [email protected], [email protected] Abstract This paper introduces the importance of a well-articulated, research-worthy problem statement as the centerpiece for any viable research. The aim of this work is to help novice researchers under- stand the value of problem-based research by providing a practical guide on the development of a well articulated and viable statement of a research-worthy problem as the starting point for all research. Additionally, this paper explores the interaction of the problem with the other funda- mental elements of scholarly research including the research topic, goals, research questions, methodology, results, and conclusions. Scaffolding for articulating a ‘research-worthy problem’ is provided in the form of a deconstruction of the expression
  • 2. into definitions of its component terms, followed by a discussion of what is not a research-worthy problem. A roadmap on locating problems that could support scholarly research is provided. The theoretical foundation is placed into practice by examining some problem statements and proposing a template for crafting an effective statement. Keywords: Research methodology, research problem, problem- based research, research ques- tions, theory-based research, doctoral education. Introduction The importance of basing research on a well-articulated problem statement is well accepted across disciplines such as information systems, education, and engineering (Creswell, 2005; Hicks & Turner, 1999; Sekaran, 2003). Unfortunately, just what constitutes a research-worthy problem is not readily apparent, in particular for novice researchers. Although most scholars would agree that not everything that is problematic could serve as the starting point for meaning- ful research, it is not easy to identify just what does constitute such a problem. According to Ker- linger and Lee (2000), the identification of the research problem is “the most difficult and important part of the whole [research] process” (p. 15). To a very great extent, Supreme Court Justice Pot- ter Stewart’s opinion regarding obscen- ity seems to describe the feeling of many scholars regarding research- worthy problems: “I shall not today at-
  • 3. tempt further to define the kinds of ma- terial I understand to be embraced … Material published as part of this publication, either on-line or in print, is copyrighted by the Informi ng Science Institute. Permission to make digital or paper copy of part or all of these works for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that the copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage AND that copies 1) bear this notice in full and 2) give the full citation on the first page. It is per - missible to abstract these works so long as credit is given. To copy in all other cases or to republish or to post on a server or to redistribute to lists requires specific permission and payment of a fee. Contact [email protected] to request redistribution permission. Framework of Problem-Based Research 18 [b]ut I know it when I see it …” ("Jacobellis v. Ohio", 1964). Unfortunately, such an approach does not appear to be helpful, especially for novice researchers. Thus, this paper attempts to ad- dress the critical issue of identifying and establishing the research-worthiness of a problem. This paper explores the concept of problem-based research beyond the ‘know it when I see it’ approach. In the balance of this introduction, the argument for basing research on a well-defined problem will be detailed and the interaction of the problem with the other fundamental elements of scholarly research will be explored. The second section
  • 4. builds a scaffold for defining ‘re- search-worthy problem’ by deconstructing the expression. The third section places the theoretical foundation laid in the first two sections into practice by examining some effective problem state- ments. The fourth section provides a practical guide on locating problems that could support scholarly research. Finally, a summary and recommendations are provided. Why Problem-Based Research? “I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who” (Kipling, 1902/1988, p. 3) Kipling’s (1902/1988) “honest serving-men” have been used to form the basis for enquiry in a number of disciplines. Although the poem has long been the accepted mantra of journalists, it applies equally well to scientific enquiry (Sharp, 2002). A well - structured, properly-reported study must provide answers to all questions regarding the what, why, when, how, where, and who associated with the research. The problem statement offers the context necessary for addressing the why question (Tracy, 2007). According to Kerlinger and Lee (2000), in essence a scientist is driven by an inner desire to un- derstand “why something is as it is” (p. 15). Moreover, they note that scientists are restless until
  • 5. they find an explanation to the phenomena. One cannot place value on research without a clear understanding of, first, why that research had been conducted (Creswell, 2005). In the case of a great deal of reported research, at least part of the answer to why lies in the need to publish in or- der to earn a degree, tenure, or promotion (Sharp, 2002). If such rather practical considerations are the only motivators for the research, it is hard to imagine the research producing results of much interest or value. What makes research of interest is how it will impact future research and other researchers, not the author. This impact is most clearly evidenced by addressing a problem that has some manner of impact on the reader. Answering the question “Why conduct the research?” with an effective statement of the problem doesn’t just add meaningfulness to that research; it also serves as the first step in addressing that problem (Sternberg, in press). “A careful statement of the problem goes a long way toward its solution” (Hicks & Turner, 1999, p. 3). The nature of what is going wrong – the problem – very much sets the parameters for what can be done. Kerlinger and Lee (2000) suggested that “if one wants to solve a [research] problem, one must generally know what the problem is” (p. 24). If, for example, an institution is faced with a situation in which its customer base is shrinking, the ap- propriate course of action would be radically different if the problem causing that undesirable situation is one of poor service than if it is one of high prices or one of not knowing just what the customers value.
  • 6. According to Kerlinger and Lee (2000), “adequate statement of the research problem is one of the most important parts of research” (p. 24). They continue to add that the “difficulty of stating a research problem satisfactorily at a given time should not cause one to lose sight of the ultimate Ellis & Levy 19 desirability and necessity of doing so” (Kerlinger & Lee, p. 24). According to Jacobs (1997), ar- gument to the problem statement “should present how the research builds on previous theory or contributes to the development of new theory, and should describe the likely uses of the knowl- edge to be gained and the potential importance of these uses” (p. 1). A clear, precise, and well structured problem statement leads to a quality research (Jacobs). O'Connor (2000) noted that a viable research problem is the central and most highly important part of any quality research. Leedy and Ormrod (2005) suggested that the research problem “is the axis around which the whole research effort revolves” (p. 49). The “heart of every research project is the problem. It is paramount to the success of the research effort” (Leedy & Ormrod, p. 49). Furthermore, “to see the problem with unwavering clarity and to state it in precise and unmistakable terms is the first requirement in the research process” (Leedy & Ormrod, p. 49). Thus, it appears that there is a clear consensus in literature that identification of a problem is a
  • 7. cornerstone for any quality re- search. Basing research on a well-articulated, well-supported, and well-argued problem estab- lishes the potential for producing meaningful results. Although studies certainly can and have been conducted without the anchor of a clearly defined problem, such research is essentially flawed; “No amount of good research can find solutions … if the critical issue or the problem to be studied is not clearly pinpointed” (Sekaran, 2003, p. 69). Therefore, it is warranted that novice researchers should learn to identify a research problem and learn how to properly construct and develop a logical argumentation for a problem statement. The Role of the Problem in the Structure of the Research A research endeavor might best be viewed as a structure that incorporates a number of distinct but related elements including the research problem that drives the study, the goals, research ques- tions, review of the literature, methodology, results, and conclusions. The research problem serves as the starting point for the research and is a unifying thread that runs throughout all the elements of the research endeavor (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). Kerlinger and Lee (2000) noted that “without some sort of statement of problem, the scientist can rarely go further and expect the work to be fruitful” (p. 15). A viable research problem is usually noted at the introduction of the research manuscript to identify why the study is important (Creswell, 2005). Research Topic
  • 8. Literature Review Supports & Validates All Results Research Problem Research Questions/Hypotheses Goals Addresses Delimits Methodology Conclusions Determine Produces Answers Permit Figure 1: Conceptual Map of the Problem-Based Research Cycle Framework of Problem-Based Research 20 The research problem also serves as the basis for the interrelatedness of the distinct elements en-
  • 9. tailed in research. Figure 1 illustrates this interrelatedness by providing a conceptual map of the problem-based research cycle indicating the centrality of the research problem for the research endeavor. The next few sections examine the relationships between the problem driving the re- search and the other aspects of the endeavor. The topic, research problem, goals, and research questions As illustrated in Figure 1, the topic is the general domain in which the research is focused. Exam- ples of topics in information systems include business process management, customer relation- ship management, enterprise information, electronic commerce, e-government, database man- agement, knowledge management, crisis management, information security, human computer interaction, procurement and supply chain management, telecommunication, virtual teams, com- puter ethics, decision support, online learning, etc. Problems are drawn from the general domain described by the topic. As shown in Figure 1, there is a two-way relationship between the research problem, the goals, and the associated research questions and/or hypotheses. A research study goal “is the major in- tent or objective of the study used to address the problem” (Creswell, 2005, p. 62). Research goals essentially detail what the research study intends to do in order to address the problem, thereby answering the question: “What will this study do?” The research goals are operationalized by one or more research questions. Research questions “narrow the purpose [or goal] into specific questions that the researcher would like answered or addressed
  • 10. in the study” (Creswell, 2005, p. 62). By attaining answers to those research questions, the study goals are met and a contribution towards solving the problem is made (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). Since problems that can inspire scholarly research are generally rather difficult in their very nature, the contribution towards reso- lution is generally quite small. However, in order for the research to be at all meaningful, there has to be an identifiable connection between the answers to the research questions and the re- search problem inspiring the study (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000). Figure 2 illustrates the relationship among the general topic, research problem, goal, and research questions with an example in the context of knowledge management. The nature of the research problem being addressed delimits the possible goals for a study. In- cluded in the goal is the type of study being conducted – experimental, developmental, descrip- tive, etc. Certain characteristics of the problem such as the domain from which it is drawn, how long it has been acknowledged, as well as how much and what type of research has already been conducted on it, impact what type or types of methodology is appropriate (Nunamaker, Chen, & Purdin, 1991). The type of methodology being used must be appropriate for the nature of the problem driving that research. The methodology produces the results of the study, which in turn produces the evidences needed to permit the conclusions suggested.
  • 11. Ellis & Levy 21 Conceptual Basis . Artifact Example General Topic Knowledge Management Research Problem Difficulty in retaining organizational knowledge Goal A descriptive study to determine the constructs that lead employees to resist the implementation of knowledge management systems (KMSs). Research Question Does employee involvement in the development of KMS affect their resistance of KMS implementation?
  • 12. Specific Figure 2: Relationship Among the Topic, Research Problem, Goals, and Research Ques- tions (Adapted from Creswell, 2005, p. 62) Bringing in the methodology, results, and conclusions Although not directly related to the research problem, the methodology, results, and conclusions of a study are directly impacted by the problem driving the research. As illustrated in Figures 1 and 2, the methodology is structured by the research questions. The methodology is, essentially, the steps that will be taken in order to derive reliable and valid answers to those questions. Pro- fessionals from different domains uses their own set of tools to conduct their work activities and develop their desired outcomes (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). Researchers are knowledge workers, so they use knowledge tools to conduct their work (Davis & Parker, 1997). However, the methodol- ogy determines the appropriateness of a given research tool. According to Leedy and Ormrod, novice researchers commonly confuse the research methodology with the research tools. A re- search methodology is defined as “the general approach the researcher takes in carrying out the research project” (Leedy & Ormrod, p. 14). Research tools, on the other hand, is defined as “a specific mechanism or strategy the researcher uses to collect, manipulate, or interpret data” (Leedy & Ormrod, p. 14). Research methods commonly used in information systems studies in- clude: descriptive (case study), empirical/quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods (including both qualitative and quantitative), experimental, quasi-experimental,
  • 13. and simulations. Each type of research method encompasses many specific research tools that can be employed to address dif- ferent research questions (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). In gener al, the methodology must be detailed and address the how, when, where, and who questions. The methodology outlines the types of research tools that the researcher will use to produce the study’s results. The study results include the data, or the evidences, that can be used to answer the research questions. The results, in turn, permit the researcher to draw conclusions that are, in fact, the answers to the research questions. Those answers, as mentioned in the previous section, constitute the manner in which the research addresses the underlying problem. Framework of Problem-Based Research 22 Building upon a literature foundation Although the research problem serves as the starting point for research, the literature review, as illustrated in Figure 1, serves as the foundation upon which that research is built (Levy & Ellis, 2006). The presence of the research problem is almost always established through the literature review. However, there are occasional visionaries who see research problems long before others, the vast majority of research is built upon problems that are well documented (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p. 14). The appropriateness of the research goals for the study – the type of research to be
  • 14. conducted and the research questions to be answered – is similarly established through the litera- ture. Likewise, although the methodology is structured by the research questions, its appropriate- ness must be established through the literature. The manner in which the results are analyzed to produce the study’s conclusions is also anchored in the literature. “Research-Worthy Problem” Deconstructed Just as there is an almost universal sentiment that one should lead a “good life”, most would agree that one should use research to address problems. Unfortunately, just as there are widely diverg- ing views on just what constitutes a “good life”, there is no universal agreement on just what con- stitutes a “research-worthy problem”. Although there is certainly room for honest differences in opinion regarding the research-worthiness of any given problem, it is important that there be a clear understanding of “research-worthy problem” as a construct. Problem? On the surface, “problem” appears to be very easily defined. Dictionary definitions include “a situation, person or thing that needs attention and needs to be dealt with or solved” (Cambridge online dictionary, 2007) and “a question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution” (Merrian- webster online dictionary, 2007). From a scientific perspective, a research problem is defined as a general issue, concern, or controversy addressed in research. Moreover, a research problem “must integrate concepts and theoretical perspective of the literature into the problem to be addressed”
  • 15. (O'Connor, 2000, p. i). A research problem exists if at least two elements are present. First, the current state differs from the ideal state (Sekaran, 2003). Second, there is not an “acceptable” so- lution available. The absence of an acceptable solution can entail either there being no solution documented in the literature, or the solutions noted in the literature leading to mixed results or contradictions (i.e. not properly addressing the problem) (Creswell, 2005). Implicit in the defini- tion of a research problem are: Problems are active. A missed opportunity does not necessarily constitute a problem. Parents have, for example, a missed opportunity for training toddlers to use automatic weapons, but it is doubtable if anyone in his right mind would seriously consider that as a viable research problem. Problems have an impact. A favorite philosophical pursuit of college freshmen is to ponder the question “If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it fall, does it make a sound?” One might similarly ask: “How can something be considered a problem if one can- not identify something that is going wrong or, at the very least, not as well as it should?” There are many ways the “going wrong” might be manifested, ranging from physical pain through inconvenience to intellectual angst associated with vacuums or inconsistencies in our understanding. The impact need not be gigantic, but it must be identifiable. In this context, it is important to not confuse topics – areas of interest – with problems. Topics, such as “Im-
  • 16. plementing a knowledge management system” and “Personalizing training through the use of computer managed instruction”, although of interest, lack any impact and cannot serve as the starting point for research. Ellis & Levy 23 Problems do not have adequate solutions available. It is important to distinguish between problems and other unfavorable situations. One might, for example, have an infestation of ants in his house. Obviously, for most that state of affairs would not correspond with the ideal state, but a quick look through the “exterminators” section of the phone book or Internet would produce a large number of ready solutions to address this unfavorable situation. Research? Research is defined as “the systematic process of collecting and analyzing information (data) in order to increase our understanding of the phenomenon about which we are concerned or inter- ested” (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p. 4). According to Creswell (2005), research is “a process of steps used to collect and analyze information in order to increase our understanding of a topic or issue” (p. 3). The key issue emerging from these definitions is that research must collect and ana- lyze new information and/or data that will enhance the body of knowledge. There are a number of
  • 17. ways in which original research contributions can be made to the body of knowledge, including: Establishing causal relationships by conducting a causal - comparative study to address a documented problem. Evaluating the efficacy of an approach to addressing a documented problem by conduct- ing an experimental or quasi-experimental study. Examining the impact of the element of time on the nature of the documented problem in a longitudinal study. Exploring in depth the positive and negative aspects of an approach to address the docu- mented problem in a descriptive study. Establishing a method for creating a product that could at least potentially reduce the im- pact of the documented problem through a developmental study. Developing constructs from a pool of observations regarding the causes or characteristics of a well-documented problem through a factor analysis. Developing a predictive model in an approach to address a documented problem. The list of possible approaches to making the necessary original contribution inherent in research could, of course, be extended considerably from the six items listed above. The essential issue, however, remains the same: in order for the endeavor to be considered research, it must clearly
  • 18. present the potential for creating identifiable new knowledge. Although it might seem self-evident, a brief discussion of “new knowledge” is warranted. In the context of research, “new” refers to information not already present in the body of knowledge in the applicable domain. Just because information might be new to a specific entity – an individual or organization – is irrelevant if it was already present in the research literature of that domain (Hart, 1998). For example, an information systems department might not know how to address the resistance of employees to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system even though there are numerous studies available about such a problem. A few quick searches in scholarly databases with backward and forward searchers may yield several studies that investigated the very problem and suggested numerous solutions (for additional information on effective literature review in- cluding searches techniques such as backward and forward, see Levy & Ellis, 2006). Research-Worthiness? Unlike the previous terms, “research-worthy” is not definable through a rather simple reference in a dictionary or a scientific definition from peer-reviewed literature. Its meaning can be extrapo- lated from the concept of “research”. As discussed in the previous section, research entails mak- Framework of Problem-Based Research 24
  • 19. ing an original contribution to the applicable body of knowledge. In order for that type of contri- bution to be possible, certain preconditions are necessary: An exhaustive understanding of the body of knowledge related to the field or topic of study. Knowledge of what is known is a prerequisite for identifying that which is un- known (Davis & Parker, 1997). A solid conceptual foundation for the research (Hart, 1998). Although many discoveries are certainly serendipitous, research is intentional, built upon a theoretical basis (Malinski, 2004; Verran, 1997). Research-worthiness entails that there is a real, identifi- able conceptual connection between the research problem driving the study and the re- search being conducted to address that problem (Creswell, 2005). Without that concep- tual connection, one would be left with the impression that any new insights resulting from the study were more the result of random luck than scholarly work. A “yes” answer to one of the following questions (Creswell, 2005): o Will a known gap in the body of knowledge be filled? o Will previous research be replicated and expanded by looking at a different cate- gory of participants, environment, and/or constructs/variables? o Will previous research be expanded by more thoroughly
  • 20. examining some identi- fiable aspect? o Are there specific, identifiable, and documented problems with the currently available solutions? Research-Worthy Problems Are Not … In the quest for a research-worthy problem, novice researchers should first understand what are not research-worthy problems (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). First, research-worthy problems should not be based solely on personal observations and/or experiences. Although a researcher may have a “hunch for the problem”, an identifiable literature that documents the problem or literature that documents conflicting results should be the basis for a research- worthy problem (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000). Second, research-worthy problems should not be based on a comparison of two sets of data for the sake of comparison. Comparing groups is not a research-worthy problem; rather it is a methodology to address a problem. For example, comparing employee productivity before and after ERP training is a valid study, but it does not represent a viable research-worthy prob- lem. A viable research-worthy problem behind such a comparison may be the issue of low pro- ductivity level after ERP implementation and the goal of such a study may be to investigate the effectiveness of ERP training on increasing productivity. Hence, the comparison itself doesn’t constitute the research-worthy problem but is rather the methodology used to address a problem. Identifying the research-worthy problem behind such a comparison is warranted. Third, research-
  • 21. worthy problems should not be based on a correlation of two sets of data. Leedy and Ormrod noted that a “correlation coefficient is nothing more than a statistic… It tells us nothing about why that relationship exists” (p. 50). An example for a correlation that is meaningless: the growth in e- government use in North America was found to be highly correlated to the growth in birth rate of elephants in Africa. Such an example provides very little contribution to the body of knowledge because it does not appear to address any viable research- worthy problem. Lastly, research- worthy problems should not be based on an investigation that yields a “yes” or “no” answer. An- swers to such questions, again provide very little contribution to the body of knowledge. Ellis & Levy 25 Finding Research-Worthy Problems: Tips From the Field From Where Do Research-Worthy Problems Emerge? A viable research-worthy problem can emerge from various areas. Leedy and Ormrod observed “problems for research are everywhere. Take a good look at the world around you. Where does your interest lie?” (p. 49). Experienced researchers might identify research-worthy problems by speaking with colleagues, attending scholarly conferences, and by observing a phenomenon (Ker- linger & Lee, 2000). In many cases, however, seasoned scholars might work on the same prob- lem-area throughout their whole scholarly tenure (Kerlinger &
  • 22. Lee, 2000; Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). In general “the problem usually begins with vague and/or unscientific thoughts or unsys- tematic hunches. It then goes through a series of refinement steps” (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000, p. 15). Novice researchers may have some “hunches” but it is vital that they properly anchor them in the context of the existing body of knowledge. Identifying a research-worthy problem for novice researchers should be based on a four-step process. The first key step deals with the process of looking or attempting to identify a potential research-worthy problem. The second key step in the process to identify a potential research- worthy problem is reading the literature and identifying valid scholarly sources. The third key step deals with the process of synthesizing the literature and internalizing the body of knowledge. The fourth step is to consult with others, seeking feedback on the potential research-worthy prob- lem from experts and/or experienced researchers. The following four sections elaborate on this four-step process. Look Personal interests, hunches, and ‘gut feelings’ are, for most novice researchers, the most reason- able starting point for locating research-worthy problems (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000). Although, as mentioned above, it is vital to not confuse topics such as knowledge management or computer managed instruction with research-worthy problems, researchers often limit the domain in which they search for a research-worthy problem. Limiting the domain on the basis of personal interest
  • 23. appears to be appropriate and may offer a viable starting point towards identifying a research- worthy problem. Personal experiences also provide potentially fruitful insight into possible research-worthy prob- lems. Throughout the course of daily activities, individuals encounter situations in which the cur- rent state is far from the ideal state; each of these unfortunate situations offers potential as a re- search problem (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000). However, it is vital to remember that just because a given organization has a specific problem, doesn’t directly constitute that problem as a research- worthy one. It is entirely possible that the organization is simply not aware of a number of solu- tions to the problem that are well documented in the scholarly literature (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000). Read Leedy and Ormrod (2005) emphasized that “one essential strategy is to find out what things are already known about your topic of interest; little can be gained by reinventing the wheel” (p. 51). Reading scholarly literature is one of the most important steps in this process. The first critical way that a researcher can identify if a problem observed is indeed a specific instance of a more general research-worthy problem, and not just an example of an organization not being cognizant of well-established solutions, is to read the scholarly literature. The process of reading the schol- arly literature must be purposive (Levy & Ellis, 2006). Such process should include: Identifying the leading journals, conference proceedings, and
  • 24. scholars in the domain of interest. Framework of Problem-Based Research 26 Performing exhaustive searches, using techniques such as searching on keywords as well as forward and backward searches on names of scholars cited in articles of interest (Levy & Ellis, 2006). Additionally, reviewing recently finished doctoral dissertations can pro- vide a ‘gold mine’ for valid leads to scholarly liter ature on the topic of interest. Identifying “holes” in the body of knowledge identified in the scholarly articles. More- over, “in addition to telling you what is already known, the existing literature is likely to tell you what is not known in the area – in other words, what still needs to be done” (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p. 51). Most quality research articles will include recommenda- tions for future research in the concluding remarks. Such discussions provide scholarly evidence for what is still needed and what research-worthy problems still exist. Synthesize The viability of a problem as a starting point for scholarly research cannot be established through a single source (Creswell, 2005). It is highly unlikely that any two journal articles would say pre-
  • 25. cisely the same thing about where further research is needed. The researcher must, therefore, de- velop a research-worthy problem by weaving together the threads derived from a number of sources. The synthesizing process results in creating a w hole that in a meaningful way exceeds the sum of its parts (Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwohl, 1956). Such synthesis usually entails: Combining the insights from a number of scholarly articles. Integrating the work from different but related fields. Composing a generalization based upon multiple specific instances. Consult Once a potential research-worthy problem has been identified, novice researchers are encouraged to seek feedback (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). Feedback on the potential research-worthiness of a problem can be done via two main approaches. The first is by seeking feedback from available experienced researchers. According to Leedy and Ormrod, a novice researcher may start to obtain feedback on their proposed research problem simply by asking their own professors: “what needs to be done? What burning questions are still out there? What previous research findings seem- ingly don’t make sense?” (p. 51). The second way to seek feedback from experienced researchers is by attending scholarly and scientific conferences; “by scanning the conference program and attending sessions of interest, they [i.e. novice researchers] can learn “what is hot and what’s not”
  • 26. in their field” (p. 51). Following such feedback, researchers may either find that their proposed problem truly presents potential as a point of departure for scholarly research or that they need to go back to the starting point and look again. Figure 3 represents flow-chart of the process of find- ing research-worthy problems. Ellis & Levy 27 Look Read Synthesize Seek Feedback Research- Worthy Problem? No Yes May propose a study to address it A topic of interest
  • 27. Figure 3: Process of Finding a Research-Worthy Problem A Template for Crafting a Problem Statement Prior to discussion about the problem statement, novice researchers should fully understand the difference between the statement of the problem and the problem statement. A statement of the problem is one or two sentences that outline the problem that the study addresses. The statement of the problem should briefly address the question: What is the problem that the research will ad- dress? (See number 1 in Figure 4). However, the problem statement is the statement of the prob- lem and the argumentation for its viability (see more about argumentation theory and develop- ment of valid argument in Levy and Ellis, 2006). The problem statement should address all six questions: what, how, where, when, why, and who (see Figure 4). Creswell (2005) observed that the problem statement should be stated in the introductory sections of the research manuscript and provide the rationale for its importance by “developing justifications for studying it [the research problem]” (p. 8). Another clarification should be made about the confusion between the statement of the problem and the main research question guiding the study. Research questions are formu- lated in a question format and are narrowed enough to identify the variables or construct under study, while the statement of the problem should not be noted in a question format and should be in a higher theoretical level derived from the overall problem the study addresses (Figure 2).
  • 28. Framework of Problem-Based Research 28 The development of a problem statement “is an exercise in logic” (O'Connor, 2000, p. i). Identi- fying a research-worthy problem is far from a mechanical process and depends on a combination of inspiration, perspiration, and logical argumentation. There are, as described above, steps that can be taken to facilitate the process. The difficulty of articulating a problem statement that can indeed serve as a starting point for scholarly research transcends simple solution. However, “a well developed problem stateme nt appears simple. But writing a good problem statement is far from effortless. Rather it is a complex activity related to preparing a logical argument” (O'Connor, 2000, p. i). Leedy and Ormrod (2005) suggested that the starting point of the problem statement is in a well-articulated statement of the problem that “must first be expressed with the utmost precision” (p. 49). A procedure in developing a problem statement cannot be a complete solution to this difficulty. There are some meaningful landmarks that can provide insight into progress towards developing such a statement. The Problem Statement Template (Figure 4) provides an overview of how the six questions of what, how, where, when, why, and who, should be addressed. When identifying a research-worthy problem based on the process noted above, researchers may find it easier to ad- dress these six questions.
  • 29. Exploring a Sample Problem Statement A well-articulated problem statement should answer the questions outlined in the Problem State- ment Template (Figure 4) in several well-focused sentences. Since research is meaningful only in the context of the problem being addressed, a succinct yet complete statement of the problem should be one of, if the not first thing the reader encounters (Creswell, 2005). The exact wording of a problem statement is, of course, dependent on the research domain and the nature of the problem being addressed. However, Leedy and Ormrod (2005) noted that the key to successful documentation of a viable research problem is articulating precisely what the proposed problem is. They noted that researchers should say exactly what they mean and that researchers “should not assume that others will be able to read your mind” (p. 53). Moreover, they noted that failure 1. What: In no more than two sentences, what is the problem that the research will address? Remember, a problem is, essentially, something that is ‘going wrong’. Who: List three current, peer-reviewed references that support the presence of that prob- lem and briefly describe the nature of that support. 2. How, Where, and When: Again, in no more than two sentences, describe the impact of the problem. How are people or researchers’ understanding negatively impacted by the problem? When and where is the problem evident?
  • 30. Who: List three current, peer-reviewed references that support the impact of the problem that the research proposes addressing and briefly describe the nature of that support. 3. Why: In no more than two sentences, identify the conceptual basis for the problem. That is, what does the literature outline as the cause of the problem? Who: List three current, peer-reviewed references that support the conceptual basis of the problem and briefly describe the nature of that support. Figure 4: Problem Statement Template Ellis & Levy 29 to carefully select the appropriate words “can have grave results for your status as a scholar and a researcher” (Leedy & Ormrod, p. 53). Accordingly, this section will explore the specifics of what constitutes a viable problem statement by first presenting as a “straw man” a rather typical exam- ple of a faulty problem statement, followed by an analysis of the faults in the “straw man”, and concluding with a revised statement of the problem. A Sample of a Faulty Problem Statement Figure 5 presents a rather typical faulty problem statement submitted by a novice researcher as
  • 31. part of an initial research proposal. Please note that, since the material in Figure 5 is presented only as an example, the citations listed in the example are not included in the references of this paper. “One main obstacle of knowledge management is the lack of developed culture in an or- ganization to ensure the acceptance of a knowledge management system (Becerra- Fernandez & Sabherwal, 2001; Bossen & Palsgaard, 2005; Kaweevisultrali & Chan, 2007; Pumareja & Sikkel, 2005). Non-acceptance of knowledge management system oc- curs with limited or no support when the proper culture for utilizing knowledge manage- ment is not practiced in the organization (Gottschalk, 2000; Kruizinga, van Heijst, & van der Spek, 1996; Swan, Newell, & Robertson, 2000). The basis for the problem is the lack of aligning knowledge management systems with the business strategy in order to de- velop knowledge management culture in the organization (Braganza & Mollenkramer, 2002; Chua & Lam, 2005; Storey & Barnett, 2000).” Figure 5: Example of Faulty Problem Statement The Problem Statement Analysis As is often the case, the problem statement noted in Figure 5 touches upon a research area with potential, but does not really present the focus and depth necessary to serve as a starting point for problem-based research. Fitting the information presented into
  • 32. the Problem Statement Template (Figure 4) offers some insight on elevating this initial idea into a viable problem statement that properly articulates the research-worthy problem. The following discussion is based on the exam- ple of faulty problem statement noted in Figure 5. 1. What: In no more than two sentences, what is the problem that the research will address? Remember, a problem is, essentially, something that is ‘going wrong’. The statement “One main obstacle of knowledge management is the lack of developed culture in an organization to ensure the acceptance of a knowledge management system” – does not really establish the presence of a problem. It does describe a situation, but there is no indication that that situation is indicative of “something going wrong”. What difference does it make if knowledge management were blocked in an organization or not? Who: List three current, peer-reviewed references that support the presence of that problem and briefly describe the nature of that support. Although there are citations offered in support of the statement describing the impact of culture on success of knowledge management initiatives (addressing the question of ‘says
  • 33. Framework of Problem-Based Research 30 who?’), there is no indication of what was contained in the articles cited and how they supported the problem. It is not enough to just point to the literature; there must be enough discussion to establish just how the literature supports the point being made. When using references to back a claim, novice researchers should also ensure they ad- dress the ‘based on what?’ question. In other words, if references are used, there must be a clear argument in the problem statement to the evidences each reference provides (for additional discussion about argumentation theory see Levy and Ellis, 2006). 2. How, Where, and When: Again, in no more than two sentences, describe the impact of the problem. How are people or researchers’ understanding negatively impacted by the problem? When and where is the problem evident? There is no indication in the example provided in Figure 5 of why a failed knowledge management implementation is of any concern. Even though the impact of such a failure might seem intuitively obvious to the novice researcher who wrote the problem state- ment, it still must be articulated for the benefit of the reader
  • 34. and the proper development of the argument for the research-worthy problem. 3. Why: In no more than two sentences, identify the conceptual basis for the problem. That is, what does the literature might be the cause of the problem? The statement “The basis for the problem is the lack of aligning knowledge management systems with the business strategy in order to develop knowledge management culture in the organization” offers a conceptual explanation for a problem, but it is not clear just what problem. The text should explicitly identify the conceptual basis for the problem. Who: List three current, peer-reviewed references that support the conceptual basis of the problem and briefly describe the nature of that support. Similarly to the issue noted in the lack of addressing the “who” in number one above, al- though there are citations offered in support of the statement that attempted to describe the conceptual basis for the problem (addressing the question of “says who?”), there is no indication of what was contained in the articles cited and how they identify the concep- tual basis for the problem. Novice researchers should ensure the references provided ad- dress the “based on what?”
  • 35. The Revised Problem Statement Figure 6 presents a rephrased problem statement based on the one noted in Figure 5 and attempts to better describe the research being proposed by more effectively addressing the questions in- cluded in the Problem Statement Template. As noted before, since the material in Figure 6 is pre- sented only as an example, the citations listed in the example are not included in the references of this paper. Ellis & Levy 31 “Knowledge management systems (KMS) have proven to be quite difficult to implement (Becerra-Fernandez & Sabherwal, 2001; Bossen & Palsgaard, 2005; Kaweevisultrali & Chan, 2007; Pumareja & Sikkel, 2005). According to Pumareja and Sikkel, such diffi- culty was observed even when careful attention is paid to involving upper management and key stakeholders in the design and implementation process. Additionally, some diffi- culties in KMS implementation have been observed due to technological barriers (Bossen & Palsgaard) and users’ perceived knowledge satisfaction (Becerra-Fernandez & Sab- herwal). According to Kaweevisultrali and Chan, cultural values place greater emphasis on cooperation and team effort than individual goal attainment during KMS implementa-
  • 36. tion. The benefits of successful KMS implementations have been documented. Wong, Crowder, Wills, and Shadbolt (2006) found that KMS implementation reduces product development time, while Beis, Loucopoulos, Pyrgiotis, and Zografos (2006) found that such implementation creates complex models to facilitate organizational change. How- ever, KMS implementation coupled with the costs associated with failed attempts like lost revenues and reduced employee confidence make effective implementation of KM efforts vital (Braganza & Mollenkramer, 2002). Although a number of factors have been suggested as important elements in impacting the success of a KMS, the impact of organ- izational culture appears as a common thread (Bossen & Palsgaard; Kaweevisultrali & Chan; Pumareja & Sikkel). Unfortunately, very little attention has been given in literature to exactly what constitutes the optimal organizational culture for an effective KMS and how to foster that culture.” Figure 6: Example of a Viable Problem Statement Summary and Recommendations This paper addressed a vital issue for novice researchers: the development of a statement estab- lishing the presence of a valid, research-worthy problem. The paper started with an argument for the value of problem-directed research and the centrality of a well-articulated problem statement in research. A discussion of the relationship between the research problem and other fundamental elements of scholarly research such as the research topic, goals,
  • 37. research questions, methodology, results, and conclusions followed. The phrase ‘research-worthy problem’ was deconstructed and definitions provided for each component, amplified by a discussion of what does not constitute research-worthiness. The paper concluded by outlining the potential sources for locating research- worthy problems and a practical guide for developing an effective problem statement. A template for crafting a problem statement is provided with an example of a faulty problem statement fol- lowed by the same example revised to properly indicate a viable problem. Although it appears easy to establish the value of problem- directed research, it is much more dif- ficult to prescribe just how the novice researcher can in fact develop an acceptable problem statement. Problem identification entails an element of creativity and, therefore, defies a me- chanical, highly structured process orientation. The process described in this paper might best be viewed as a roadmap that provides a framework in which a problem statement can be developed rather than a Global Positioning System (GPS) that provides detailed, specific directions, on find- ing one. Just as, when using a roadmap one can still get lost, it is important to remember that fol- lowing the framework described above will not guarantee development of a viable problem statement that can serve as the starting point for scholarly research. Although looking at personal experiences, reading and synthesizing the scholarly literature, as well as consulting with domain experts and experienced researchers have proven to be successful in identifying and refining a
  • 38. research-worthy problem, such steps are neither a magic formula for producing a problem state- ment nor the exclusive method for doing so. Further exploration from experienced researchers in Framework of Problem-Based Research 32 just how they identify problems that can serve as points of departure for scholarly research would be of interest. Similarly, the Problem Statement Template illustrated in Figure 4 is certainly not prescriptive and cannot be used as a ‘fill in the blanks’ form. There would be little argument that a problem statement supported by the literature is a necessary starting point for scholarly re- search. The process of specifying that problem statement can certainly vary widely from that il- lustrated in Figure 6. Further exploration from experienced researchers in just how they explicate a problem statement would be of interest. References Bloom, B. S., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, the classification of educational goals, handbook i: Cognitive domain. New York, NY: Longmans. Cambridge online dictionary. (2007). Retrieved August 10, 2007, from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=63066&dict=CA
  • 39. LD Creswell, J. W. (2005). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Davis, G. B., & Parker, C. A. (1997). Writing the doctoral dissertation: A systematic approach (2nd ed.). Hauppauge, NY: Barrons Educational Series. Hart, C. (1998). Doing a literature review: Releasing the social science research imagination. London, UK: Sage Publications. Hicks, C. R., & Turner, K. V. (1999). Fundamental concepts in the design of experiments. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964). Jacobs, R. L. (1997). HRD is not the research problem. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 8(1), 1-4. Kerlinger, F. N., & Lee, H. B. (2000). Foundations of behavioral research (4th ed.). Holt, NY: Harcourt College Publishers. Kipling, R. (1988). The elephant's child. Hong Kong: Voyager Books. (Original work published in 1902) Leedy, P. D., & Ormrod, J. E. (2005). Practical research: Planning and design (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Levy, Y., & Ellis, T. J. (2006). A systems approach to conduct an effective literature review in support of
  • 40. information systems research. Informing Science Journal, 9, 181-212. Retrieved from http://inform.nu/Articles/Vol9/V9p181-212Levy99.pdf Malinski, V. M. (2004). Nursing theory-based research: Parse’s theory. Nursing Science Quarterly, 17(3), 201-207. Merrian-webster online dictionary. (2007). Retrieved August 10, 2007, from http://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/problem Nunamaker, J. F., Chen, M., & Purdin, T. D. M. (1991). Systems development in information systems re- search. Journal of Management Information Systems, 7(3), 89- 106. O'Connor, B. N. (2000). Letter from the editor: The research problem. Information Technology, Learning, and Performance Journal, 18(2), i-ii. Sekaran, U. (2003). Research methods for business (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Sharp, D. (2002). Kipling’s guide to writing a scientific paper. Croatian Medical Journal, 43(3), 262-267. Sternberg, R. J. (in press). The importance of problem-driven research: Bringing Wachtel's argument into the present. Applied and Preventive Psychology. Ellis & Levy 33
  • 41. Tracy, S. J. (2007). Taking the plunge: A contextual approach to problem-based research. Communication Monographs, 74(1), 106-111. Verran, J. A. (1997). The value of theory-driven (rather than problem-driven) research. Seminars for Nurse Managers, 5(4), 169-172. Biographies Dr. Timothy Ellis obtained a B.S. degree in History from Bradley University, an M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Southern Illi- nois University, a C.A.G.S. in Rehabilitation Administration from Northeastern University, and a Ph.D. in Computing Technology in Education from Nova Southeastern University. He joined NSU as As- sistant Professor in 1999 and currently teaches computer technology courses at both the Masters and Ph.D. level in the School of Computer and Information Sciences. Prior to joining NSU, he was on the faculty at Fisher College in the Computer Technology department and, prior to that, was a Systems Engineer for Tandy Business Products. His re- search interests include: multimedia, distance education, and adult learning. He has published in several technical and educational jour- nals including Catalyst, Journal of Instructional Delivery
  • 42. Systems, and Journal of Instructional Multimedia and Hypermedia. His email address is [email protected] His main website is located at http://www.scis.nova.edu/~ellist/ Dr. Yair Levy is an associate professor at the Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences at Nova Southeastern University. During the mid to late 1990s, he assisted NASA to develop e- learning systems. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology). He received his MBA with MIS concentration and Ph.D. in Management Information Systems from Florida International University. His current research interests include cognitive value of IS, of online learning systems, ef- fectiveness of IS, and cognitive aspects of IS. Dr. Levy is the author of the book “Assessing the Value of e-Learning systems”. His research publications appear in the IS journals, conference proceedings, invited book chapters, and encyclopedias. Additionally, he chaired and co- chaired multiple sessions/tracks in recognized conferences. Currently, Dr. Levy is serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Doctoral Studies (IJDS). Additionally, he is serv- ing as an associate editor for the International Journal of Web-
  • 43. based Learning and Teaching Technologies (IJWLTT). Moreover, he is serving as a member of editorial review or advisory board of several refereed journals. Additionally, Dr. Levy has been serving as a referee research reviewer for numerous national and international scientific journals, conference proceedings, as well as MIS and Information Security textbooks. He is also a frequent speaker at national and international meetings on MIS and online learning topics. To find out more about Dr. Levy, please visit his site: http://scis.nova.edu/~levyy/ << /ASCII85EncodePages false /AllowTransparency false /AutoPositionEPSFiles true /AutoRotatePages /None /Binding /Left /CalGrayProfile (Dot Gain 20%) /CalRGBProfile (sRGB IEC61966-2.1) /CalCMYKProfile (U.S. Web Coated 050SWOP051 v2) /sRGBProfile (sRGB IEC61966-2.1) /CannotEmbedFontPolicy /Error /CompatibilityLevel 1.4 /CompressObjects /Tags /CompressPages true /ConvertImagesToIndexed true /PassThroughJPEGImages true /CreateJobTicket false /DefaultRenderingIntent /Default /DetectBlends true /DetectCurves 0.0000 /ColorConversionStrategy /CMYK
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  • 55. ] >> setdistillerparams << /HWResolution [305 305] /PageSize [432.000 648.000] >> setpagedevice 12/5/21, 12:37 AM Rubric Assessment - 3FA2021 Craft Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-01D) - Indiana Wesleyan University https://brightspace.indwes.edu/d2l/lms/competencies/rubric/rubr ics_assessment_results.d2l?ou=154830&evalObjectId=642732& evalObjectType=5&userId=50594&… 1/3 Discussion Rubric (20 points) Course: 3FA2021 Craft Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700- 01D) Criteria Excellent Competent Needs Improvement Inadequate/Faili ng Criterion Score Quality of Content
  • 56. / 1010 points Thoroughly addresses the prompt(s). Clearly demonstrates understanding of relevant course concepts using course materials and additional resources (with citations and references). Provides clear evidence of critical thinking.
  • 57. 9 points Adequately addresses the prompt(s). Demonstrates a basic understanding of relevant course concepts using course materials and additional resources (with citations and references). Provides some evidence of critical thinking.
  • 58. 7 points Partially address the prompt(s) or addresses only some of the prompts. Demonstrates a limited understanding of relevant course concepts using course materials and additional resources (with citations and references). Provides limited
  • 59. evidence of critical thinking. 6 points Minimally addresses or does not address the prompt(s). Does not adequately demonstrate an understanding of relevant course concepts or provide evidence of critical thinking. 12/5/21, 12:37 AM Rubric Assessment - 3FA2021 Craft
  • 60. Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-01D) - Indiana Wesleyan University https://brightspace.indwes.edu/d2l/lms/competencies/rubric/rubr ics_assessment_results.d2l?ou=154830&evalObjectId=642732& evalObjectType=5&userId=50594&… 2/3 Criteria Excellent Competent Needs Improvement Inadequate/Faili ng Criterion Score Response to Classmates / 55 points You demonstrated clear, insightful critical analysis of your classmates' postings when
  • 61. using one or more dialogue techniques: Extension, Relevancy. Exploratory, Challenge, Relational, Diagnostic, Action, Cause & Effect, Hypothetical, Priority, Summary 4 points You demonstrated clear,
  • 62. competent critica l analysis of your classmates' postings when using one or more dialogue techniques: Extension, Relevancy. Exploratory, Challenge, Relational, Diagnostic, Action, Cause & Effect, Hypothetical, Priority, Summary
  • 63. 3 points You demonstrated li mited critical analysis of your classmates' postings when using one or more dialogue techniques: Extension, Relevancy. Exploratory, Challenge, Relational, Diagnostic, Action, Cause & Effect,
  • 64. Hypothetical, Priority, Summary 2 points You demonstrated no critical analysis of your classmates' postings when using one or more dialogue techniques: Extension, Relevancy. Exploratory, Challenge, Relational,
  • 65. Diagnostic, Action, Cause & Effect, Hypothetical, Priority, Summary 12/5/21, 12:37 AM Rubric Assessment - 3FA2021 Craft Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-01D) - Indiana Wesleyan University https://brightspace.indwes.edu/d2l/lms/competencies/rubric/rubr ics_assessment_results.d2l?ou=154830&evalObjectId=642732& evalObjectType=5&userId=50594&… 3/3 Total / 20 Overall Score Criteria Excellent Competent Needs Improvement Inadequate/Faili ng Criterion Score Written
  • 66. Communicatio n & APA / 55 points Excellent communication when applying English Grammar Standards and the 7 C's of writing: clear, concise, complete, correct, correlated to the research, creative, and with critical thinking
  • 67. evidenced. Excellent use of APA formatting standards, as applicable. 4 points Proficient communication when applying English Grammar Standards and the 7 C's of writing: clear, concise, complete, correct, correlated to the research,
  • 68. creative, and with critical thinking evidenced. Proficient use of APA formatting standards, as applicable. 3 points Emergent communication when applying English Grammar Standards and the 7 C's of writing: clear, concise, complete,
  • 69. correct, correlated to the research, creative, and with critical thinking evidenced. Emergent use of APA formatting standards, as applicable. 2 points Inadequate communication when applying English Grammar Standards and the 7 C's of
  • 70. writing: clear, concise, complete, correct, correlated to the research, creative, and with critical thinking evidenced. Inadequate use of APA formatting standards, as applicable. Excellent 18 points minimum Competent 16 points minimum
  • 71. Needs Improvement 14 points minimum Inadequate/Failing 0 points minimum