The writing prosess usually starts with a problem statement, and in major papers you will normally have to compose it on your own. The problem statement takes as its starting point something you are interested in investigating and reporting to others in a text (an article, a report, a dissertation).
A good problem statement
- Is academically relevant and interesting to you and other people;
- Is short and precise (preferably less than 10 lines);
- Is formulated as a question that will be answered in the text; clearly shows what is the main research question and secondary research questions.
Start with a preliminary problem statement
- Which aspects do you wish to investigate further?
- Ask a main question that is central to your topic.
- It is common to have a number of secondary research questions that are more concrete than the main question.
- Build the questions on an issue you are interested in finding out more about.
- Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no.
Circumscribing the problem statement
It is quite common, even for more experienced academic writers, to start with a scope that may be too wide and a problem statement that may turn out to be unsolvable. Thus, it is important to limit the problem statement so that the research will be manageable within the time and resources you have at your disposal.
Changing the problem statement
Your first problem statement is not necessarily the final one. It will have to be changed and become clearer as you are working on the project. Hence you should return to it regularly and make alterations as you gain knowledge and understanding of the topic you are researching.
How to apply the problem statement
- The text must be in accordance with the problem statement.
- The sources you are using should be relevant to the problem statement.
- Your conclusion should answer the questions of the problem statement.
The problem statement is the recurrent theme of the project. Information that does not contribute to answering the questions you ask in the problem statement is not relevant to the project or text.
Examples of problem statements
What factors explain the popularity of Pirate Bay? How widespread is this website and how may it change people's music habits? Further, this paper attempts to account for ethical dilemmas connected to downloading and how users view this dilemma.
How do people with different cultural backgrounds perceive the worldviews of Samovar and Porter's categories? To what degree do people with different worldviews have different communication patterns?
What do we understand by the concept of municipal independence? To what degree can today's Norwegian local governments be perceived as independent of the state?
Norwegian pupils' and students' written English is commonly perceived as relatively informal. Is this the case? If so, is it due to the fact that their input is mainly oral, or does it show a limited understanding of genres?