How to write a problem statement

problem statement


Choosing a problem to look into is the first step to be taken in carrying out a thesis writing. There are several problems that exist in the society, workplace, family among others. Thus, a problem statement should clearly indicates why the study in question should interest anyone, why it should be given priority among the many problem confronting an organisation. In thesis writing, stating a good problem statement is very essential because it helps to define and guide he research all through. The problem statement should be very clear and easy to understand, it should also be geared towards directing the inquiry. One has to understand the problem properly in order to have a good statement of problem. The intention of the statement of problem should be to tackle the five Ws. The five Ws are; who, what, when, where, and why. The problem statement should be able to cover these five Ws so as to create a good problem statement, which will set the basis for everything to flow well in the research and makes the research less difficult.

What is Problem Statement?

A problem statement is a short and snappy explanation of a problem that needs to be solved. Problem statement spots out the gap that exists between the present condition and the desire to achieve already set goal, which helps to tackle a present problem that needs solution. The first thing to do while trying to solve a problem is to first; understand the problem that needs to be solved, because you can’t solve what you don’t understand, before proceeding to solve the problem. A statement of problem should be in such a way that it will be able to deal with the five Ws (who, what, when, where, and why), because when a statement of problem is straight forwarded and precise it will help people to understand the issue at hand and work towards solving it. Problem statement is used in, companies, groups, institutes, academics etc, to solve a given problem. A good statement of problem can be one sentence or more depending on the number of problems you wish to address accompanied by some paragraphs to explain the problem more. The paragraph may possibly cover the current convincing point of view that makes the problem necessary to be studied,  it could also contain the opinion of others like professors and also explain how the problem relates to the study.

Statement of problem could be quantitative or qualitative. A problem statement is quantitative when it deals with the populace and variables and a qualitative statement of problem is broader than a quantitative problem statement.

Types Statement of Problem

Your type of study determines the type of statement of problem you will be stating. There are two general types of statements of problem; they are quantitative statement of problem and Quantitative statement of problem

Qualitative statement of problem

Quantitative statement of problem is the type of statement of problem that identifies the population and variables that are to be considered. Quantitative problem statement also questions the relationships that exist between the variables to know whether there is a positive or a negative relationship between the variables, and also to know if there is auto-correlation or not.

 Qualitative statement of problem

Qualitative statement of problem; this type of statement of problem is broader than quantitative statement of problem. While quantitative statement of problem narrows down its focus on a certain problem, the qualitative statement of problem states the general reason of the research. The focus of qualitative statement of problem may change as the research goes on.

Elements of The Statement Problem

 Statements of problem normally have three elements, they are; the problem itself, the solving method and the reason, rational, and range of the research.

The problem itself should be clearly acknowledged with an adequate background detail to ascertain why the problem is necessary for study

The next element of statement of problem is the methodology adopted in solving the problem that is already stated.

Another element of statement of problem is the reason, rational, and range of the research that is being carried out, these elements should be snappy to avoid confusion on the side of the reader. You might need to read our article on Literature review

The Sources of Problem Statement

Statement of problem can come from different areas or sources, these sources include;

  • Personal observation of reality or personal experience;
  • Review of literature
  • Inference from theory
  • Interview

Personal observation of reality or personal experience

Statement of problem could be formulated from your personal observation about reality; what peoples opinion are about the problem and what your own opinion is, how the reality is perceived, your point of view about a particular issue. Your statement of problem can come from an experience that has occurred to you before, something unclear that you need to investigate. Your personal experience and observation about a thing will help shape out your statement of problem.

Review of literature

While carrying out a study on a particular problem, it could be a study that has been research on before. Reviewing of literature can be to fill the gap in literature, to know the methodology adopted could be used for other studies and to know if a comparable research can be done in other areas. When reviewing the previous work on the study, read the conclusion very well, if you can discover any gap that needs to be covered. Review of literature help in constructing a statement of problem.

Inference from theory

It communicates the inference made from societal generalization about life and in the world that the researcher is familiar with.  From this inference the human character is posited in an experimental frame for suggestion during research. From a theory a researcher can create a good statement of problem conditioning the predicted result in a certain experimental circumstance.


Interviewing and directly or indirectly discussing with the experts, professionals or practitioners in the area which the research is been conducted provides some necessary information which will help in creating a good statement of problem. Interviewing or discussing with experts offers researchers the opportunity to recognize the real world problem that may not be observed in the academic group.

Purposes or Goals Of Problem Statement

  • To familiarize the reader with the significance of the study.
  • To propose a succinct report about the rationale of your work.
  • To describe the area that will be investigated.
  • To give the outline for presenting the findings.

Features of A Good Problem Statement

  • It should be clear and precise.
  • It should be able to identify the problem, examine the problem, its key fact and perimeter to be studied.
  • It deals with the gap in information.
  • The statement of problem should be short and snappy
  • It should be adequately important to add to the available body of the work.
  • It should lead to further research.
  • The problem statement should be for the audience.
  • The problem should submit itself for inquiry during the data collection.
  • It should be importance to the researcher and go well with his/her skills, time, and resources
  • The advance towards resolving the problem should be fair.
  • The writing style should be dignified.
  • Your terminologies should be well explained.
  • The range of the problem statement should be kept under control.
  • The problem statement should be compelling and researchable.
  • It should be able to address the five Ws(who, when, why, where, and what)

Format For Writing A Problem Statement


The format for writing a problem statement is four, they include; the ideal, the reality, the consequences and the proposal. When writing a statement of problem the first section to be target is the ideal followed by the reality then the consequences and finally the proposal.

  • The Ideal; this section of the statement of problem explains the chosen method to be used in the problem statement; it describes “what it is supposed to be”. This section recognizes the target of all the people that will be affected by the research. It should be able to exemplify what the anticipated situation will look like if the resolution to the problem is executed. It explains how things are supposed to be.
  • The Reality; this section of the statement of problem explains the present method of what is being studied. It expresses the point of pain faced by those involved in the area that is being studied. It should also include the insights and expertise of the project team and subject matter experts provided during problem analysis. It explains the circumstance or circumstances that hinder the ideal target and aim and how the present condition falls short of the ideal goal.
  • The Consequences; this section of statement of problem explains the way you should plan to advance the present circumstance. This could be time, expenditure, capital, viable benefit, efficiency, cost etc. It explains the effect the circumstance will have on those involved if not advanced, and the extent of these effects will help to decide the main concern of the research.
  • The Proposal; once the ideal, reality and consequences are well understood and completed, the next line of action is to propose the possible solution, this section expresses the possible way or ways out of the problem. Proposing the solution is not just enough, it is important to also explain what the benefits of these solutions are if successfully carried out.

The Dos And Don’ts Of Problem Statement

  • The problem statement should be clear and not ambiguous
  • The problem statement should be compelling and not unconvincing
  • It should be concise and not long winded.
  • Writing of problem statement should be for the audience and not for you.
  • The solution of the problem stated should be fair and not biased.
  • Use a distinguished terminologies and not jargons.

Need assistance with your work, contact now


Bryman, Alan (2007). “The Research Question in Social Research: What is its Role?” International Journal of Social Research Methodology (10) 5-20.

Alvesson, Mats and Jörgen Sandberg (2011).Generating Research Questions Through Problematization. Academy of Management Review (36) 247-271.

Princeton University; White, Patrick. Developing

Research Questions: A Guide for Social Scientists. New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2009

Prof. Henry M. Bwisa, Editage Insights, 2017         

Kush, Max (2015). “The Statement Problem”. Quality Progress. 48(6).

Annamalai, Nagappan; Kamaruddin, Shahrul; Azid, Ishak Abdul; Yeoh, TS(2013). Importance of Problem Statement in Solving Industry Problems. Applied Mechanics and Materials. Zurich. 421 – via ProQuest.

Lindstrom, Chris (2011). “How To Write A Problem Statement”..

Shaffer, Deb (2017). “How to Write a Problem Statement”. ProProject Manager.

 Shaffer, David (2015). Cooking Up Business Analysis Success”. BA Times.

Prof. Henry M. Bwisa, Editage Insights, 2018.

3 thoughts on “How to write a problem statement”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *