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How to write a problem statement for a thesis

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One of the principal tasks and challenges of your dissertation’s opening is formulating a problem statement. But how to write a problem statement for a thesis? What is part of it? And which are the essential key features? A clearly defined research question is crucial to help your reader understand the significance of your investigation.

This post provides a manual, teaching how to make your audience understand the fundamental question of every research: “Why does it matter?”, ensuring that yours contains all key components and follows on a logical red thread.

Getting to the core: How to write problem statement for a thesis

Before we get detailed into the question of how to write a problem statement for a dissertation, it is crucial to approach the story’s core and explain the meaning and significance of the problem statement briefly. Completing an essential function within your academic thesis, a well-written problem statement helps you illustrate your research’s contribution, leaving no doubt on its significance (even to showcase your thesis for future employment).

As your dissertation deals with a particular topic, your problem statement:

  1. Addresses the research question
  2. Presents in a condensed form, what the topic involves
  3. Illustrated precisely, what it deals with
  4. Clears the specific gaps/problems that the author draws attention to
  5. Specifies, the plans to solve the research question
  6. Presents the writer’s final thoughts and opinions on the matter

It may seem to be a lot of stuff, but in a nutshell, your problem statement doesn´t need to be longer than a few paragraphs.

When you learned about the best way how to make problem statement in thesis, you will get aware of its multiple functions: It can serve as a foundation for your research proposal, later it can enter your first part (introduction), and at the same time, it will be your anchor in case you are about to lose your focus!

It is precisely the section of your dissertation that clarifies the issue that will be solved by the author, addressing in a short form what it means and what it involves (you can take it as a more elaborated version of the title).

How to write a problem statement for a thesis: Examples of different types

At this point, I would like to make you aware, that solving the question of how to write a problem statement for a thesis also need to involve some words on types and examples.

As there are different types – mainly the theoretical and the practical approach, take the following questions as a guide to find out how to write a problem statement in thesis, which is of practical or theoretical nature.

To develop a practical one (real-world problem), ask about concrete details of the situation:

  • Where/when does the problem arise?
  • Who does the problem affect?
  • How was the problem tried to be solved?

If you prefer the theoretical scientific issue, remember that their relevance can be less noticeable (as the clear consequences are reduced compared to the practical one). To identify why the problem matters, ask:

  • How will resolve the problem advance understanding of the topic?
  • What benefits will it have for future research?
  • Does the problem have direct or indirect consequences for society?

Challenges and solutions of how to a write problem statement for a thesis

If you want to learn, how to write a problem statement for a thesis, it is essential to be aware of the related challenges! Independent of writing a thesis/dissertation of a paper/essay, a solid and effective problem statement has to be formulated concretely and concisely. Once you have identified a remaining gap of research and a relevant research question, your next challenge will be to figure out the problem solution for your research.

  1. Caution: Problem statements are often mistaken for the introduction!

Even if both are very similar in several issues, there are subtle features and differences to keep in mind.

  1. Note: The problem statement is a more technical and formal interpretation than the introduction.

So – how to write your thesis problem statement? To write a good one, your challenge will be to:

  • Contextualize the problem (what do we already know?)
  • Explain the issue precisely (what do we need to know?)
  • Highlight your research problems relevance (why do we need to know that)
  • Describe the objectives (what will you do to find out?)

Key features and components of your problem statement at one glance

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Before getting over to a detailed manual, that takes you by the hand and shows you how to write a problem statement for a thesis step by step, let me provide you with a list of key elements which can be understood as joined features between the different definitions of the term problem statement after Hernon and Schwartz (2007):

  •   Be clear, precise, and specific when explaining, what will be studied
  •   Leave no doubt on the overarching question and its key features
  •   Identify (briefly) the crucial key concepts and terms
  •   Draw your study’s boundaries, highlight its contribution and benefits
  •   Avoid unnecessary jargon or slang

Let’s get ahead and face the challenge!

How to write a problem statement for a thesis: A detailed manual to craft the task

After knowing the types and essential key features when discussing how to write a dissertation problem statement, let me finish with a resume with characteristics and additional considerations to perfect yours.

First, your problem statement should frame your research problem by presenting it in its specific context. This background information on what is already known is essential because it clarifies why it matters.

In addition, the problem statement contains some of your dissertation´s most vital components, such as:

  •   Your title: Introducing your title is necessary to cover in the problem statement
  •   Your hypothesis: The opinion you seek to prove through the thesis paper must be explicitly mentioned.

Naturally, the statement should include a brief explication of how you conducted the research work, presenting the applied scientific method (Note: A few lines on this matter are enough here).

Note: The development of all problem statements follows a similar process, even if every problem statement will look different depending on whether you’re dealing with a practical or theoretical one (so that you can apply the steps on advice on how to write statement of problem in thesis to every problem statement).

Last but not least, keep in mind, that brevity and conciseness are key. This section should never exceed a page and a half without risking prejudice on the quality of your dissertation.

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About the author:

Dr. Friederike Jurth
Dr. Friederike Jurth

Possibly you already heard of me through different media channels. My name is Dr. Friederike Jurth, and since 2010 I give lectures on Methodology, Empirical Research, Anthropology, and Transcultural (Music) Studies in collaboration with universities in the United States, Germany, Spain, and Brazil. In 2010 I started to carry out 7-year-long fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro and to present my research at conferences all around the world, such as in Japan, the United States, Australia, Brazil, Thailand, Switzerland, and many others. In addition, I worked as a lecturer and researcher with Germany’s famous UNESCO Chair.

After finalizing my doctoral dissertation with summa cum laude, it became my aim to unite, condense and share the steps, ways and details of my unique methodological and structural approach that I could develop and elaborate during my Ph.D. and that finally helped me to achieve this result. By concentrating and putting them together to an elaborated academic conception, MyThesis Academy was born. Motivated by the only aim and objective to help my students through all steps and stages of their thesis journey, it enables them to achieve their best possible result in shortest time, independent of their specific area of research.

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