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EDU 540. Problem definition. Lesson objectives. Define research problem Write problem statement Describe quantitative and qualitative research. Literature review. Observation/ Background survey Broad area of research. Theoretical framework. Hypothesis generation.

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edu 540

EDU 540

Problem definition

lesson objectives
Lesson objectives
  • Define research problem
  • Write problem statement
  • Describe quantitative and qualitative research
where we are now
Literature review

Observation/ Background survey

Broad area of research

Theoretical framework

Hypothesis generation

Variables clearly identified

Problem definition

Research design

Problem statement

Research questions



Data collection



Hypothesis substantiated?

RQ answered?

Where we are now…
the broad problem area
The broad problem area
  • The entire situation where one sees a possible need for research or problem solving
  • Examples
    • Malay students studying Physics
    • Soft skills of Faculty of Education students
    • Instructors lecturers using instructional technology
narrowing your research
Narrowing your research
  • Narrow it down to specific issues
    • Malay students have problems studying certain Physics topics
      • More specific Issue : Problem solving skills, Difficulty in grasping concepts,
    • P&HE students not displaying soft skills needed
      • More specific issue: Poor communication skills
    • Women lecturers are having difficulties using instructional technology
      • Specific issue: technophobia, technology training
putting things in perspective






Background survey

Theoretical framework

Putting things in perspective
background survey
Background survey
  • Justifying your choice of the area in research
    • What is there a need to do this research
  • Need backing up
    • Government policies
    • Institutional reports/ strategic plans
    • Research reports
    • Press report/ speeches
problem definition
Problem definition
  • Defining a problem
    • Not necessarily something that is seriously wrong
    • Can be an issues of interest
      • Find answers to improve existing situation
    • A situation where a gap exist between actual and desired state
problem definition1
Problem definition
  • Could be
    • An issue/ matter you want to understand
    • Existing educational problems that you are seeking to solve
    • Situations that you want to improve
    • Areas where some conceptual clarity is needed
    • Situations in which the researcher is trying to answer a research question empirically
the research problem is
The research problem is..
  • a set of conditions needing discussion, a solution, and information.
  • implies the possibility of empirical investigation, that is, of data collection and analysis
the research problem is not
The research problem is not..
  • how to do something;
  • a vague or too broad a proposition;
  • a value question.
try this
Try this..
  • The purpose of the study is to determine:
    • whether the suspension policy should be changed.
    • the truth of the proposition that Malaysian education has encouraged exam oriented learners who aim at getting a string of As
    • how students can overcome test anxiety.
    • if there is a difference in the mean gain scores in reading achievement between students taught word attack skills and those taught comprehensive skills.
try one
Try one ..
  • Soft skills of Faculty of Education students
    • What is the research problem?
    • What is the background?
      • Government policies
      • Institutional reports/ strategic plans
      • Research reports
      • Press report/ speeches
    • What to read in order to justify?
    • What to research?
problem definition2
Problem definition
  • Essential to define your research problem very carefully,
    • Ask why you’ve chosen it , why not another problem
  • Helps you to choose a suitable method of researching it
  • Prevent you from reading rather indiscriminately
    • you don’t know quite what you’re looking for
    • make more notes than you need.
problem definition3
Problem definition
  • Be as deductive as you can
  • Relate your research problem to a theory
    • A theory is an explanation of events or phenomena or behaviour
    • Phenomena in education - theories from cognitive psychology, sociology, psycholinguistics, management, computer science.
  • Example: Finding out whether providing children with multimedia presentations explaining science concepts will enhance understanding
    • Theory?
let s look at your research problem
Let’s look at your research problem
  • The area of your research
  • State whether
    • Existing educational problems that you are seeking to solve
    • Situations that you want to improve
    • Areas where some conceptual clarity is needed
    • Situations in which the researcher is trying to answer a research question empirically
  • Why do you choose this ‘problem?
drawing a problem tree
Drawing a problem tree
  • Identify core problems
  • Identify effects
  • Identify causes
  • Identify all possible causes and effects
Withdrawal, Deferment of studies, Dropout

Poor grades


Failure to achieve meaningful experience




Learning outcomes not achieved


Distance Learners not able to learn effectively



Epistemological problems (course structure, difficulty level and so forth)

Institutional / Administrative Problems

Learners’ personal problems and characteristics

Learner problems

Lack of learning skills/ Strategies

Ambiguous instructions and

other pedagogical issues

Learners cannot manage their learning environment

Learners cannot manage their learning activities

Role conflicts

Family problems

Financial problems

Learning style / approach does not fit

Low academic self-concept

Logistic/Infrastructure problems

Anxiety, fear of technology & technology failure

Poorly designed learning materials

Inability to sustain motivation

Unsure of new learning mode

Lack readiness

Lack self-direction


Lack of structure and direction

Inability to maintain strong attention to goals sought

Lack of self-regulation

Lack of discipline

Lack technical ability

Minimal F2Fsessions

Travel problems

Communication problems


Poor time management

Lack of support and feedback

let s try one
No harmony on campus


No cooperation between groups

Learners cannot tolerate each other

Learners stay in their own groups



There exists differences between students from different clusters




Learner characteristics

Social and economic background

Let’s try one
Poor Grades





Non-option teachers to teach visual arts education

in schools


Students would

blindness art

Students could not

accept the knowledge

Syllabus has not

been reached

Learning outcomes

not achieved

Lack of specialist


No professional

training and expertise


Teacher Skills

Teachers can not

convey knowledge



*No knowledge in the Art*Training in the institute*Internal training (School)*Internal courses (PPD /


problem statement
Problem statement
  • Problem statement
    • A clear, precise and succinct statement of the question/issue that is to be investigated
  • How ?
    • no one "right" way to state one
      • American vs. British
problem statement1
Problem statement
  • Introduces the reader to the importance of the problem. The reader is oriented to the significance of the study and the research questions or hypotheses to follow.
    • You could relate your problem to the findings of prior research ( a few)
  • Places the problem in a context ( remember Botswana elearning readiness?)
  • Provides the framework for reporting the results. Indicate what is probably necessary to conduct the study and explain how the findings will present this information.
flow of ideas in a problem statement
Flow of Ideas in a Problem Statement



the deficiencies

For whom?




in the




Evidence for






  • A Concern
  • A Problem
  • Something that needs a solution
  • Evidence from the literature
  • Evidence from practical
  • experiences
  • In this body of evidence, what is missing?
  • What do we need to know more about?
  • How will addressing
  • what we need to
  • know help: researchers
  • educators
  • policy-makers
  • individuals like
  • those in the study
documenting reporting
Documenting/ Reporting
  • Visualize the statement of the problem as the first five paragraphs
    • background
    • research problem
    • justification
    • deficiencies
    • relate discussion to audience
take a break


Next: Qualitative and Quantitative Research

let s look at one example
Let’s look at one example
  • Research problem
    • Since the computer-related technologies became widely available, companies started to employ the new technologies seeking efficiency and effectiveness benefits. With such huge spending on IT, it is interesting to find out if there is any scientific evidence for association between IT capability and a company’s competitive advantage.
  • The question posed : Does a company benefit from employing IT? If so, how?
research 1
Research 1
  • TOPIC: A resource-based perspective on IT capability and firm performance: An empirical investigation
  • In this research, IT in a company is studied from the point of resource-based view of company
  • The research method employed in this paper is statistical testing of hypotheses.
  • The author comes up with two main hypotheses:
    • Superior IT capability will be associated with significantly higher profit ratios.
    • Superior IT capability will be associated with significantly lower cost ratios
  • Sample: 56 companies
research 2
Research 2
  • Implementing supply chain management: Lessons learned at Medi-Alpha
  • This research deals with implementation of the IT technology at a major manufacturer of medical equipment and supplies.
  • The focus of the research is on the question, whether launching of new technology did improve company’s performance.
  • The object of this single in-depth case study was the company’s strategy.
research 3
Research 3
  • Approaches to the development of multi-dimensional database: Lessons from four case studies
  • The research explores the manner in which an organization’s data can be effectively utilized to assist an organization to achieve its business objectives. It presents Multi-Dimensional Data Bases (MDDB) as a new tool of making a more efficient use of company’s data
  • The research method employed was a combination of classic case study and implementation of a prototype.
  • Four case studies were carried out.The analysis of the four case studies intended to explore suitability of different approaches to system development.
statistics anyone
Statistics anyone?
  • Statistical analysis is helpful when there is a need to determine certain facts, or correlations between facts.
    • Helpful when doing research on a broader scale
    • Generally, it provides an answer to ‘what?’ question
    • ‘How’ question is better answered by qualitative researching
qualitative problem statement
Qualitative Problem statement
  • Qualitative research problem statement
    • The problem should be stated clearly and unambiguously
    • The problem should express what is it that you want to explore , to understand
      • What is the meaning of A?
      • How does A exist ?
      • Why A happens?
quantitative problem statement
Quantitative Problem statement
  • Quantitative research problem statement
    • The problem should be stated clearly and unambiguously
    • The problem should express a relation between two or more variables
      • Is A related to B?
      • How are A and B related?
      • How is A related to B under condition C?
      • Is there a difference between A and B in terms of C?
    • Implies possibilities of empirical testing
  • Write your problem statement
    • Conduct background reading
    • Decide on qualitative or quantitative approach


Writing research questions