Charles Kettering once said, “A problem clearly stated is a problem half-solved.”
An inventor, businessman, and the holder of 186 patents, Kettering certainly faced his share of problems. But through all of his work, he learned that if he clearly stated the problem, half of the work was already done.
As a social worker, you too will encounter many social problems. But, by clearly and concisely identifying the problem like Kettering, you, too, will be halfway to solving the problem. However, if you are unable to state the problem…this could present some challenges.
Upon successful completion of this discussion, you will be able to:
- Discuss in writing the implications of not having a clear/concise problem statement.
- Textbook: Practice-based Research in Social Work: A Guide for Reluctant Researchers
Effective problems statements describe the framework of the study and its general analytic approach. In other words, the problem statement clearly states whether the study is qualitative, descriptive, or experimental. Clearly identifying the design provides focus for the methodology that will be used, in addition to providing guidance for the remainder of the research process.
Effective problems statements answer questions. Qualitative research aims to answer questions related to peoples’ perceptions, attitudes, and experiences. A descriptive researcher aims to answer questions that identify and describe the relationship between two or more variables, while experimental research asks about the effects (or causes) of something on something else. If the researcher is unable to state questions clearly and succinctly, the statement sounds ambiguous and wordy.
Effective problems statements also try not to do too much. In other words, the researcher should avoid addressing multiple problems within one statement, or taking on broad, overly ambitious problems. Trying to do too much not only confuses the reader, but it also makes identifying the methods much too difficult for the researcher.
COMPLEX PROBLEM STATEMENT: The problem of this study is to identify social workers’, administrators’, and clients’ perceptions, attitudes, and experiences toward the new healthcare reform along with their past and current experiences with their doctors and other medical personnel.
Myriad problems are associated with this problem statement.
First, the statement fails to identify the type of design. Although the reader can infer from the statement that it is qualitative, it is best to simply state that explicitly.
Second, the statement has three different constituents. Although it may be useful to understand the perceptions of social workers, administrators, and clients, it is better to simplify the study and focus on one group.
Third, it has too many variables: healthcare reform, past experiences with doctors and other medical personnel, and current experiences with doctors and other medical personnel.
By not having a clear, concise problem statement, the study loses the focus.
BETTER PROBLEM STATEMENT: The problem of this qualitative study is to identify social workers’ perceptions of healthcare reform.
This problem statement provides clarity and focus for the study:
- The statement clearly/concisely identifies which design – qualitative
- The statement clearly/concisely identifies with whom – social workers
- The statement clearly/concisely identifies the perceptions of what – healthcare reform
- Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
- Read Chapter 2 in your textbook, Practice-based Research in Social Work: A Guide for Reluctant Researchers.
- Navigate to the threaded discussion and respond to the following discussion question:
- Discuss the implications of not having a clear/concise problem statement.
- Your initial post of at least 250 words is due by the end of the third day of the workshop.