The problem needs to be very focused because everything else from the applied doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice logically flows from the problem. If the problem is too big or too vague, it will be difficult to scope out a purpose that is manageable, given the time to execute and finish the project. The problem should be the result of a practical need or an opportunity to further an applicational study or project.
Given the above, the problem statement should do four things:
Specify and describe the problem (with appropriate citations)
Provide evidence of the problem’s existence
Explain the consequences of NOT solving the problem
Identify what is not known about the problem that should be known.
Consequences are negative implications experienced by a group of people, organization, profession, or industry as a result of the problem. The negative effects should be of a certain magnitude to warrant research. For example, if fewer than 1% of the stakeholders experience a negative consequence of a problem and that consequence only constitutes a minor inconvenience, research is probably not warranted. Negative consequences that can be measured weigh stronger than those that cannot be put on some kind of scale.
In the example above, a significant negative consequence is that women face much larger barriers than men when attempting to get promoted to executive jobs; or are 94% less likely than men to get to that level in Corporate America.
While a problem may be referred to as a gap in traditional research, in a doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice, the problem could be a statement of the situational condition that requires a scholar-practitioner approach. For the applied degree, this may be the part of the program or procedure that is not working.
NOTE: The applied doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice includes checklists for all sections of the document, including problem statement, purpose statement, and research questions. You should make sure you use these checklists and follow margin instructions. The present document is intended to provide additional help and examples, and also explain the importance of alignment. Alignment enables you to ensure consistency in your language and presentation of information, as well as provide a logical flow of your narrative.
Resource: Ellis, T., & Levy, Y. (2008). Framework of problem-based research: A guide for novice researchers on the development of a research-worthy problem. Informing Science, 11, 17-33. http://proxy1.ncu.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= a9h&AN=36030721&site=eds-live
Do not exceed 250-300 words.
It is helpful to begin the problem statement with a sentence: “The problem to be addressed through this project is…”
The problem should be evidenced-based and focus on practice within your perspective field or domain. Then, fill out the rest of the paragraph with an elaboration of that specific problem, making sure to “document” it, as your doctoral committee will look for evidence that it is indeed a problem (emphasis also on the timeliness of the problem, supported by citations within the last 5 years). Identify the negative consequences that are occurring as a result of the problem.
Next, write a paragraph explaining the consequences of NOT solving the problem. Who will be affected? How will they be affected? How important is it to fix the problem? Again, your doctoral committee will want to see research-based citations and statistics that indicate the negative implications are significant.
In the final paragraph, you will explain what is not known that should be known. What isn’t known about the problem? Presumably, if your problem and purpose are aligned, your research will try to close or minimize this gap by investigating the problem. Have other practitioners investigated the issue? What has their research left unanswered?
Do not exceed 250-300 words.
The Statement of the Problem section is a very clear, concise identification of the problem. It must stay within the template guidelines of 250-300 words but more importantly, must contain four elements as outlined below.
One clear, concise statement that tells the reader what is not working in the profession or industry. Be specific and support it with current studies.
Tell who is affected by the problem identified in #1.
Briefly tell what will happen if the problem isn’t addressed.
Find at least 3 current studies and write a sentence or two for each study that
Do not exceed 250-300 words.
Finally, you can follow this simple 3-part outline when writing the statement of the problem section.
Your problem statement is a short (250-300 words), 3 paragraph section, in which you:
|Context||1. Explain context and state problem (“the problem is XYZ”), supported by statistics,and/or recent research findings, and/or the profession or industry.|
|Consequence||2. Explain the negative consequences of the problem to stakeholders, supported by statistics and/or recent research findings and/or the profession or industry.|
|Gap||3. Explain the gap in the research, or the part of the program or procedure that is not efficient|
That’s it. All other content belongs in the introduction, the purpose statement, or somewhere else.
|The problem to be addressed by this study is the decline of employee well-being for followers of novice mid-level managers and the corresponding rise in employee turnover faced by business leaders across the financial services industry (Oh et al., 2014). Low levels of employee well-being are toxic for morale and result in expensive turnover costs, dysfunctional work environments, anemic corporate cultures, and poor customer service (Compdata, 2018; Oh et al., 2014). According to Ufer (2017), the financial services industry suffers from one of the highest turnover rates among millennial-aged employees in all industries in the developed world, at 18.6% annually. Starkman (2015) reported that 50% of those surveyed in financial services were not satisfied with a single one of the four key workplace aspects: job, firm, pay or career path.|
|Low levels of employee well-being interrupt a financial services’ company’s ability to deliver outstanding customer service in a world increasingly dependent on that commodity (Wladawsky-Berger, 2018). Mid-level managers play an essential role in support of the success of many of top businesses today (Anicich & Hirsh, 2017).|
|The current body of literature does not adequately address the well-being issue in the financial services industry from the follower’s perspective (Uhl-Bien, Riggio, Lowe, & Carsten, 2014). Strategic direction flows top-down from senior executives and passes through mid-level leadership to individual contributors at more junior grades. The mid-level managers’ teams are tasked with the achievement of core tasks and the managers themselves are expected to maintain the workforce’s morale, motivation and welfare (Anicich & Hirsh, 2017). Unless industry leaders better understand the phenomenon of employee well-being from the follower perspective and its role in positioning employees to provide a premium client experience, they may be handicapped from preserving their most significant principal market differentiator: customer service (Wladawsky-Berger, 2018).|