Q: How do I identify a research problem and properly state it?

Detailed Question -

I have started writing my PhD thesis, but along the line it seems that my problem statement is not in order.

1 Answer to this question

I understand that you need help with either or both of the following:

  • Identifying the research problem
  • Stating the research problem, that is, writing the problem statement

In case of the former, you will be able to identify a research problem based on a thorough examination of the research area. A good starting point for this is doing an extensive literature search, which will uncover potential gaps and directions. Here’s a detailed article on how to do a comprehensive literature search: Tips for effective literature searching and keeping up with new publications


In case of the latter, again, a comprehensive examination of the research area and the literature in the area will help you arrive at the problem statement. The problem statement is a crystallization – a focused expression – of the research problem. A good problem statement will do the following:

  • Describe the problem(s) succinctly
  • Include a vision (solution)
  • Suggest a method to solve the problem(s)
  • Provide a hypothesis

Again, here is an excellent detailed article, with multiple examples and a downloadable template, on how to approach writing a problem statement: The basics of writing a statement of the problem for your research proposal [If you would like to go through the same content in a video format, you may also check out this link: 3 Easy steps to write an effective statement of problem]


Finally, if you wish to find out what other PhD folk are doing or have done – professionally and personally – check out our Researchers and Their Stories section, which has many engaging stories that you may connect with.


Good luck with the problem statement – and the rest of the thesis!