Meaning and scope of a research problem

A research problem, in general, refers to some difficulty which a researcher experiences in the context of either a theoretical or practical situation and wants to obtain a solution for the same.

We can, thus, state the components of a research problem as under:

  1. There must be an individual or a group which has some difficulty or the problem.
  2. There must be some objective(s) to be attained at. If one wants nothing, one cannot have a problem.
  3. There must be alternative means (or the courses of action) for obtaining the objective(s) one wishes to attain. This means that there must be at least two means available to a researcher for if he has no choice of means, he cannot have a problem.
  4. There must remain some doubt in the mind of a researcher with regard to the selection of alternatives. This means that research must answer the question concerning the relative efficiency of the possible alternatives.
  5. There must be some environment(s) to which the difficulty pertains.

A research problem is one which requires a researcher to find out the best solution for the given problem, i.e., to find out by which course of action the objective can be attained optimally in the context of a given environment. Selecting the problem, process and research methodology

The following points may be observed by a researcher in selecting a research problem or a subject for research:

  1. Subject which is overdone should not be normally chosen, for it will be a difficult task to throw any new light in such a case.
  2. Controversial subject should not become the choice of an average researcher.
  3. Too narrow or too vague problems should be avoided.
  4. The subject selected for research should be familiar and feasible so that the related research material or sources of research are within one‘s reach. Even then it is quite difficult to supply definitive ideas concerning how a researcher should obtain ideas for
    his research. For this purpose, a researcher should contact an expert or a professor in the University who is already engaged in research. He may as well read articles published in current literature available on the subject and may think how the techniques and ideas discussed therein might be applied to the solution of other problems. He may discuss with others what he has in mind concerning a problem. In this way he should make all possible efforts in selecting a problem.
  5. The importance of the subject, the qualifications and the training of a researcher, the costs involved, the time factor are few other criteria that must also be considered in selecting a problem. In other words, before the final selection of a problem is done, a researcher must ask himself the following questions:
    Whether he is well equipped in terms of his background to carry out the research? Whether the study falls within the budget he can afford? Whether the necessary cooperation can be obtained from those who must participate in research as subjects?
    If the answers to all these questions are in the affirmative, one may become sure so far as the practicability of the study is concerned.
  6. The selection of a problem must be preceded by a preliminary study. This may not be necessary when the problem requires the conduct of a research closely similar to one that has already been done. But when the field of inquiry is relatively new and does not have available a set of well-developed techniques, a brief feasibility study must always be undertaken.
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