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Awe, the problem statement! What is a problem statement?

When going you go for your doctorate degree, most programs require the writing of the dissertation or as my husband say, “the book.” In a way, the dissertation is a small book because it does have five chapters in most cases depending upon the school. The fact is the dissertation is research, original research, which is conducted by you. Whether you are doing a practical degree like me doing a PsyD or a DBA or a PhD, the dissertation is about doing original research.

The goal of the dissertation is to fill in some gap that exists within the existing knowledge base of whatever topic it is that interests you or that you are passionate about. Some professors say the topic should be of interest to you, while others say it should be about something you are passionate about. Regardless, it had better be a topic, you want to spend a massive amount of time researching and reading about.

Each dissertation begins with the problem statement, this is where you as the researcher shows there is a problem and a gap in the research. Most people think okay, a problem statement, how hard can that be? Well the problem statement is much more challenging than one can believe. There is a difference between showing the facts and showing a problem. The problem has to be defined, specific and concise enough for a research study.

Keep in mind, the dissertation is not about solving the world’s problems in one research project. The dissertation is about teaching you how to do a research project and become a researcher. Once a doctorate has been achieved, one can research whatever interests you, but the key is to get through the dissertation.

Suggestions for doing a problem statement, first review the literature of your topics of interest. The literature review is done in Chapter 2 of the dissertation, but if you ask me begin pulling the research as early as possible. Create a filing system that is organized and save, save, save!! Stock up on paper and ink cartridges! Personally, I still like a printed copy that I can write on and highlight information. I keep my articles in a spreadsheet with key information and numbered. The numbers correspond to the articles which are stored in binders, so they are easily accessible. The reason for me suggesting to do some of the literature review earlier is to look for the gaps and the limitations to the existing knowledge.

missing-puzzle-pieceCurrently as a doctoral student, I am working on my problem statement and what I wanted to do my dissertation topic on has changed three times and in the end, I wound up back at the beginning. The reason is because after reviewing articles, my original idea is where the problem existed. The key is to show there really is a problem and numbers help show the problem. Numbers are good, but they have to show a problem. There are some great PowerPoints and examples online along with Youtube videos as well.

The problem statement needs to be well defined and show there is a problem in whatever topic you want to research. Be patient and kind to yourself, knowing that you are not alone when it comes to doing battle when developing a problem statement. Developing a problem statement is a challenge for most people; I have yet to meet many that did not struggle with the problem statement. Good luck and go for your dreams! Getting a doctorate is a journey, the road is not easy, but in the end it will be worth it. You can achieve anything with hard work and do not give up!

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