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The formulation of your research problem (also known as research question) is the first important step in your research project because it is where you define what you want to find out.
Your research problem must be specific and clear to conduct distinct research.
Since all the other steps of research methodology are affected by the research question, you must assess your research problem thoroughly, carefully, and critically.
To formulate a good research problem, you must evaluate your financial resources and available time as well as your supervisor’s expertise and knowledge in the field of study.
The first step in formulating your research problem is to review the literature.
Literature review means searching and reviewing the existing published scientific work to understand the available knowledge in your study field.
Reviewing the literature is an essential starting step in your research process.
It helps you in formulating your research problem and throughout your research journey.
Functions of the literature review include:
1. Gives you a theoretical background.
2. Links between your research aim and the existing knowledge.
The benefits of the literature review include:
1. Clarifies your research problem
2. Improves your research methodology
3. Extends your knowledge
4. Links your results with the existing knowledge.
To review the literature, you can use the following steps:
1. Search the existing studies within your field
2. Select the relevant studies and review them
3. Develop your theoretical framework
4. Develop your conceptual framework.
Theoretical Framework means the theories and issues that you will use to build your study.
The Conceptual Framework means your opinions about the scope and structure of your research problem.
After you have reviewed the literature, you can list and sort the references to be included in your research report.
To search the existing studies, you can use:
1. Scientific Journals
2. Books, and
3. The Internet.
From reviewing the literature, you can find:
1. Various relevant theories in your study field.
2. The gaps in your study field.
3. Recent advances in your study field.
4. Current trends in your study field.
5. Confirmatory and contradictory results to those you expect from your study.
• Your research problem is the question that you aim to answer or the assumption that you want to investigate.
• To formulate your research problem, you need sufficient knowledge about your study area and research method.
You must formulate your research problem well because:
1. If you want to solve a problem, first you must understand it well.
2. Your research problem is the foundation of your study. So, if the foundation is formulated well, the results of your study will be clear and valid.
3. To get a clear economic plan for your research, you must have a clear research problem.
The type of research problem that you formulate will determine:
1. The type of study design you will use.
2. The type of sampling strategy that you will use.
3. The type of instrument that you will use or develop.
4. The type of analysis that you will use.
There are several sources for a research problem. They include:
1. Phenomena
2. People
3. Problems, and
4. Programs.
When you select your research problem, consider:
1. Your interest: can you spend sufficient time and energy on your research while maintaining motivation?
2. Your capacity: select a topic that fits within your knowledge, time and resources, in a manageable way.
3. Relevance: select a topic relevant to your profession.
4. Measurement of concepts: you should be clear about how to measure your specific study concepts.
5. Your level of expertise
6. Availability of data
7. Research Ethics.
Steps to go through to formulate your research problem:
1. Identify your area of interest; identify an interesting topic in your profession.
2. Divide your area of interest into subareas.
3. Select the most interesting subarea (subtopic) for you.
4. Think about your research problem: ask yourself what you want to find in your selected topic.
5. Formulate your objectives: decide what you aim to achieve.
6. Assess the feasibility of your objective according to your time, resources, and technical expertise.
Your research objectives are the goals you want to achieve by conducting your study.
Research Objectives are divided into:
1. General (main) objectives
2. Specific objectives (sub-objectives)
• Your general objectives are your overall aim that you want to achieve from your study.
• They involve the main associations and relationships that you want to find.
• Specific Objectives are the specific elements of the study topic that you want to investigate.
Concepts
• Concepts are mental images, perceptions, or subjective impressions that we all have in our minds.
• Concepts have different meanings between individuals, so we can't measure them.
• Examples of concepts are effectiveness, impact, and satisfaction.
Variables
• Variables are images, perceptions, or things that can be measured objectively.
• They have different values, so we can measure them.
• Examples of variables are age, gender, weight, and height.
• Your research hypothesis is your assumption, suspicion, or assertion concerning the relationship between two or more variables, which you will work to prove or disprove by valid and reliable data.
• The research hypothesis is a provisional postulation with unknown validity. It is commonly stating a relationship between two or more variables.
The functions of your research hypothesis include:
1. Identification of the specific aspects of your research problem that you will investigate.
2. Clarification of the data that you must collect.
3. To enable you to focus on your research objectives.
4. Defining what you will try to prove is true or what is false.
Your hypothesis must be:
1. Simple, specific, and clear.
2. Capable of verification.
3. Allied with the existing knowledge.
To test your hypothesis, you will:
1. Formulate your assumption.
2. Collect the required data and evidence.
3. Analyze the data to reach a conclusion.
Errors in hypothesis testing that you should avoid, include:
1. Type I error: Finding that your hypothesis is true when in fact it is false (false positive).
2. Type II error: Finding that your hypothesis is false when in fact it is true (false negative).