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Research Methodology - Introduction

Research Problem

   Posted On :  20.05.2018 09:27 pm

The first and foremost stage in the research process is to select and properly define the research problem.

Research Problem

The first and foremost stage in the research process is to select and properly define the research problem. A researcher should first identify a problem and formulate it, so as to make it amenable or susceptible to research. In general, a research problem refers to an unanswered question that a researcher might encounter in the context of either a theoretical or practical situation, which he/she would like to answer or find a solution to. A research problem is generally said to exist if the following conditions emerge (Kothari, 1988):

1. There should be an individual or an organisation, say X, to whom the Problem can be attributed. The individual or the organization is situated in an environment Y, which is governed by certain uncontrolled variables Z;

2. There should be at least two courses of action to be pursued, say A1 and A2. These courses of action are defined by one or more values of the controlled variables. For example, the number of items purchased at a specified time is said to be one course of action.

3. There should be atleast two alternative possible outcomes of the said courses of action, say B1 and B2. Of them, one alternative should be preferable to the other. That is, atleast one outcome should be what the researcher wants, which becomes an objective.

4. The courses of possible action available must offer a chance to the researcher to achieve the objective, but not the equal chance. Therefore, if P(Bj / X, A, Y) represents the probability of the occurrence of an outcome Bj when X selects Aj in Y, then P(B1 / X, A1,Y) ≠ P (B1 / X, A2, Y). Putting it in simple words, it means that the choices must not have equal efficiencies for the desired outcome.
Above all these conditions, the individual or organisation may be said to have arrived at the research problem only if X does not know what course of action to be taken is the best. In other words, X should have a doubt about the solution. Thus, an individual or a group of persons can be said to have a problem if they have more than one desired outcome. They should have two or more alternative courses of action, which have some but not equal efficiency. This is required for probing the desired objectives, such that they have doubts about the best course of action to be taken. Thus, the components of a research problem may be summarised as:
1. There should be an individual or a group who have some difficulty or problem.
2. There should be some objective(s) to be pursued. A person or an organization who wants nothing cannot have a problem.
3. There should be alternative ways of pursuing the objective the researcher wants to pursue. This implies that there should be more than one alternative means available to the researcher. This is because if the researcher has no choice of alternative means, he/she would not have a problem.

4. There should be some doubt in the mind of the researcher about the choice of alternative means. This implies that research should answer the question relating to the relative efficiency or suitability of the possible alternatives.
5. There should be a context to which the difficulty relates.
Thus, identification of a research problem is the pre-condition to conducting research. A research problem is said to be the one which requires a researcher to find the best available solution to the given problem. That is, the researcher needs to find out the best course of action through which the research objective may be achieved optimally in the context of a given situation. Several factors may contribute to making the problem complicated. For example, the environment may alter, thus affecting the efficiencies of the alternative courses of action taken or the quality of the outcomes. The number of alternative courses of action might be very large and the individual not involved in making the decision may be affected by the change in environment and may react to it favorably or unfavorably. Other similar factors are also likely to cause such changes in the context of research, all of which may be considered from the point of view of a research problem.

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