Have you been asked at work or school to create a problem statement and include a proposed solution, but you don’t know where to start?
Continue reading for everything you need to know about problem statements, how to write one and examples to base your own on.
What is a problem statement?
An effective problem statement aims to identify the gap between the current state (the problem) and the desired state (the goal) of a process or product.
A problem statement helps the writer solve a problem and meet an unmet need by offering a viable solution.
Also known as a point of view (POV) statement, a good problem statement creates a framework that offers a possible solution to the problem.
It includes a clear statement of the problem that the writer can address and allows them to keep their focus on the main issue.
Problem statement points of view
Problem statements can take numerous forms, but the goal is always to develop an effective solution.
Writing problem statements can be done using a few different points of view.
A few ways that you can phrase your problem statement include:
“I am a busy working professional trying to eat healthy, but I’m having trouble as I work long hours and don’t always have time to go grocery shopping and purchase healthy food. This makes me feel upset and bad about myself.”
“Hard-working professionals need a convenient, quick way to eat healthy food because they often work long hours and don’t have time to go grocery shopping.”
Four Ws perspective
The methodology behind this type of problem statement is that it needs to include who, what, where and why.
Commonly used to solve a business problem by helping to improve the user experience and find a solution to pain points (specific problems that customers are facing), using this perspective typically includes the most detail.
“Our busy working professional is struggling to eat healthy food during the week as she is consistently working long hours. Our solution needs to deliver a quick and convenient way for her to purchase healthy food to eat at home and at work.”
Each of the above perspectives addresses the same problem, just from a different point of view.
As long as you focus on the problem and figure out a potential solution, it is up to you to choose what perspective you decide to write your problem statement.
Three key elements of a problem statement
A typical problem statement consists of three key elements.
- The specific problem is stated clearly and detailed enough to explain why it is crucial.
- The method by which the problem will be solved.
- The purpose, statement of objective and scope of the study.
It is essential to include a statement of objective at the beginning of your problem statement. This allows the reader to know precisely what the statement will be about.
The scope of your problem statement should be a short statement that describes what will be talked about and what won’t be talked about in your statement and is often included in the statement’s introduction.
Below is a problem statement written by Tan T. Trinh, “Winglets at Takeoffs and Landings,” which utilizes these three key elements:
A recent trend in the design of new aircraft is the addition of winglets, which are small fins attached to the ends of the main wing.
After an aircraft has taken off and is cruising, winglets improve its performance by reducing the drag caused by the main wing.
However, during the critical stages of aircraft takeoff and landing, the winglets cause two problems.
First, they cause vibrations in the main wing, commonly called buffeting.
Second, they cause the aircraft to lose some control of yaw, the motion of the nose right and left.
In a study funded by NASA [Ref. 2], the main wing of a DC-10 transport aircraft was outfitted with winglets and it experienced significant buffeting during takeoff and landing.
The method used to solve the problem
In our current project, we examine winglet-induced buffeting in three wing designs.
We record buffeting and yaw under experimental wind-tunnel takeoff and landing conditions for (1) a wing without winglets, (2) another wing with conventional winglets,and (3) a wing with spheroid winglets.
Our objective is to determine the degree to which differences between load lifts on the wings and their winglets during takeoff and landing are causing the performance problems we have described.
The purpose, statement of objective and scope
In this study, we develop theoretical models of winglet load lifts and compare these to the lifts of wings and winglets actually recorded during testing conditions.
Questions to answer when writing a problem statement
When writing your problem statement, you are problem-solving for a situation requiring a solution.
To write a great problem statement, in the brainstorming phase, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the people involved in the case study doing wrong?
- What are the main issues and the root cause of their problem?
- How does the problem affect those involved in the long run?
- Does the problem create a domino effect? What is the potential expected outcome for those involved if no solution is found?
- What or who are negatively contributing to the problem?
- Is the reaction of others to the problem creating a pendulum effect?
Problem statement examples
Continue reading for examples of problem statements that you can use as a template to base your statement on.
The following is a problem statement covering a youth homelessness crisis:
The goal of Youth Intentional Housing Supports is to quickly house youth experiencing housing insecurity while providing the support needed to remain stably housed and build a foundation for success in the future.
According to the City’s Dashboard to End Homelessness, in March 2018 there were 1,227
youth experiencing homeless in the City.
Of those, 126 were matched to projects and awaiting enrollment, and 45 youth experiencing homelessness were enrolled in projects and awaiting permanent housing.
An average of 158 new youth seek support from our system each month, and it takes 144 days from identifying a youth to that youth being housed.
In order to reduce these prolonged episodes of homelessness, the City seeks to support a menu of housing interventions for youth that are developmentally appropriate and quickly deployable.
Here is a problem statement about the decline in employee well-being:
The problem to be addressed by this study is the decline of employee well-being for followers of novice mid-level managers and the corresponding rise in employee turnover faced by business leaders across the financial services industry (Oh et al., 2014).
Low levels of employee well-being are toxic for morale and result in expensive turnover costs, dysfunctional work environments, anemic corporate cultures and poor customer service (Compdata, 2018; Oh et al., 2014).
According to Ufer (2017), the financial services industry suffers from one of the highest turnover rates among millennial-aged employees in all industries in the developed world, at 18.6% annually.
Starkman (2015) reported that 50% of those surveyed in financial services were not satisfied with a single one of the four key workplace aspects: job, firm, pay or career path.
Low levels of employee well-being interrupt a financial services’ company’s ability to deliver outstanding customer service in a world increasingly dependent on that commodity (Wladawsky-Berger, 2018).
Mid-level managers play an essential role in support of the success of many of top businesses today (Anicich & Hirsh, 2017).
The current body of literature does not adequately address the well-being issue in the financial services industry from the follower’s perspective (Uhl-Bien, Riggio, Lowe, & Carsten, 2014).
Strategic direction flows top-down from senior executives and passes through mid-level leadership to individual contributors at more junior grades.
The mid-level managers’ teams are tasked with the achievement of core tasks and the managers themselves are expected to maintain the workforce’s morale, motivation and welfare (Anicich & Hirsh, 2017).
Unless industry leaders better understand the phenomenon of employee well-being from the follower perspective and its role in positioning employees to provide a premium client experience, they may be handicapped from preserving their most significant principal market differentiator: customer service (Wladawsky-Berger, 2018).
The following is a problem statement dealing with unpredictable online student attendance:
Distance education via online platforms is a rapidly growing method of education delivery due to its convenience, wide reach, relatively low cost and ability to support the achievement of learning objectives.
Whether the platform is Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle, Angel, or some other learning management system, online education utilizes a variety of common learning tools including discussion boards, drop boxes, automated testing and wikis.
Chief among these tools are live online sessions.
Live online sessions may be delivered in virtual classrooms from Adobe Connect, Elluminate, GoToMeeting, Wimba, or other software programs.
Regardless of the software used, student attendance at live online sessions, especially optional ones, can be unpredictable at best.
It is a common complaint among the online faculty at a university in the south that many, oftentimes most, of their students do not attend the live online sessions.
This study will address the problem of low student attendance at non-mandatory virtual classroom meetings in online college courses.
Offir, Lev and Bezalel (2008) found the interaction level in a synchronous class, also known as web conferencing, to be a significant factor in the effectiveness of the class.
Other researchers describe “the power of a synchronous online system to empower students in conversation and expression (McBrien, Jones, & Cheng, 2009). However, if students do not attend, then they cannot interact nor express themselves.
According to Skylar (2009),”research concerning the use of newer multimedia technologies, such as interactive synchronous web conferencing tools, is in its infancy and needs further and continued study”(p. 82).
McBrien, Jones and Cheng (2009) stated that “more studies are needed to explore students’ perceptions of the synchronous learning experience.”
A variety of studies have explored the differences in functionalities of the various platforms (Kenning, 2010; Lavolette, Venable, Gose, & Huang, 2010), but they did not get to the heart of why students do or do not attend.
This study will benefit college and university administrators who can create or revise policies based upon the results. Administrators may even decide to change virtual classroom providers.
Faculty may benefit if results indicate a change is needed in their own practices.
Finally, the study will benefit online students whose learning experiences will be improved by the findings.
Problem statements create answers
Whether you are writing a problem statement for work or school, on your own or with team members, it is essential to clearly define the problem and all its parameters to obtain a definitive solution.
By utilizing your decision-making skills and following the steps and examples above, you can find an answer to any research project that comes your way.
Check out Entrepreneur’s other articles for more information about problem statements and other professional topics.