Research projects are often mandatory and college students need to submit one to earn their degrees. If you’ve submitted a research project, then you’re probably aware of the need of identifying a problem statement. A problem statement can be anything from an area of concern to a troubling question or a problem that needs to be eliminated.
Similarly, in the corporate world, every business plan starts with solving a problem. The better business leaders articulate the problem statement, the more valuable the solution will be. Read on to explore the meaning of a problem statement and how to write one. You’ll also learn about its significance in contemporary business contexts.
What Is A Problem Statement?
A problem statement is a formal report written by a professional to define an organization’s challenges or issues. It helps break down complex situations into smaller and achievable solutions or goals. It’s aimed at addressing issues in a timely and effective manner. It also helps propose a detailed way to solve problems and prevent them in the future. Therefore, you can recognize issues and prepare for them in advance across multiple business functions.
A problem statement has been well-known in the research field, but over time, it has gained popularity in the world of work as well. It has become a communication tool that informs leaders and managers about possible threats. The practice of writing a problem statement is beneficial in the long run as it promotes technological innovations and advancements.
Here’s a real-life example of a problem statement that’ll help you understand the concept better:
Netflix, one of the leading streaming services across the globe, wanted to solve the problem of going to video stores to rent a movie. They made it easy for consumers by eliminating the need for video stores and delivering movies to the mailbox. Therefore, Netflix’s problem statement would look something like this—“People don’t like traveling back and forth to video stores only to rent a movie and most of all they don’t enjoy paying late fees.”
The Need For Problem Statements
A problem statement is important because it creates the foundation for a project in addition to many other benefits. It helps you do your research and identify potential threats. It provides a comprehensive view of what’s currently going on in an organization and informs everyone of the sizable shift that’s needed and about to happen. The need for problem statements is summarized below:
- It helps examine an issue or a situation from various angles
- It helps identify who the problem affects, what those effects are and why the problem needs to be resolved
- It guides organizations and helps them determine the extent of a problem, therefore, informing employees how to approach the situation
- It sets the tone for dealing with an issue and provides an organization with a framework to navigate future challenges, if any
- Toward a project’s completion, problem statements can help verify if the solution has addressed the problem identified initially
A good problem statement allows individuals to build a strong case. A great problem statement goes beyond that. It has a lot more character and provides an emotional connection to the solution. The way you craft your problem statements will determine how others will respond to them.
How To Write A Problem Statement
Writing a problem statement involves succinctness and data-backed information. However, if you want to go above and beyond, consider this step-by-step guide that’ll teach you how to make a problem statement:
Step 1: Describe How Things Can Be
If you want to create watertight problem statements, the best way to begin is by stating how things should work. Before mentioning the problem, create an ideal situation where the problem doesn’t exist. This strategy is more effective than jumping straight to the problem as it teases out the issues. By providing context, your audience is more easily convinced.
Step 2: Explain The Problem
Once you’ve set the stage, it’s time to shed light on the main issue at hand. The most important goal of all problem statements is articulating the challenge. The more well-stated it is, the easier it is for your audience to understand. Make sure that you communicate in a way that’s clear, direct and succinct. Cutting to the heart of the issue and emphasizing the most important information is a good way to go about it.
Step 3: Back It Up With Facts
When you start making serious claims about your problem statements, you need to be able to back up your assertions. In other words, you need to be able to support your statements with evidence. For example, in some cases, individuals often support their statements with explicit references—which they identify in other reports or articles—in the form of footnotes or citations. When you back up your research with relevant data, you have a stronger case.
Step 4: Propose A Solution
When you’ve highlighted the what and why of a problem, it’s important to elaborate on how you want to solve it. Just like the problem you’ve identified, your proposed solution should also be simple, clear and direct. While your explanation should be straightforward, you also need to cover important concepts. You can leave the minor details for later.
Step 5: Elaborate On The Benefits
Now that you’ve communicated the solution to your readers, it’s time to convince them. It’s essential to explain why the solution that you proposed is a good idea. Without shedding light on the impact that your solution will create, it’s difficult to get others’ buy-in. For example, if you provide a financial solution, you need to talk about the expenses it will reduce and so on.
Step 6: Define The Next Steps
Once you’ve pulled all the information together and have suggested the positive impact of your proposal, it’s time to describe the plan to move forward toward the solution. Explain to your audience what will come next. Will there be research involved? If yes, what sort of research will it be? Elaborate on the resources you’ll need to successfully overcome the challenge and create timelines to achieve your goals.
When you’ve identified the problem, proposed a solution and communicated ways in which it can benefit the organization, you’re almost done. However, summarizing your main arguments can help in converting the statements into actionable items. Make sure that you’re ready with a concrete gist that nobody can say no to.
Creating Your Own Problem Statement
If you still aren’t convinced how to write a problem statement successfully, here is a template that can help you out. Note that there is a common structure to problem statements and this basic template can help you structure such statements better:
- Problem: Use one sentence to define the problem
- Background: Use evidence or facts to describe and define the problem
- Relevance: Describe why the problem matters and establish a connection
- Objectives: Propose your solution based on research and groundwork
Here is an example to help you understand this better:
The number of customers in a few areas of Mumbai has significantly reduced for XYZ supermart.
Surveys conducted by XYZ supermart suggest that sales have gone down in areas with people in the age bracket 18-25. This sales pattern is directly impacted by consumer spending in this demographic.
Reports suggest that the younger generation is resorting to online modes for purchasing everyday items. XYZ supermart will need to provide better customer service, keep up with market trends and make space for online shopping. This will also help gain a better understanding of consumer buying behavior.
This research aims to examine the biggest determinants of consumer buying behavior in Mumbai through qualitative and quantitative research. It will also suggest proactive engagement plans to improve sales in respective regions. Interviews will be designed to study the impact of each of the strategies proposed.
Define Problems With Harappa
At the heart of a problem statement lies the effort of defining the problem. You may have excellent communication skills that put your thoughts into words but identifying the issue can get challenging. You need to adopt a critical approach to define your problem statement(s) or things can get tricky.
Harappa’s Defining Problems course will help you strengthen your problem-solving mindset and approach problems in a critical manner. You’ll find details about problems to understand them better and avoid jumping to conclusions. Power-packed frameworks such as Types of Problems and Problem Definition will teach you to identify and define problems smartly. Impress everyone at work with strong problem-solving skills!
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