Problems and Hypotheses
S. Bevins & T. Bevins
Framing the Problem
Adapted from: DePoy, E. & Gitlin, L. (1998).
Introduction to research: Understanding and applying multiple
strategies. St. Louis: Mosby.
It is very important to narrow down a topic
area to a more specific problem that you are interested in. The problem
should be meaningful, appropriate for scientific inquiry, and purposeful.
A meaningful problem is one that is useful to either the researcher
or to the profession (any of the health professions, for our purposes).
The problem is appropriate if it
can be submitted to a systematic research process.
It is purposeful in that it serves
any of the stakeholders concerned with the delivery of health services.
The problem comes for most novice researchers
in narrowing down the topic. How you frame your problem is important
in that it influences the development of your subsequent thinking and action
process. Steps in the process of going from a topic to a problem:
1) Identifying a topic:
a research topic is a broad issue or area that is important to you as a
health and human service provider. There may be many problems and
strategies for investigation within this broad topic area. Topics
and specific problem areas come from 5 basic sources:
2) Framing a research
problem: As discussed, the next challenge for the researcher
is to identify a specific area or problem within a broad topic area.
Although this seems as if it might be an easy task, it is often not.
The following questions can help you guide your thinking. These reflective
questions help you as you move from the broad topic of interest to a more
a) professional experience:
this is often the most immediate and important source from which research
problems come. Those problems that we encounter in our everyday practice,
ones that reoccur, or those that are unique and puzzling are often sources
for our inquiry.
b) societal trends:
the philosophy of the times, including the societal priorities and values,
often identifies a source of research opportunities. An example of
this now is the attention being paid to children' health and early healthy
beginnings. There is much more interest and attention being paid
to the welfare of children than in any time in recent memory. There
are regularly published materials that detail current sources of funding.
c) professional trends:
trends within our profession often direct our interest to research areas.
We find out about these by being involved in our professional organizations,
reading our professional literature.
d) research studies:
research that has already been done provides a rich source of topic areas.
reading someone else's research may provide you with an idea that you would
like to explore further. Routinely reading professional journals
will keep you abreast of current research and may stimulate your thinking
in new areas. Don't be afraid to read journals outside of your own
specific profession. If you have an interest in pediatrics, you may
read journals in the areas of child development, early education, infant
development, PT, OT, pediatric nursing, medical journals such
as Pediatrics, etc. There are also interdisciplinary journals
available in any areas of interest.
e) existing theory:
theories are also an important source for generating topics of interest.
A theory proposes a number of propositions and relationships between concepts.
These relationships are then investigated, one by one. the purpose
is to verify or refute the relationships proposed.
3) Research Purpose:
there are three levels of purpose that each research process addresses
in some way. The first is professional. Its purpose
is to inform, to examine efficacy of various interventions, etc.
The second is personal . This is often reflected in the commitment
of research faculty in adding to the foundation of knowledge.
In addition, such research may challenge the researcher and provide more
interest in their academic or clinical pursuits. The third purpose
is methodological. This is based on the formulation of a problem
and identifies the specific goals of a research project.
a) what interests me about this topic?
b) what about this topic is relevant
c) what about this topic is still
to be resolved in the literature?
d) what is my preferred way of coming
to know about phenomena?
e) how does knowing about this topic
serve my profession or society?
f) what resources are available to
me to investigate this topic?
4) Preferred way of knowing:
your preferred way of knowing or epistemology is either clearly
articulated or is implied in the purpose statement.
A) The following are different types
of purpose statements found in quantitative research.
This type of research seeks to describe, explain, or predict. Review
your chapter for examples of purpose statements in these different examples
of quantitative research :
B) The following are different types
of purpose statements found in naturalistic or qualitative
research. This type of research seeks to understand the meanings,
experiences, and phenomena as they evolve in a natural setting. Review
your chapter for example of purpose statements in these designs:
C) There can also be integrated designs
that can have multiple purposes.
3) grounded theory
Adapted from: LoBiondo-Wood, G., & Haber, J. (1998).
Nursing research: Methods, critical appraisal, and utilization
(4th ed.). St. Louis: Mosby.
The research problem (or problem
The purpose of a study (often
a section of a paper) encompasses the aims or goals the investigator hopes
to achieve with the study, but is more general than the research problem.
Refining a research
topic into a testable research problem: