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Volume 3 Issue 9 September 2011

Researchers Corner

Selection and Formulation of Research Problem

There is no short cut to research. One has to go through every phase of it in detail. Often, studentresearchers hastily skip the stage of choosing and formulating research problem with borrowed or imitated title presumed wrongly as a research problem and face difficulties later. Here are some tips for selection and formulation of research problem.


Research problem cannot be borrowed; researcher has to find his own problem; guide can only help to choose a broad subject or topic

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Problem must suit your interest, competence and ability Right question must be addressed; having a topic to read about is different from having a problem to solve; a topic to read lead to aimless and endless gathering of data and no way of knowing when we have enough to start. Further, this can lead to difficulty of deciding what to include in the report

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Have unbiased & unattached approach; No mother complex; Be objective Be uncommitted before selection, i.e., hanging loose Have more than one problem to ponder, i.e., keep alternatives Never settle initially itself on a particular approach; decision on methodology should not precede problem selection

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Avoid superficial and obvious problems as well as overdone and controversial subjects Avoid too narrow or too vague problems (settling on a broad topic with 4 or 5 words is risky)

10. Identifying gaps through literature survey throws up new problems 11. Interact with experts & practitioners 12. Have a preliminary quick & dirty study and / or a brief feasibility study; Check availability of required data and co-operation of people concerned 13. Problem should be novel, significant and useful to practitioners; utility of the expected findings should be judged 14. Spend a lot of time in writing and note taking to understand the problem 15. Make preliminary outlines, disagree with what is read, draw diagrams to connect disparate/ disconnected facts, summarise sources, record random thoughts, discard later if necessary, start writing at the very beginning in order to encourage critical thinking, to understand sources better and to draft more effectively

Some important sources for research problems include reading, academic/daily work experience, exposure to field situations, consultations, brainstorming, past research and intuition. M S Sridhar sridhar@informindia.co.in