Research problem: Everything a market researcher needs to know

What is a research problem?

Research problem definition: A research problem is defined as an area of concern that requires a meaningful understanding of a specific topic, a condition, a contradiction, or a difficulty. So what is research problem? A research problem means finding answers to questions or strengthening existing findings to bridge the knowledge gap to solve problems.

What is the purpose of a Research problem statement?

A problem statement in research seeks to achieve the following:

  1. Introduce the importance of the topic in the research proposal.
  2. Position the problem in an appropriate context.
  3. Provide a framework to analyze and report results.

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Characteristics of a research problem

Make sure to fulfill these essential characteristics to have an effective research problem. Due to the variety of research we conduct, it is not possible to inculcate all these characteristics. However, ensure to consider and cover most of these characteristics to enable people to look at, examine, and understand the marketing research problem.

  • Covers the essential needs or issues: The researcher must have a specific problem statement in research. Unless you don’t address the crucial issues, the research will not carry much weightage. The research project may end up wasting time and money if these issues are not of high importance. Ensure you do not miss out on the more critical needs and concerns to get your marketing strategies right.
  • The problem is stated logically and clearly: If you can’t state the problem logically or clearly in the research proposal, the problem likely is a weak one or probably a non-problem. To test this, consolidate the specific problem into a paragraph and ensure it makes sense and covers all the crucial points. Share the problem with others and if this is not understood by even s few, consider a more logical approach to specify the issue or problem.
  • The research is based on actual facts and evidence (non-hypothetical): There is a difference between beliefs and facts. Keep fiction out of this. Research must be based on actual facts and not beliefs. Hypothetical events will not do the research any good. You can’t consider the findings of the research true or accurate if you don’t base it on facts and evidence. It must suggest a meaningful and testable hypothesis.
  • The research problem generates and encourages research questions: The research must create multiple questions. These questions should be more specific to the research that highlights different components or aspects of the problem. These questions must assist in addressing the issue better, providing a robust framework for the research. Formulating such questions is the challenge that needs to be addressed correctly.
  • It fits the budget and time frame: Ensure that the research activity is doable within the budget and time frame. Consider the logistical factors to ensure successful research. Losing out on the research due to the lack of money and manpower to complete it within a specified timeframe will be a colossal waste of time. Pursue only the problems that are feasible.
  • Sufficient data can be obtained: Research is based on facts and findings and there must be multiple cases or findings to prove the research. A research that is based on limited data will do no good to test a theory or satisfy it. If data is unavailable to do research, it does not make sense to go ahead with the research.
  • The problem has an unsatisfactory answer or is a new problem: Ensure that there exists very little or no research on the topic. If the problem already has an existing answer to the problem, and this answer is tried and tested, it’s probably best to move on and not waste time finding what has already been found extensively.

Research problem statement

What is research problem statement? A research problem statement is defined as an issue that needs to be addressed. It is described as the gap in knowledge about a particular problem or issue. A functional research problem helps close the gap in knowledge in a field that can lead to more research. An accurate statement to the problem helps you identify the motive of the research project. 

Characteristics of a research problem statement

Here are the characteristics of a research problem statement:

  • It must address the gap in knowledge.
  • It must be significant to the extent that it contributes positively to the research
  • It must help in further research
  • With the data collected, you must understand the problem clearly
  • It must be in the researcher’s interest should and suit his/her time, knowledge, skills, and resources
  • The problem-solving approach must be ethical
  • Customary research methods can be applied

Components of a research problem

A research problem has the following components:

  1. Research consumer: A group of individuals or various groups of individuals must have difficulty or must face a problem. The researchers may be a part of this group facing the problem. All the others who face the problem but are not included in the research form the research consumers.
  2. Research-consumer’s objective: The research consumer must face a problem or should need an issue to be addressed. If there is no problem, there can be no basis for conducting research. 
  3. Alternative means to meet the objective: Always have a ‘Plan B’ when you address a marketing research problem. It means that the researcher must have at least two means or courses of action to fulfill the research objective. If there is an absence of choice or an alternative means to fulfill the research objective, the researcher cannot have a problem. 
  4. Doubts in the selection of alternatives: Having an alternative means to meet the objective is just one part of the problem. Both the means should be such that the researcher has doubts about which is the better approach out of the two. This truly makes the research more reliable.
  5. There must be more than one environ­ment: It is imperative that the problem exists in more than one environment. It can happen that a change in the environmental factors mitigates the problem. A researcher may be doubtful about the most efficient means in the environment ‘A’, but may not be so doubtful about the environment ‘B’.

Steps to formulate a research problem

Here are the five basic steps to formulate a research problem:

  1. Identify the broad research area: Begin your research by identifying a broad research area based on your interest, specialty, profession, expertise, and knowledge. This area must possess some kind of significance regarding your knowledge interest and specialty. For example, a researcher studying sports education can select areas like football, soccer, hockey, and baseball. These are the broader areas that can be further subdivided into various research topics to figure out marketing strategies.
  2. Divide the broad area into sub-areas: After you choose a broad area to study, drill down to a specific topic that is manageable and researchable. To do this, break down the broad area into sub-areas and choose a specific topic. For example, if your broad area is soccer, it can be further divided into the following subcategories:
    1. Profile of soccer players
    2. Profile of soccer clubs
    3. Level of soccer clubs
    4. Impact of the club on the city
    5. Revenue generating areas 
    6. Sponsors of the soccer clubs
  3. Choose a sub-area: It is not possible to study all the sub-areas due to time and money constraints. Thus, choose one sub-area of interest and one that is manageable and feasible for you. The area you select must have some research significance and must be significant to your research knowledge.
  4. Formulate research questions: After you choose a specific sub-area, think about the areas you must explore and research about. Start noting down important questions that you deem important for the research study. Many questions may arise but narrow down and choose the most important and impactful questions. The length of the research depends on the number of questions you formulate. Choose the questions, depending on the expected length of your research.
  5. Set research objectives: You must draw a plan about the objectives of the research that you need to explore. The objectives of the research study help to identify the research questions. There is a difference between the research question and the research objective. The difference is the way they are written. Research questions generally consist of an interrogative tone. On the other hand, the research objectives are aim-oriented. They include terms like to examine, to investigate, to explore, and to find out. 

Marketing research problem example

Organizations and companies use marketing research problems to gauge the risks associated with launching a new product or service. They do not wish to spend money expanding a product line where research shows it will not succeed. A well-designed, well-executed marketing study helps in identifying customer interests, consumer tastes and preferences to help with decisions around the product or service.

Research problem statement example

A research problem question is the most important aspect of the research. You must spend time to refine and assess the research questions before getting started with the research activities. A research question must be straightforward, to the point, focused, and appropriately complex to capture the most relevant information. Having difficulty writing research problems? Follow these examples to write a problem statement: 

Incorrect: What are the effects of social media on people?
Correct: What effect does using Facebook everyday have on teenagers?
In the above example, the first question is not specific enough to capture accurate feedback. Nobody knows what social media you’re talking about and what ‘people’ you’re referring to.

Let’s look at another marketing research problem example.
Incorrect: Who has a better healthcare system? The US or the UK?
Correct: How do low-income earning people feel about the healthcare system, and how does the UK and the US compare?
The first question is comprehensive and does not draw a definite conclusion about the healthcare systems of both countries.

The third example of how to write a problem statement is:
Incorrect: What will help political parties address the issues of low voter turnout?
Correct: What communication strategies can political parties apply to increase the voter turnout among people between the age of 25-30?
Again, comparing both the statements, the second one is more direct and implies to only a specific group of people, thus collecting actionable information.

Extensive research problem software, platform, and tool

Formulating a marketing research problem is just one crucial part of the research process. Another essential aspect of marketing research is using a robust market research software tool that aids in your research activity. You can do a whole lot by choosing the right research platform to solve a specific problem. By using a research repository, you can mitigate the need to think of research and a research problem as a decentralized process in your organization. 

Top seven benefits of using a robust research software

Here are the benefits of using a robust research software tool

  1. Powerful and efficient market research: You can collect actionable data from market research that aids in making accurate decisions.
  2. Professional grade: Professional grade tools come with a host of survey features and questions that helps you probe your audience in detail.
  3. Powerful survey logic: Data accuracy is vital to make decisions – both big and small. A good research design with powerful survey logic like branching and skip logic helps you pose the right questions to the right audience.
  4. Collect unbiased data: Data, if biased, will lead to failure in decision making. It is necessary to capture unbiased data to make efficient decisions.
  5. Data analysis: Why spend time manually analyzing data when you can automate the process from within the tool? A good survey platform provides for accurate data analysis that helps in decision making.
  6. Advanced analysis techniques: Take your research a step forward with a powerful suite of techniques like maxdiff analysis, conjoint analysis, TURF analysis, and heatmap analysis.
  7. Uncover brand insights: Acquire insights that your brand needs to excel in. Gather honest feedback that will help you drive your business to the next level.

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Advantages of formulating a research problem

Here are the advantages of formulating a research problem:

  • Understanding the research procedure: Writing research problems helps in understanding the research procedure in a better way. Many researchers think that formulating a research problem is simple, but that is not true. The researcher needs to put a lot of effort to create a specific problem and then understand the research procedure.
  • Determining the research objective: A research problem helps to understand the intention and goals of the research. The methodology cannot be defined without a clear research problem. 
  • Design the research process: A research problem helps you identify the approach you must take for the research activity. It helps in the identification of each step you must take to do your research – the sampling strategy, the research design, research analysis, and research instruments to be used.
  •  Lays the foundation for research: Formulating a good research problem is compared to laying the foundation of a building. If the research problem is well identified, you will face fewer hiccups during the research process.