A problem statement is a concise description of the issues that need to be addressed by a problem solving team and should be presented to them (or created by them) before they try to solve the problem. On the other hand, a statement of the problem is a claim of one or two sentences in length that outlines the problem addressed by the study. The statement of the problem should briefly address the question: What is the problem that the research will address?
When bringing together a team to achieve a particular purpose, provide them with a problem statement. A good problem statement should answer these questions:
- What is the problem? This should explain why the team is needed.
- Who has the problem or who is the client/customer? This should explain who needs the solution and who will decide the problem has been solved.
- What form can the resolution be? What is the scope and limitations (in time, money, resources, technologies) that can be used to solve the problem? Does the client want a white paper? A web-tool? A new feature for a product? A brainstorming on a topic?
The primary purpose of a problem statement is to focus the attention of the problem solving team. However, if the focus of the problem is too narrow or the scope of the solution too limited the creativity and innovation of the solution can be stifling.
In project management, the problem statement is part of the project charter. It lists what's essential about the project and enables the project manager to identify the project scope as well as the project stakeholders.
A research-worthy problem statement is the description of an active challenge (i.e. problem) faced by researchers and/or practitioners that does not have adequate solutions available. The adequate solutions includes the simplified theoretical foundation and argumentation for a viable solution based on respected peer-reviewed sources. The research-worthy problem statement should address all six questions: what, how, where, when, why, and who.
- Ellis, T. J., & Levy, Y. (in press). A framework of problem-based research: A guide for novice researchers. Informing Science Journal.
- Defining Six Sigma Projects - Retrieved March 22, 2010