The Problem is the Problem (Due Day 5)
You received word back from the review panel of the conference where you plan to present your poster. The conference administrator indicates the review panel for the poster presentation appreciates the rigor of your work. However, the panel is not convinced that your poster addresses a problem that drives the proposed research.
Regardless of the academic discipline, all studies begin with a problem that anchors and justifies the research objective(s). Without a clear, documented, and compelling problem, the study will be of little importance or utility to the field. Without a clear, explicit research problem, the study will also be very difficult to design and carry out, as the problem is at the core of the research study. The conference administrator refers you to Chapter 2 of a book entitled Dissertation Field Guide (Heitner and Sherman, 2014).
After reviewing Chapter 2, you are reminded that a researchable problem is a problem that has negative consequences for people, places, or things, is important to the academic discipline, and can be ameliorated to some degree through the generation of new knowledge that may support finding solutions to the problem. You will need to identify the problem and provide documentation that the problem exists.
Hard data, whether from published sources or institutional records, will provide evidence of the problem. Patient satisfaction surveys, offender recidivism rates, employee turnover statistics, district test scores, and length of school principal tenure are examples of hard data that you can use as evidence for a problem. Hard data does not typically come from peer-reviewed articles. Rather, you will need to search for statistics reported by government agencies, industry associations, reputable consulting firms, and research units of organizations that are industry leaders, among others.
Problems such as employee engagement, recidivism, elder abuse, under-performing students, etc. are large problems. Such problems are too large, for the scope of any single research study. One of the most difficult parts of formulating a researchable problem is narrowing it down into a specific problem that can be researched given the time and resources you have available.
When you reviewed section 2.4 in the Dissertation Field Guide you focused heavily on Figure 2.1 as an aide for narrowing a general problem into a specific problem. With confidence, you reply to the conference administrator that you will have a problem section added to your final poster and forwarded along by this coming Monday.
Prepare the narrative that will be used to add content to your poster about the problem, which is the driver of your study. The narrative should consist of:
A one-paragraph statement in which you identify the general problem and specific problem, which anchor your study; and
Five bullet points that evidence the existence of the problem. Such data should address the size and scope of the problem (evidence of who is affected by the problem and measurable evidence of the negative consequences associated with the problem).