Selecting the Problem/Subject of Research

The undertaken research problem must be thoroughly selected. For this purpose, the help of a research guide can also be taken. However, since research problems cannot be usually borrowed, each and every researcher must therefore strive to find out his research problem for the study. While buying a new pair of spectacles, we need to cooperate with the optician along with our own preferences in deciding the power of lens. Similarly, a research guide can, at the most, only help the researcher to choose a subject. However, the following points can be observed by the researcher while selecting a research problem/subject:

i.  Generally, the subject, which is overdone, is avoided, as it will be a hard and complex task to throw any new light on such a case that has already been done. Controversial subject should not become the choice of an average researcher. Moreover, too narrow or too vague problems should be avoided.

ii.   The selected research subject should be practical and realistic, so that the related research material/sources are easily available within one’s reach. However, sometimes, even after this it remains still quite difficult to supply absolute ideas regarding how a researcher should acquire the necessary ideas for his research. Thus, for this purpose the researcher should definitely contact an expert or a professor, in the University, who is already occupied in a research. Besides, he may read articles on the subject published in literature and may also get the notions about how the techniques/ideas discussed therein might be functional in obtaining the solutions of other problems. Moreover, he may discuss what he has in his mind, concerning a problem, with others as well. By this way, he should be absolutely successful in selecting a problem by putting his best efforts.

iii.   Some of the other criteria, which must also be considered while selecting a problem, are: importance of the subject, qualifications and training of the researcher, costs involved, and the time factor. In other words, before selecting a problem, the researcher must ask himself the following questions:

  1. Is he well equipped, concerning his background, to conduct the research?
  2. Does the research/study come within the budget he can afford?
  3. Can the necessary cooperation be obtained from those who must participate in the research as subjects?

In case, the answers to all of the above mentioned questions are positive, one may become confident concerning the practicability of the study.

iv.  A preliminary study should most certainly precede the selection of a problem. However, this won’t be necessary regarding the problem needs the conduct of a research closely similar to the one, which has already been conducted. But, usually a brief feasibility study must be undertaken, when the field of inquiry is reasonably new and lacks the availability of a set of well developed techniques.

In conclusion, when the research subject is selected appropriately, by conforming to the above mentioned points, the research will, most probably, not be a boring drudgery. Rather, it will be exciting and educating. The selected subject/problem must involve the researcher and be the prime priority in his mind, so that he may give his best shot required for the study.

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What is a Research Problem?

The first and foremost step in a research process is to select and properly define a research problem. In order to define a problem correctly, a researcher must know: what a problem is?

What is a research problem?

A research problem refers to any difficulty which a researcher experiences either in a theoretical or practical situation and, thus, wants to obtain its solution. Generally, a research problem requires the following conditions:

-  An individual or a group having some difficulty or problem.

-   Some objective(s) to attain. Without any objective, one cannot have a problem.

-   Alternative means (or courses of action) to obtain the objective(s). This means that at least two means should be available to a researcher because if he has no options, he cannot have a problem.

-  The researcher should have some doubts related to the selection of alternatives. This means that the research should be able to answer questions regarding the possible alternatives.

-   Some environment(s) to which the difficulty pertains.

Thus, a research problem helps a researcher to find out the best solution for any given problem, i.e., the course of action that can help attain the objective optimally in the context of a given environment.

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Preparing the Research Design

Once the research problem has been identified, the next task for the researcher is preparing the research design. According to Russell Ackoff, “research design is the process of making decisions before a situation arises in which the decision has to be carried out.” It is the conceptual framework within which the research would be carried out. It is a key aspect as it binds the research project together. Its aim is to provide for the collection of relevant information with minimal expenditure of effort, time and money.

But, whether this can be achieved depends upon a large extent on the research purpose, which is classified into four categories: (i) Exploratory; (ii) Description; (iii) Diagnosis; and (iv) Experimentation. For an exploratory research study, a flexible research design is more appropriate as it provides ample scope for researching various aspects of a problem (E.g.Types of vehicles suitable for the Indian market. This topic provides extensive scope for writing). For a research paper, which requires an accurate description, the research design should be formulated in such a way that, it is unbiased and vouches for the reliability of the collected data and analyzed (E.g.: Percentage of small car segment in Indian market. This topic needs accurate facts and figures).

There are various kinds of research designs, such as, experimental (independent variable is manipulated) and non-experimental (independent variable is not manipulated) hypothesis-testing. Experimental designs can be further grouped into informal and formal. Informal experimental design normally uses a less sophisticated form of analysis. It includes: before and after without control design; after only with control design; before and after with control design. Formal experimental design offers relatively more control and uses precise statistical procedures for analysis. It includes: completely randomized design; randomized block design; Latin square design; and factorial designs.

Important factors to remember while preparing the research design:

  • Objectives of the research study;
  • Means of obtaining the information;
  • Tools for data collection;
  • Data analysis (qualitative and quantitative);
  • Time available for each stage of the research; and
  • Cost involved for the research.

A well-planned research design serves as a blueprint for the researcher even before he actually starts working on his research. This helps him to decide his course of action during various stages of the research, thus saving his time and resources.

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