Problem statements for prospectus writing and for chapter 1 should be two paragraphs long. You are establishing two justifications in these paragraphs: (a) that your study is needed by identifying a social-educational problem and reporting the findings of three or more current research studies on that problem and (b) that three to five (3–5) experts agree this is a question or issue that is relevant to your field (EDPD 8910).
First Paragraph of a Problem Statement
The first paragraph of a problem statement is a description of the problem funneled down to a gap in understanding related to the problem.
From Prospectus Document: In this paragraph provide a logical argument for the need to address an identified gap in the research literature that has current relevance to your discipline and area of practice. Keep in mind that a gap in the research is not, in and of itself, a reason to conduct research. Make sure to clarify the problem that led you to the gap (p. 3).
Imagine this paragraph as a funnel. You start by establishing the problem, building ideas logically, starting with a broad problem in your discipline and further narrowing it to your specific specialization and then even more narrow to a single problem statement.
This paragraph should be heavily cited. You will need to cite a minimum of three current research studies to frame and narrow the problem. Some of these sentences might be densely cited with evidence to provide a landscape view of how the problem has been studied in the literature. For help writing these types of sentences, see my blog post titled Tips for Strong Evidence Writing. In one of our college of education colloquial sessions at residency, we use the analogy of a baseball stadium as a way to think about your dissertation topic. If the baseball field is the problem you plan to study, you’ve got to situate your reader to where in the stands you’re sitting. You’re saying, people sitting in section A approach the problem this way, people in section B approach it slightly different. Then you can narrow a bit and share how some in the section in which you’re sitting approach the problem. You’ll narrow to the point where you can transition to a statement, that may say, “Although some have studied it [THIS WAY], and [THAT WAY], what is still not understood is [THIS].” Then you’ve primed your reader for the last sentence in this paragraph which will explain the view of the problem/field from your specific seat in the stadium.