How to Write a Dissertation Problem Statement

Dissertation Problem Statement

The problem statement is one or a two line statement which describes the problem on which your research is based on. It clears down the context of your research and its focus point for your reader. A plausible problem statement is the need of an effective dissertation, so it should be succinct and strong. It highlights the importance of your dissertation, and makes your supervisor access your research.


If you are focusing on a problem, make sure that you can defend it. Vague or ambiguous problem statements lead to failed proposals and unachievable objectives. Defining a problem is more difficult than naming or choosing a problem.


An appropriate problem statement sets the right path towards the research. Careful execution and detailing of the problem statement work out the research layout.

Key Elements of a Problem Statement

Problem statements usually have three elements:

These elements should be brief and to the point so that the reader does not get lost.

Criteria for Dissertation Problem Statement

  • Problem statements should clearly indicate what should be investigated.
  • It can be in declarative or in question form.
  • The statement should indicate the variables of interest and the relationship between them.

How to Write the Problem Statement

The problem statement implies a problem or a statement which your research will answer. It is necessary to draft the statement to discover the point where you find the problem.


When you construct your statement, you should know that you are looking for something wrong which needs to be addressed. Your statement makes points about the issue you are going to focus on, and the rest of your research depends on that. Your problem statement tells your reader what you are saying about your topic. So there should be a good link between your topic and its statement.


The importance of the problem needs the utmost attention from its researcher. To write a statement, one should think about few questions:


  • Is the problem contemporary?
  • Will the problem continue in the future?
  • Will more research have a practical application and theoretical importance?
  • How much of the population is affected or will be affected by the problem?
  • Will the study extend existing knowledge?
  • Would research lead to some change in the field?

The problem statement provides an indication of the meaningful measurement of its variables. You can highlight or respond to the objections too in it, if there is any.

How Long Should a Dissertation Problem Statement be?

In research, a problem statement is a section which is said to be strictly bound to a specific word limit. But as you will research more, you will know that it is very difficult to bind it into words. How many words you can write in the problem statement depends on the requirements provided by your university thesis board.


Generally, you can write up to 250 words in your problem statement. Do not exceed the word limit to avoid any additional information which you can add in your main body of dissertation.

5 W's and 1 H in Problem Statement

  • Why? The question highlights the objective and aims towards the problem which is yet to be investigated. Such as why there is a need for an investigation, or inquiry?
  • What? This question focuses on the main theme or topic which you will discuss in the research thesis. You can identify the factors critical to your problem.
  • When? The time dimension when the data is to be gathered answers the question “when”. The dimension of the time of research is always the future. This answers the question, “When is the research going to be performed?”
  • Where? The area or location of the research in which the research will be conducted is the answer to the where of the problem statement. You need to set the geographical boundaries or its limitations for your research.
  • Who? The question who indicated and pin points to the population or group of people you are choosing to gather your data. Who are the respondents? From whom you will collect the data? The answer may vary research to research, it may include a group of people in one research and business establishments in another.
  • How? This is the most crucial question of your problem statement which determines your research methodology whether qualitative or quantitative.

General Problems with Problem Statement

Following are the few points which you need to keep in mind while designing the problem statement of your dissertation.


  • The problem statements which can be answered by simple yes or no cannot be used in research. Such topics do not justify the pursuit of research.
  • Avoid addressing multiple problems. Your problem statement must focus on only one problem, so make sure to address your issue wisely.
  • Clearly write and identify your research problem, so that it helps the reader to understand your research in an instance.
  • Choose a scientific problem which is data driven, for which you can use any technique of research methodology whether quantitative or qualitative.
  • Avoid using more than 250 words for your problem statement. Write it precisely and to the point, covering your problem, its background and methodology. The problem statement is supposed to be a brief section of your dissertation.
  • Do not suggest any solution in the problem statement. Only mention the problem. As you will elaborate the solution in your main dissertation sections of results and discussion. Save that for later.

Polish your Problem Statement

A problem well stated is half solved. Make sure your problem statement turns out to be brief and perfect, for this purpose you must proofread and edit it as much as you can to give it a fine shape. It must include all the elements discussed above without exceeding the word count. It should make sense on its own. Stick to proof reading to avoid any mistake whether it’s grammar, or punctuation.

Problem Statement Sample

Live online sessions may be delivered in virtual classrooms from Google Classroom, MS Teams, Hangouts or other software programs. Regardless of the software used, student attendance at live online sessions, especially optional ones, are unpredictable at best. It is a common complaint among the online faculty at a university in the south that many, sometimes most, of their students do not attend the live online sessions. This study will address the problem of low student attendance at non-mandatory virtual classroom meetings in online college classes.