Writing Statement of Problems (SOP) in Research: The Doctor-Patient Analogy

Welcome AH Fam,

It’s about that time of the year again when graduate students in Africa are deep into their research writing. Be it a student paper, project, thesis or dissertation, your meaningful and interesting research must be based on a clearly identified problem. In most graduate research, this is called “Statement of Problem”. A scholar from the University of Calabar has done an amazing job of simplifying the writing of problem statement in research. AH is pleased to share this knowledge.

Like it’s often said, if you don’t state what your problem is, the doctor cannot know what to treat.

The problem statement is very important in research and many students lack the basic knowledge of how to present their research problems.

Remember, your problem statement does not necessarily have to be lengthy. If you are telling a doctor about the symptoms of your sickness and you are beating about the bush, the doctor may get furious with you. That is often the case with examiners/reviewers of research works.

An analogy of sickness can be used to explain the simple steps in writing your problem statement.

  1. State the ideal situation – I am supposed to be healthy to live a fulfilled life.
  2. State the current situation – however I do not feel well at all.
  3. State measures that have been put in place over time to solve the problem – I have taken different medications including other alternative forms of treatment.
  4. State the persistence of the problem – yet, I have not felt any better, instead the illness is increasing.
  5. State the effects of the problem – I can’t concentrate, I can’t eat well, I can’t sleep well (these are effects on the person), effects on others may include: my sickness constrains my family members etc…
  6. State the reason for the research – I feel that this sickness may be severe or even kill me if I do not find a lasting solution to it. And I feel that a way of finding lasting solution to it is by consulting a specialist.
  7. State the gap in knowledge – It is true that people who have similar cases to mine have used different methods to treat their own sicknesses, however, I feel that using this method will make a more significant difference from the methods used by others in the past.
  8. Conclude your statement – it is because of all I have said that I come to you for a solution to my problem.
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Simple and short.

We hope you find this helpful. Success in Your Research!

Credit: Dr. Riman Hodo (Lecturer, Department of Banking and Finance, University of Calabar)