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Formulating Research Problem

One of the most important considerations in picking a topic for you investigatory project is
to find a subject that you consider interesting.
The question that you select for your science fair project is the cornerstone of your work.
The research and experiment you will be conducting all revolve around finding an answer to the
question you are poising. It is important to select a question that is going to be interesting to work
on for at least a month or two and a question that is specific enough to allow you to find the
answer with a simple experiment. A scientific question usually starts with: How, What, When,
Who, Which, Why, or Where.
The following are some tips in choosing and formulating an appropriate research topic:
1. Choose a topic that is close to your interests and experiences.
It must be something you know or something that has special meaning or you. An ideal
topic is one that does not only elicit curiosity but on which you already have some knowledge of.
Generally, researchers write with more confidence if the subject is of interest to them. Preliminary
readings, inquiries and observation enable one to decide, whether or not the topic stirs enough
2. Check availability of materials or resources on your chosen topic.
Many materials written on the subject ensures a thorough investigation on the subject.
There should be at least two up to date and reliable books and magazines on the subject.
3. Consider the length of the report and the length of time needed to complete the report.
A short report demands a short time to prepare. A delimited or specific topic also requires
research time.
4. Find a topic of novelty
5. Consider the age level, interest and occupation of your expected readers.
These factors should help you in deciding on how and what to write.
1. Personal Experience There is a lot of happenings in the world for a person not to notice. What
is required of a would be researcher is keenness and sensitivity to what is occurring around him.
A sensitive person can easily discern the hardship and abnormalities that afflict people, the
environment and some system of living.
2. Common Sense that is, the things we all believe as true. Researchers are likely to work on
ideas that do not conform with what common sense dictates. However, there is value in testing
common sense ideas because not all of them may turn out to be valid.

3. Theories are good source of a research problem. A theory is a tentative or hypothesized

statement of relationships that exist between and among concepts or things. It usually presents
some generalizations and conclusions which need to be validated by a study.
Functions of Theories
1. Theories organize and explain a variety of facts. By themselves, specific facts about
behaviour are less meaningful, and so theories are constructed to impose framework by
which they can be analysed.
2. Theories generate new knowledge by focusing our thinking so that we notice new facts of
behaviour. Theories guide our observation of the world.
4. Past Researches The academe, the government agencies and research outfits are repositories
of past researches. Out of the findings of some researches, articles are written and published in
professional journals. These articles often stimulate others to do further research on the topics.
5. Practical Problem Research may be stimulated by practical problems that require immediate
solutions. Many researches have been conducted with the ultimate goal of solving practical
6. Journals, books, theses and dissertation, and the mass media radio, television, movies,
newspapers, and magazines are rich sources or research problems. Authors of researches and
articles usually and explicitly recommend topics or problems for other researchers to look into.
7. Technological changes bring forth new problems and opportunities for research. High
speed communication and transportation facilities, for example, while they are blessings to
humanity created problems never encountered by society before. Educational innovations
require new knowledge, skills, strategies and technical devices in teaching lessons
8. Friends, colleagues, professors, consultants may prove helpful in coming up with a good
research problem. Asking questions or their opinions on certain issues may lead to realizing
that there is a gap in knowledge which needs to be filled, that was has been decided on by a
body left many questions unanswered, or that the means by which a goal has been achieved is
being questioned for its moral and legal implications.
9. Conferences, symposia, dialogues, or even ordinary meetings In any of these activities, it is
likely that problems will just crop up or be brought to the attention of participants.
Research Topic, Research Problem, and Problem Statement
This section distinguishes three related terms commonly used in research research topic,
research problem statement. Knowing the right meaning of these terms will help you appreciate
and learn better the complexities of the research endeavour. Before proceeding, why not work first
SAQ 2.1
SAQ 2.1:
Doing research means coming up with a researchable problem or issue. In your own
words, define: a) problem and b) issue. Are the two similar or not? Support your answer.

Learning the research endeavour means learning terms commonly used in research. For the
meantime, one has to know the correct meaning of some research terms to avoid confusion.
The term research topic denotes a general idea of study. It could also mean the subject
matter of the research study. Here are some topics to illustrate this term:
Environmental Awareness




Natural Resources

A research problem is a problem that someone would like to research or perhaps, that
which a person finds unsatisfactory or unsettling; a difficulty of some sort, or a state of affairs that
need to be changed. It is more narrowly defined issue that represents several aspects of the
research topic.
Research Topic

Possible Research Problem

Environmental Awareness

Environmental Awareness of high school students


Effect of pollution in the Highly Urbanized Cities


Causes of improper waste disposal

The example above shows that several research problems can be formulated from a single
research topic. If a topic is like a piece of cake, the research problem is just one slice
of the cake.
The choice of a research problem is often, if not, always difficult. The difficulty of choosing
a problem is sometimes premeditated by lack of understanding of the nature of research or lack of
experience in systematic problem solving activity.
Now, for something like a science investigatory project. It is important to think ahead. This
will save you lots of unhappiness later. Imagine the experiment you might perform to answer your
question. How does that possible experiment stack up against these issues?
The experiment should measure changes to the important factors (variables) using a number
that represents a quantity such as a count, percentage, length, width, voltage, velocity,
energy, time, etc. or, just as good might be an experiment that measures a factor (variable)
that is simply present. For example, lights ON in one trial, then lights OFF in another trial, or
USE fertilizer in on trial, then DONT USE fertilizer in another trial. If you cant measure the
results of your experiment, youre not doing science.
You must be able to control other factors that might influence your experiment, so that you
can do a fair test. A fair test occurs when you change only one factor (variable) and keep
all other conditions the same.
Is your experiment safe to perform?
Do you have all the materials and equipment you need for your science fair project, or will
you be able to obtain them quickly and at a very low cost?
Do you have enough time to do your experiment before the deadline? For example, most
plants take weeks to grow. If you want to do a project on plants, you need to start very early!

For most experiments you will want to allow enough time to do a practice run in order to
work out any problems in your procedure.
Have you avoided the bad science fair projects listed in the table Science Project Topics to
Avoid in this guide?
If you dont have good answers for these issues, then you probably should look for a better
science fair project question to answer.
Critetria in Choosing Research Topic or Problem
Before deciding on a paticular research topic or research problem for research project, the
following are some criteria in choosing ones research topic/problem must be considered.
1. Cost doing research is expensive. Research entails time and money, not to mention the
sustained effort. Research must be within the ability of the researcher to finance. The
researcher should be ready to invest to ascertain completion of the study.
2. Time although time is more a factor of method than topic, the researcher should be sure
that the topic is sufficiently narrow so that it can be intensively studied and finished within
a reasonable time. In other words it can be completed within a reasonable period of time.
3. Researchers Interest the research topic or problem must be within the interest of the
researcher. This is to make sure that the researcher will focus attention to the research work.
By being interested he/she is more likely to read widely on the topic and have a more
thorough knowledge of the situation.
4. Researchers Capability a researcher should recognize his/her capability. The research
topic or problem must be within the specialization of the researcher. It must be within the
competence of the researcher to tackle.
1. Originality a good research problem should carry a novel idea. Originality of the topic
should also be considered, unnecessary duplication must be avoided.
2. Significance the research problem should be worthwhile or a significant undertaking. A
significant study makes an important contribution to the field in one of the following ways:
testing a theory, contributing to the development of the theory, extending existing
knowledge, changing prevailing beliefs, extending a research methodology. It is significant,
important and relevant to the present time and situation, timely and of current interest.
3. Scope and Depth it is necessary that the coverage of the problem should not be too large
to be used successfully nor too small to be of any significant value. The research problem
should be manageable. It can be delimited to suit the resources of the researcher but big
enough to be able to give significant, valid and reliable results and is
researchable and manageable. That is:
a. Data are available and accessible.
b. The data must meet the standards of accuracy, objectivity and verifiability
c. Answers to the specific questions can be focused.
d. The hypotheses formulated are testable, that is, they can be accepted or rejected.
4. Ethical Considerations as researcher, you should take into account the rights and
privileges of subjects as human beings. There must be a consideration of the hazards and
ethics involved either physical, psychological, social or legal.
SAQ 2.2:
Can you consider facilities and equipment as additional external criteria? Support
your answer.