Research Problem: Definition, Characteristics, and Criteria for Evaluation

A research problem is a statement about an area of concern, a condition to be improved upon, a difficulty to be eliminated, or a troubling question that exists in scholarly literature, theory, or practice that points to the need for a meaningful understanding and deliberate investigation. It may be expressed in declarative or interrogative form. In some social science disciplines, however, the research problem is typically posed in the form of one or more questions. A research problem, commonly called the heart of research, is what researchers aim to answer later on as they go through the research endeavor.

The following must be considered in constructing a research problem:

  • A research problem is not just answerable by yes or no. It should imply that explanations and justifications regarding the true situation or observation are required.
  • A research problem implies relationship between the variables of the study.
  • The problem should be stated in clear, unambiguous manner.
  • A researchable problem must imply interpretation and analysis of data.


A good research problem should have the following criteria:

  1. Novel. A good research problem should be something that is new. It may be a new process, product, or principle.
  2. Interesting. A good research problem should draw attention and interest from other people.
  3. Practical. The aim of research is to improve people’s quality of living. A good research problem then should be useful and beneficial to its target population.
  4. Innovative. A good research problem should improve the current state of existing technology.
  5. Cost-effective. A good research problem should provide a good value for money, time, resources, and manpower while conducting the study. It should be economical in addressing the problems of the community.

Criteria for Evaluation

Another thing to consider and remember is that a research problem should be SMART, whether it is qualitative or quantitative research.

  1. S-pecific. The research problem must be specifically stated.
  2. M-easurable. The research problem should be quantifiable or observable. This may include interviews, surveys, or recorded observations such as videos and audio recordings. There should be instruments that will help the researchers gather data from their respondents.
  3. A-ttainable. A research problem should be easily achieved, solved, or answered by the researcher after all valid procedures had been carried out.
  4. R-ealistic. It should be possible for the researchers to perform the experimentations or observations needed to solve their problems.
  5. T-ime-Bound. Researchers should also consider the time allotment for their research. They should think of a research problem that could be carried out in the given time period.