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Section 1

Alignment of Problem, Purpose, and Questions

In a project designed to address a local problem as is the case in the applied doctoral experience, alignment of problem, purpose, and questions is key to having a successful project outcome. To help check alignment, some students find the following activity to be helpful.

Instructions for completing the activity:

  1. Copy each segment of your specific problem statement into a cell in the first column.
  2. Then copy the corresponding segment of your purpose statement into the second column.
  3. Finally, copy the related questions into the third column.
  4. Read across to note any discrepancies.

Activity example:

Problem Purpose Questions
Employers report newly hired graduates of XYZ training program are not demonstrating the highest level of critical thinking skills.  To evaluate the critical thinking skills components that are currently incorporated in the XYZ training program.

Q1. There are critical thinking skills components included in the curriculum that is currently offered in the XYZ training program.  

Q2: Practitioners and authors indicate preferred practices for critical thinking skills components to be included in training program curricula.

Q3: Alumni of XYZ training program have perceptions regarding their level of critical thinking skills when employed.

Q4: Employers of graduates of the XYZ training program have perceptions regarding the critical thinking skills required of newly hired XYZ training program graduates.

Q5: The critical thinking skills components of the XYZ training program align with preferred practices identified by experts.
     

 

Alignment of the Quantitative Research Components

For information: Please visit the NCU ASC website and view the resources on constructing a problem statement. 

The problem of your study can be determined by gaps in the literature; HOWEVER, a gap in the literature is not the problem. A problem is a clear and distinct problem that can be empirically verified and has a consequence. NOTE: A problem statement does not suggest any action to be taken nor does it ask a question. 

Example: “My car has a flat tire, so I cannot go to work and my livelihood is affected.” (This is a statement of fact and can be verified.)

As soon as  an action is noted, it becomes a purpose statement – “I need to investigate why I have a flat tire.”

If you ask a question, it is no longer a problem statement either – “How does my flat tire affect my livelihood?”   

Your general and specific problem statements should have at least two to three current (within three years) citations.

An example problem statement format is provided below. Please use the information and templates below to construct each component based on the quantitative research design selected earlier.

Constructing the General problem and Specific Problem Statements using the Funnel Approach

The premise is that the “funnel” approach to constructing the problem statement funnels from a general problem to a specific one. 

The general problem statement. Using the funnel approach to write a problem statement, the first component developed is the general problem. The general problem represents a situation that exists that can be directly attributed to a specific problem that is the focus of the doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice. 

Exercise #3.

Based on the type of problem addressed by the doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice, write the general problem statement below.

"The general problem is (describe the situation linked to the negative outcome) (two-three citations)."

The Specific Problem Statement

Once again, using the funnel approach to write a problem statement (see Problem Statement webinar on the NCU ASC website at http://www.viddler.com/v/a70ecc81), the second  component developed is the “specific problem.” The specific problem represents an undesirable or negative outcome that can be researched, and is directly attributable to the general problem.

Exercise #4.

With the type of problem in mind, write the specific problem addressed by the proposed project below.

"The specific problem to be studied is when the (study population/site/program) experience/results in/causes (the general problem), (state the negative outcome) (two to three citations."

Following the Problem Statement is the Purpose Statement. The purpose should directly align with the problem.

The Purpose Statement.

The purpose statement describes the aim of the doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice and includes the project design, method, and variables. 

Based on the design the purpose statement can be constructed slightly differently.

Examples:

  • Correlational Design Purpose Statement

The purpose of this quantitative correlational Doctoral Project or Applied Dissertation is to examine if there is a relationship between (variable 1) and (variable 2). 

  • Causal Comparative Design Purpose Statement

The purpose of this quantitative causal-comparative doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice is to examine the difference in (dependent variable) between (group 1) and (group2). 

NOTE: The groups represent the independent variable. For example, you could be investigating the difference between high school and college students, so the independent variable is education level.

Exercise #5.

Based on the design write the purpose statement for the proposed doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice below.

"The purpose of this quantitative (design) doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice is to examine (connection) of (variables)."

Doctoral Project or Dissertation-in-Practice Research Questions

The type and number of research questions are dependent upon the design and purpose of the doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice.

Visit the following site to identify the appropriate structure for the proposed project: http://dissertation.laerd.com/how-to-structure-quantitative-research-questions.php

Examples:

  • Causal Comparative Research Questions

RQ1.  What is the difference in (dependent variable) between (group 1)? (group 2), (group…n)?
OR
RQ1. How are/is (group 1) different from (group 2) in terms of (dependent variable) for (participants) at (research location)?

  • Correlational Research Questions

Q1. What is the relationship of (variable 1)to ( variable 2) for (participants) at (research location)?

Exercise #6.

Write the appropriate number research question(s) based on the project design and purpose of the proposed Doctoral Project or Applied Dissertation.

Research Question:
RQ1. (see examples above to complete)

Hypotheses
For each research question there should be a null and alternative hypothesis.

Examples:

Causal Comparative Hypotheses
H10. There is no difference in (dependent variable between (group 1) and (group 2).
H1A. There is a statistically significant difference in (dependent variable between (group 1) and (group 2).
Correlational Hypotheses
H10. There is no relationship between (variable 1) and (variable 2).
H1A. There is a relationship between (variable 1) and (variable 2).

Visit Please review the following site to properly construct hypotheses: https://statistics.laerd.com/statistical-guides/hypothesis-testing-3.php

Exercise #6.

Write the appropriate hypotheses for the proposed doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice below.

H10. (see examples above to complete)    
H1A. (see examples above to complete)
 

Alignment of the Qualitative Research Components

For information: Please visit the NCU ASC website and view the webinar about constructing a problem statement. 

The problem of your study can be determined by gaps in the literature; HOWEVER, a gap in the literature is not the problem. A problem is a clear and distinct problem that can be empirically verified and has a consequence. NOTE: A problem statement does not suggest any action to be taken nor does it ask a question. 

Example: “My car has a flat tire, so I cannot go to work and my livelihood is affected.” (This is a statement of fact and can be verified.)

As soon as an action is noted, it becomes a purpose statement – “I need to investigate why I have a flat tire.”

If you ask a question, it is no longer a problem statement either – “How does my flat tire affect my livelihood?”  

In qualitative studies, the problem is the phenomenon under study.
 

The Qualitative Phenomenon and Specific Problem

The General Problem Statement

Using the funnel approach, i.e., moving from a general to a specific problem, to write a problem statement (see Problem Statement webinar, on the NCU ASC website at http://www.viddler.com/v/a70ecc81, the first component developed is the “phenomenon,” also known as the general problem. The phenomenon represents a situation that exists that can be directly attributed to a specific problem that is the focus of the purposed Doctoral Project or Applied Dissertation.

Exercise #3.

Use the script below by replacing the italicized text with the appropriate information to write a one-sentence statement representing the phenomenon, and include at least two to three current (within three years) citations to support the statement.

"The general problem is that (describe the phenomenon) (two to three current citations)."

The Specific Problem Statement

Once again, using the funnel approach to write a problem statement (see Problem Statement webinar on the NCU ASC website at http://www.viddler.com/v/a70ecc81), the second component developed is the “specific problem.” The specific problem represents an undesirable or negative outcome that can be researched, and is directly attributable to the phenomenon of the proposed  doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice.

Exercise #4.

Use the script below by replacing the italicized text with the appropriate information to write a one-sentence statement representing the specific problem, and include at least two to three current (within three years) citations to support the statement.

"The specific problem is when the (doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice participants) (experience the phenomenon), (negative/undesirable outcome) (two to three current citations)."

Often, it may be more effective to write one overarching problem statement that includes both the general and specific problems.

Following the Problem Statement is the Purpose Statement. The purpose should directly align with the problem.

The Purpose Statement

The purpose statement describes the aim of the proposed doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice and includes the research methodology and design, phenomenon, and project participants.

Exercise #5.

Use the script below by replacing the italicized text with the appropriate information to write a one-sentence statement representing the purpose statement.

"The purpose of this qualitative (design) study is to explore (the phenomenon), as perceived by ( Doctoral Project or Dissertation in Practice participants)."

Research Questions

Often, one question is designed to explore the barriers or challenges related to the phenomenon, and the second question asks about how to improve the phenomenon. However, there can be more than two research questions. The questions can be constructed in several different ways; a few examples are shown in RQ1. And RQ2. The questions should always include the phenomenon and doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice participants and ask the “How,” “What,” or “Why,” as related to the phenomenon.

Exercise #6.

Use the script below by replacing the italicized text with the appropriate information to write two one-sentence research questions that together explore the phenomenon as it is perceived by the  (Doctoral Project or Applied Dissertation participants). 

"RQ1.  What are the challenges of the (phenomenon) from the perspectives of the (doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice participants)?"
"RQ2.  How can the (phenomenon) be improved, as perceived by the ( Doctoral Project or Dissertation in Practice participants)?"