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Identifying Social Problems and Research Problems ?What social problems are you interested in pursuing for your dissertation research study? For one of these social problems, what resea


Journal: Connecting to Your Dissertation—Identifying Social Problems and Research Problems

 What social problems are you interested in pursuing for your dissertation research study? For one of these social problems, what research problem might be appropriate based on the literature you have reviewed?

My Interest:   

What are the benefits of having a multidisciplinary professional team working with justice-involved mentally ill individuals in the criminal court system, compared to justice-involved mentally-ill individuals without assistance from a multidisciplinary professional team? 

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© 2016 Laureate Education, Inc. Page 1 of 2

Guide to Academic Journaling In Weeks 1, 3, and 4 of this course, you will complete Academic Journal assignments that encourage you to document insights you have gained during the week related to the Learning Resources, Discussions, and Assignments, and how these insights apply to your personal academic and career goals. This is an opportunity to reflect on what you have learned as relate it to your doctoral research. Only your Instructor will see your Academic Journal. Before you begin your academic journaling, review this resource.

What is an Academic Journal?

You may be familiar with journals as personal diaries, where a writer keeps track of thoughts, events, ideas, and reflections. In Weeks 1, 3, and 4, you will be keeping an Academic Journal in which you will record your responses to specific questions related to what you are learning each week.

Why keep an Academic Journal?

Keeping an Academic Journal is a beneficial tool for enhancing learning, developing critical thinking, and improving writing skills. In particular, the Academic Journal in the Literature Review Lab is meant to give you the opportunity to explore your skills, abilities, questions, and goals related to the upcoming research in your doctoral studies. As such, the Academic Journal will help you keep track of insights, tools, and resources you find particularly useful. Journaling can be a great aid to memory and application of knowledge.

How will it be used?

The entries you make in the online Academic Journal are private and only visible to you and your Instructor. In your submissions, you will respond to specific questions related to the week’s content. You are encouraged to write your responses thoughtfully and reflectively, exploring any ideas or questions you might have related to the week’s content. The Journal will also help you formulate ideas for your final assignment. Your Instructor will read your responses and provide any feedback or guidance to questions you might raise. The Instructor will serve as a guide and mentor.

How will the online Academic Journal be assessed?

The Academic Journal is a required component of your coursework and will be graded. Your Academic Journal entries will be assessed for:

 Responsiveness: Did you respond to the provided questions by providing thoughtful,

complete responses that demonstrate understanding, application, and inquisitiveness?

 Completion and timeliness: Did you submit your Academic Journal entry, and was it on


© 2016 Laureate Education, Inc. Page 2 of 2

 Spelling and mechanics: Are your Academic Journal entries written using correct

spelling and grammar?

Note: For information regarding how your Academic Journal assignments will be

evaluated, please review the grading rubric located in the Course Information area of

the course.

Submissions Instructions

After you have read the weekly Academic Journal assignment, create your entry by completing the following steps:

1. Click on Create Journal. 2. In the Title box, enter a title for your journal entry. It should be “Week # Journal

Entry” (e.g. Week 1 Journal Entry) 3. Type in your response to the Academic Journal assignment in the Entry box. 4. Click Post Entry when you are ready to submit your Academic Journal


By the end of the course, you should have 5 entries, one each for Weeks 1 through 5.

For information regarding how your Academic Journal assignments will be evaluated,

please review the grading rubric located in the Course Information area of the course.


Identifying a Research Problem

Identifying a Research Problem Program Transcript

Hi, I’m Jay Memmott. Let’s take a few minutes and look at how to identify a research problem.

First of all, a research problem is an issue or a concern that an investigator or a researcher presents and justifies in a research study. The problem is how to locate the research problem. And the best way to do that is to look at published studies.

When you look at a particular published study– an article, a manuscript, or even a chapter in a book– you need to ask the following questions. What is the issue or the problem? What controversy leads to the need for the study? What concern is being addressed in the study or by the study? Is there a sentence in this article that basically says the problem being addressed in this study is XYZ, whatever?

The research problem is important because it establishes the importance of the topic, and it creates reader interest not only in your proposal but in the subsequent research report or paper that you write after you’ve completed the study. In addition, it focuses the reader’s attention on how the study will add to the body of knowledge to the professional literature.

The research problem does differ from other parts of the research. A research problem is an issue or problem in the study. On the other hand, a research topic is the broad subject matter being addressed in a study.

A purpose is the major intent or objective of the study. And research questions are those that the researcher would like to answer or address in the study. And going one step further, whatever the research tool, instrument, survey, semi- structured or structured interview guide, whatever the data collection tool or tools are should help you answer those questions. That’s really what measurements are, is they are simply responses or answers to queries or questions.

This is an example of topic, problem, purpose, and questions, moving from the general to the specific, which, of course, is a deductive process. And this is an example. The topic is distance learning. The research problem is that there is a lack of students in distance classes. The purpose statement basically gets at to study why students do not attend distance education classes at a community college.

And then the research question is simply massaging the purpose and the research problem and asking a more general global question, does the use of web technology in the classroom deter students from enrolling in distance education classes? Now, we have a lot of work to do in terms of defining, more specifically, what we mean when we ask this particular question.


Identifying a Research Problem

Determining whether a problem should be researched, some very obvious things. Can you study the problem? Do you have access to subjects, to the site or sites where you can gather information? Do you have the time, the resources, the money, the skills to carry out the research?

Should you study the problem in the first place? Does it advance knowledge? If it doesn’t, then you shouldn’t study it. Does it contribute to practice? If it doesn’t, then you probably need to look elsewhere.

Will your study fill a gap or a void in existing knowledge? Will your study replicate a past study that examined different participants in different research sites? A replication study is perfectly appropriate for the research sequence in our graduate program.

Will your study extend past research or examine the topic more thoroughly or more in-depth? Will your study give voice to people not heard, silenced, or rejected by society? Will your study inform practice?

This is simply a short and quick comparison between quantitative and qualitative research. You would use quantitative research if your research problem requires you to measure variables, to assess the impact of these variables on a particular outcome, to test theories or models or broad explanations or explanatory systems, to apply results to a large number of people.

You would want to use a qualitative approach if your research problem requires you to learn about the views of people you plan to study particularly in depth. If you want to climb inside somebody’s head and develop what we call a phenomenological type of study, do you want to assess a process over time? Do you want to generate a theory or theories based on participant perspectives? Do you want to obtain detailed information about a few people or specific sites of research?

Here is the five elements, or the five elements of a problem statement. You start with the topic. Here we have a social work issue. Then you have evidence for the issue, deficiencies in evidence, and then what remedying the deficiencies will do for select audiences.

And we have here under each of these the subject area for the topic. The social work issue can be a concern. It can be a problem, something that needs a solution, something that needs to be addressed. The evidence for the issue, this can be evidence from the literature. It can be evidence from practical experience from life.

Deficiencies in the evidence are represented by in this body of evidence what is missing? What do we need to know more about? What do we not know?


Identifying a Research Problem

And then, finally, what remedying the deficiencies will do for select audiences. Here we have how will addressing what we need to help researchers, educators, policymakers, individuals such as those in the study, our clients, our clientele, consumers, service users, patients, whatever term we want to use to describe, in general, the people that we work with and the people we help.

When you are writing your proposal and then when you are subsequently writing your report, you need to have a narrative hook. And this should be the first sentence in the study. It functions as a hook in the sense that it causes the reader to pay attention.

It elicits an emotional or an attitudinal response from the reader. And it causes the reader to continue reading. Information that can be included in a narrative hook are things like statistics, a provocative question, a provocative statement, need for further research, or you can simply state the intent of the study.

It’s important that you state the research problem. And you need to do this in the opening paragraph. You need to identify an issue. And it could be research- based, research problems, or it can be practical problems, or maybe some combination. And you need to then reference the problem using the literature, the professional literature that pertains to that particular subject and topic.

You need to justify the importance of the research problem. So your justification should be based on what other researchers have found. It can be based on personal or practical experience. It can be based on experiences others have had in the practice arena.

You need to identify deficiencies in the evidence. What do we still need to know? What else do we need to know to improve practice? What is it that we do not know?

You need to identify your audience. So you need to ask the following question, who will profit or benefit from reading our study or my study? Obviously other researchers, practitioners, policymakers, special populations, for example, clients or parents of clients. Do not write your paper for the instructor. If you do that, you will make assumptions about what the reader knows that should be surfaced and made more explicit in your paper.

The statement of the problem should include one paragraph for each of the five elements. You should heavily reference this section to the literature or tie it to the literature. You need to provide statistics to support trends. And you also need to use quotes but use them in moderation. And always attribute the source of your quotes, give credit where credit is due.

This is an example of the flow of ideas for a problem statement with specific operational example that refers to social work practice. So as we saw earlier, we


Identifying a Research Problem

have the topic, the research problem, justification for research problem, deficiencies in evidence, and then relating the discussion to audiences. OK, the example here is ethical issues and social work practice. That’s pretty broad.

The research problem is that there are ethical violations among LCSWs, say specifically, in South Dakota. There is a gap in the literature. There are reports of violations. When we get to the deficiencies in the evidence, you may provide a description that identifies and characterizes the violations. And certainly a primary source of this type of information would be the licensing board or the Board of Social Work Examiners here in South Dakota.

Then, finally, relating the discussion to the audiences, you want to assess violations. You want to help regulators develop better ethical standards. You want to help social workers better understand ethical issues so they don’t get into trouble.

OK, elements of a quantitative purpose statement, it identifies the variables, their relationship with each other, the participants and the site for the research. And some specific guidelines for writing, use a single sentence. Use wording such as the purpose of this study is.

If using a theory, state what the theory is that you plan to test. And operationalize and define all pertinent relevant concepts because these concepts, in one way or the other, are going to become operationalized in your instrument or instruments that you use to obtain or gather data. You want to use quantitative words, such as relate, compare, describe to characterize the relationships between variables in your study.

Types of quantitative research questions, you would describe the results of your variables. Compare two or more groups on the independent variable or grouping variables in terms of the dependent variable or variables. And then you can also relate two or more variables.

Guidelines for writing include posing a question begin with how, what, why. You want to specify the independent, dependent, and mediating or controlling variables. You want use words, like describe, compare, or relate to indicate the action or the connection among your variables. And you also want to indicate the participants and the research site for the study.

In some studies, in particular when we have a experiment or quasi-experiment, there will be one or more hypotheses. And hypotheses are simply conscious. And this is just a quick review.

You have what’s called a null hypothesis. And this is basically where you make a statement that there will be no change in the dependent variable. And an


Identifying a Research Problem

example is that there will be no significant difference in test scores between 5th grade boys and girls on the XYZ achievement test.

You can also have a directional alternative hypothesis. And this specifies the direction of change in the dependent variable that the researcher predicts will take place ahead of doing the study. An example here is that 5th grade girls will have higher scores on the XYZ achievement test compared to 5th grade boys.

A non-directional alternative hypothesis does not specify the direction of change in the dependent variable. And so an analogous example here is that there will be a difference in test scores on the XYZ achievement test for 5th grade boys and girls. But we don’t say if there’s going to be a higher score for boys or girls or vice versa.

OK, in writing a research hypothesis, you need to state the variables in this order– the independent variable, the first position, the dependent variable or variables, the second position, and then the control variable or variables, the third position. When making comparisons, explicitly state the groups. If variables are related, specify the relationship between the variables. You want to make a prediction about changes that you expect in your groups. You also want to state information about the participants and the site unless it repeats information that you stated earlier in your paper or your proposal, for example, in your purpose statement.

Looking again at a comparison of quantitative and qualitative research questions, quantitative questions tend to be more closed-ended. So you have probable cause and effect, for example, why did it happen? You use theories. Why did it happen in view of an explanation or particular theory?

And it also assesses differences in magnitude. How much happened? How many times did it happen? What were the differences among groups in what happened?

For a qualitative question or set of questions, they tend to be more open-ended, more descriptive, for example, what happened? Interpretive, what was the meaning to people of what happened? And process-oriented, what happened over time? And more specifically in detail, what happened over time?

There is a difference between exploring and explaining phenomenon. In a quantitative study, you’re going to explain or predict the relationship between variables. For example, the independent variable X influences a change in a dependent variable Y.

In a qualitative study, basically what you’re doing is you’re developing understanding or exploring a central phenomenon. So you’re developing an in-


Identifying a Research Problem

depth understanding of Y. External forces shape and are shaped by Y. So you’re really looking at things from a non-linear more circular perspective.

OK, if you have any questions about this presentation or what I’ve said, you can email me Jay.M[email protected]. Or you can call me at area code 605-357- 1592.

Identifying a Research Problem Content Attribution

Dr. Jay Memmott (Producer). Identifying a Research Problem [Video transcript]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhXQNxL4VCQ. Used by permisison of Dr. Jay Memmott.


mailto:[email protected]


Developing Social Problems into Research Problems for Graduate Study

Developing Social Problems into Research Problems for Graduate Study Program Transcript

TEACHER: Welcome to tonight’s webinar, “Developing Social Problems into Research Problems.” I’m eager to talk about social problems, research problems, and the differences between them. We’ll talk a bit about organizing these problems in your course papers, CAMs, or at the Capstone level in your proposals, and I’ll go over the session objectives in just a moment.

You might want to have a paper and pen nearby or maybe pull up another blank Word document. You could go back and forth between the slides in your Word document if you are technologically savvy, but you could at least take notes because I’ll also be mentioning resources and of course dig into the slides verbally beyond simply what’s written here on them.

And so, our session objectives tonight. We’re going to talk about, as I mentioned, the difference between social problems and research problems. This difference applies to you as a graduate student at Walden regardless of your program– master’s level, EdD, DBA, PhD– whatever degree level you’re pursuing, these differences will apply to you. We’ll recognize how research problems connect to work in your program, how those research problems are central to your course papers, your cams, or your Capstone proposals.

And finally we’ll have a little practice at the end. I have a couple of examples. I’ll show you a model you can use in your notes behind the scenes informally as you’re developing your research problems, and I’ll show you a couple of examples of how to use that model at the end before we stop for Q&A.

All right, so to begin, let’s talk about differences between these problems. You’ve come to Walden for many, many reasons, but something that we stress in the mission– in our mission here at the University is social change. And so, likely, you have identified a social problem that you’ve seen around you and you want to work to alleviate it or to correct it, to resolve it.

Yet a social problem on its own is not enough on which to build a course paper, a CAM, or a Capstone project. You need to transfer or transform that social problem into an academic problem into a research problem. So here are some differences between them. A social problem– it’s an undesirable situation in your community. Low literacy rates, the achievement gap, failure of small businesses in downtown urban areas, shortages of math teachers, of nurses’ health epidemics, obesity.

These are social problems. They are undesirable situations that you see around you. They don’t necessarily require much research however to resolve depending


Developing Social Problems into Research Problems for Graduate Study

on what that social problem is, and there is an example here on the slide. So let’s say we’ve suffered a significant drought across the country here this summer.

So let’s say the county’s water supply is low. That is a social problem. That’s a problem that’s affecting the community. One solution could be to enforce a water use ban to replenish its supply. So residents being good citizens choose not to water their lawns or they conserve water in their home so that there can be more water for everyone. And so, that is a social problem, a practical problem that has a practical solution. Not a lot of research required there to figure out that resolution.

However, a research problem is a topic that you study to understand in more detail, and that study– your analysis– can be options for resolutions. Such as, research problem– the teacher turnover rate in a local school district is high. Novice teachers are leaving at a high rate. The solution could be to analyze and resolve these teachers’ reasons for leaving.

Well, how do you know the reasons why teachers are leaving? Well, you’d likely would interview them or ask them to complete a survey. Find out their perceptions of what was going on on the job that led to their wanting to leave that job.

And so you would need to study, oh, why teachers have left other positions in other school districts, particularly in the novice years. What it is about the teaching position that might not be appealing for a variety of reasons. Pay perhaps is dependent upon property taxes and some people would rather teach in a more economically sound area than others. There’s all kinds of research involved there. So this is sort of an overall difference between social and research problems.

So now how does that difference affect what you’re doing at the course level or at the proposal level in your graduate work here at Walden? Well, when writing course papers or CAMs, and I’m particu

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