Everything starts here.

You will want to identify a real problem in society that leads you to want to conduct your dissertation research. There are many possible categories of problems, but the simplest way to look at problems is: does the problem cause pain and suffering? Or is the problem related to monetary issues such as loss or excess expenditures. Many students claim that the problem is that there is not enough research on their topic. This can be claimed about almost any topic. Yes, we could use additional research on some aspect of society.

Who will care about the problem?

When your problem statement is vague or unrealistic, it is very difficult to get your chairperson and committee members interested enough to care about our dissertation research. You will conduct legitimate research as you work to complete your dissertation. Everyone involved wants to feel that what you are doing is meaningful and it is. Therefore, you want to look at society for difficulties, concerns, select groups of people, and situations that are not going quite right. You have your own interests and causes you believe in. If possible you can identify a problem surrounding those things you care about. If you care deeply about your research problem, it will be easier handle the setbacks and challenges all dissertation students face along the road to completion.

You may want to consider opening this section with these words, “This study addresses the problem of…” You want the Problem Statement to be in your own words without citations. After claiming what the problem is, you are expected to later validate and prove that the problem exists from other studies, literature, and/or data from various sources such as governmental agencies.

Two examples of problem statements from dissertations:

“This study addresses the problem of: Mexican-American students attaining their doctoral degrees in alarmingly low numbers.” Emilio Rendon, Ph.D. (1999). Main factors that influence the attainment of the doctoral degree by Mexican-Americans. Texas A & M University.


“The study addressed the problem of high relapse rates among adult alcoholics.” William V. Plath, Ph.D. (2001). The rational integration approach for reducing adult alcoholics’ alcohol relapse. Walden University.