Your Problem Informs Your Research Question

A problem is an area of concern, a condition to be improved upon, a difficulty to be eliminated, or a troubling question that exists in scholarly literature, in theory, or in practice that points to the need for meaningful understanding and deliberate investigation.

Your problem is your ‘driving need’ that fuels your entire research project. So, how do you find a problem worth solving? Easy peasy folks, just do a few literature reviews.

The First Literature Review Informs Your Problem

Let your first literature search inform your research problem. Ask open-ended broad questions. Consider all of the “so-what” questions. Don’t worry about citations right now. Or your ‘search strategy’ just yet. This first “unofficial” literature search is just to help you formulate a clear picture of the problem you want to solve and to help you prepare for the comprehensive search strategy for your second “official” literature search.

The Second Literature Review Informs Your Research Question

Once you have a clear problem, you can begin to setup a comprehensive search strategy for your second “official” literature search. A well-constructed search strategy includes keywords, search filters, exclusion/inclusion criteria, and more (but that’s an entire post on itself). As you delve further into the literature and learn more about your topic, actively clarify and focus your research question.

If done correctly, a literature review can help you create a clear research question on a problem worth solving.