A problem statement addresses an area that has gone wrong. In writing one, you must discuss what the problem is, why it’s a problem in the first place, and how you propose it should be fixed. Take a look at these four effective problem statement examples to better understand how you can write a great problem statement of your own, whether for a school project or business proposal.
The best way to write a problem statement is to start with a basic structure. This will ensure that you hit on all the key points. When formulating a research proposal in science or for a school project, you can focus on four key aspects: context, issue, relevance, and objective. In an actual statement, you would not need to label these four parts; they’re simply labeled here for clarity.
After exercising, the human body is depleted of hydration and electrolytes from sweating. (Context)
The person then needs to decide how best to rehydrate the body and replenish the lost electrolytes. (Issue)
Not all beverages are equally beneficial after exercise. The coach must decide what drink to offer volleyball players during a game or practice. (Relevance)
In this experiment, we will investigate the electrolyte content found in standard sports drink compared to what is found in plain coconut water. (Objective)
In business, it’s incredibly valuable to be able to write a clear and direct statement of the problem. This is true even in the context of an informal business proposal, like an email you might send to your manager. Again, sticking to a basic prescribed structure helps you to focus on the problem and how to solve it. For instance, you might format your proposal with a vision, an issue statement, and a proposed method.
Remote workers across the company should be able to communicate with one another seamlessly and effortlessly, without getting bogged down in unnecessary or irrelevant messages. (Vision)
Right now, messages tend to get lost or cluttered through multiple email strings. This results not only in lost productivity, but also multiple problems in miscommunication. (Issue statement)
I propose that all employees sign up for Slack and use it for the majority of in-company communication. Conversations can be easily searched and organized by channel. Only more formal communication, like official announcements, should be sent over email. (Proposed method)
The best examples of problem statements stick to a clear and obvious structure. Engineering problems are no exception. While the exact words may differ from example to example, the main parts of an effective problem statement are fundamentally the same.
The manufacturing and assembly process for Product X is as efficient as possible. (Ideal)
Currently, certain parts need to be transported from one assembly line to the next and installed by hand. (Reality)
The incremental loss in efficiency means that Company Y has not been meeting its production goals this year. (Consequences)
To reduce the need for manual transport of parts, conveyor belts and mechanical robot arms should be installed between assembly lines. This way, workers can stay at their respective stations rather than having to walk back and forth across the assembly room floor. (Proposal)
Another way to think about writing problem statements is to ensure that you include all five Ws (and one H). Who is this problem for? What is it? When and where does this problem exist? Why does it need to be addressed? How can we solve it? Here’s an example from the context of healthcare:
Townsville General Hospital (where) operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As such, patient needs must be addressed all around the clock. For the overnight shift (when), there are currently no cardiology technologists scheduled (what), which can create issues for emergency staff (who).
Some patients wait for four hours or more for a medical laboratory assistant to administer an electrocardiogram (ECG), a task better suited for a cardiology technologist to perform and interpret. This results in poorer patient care and worse health outcomes (why).
The hospital should always have a cardiology technologist available, even if they are only on call for the overnight shift (how).
Just like all the other writing that you do, the most important point to keep in mind with writing problem statements is to be clear and concise. The person reading your problem statement should immediately understand the issue and the proposed solution. For more practice in this style of writing, try your hand at some technical writing assignments. Focus your writing so that it’s useful and descriptive. This is a very practical kind of writing.