A few hours of online research on the topic of
"good problem statements" yielded a plethora of definitions, concepts and guidance about the topic. Here
is what I discovered as I read through the many definitions available:
First, the defined properties or characteristics of a good problem statement varied from one source read to the
next depending on the subject addressed. For example, one document related to computer science defined four properties
of a good problem statement as complete, precise, consistent and general. Another document dealing with scientific
research described a good problem statement as one that expresses a relationship between two or more variables
is stated clearly and unambiguously as a question and that implies possibilities of empirical testing. Taking all
these characteristics and summing what remained constant from one definition to the next I conclude that a good
problem statement is simply one that clearly and concisely conveys the issues and concerns addressed.
Second, it became clear that coming
up with a good problem statement is not as easy as most would think. Bridget N. O'Connor tells us in Information
Technology, Learning and Performance Journal, Vol. 18, No. 2, Fall 2000 that a good problem statement is far from
effortless." She defines it instead as a "complex activity related to preparing a logical argument".
I concluded based on the characteristics discussed above that in order for a problem statement to convey all issues
and concerns in a clear and concise fashion it must have the following components:
|The given constants and variables - this consists
of all the information necessary to fully describe the situation.
The end goal - this is the desired end state of the problem.
Obstacles - assertions or steps through which the necessary information or other resources will be obtained or
performed to achieve the desired end state of the problem.
O'Connor, B. N. (2000) Information Technology, Learning and Performance journal, Vol. 18, No. 2.
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