Selecting a Research Problem: Factors to Consider

discussing The Research Problems In Education is one thing you’d love reading.

The Explanation

each research is been geared to solving a particular issue, whether in agriculture, education, engineering, medicine etc.

  1. What then is a researchable  problem?

A problem is a perplexing and undesirable state of affairs in conflict with an individual or group, for which the appropriate course of action is yet unknown.

When such a conflicting and undesirable state of fairs exists in education, then it is said to be an educational problem worthy of research.

A researchable problem in education should be clearly stated and testable. Therefore, research is a logical, coherent, and unbiased investigation of the suspected relationship between two or more variables that create a given state of affairs. Hence, a research problem describes this suspected relationship.

The whole effort of the researcher is therefore, geared towards a reasonable, consistent and systematic exposition of this relationship.

Problem Identification

  • It is a widely acknowledged fact that a significant proportion of research students face difficulties when it comes to pinpointing a research problem that merits investigation. It is important to note that a researcher typically begins by identifying a broad problem area, which may be beyond their capacity to tackle. Through a process of in-depth exploration and analysis of relevant literature, the researcher is able to progressively narrow down the problem to a specific and manageable level. This often yields multiple research questions that can be derived from the original broad problem area, and it is advisable for the researcher to focus on a feasible scope of inquiry. For example, a broad problem area such as evaluating the effectiveness of Nigeria’s 6-3-3-4 education system could be narrowed down to specific research topics, such as::The problems of implementation of the senior secondary mathematics curriculum in Rivers
  • The effects of the use of instructional materials on students’ academic performance in biology in the secondary school. 


  • The extent of content coverage of the senior secondary physics curriculum. 


  • A study of the factors which affect secondary school principals’ administrative effectiveness in Rivers State.

Sources of educational Problems to Research

Research problems can be identified from three main sources, namely; literature, theory, and persona experience.

(a) Literature

literature can serve as a valuable resource for identifying research problems. Various publications such as books, journals, magazines, conference papers, workshop reports, and others, that are relevant to the researcher’s area of interest, can offer significant insights into areas that require further investigation.

(b) Theory

Theories and principles provide a basis for identifying problems worthy of investigation. According to Nkpa (1997), Conducting research is essential for applying theoretical principles and propositions to educational contexts. Piaget’s theory of intellectual development and maturation is a prime example of this. Numerous studies have been conducted to explore and apply Piaget’s theory in various educational settings. As a result, curricula at different levels of the education system have been designed to incorporate Piaget’s theory, along with other theoretical advancements in instructional design and development.

(c) Personal Experience 

Personal observations also serve as sources of researchable problems.

Occasionally, students may come across problems during their professional training that merit further investigation. For example, a trainee teacher on a teaching practice assignment might encounter challenges related to students’ comprehension of a particular concept, leading to misconceptions and poor performance in assessments. If the trainee teacher possesses a research-oriented mindset, they may view these issues as potential research problems. This approach has enabled many teachers to address and resolve classroom issues through systematic inquiry and investigation.

Read Also: A Critical Review of Literature and Its Importance

Criteria for Selecting a good and Researchable Problem

When selecting a research topic or problem, a range of factors must be taken into account, including both external and personal considerations. External criteria encompass aspects such as the novelty and significance of the field, data and method availability, and institutional and administrative support. Personal criteria, on the other hand, involve factors such as interest, training and experience, as well as cost and time constraints. In summary, the factors to be considered when selecting a research topic or problem can be classified into the following categories

(a) Novelty

It is crucial to consider this aspect to prevent redundant studies. A research topic must be unique, such that no existing solution to the problem is available at the time of the study. Opting for a problem with a pre-existing solution would be a waste of time, energy, and resources.

(b) Significance

The fundamental goal of research is to provide solutions to challenging problems faced by humanity. Therefore, it is crucial to choose a research topic or problem that would offer a valuable contribution to mitigating such problems, particularly in the relevant field of study. In this regard, it is advisable to steer clear of trivial problems whose solutions would make little or no contribution to the organized body of knowledge.

(c) Availability and Accessibility of Data

This is a vital aspect to contemplate when choosing a research topic. If the essential data for solving a particular problem are readily available and accessible, that problem is not considered researchable. A researchable problem should entail variables and attributes that can be precisely defined and measured using the necessary measuring instruments.

When the required instrument is incapable of
measuring the attribute for which it was designed to measure due to some ethical reasons, such problem is not researchable. For example, consider research problem investigating the proportion of armed
robbers in a particular state.

Such a topic is not researchable for obvious reasons. Firstly, police established cases of armed robbers cannot give accurate account of the proportion of armed robbers.

Secondly, the number of recorded and unrecorded cases of armed robbery incidents does not indicate the proportion of armed robbers. Thirdly, any inventory intended to gather data on the proportion of armed robbers is inadequate for eliciting the necessary response..

(d) Interest, Training, and Experience

To ensure thorough investigation of a problem, a researcher should choose topics that genuinely interest them. This personal drive sustains the researcher throughout the study. In addition, the researcher should be well-informed and knowledgeable enough to know what to do and how to do it.

(e) Time
A researcher, especially students undergoing the course of their degree programme, should consider the time limit for the study. Avoid topics that might last beyond the time stipulated for the completion and submission of research reports.

(f) Cost

It is advisable to avoid problems that may require huge amount of money in order o be thoroughly investigated and completed. A research worker cannot blame his failure to carry out a thorough study on lack of fund. He is expected to consider the fund available during the selection of a research problem.

(g) Special Equipment and Working Conditions

The researcher should take into account the accessibility of specialized equipment that cannot be substituted before choosing a research topic. It is typical in the sciences for students to abandon their research endeavors due to non-functional or unattainable equipment. Additionally, it is important to consider working conditions that pertain to institutional and administrative cooperation.

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