Research is a venture towards discovery. Before discovery takes place, however, a researcher needs to identify the research problems to begin a study. Figuring out the research problem takes considerable time and effort. What are surefire ways to generate research problems?
The following article describes three sources of research problems that researchers may consider. These are problems that arise from the workplace, needs analysis, and research agenda. Examples for each source are given.
Three Sources of Research Problems
Problems that arise from the workplace
An organization is not without problems. In the course of meeting the stated goals and objectives of the organization, problems arise. Areas for improvement always come into the attention of managers and decision-makers. Problems in the organization’s operations, processes, and procedures present opportunities for correction.
The researcher needs to sharpen his or her senses to detect or identify problems that research, as a tool for effective management, may be put into good use. Three levels of organizational management may be explored, namely, strategic, executory, and operational.
Strategic Level Research Problems
The strategic level pertains to problems encountered by top-level managers such as looking into the possibility of merging with another company. Research can provide the information needed to objectively examine the pros and cons of such endeavor.
Executory Management Research Problems
Problems of execution through middle-level managers can serve as the focus of the study. Since this level of management lies between the top-level management and the operational-level management, issues related to the operational manager’s performance of assigned tasks aligned with the organization’s goals serve as research areas. For instance, if the performance of duties is below par, the effect of specific incentives such as generous overtime pay to supervisors may be explored.
Operational Management Research Problems
At the operational management level, workers or line and staff job behavior and performance are rich sources of research problems. For example, a researcher can focus his attention on the effect of strict punctuality policy on employee productivity.
Needs Analysis as Source of Research Problems
An analysis of needs at various levels reveals knowledge gaps where research can come in. These needs exist at the individual, group, community, or society level.
Since research activities began, despite studies on many issues and concerns, unexplored areas remain due to the dynamic nature of subjects of interest. Knowledge gaps always exist.
In the study of various phenomena, conflicting findings necessitate further investigation. Usually, this situation arises from issues of methodology, or plain inability to implement rigorous examination of the problems at hand.
In some studies, due to limited resources, some groups of people are left out. Thus, including those groups justify another study. It is a source of a research problem where previous methods of investigation can be applied. Different conclusions lead to further exploratory research.
For example, the relevance of indigenous people’s gleaning activities in harvested farmlands can serve as inspiration for an in-depth study. It may be a minor issue in the operations of cropland. But for the life of the marginal, resource-dependent community of indigenous people, it’s a life-or-death situation.
For many organizations, particularly public institutions, resources are limited. Hence, there is a need to direct research activities towards clear directions prescribed by a research agenda. Identifying research areas or specific topics for researchers to focus their research activities contribute to the attainment of a set of goals or objectives.
Governments typically set the research agenda for the public institutions that include research as their mandate. For example, formal documents like the Harmonized National Research and Development Agenda ensures that results of Science and Technology endeavors progress towards the citizenry’s maximum economic and social benefit.
Considering the Pareto Principle or the 80-20 rule, 20% of the effort can bring in 80% of the benefits. A good research agenda streamlines the performance of research where the benefits of discovery exceed the cost.
©2020 March 2 P. A. Regoniel