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When you go out on a limb, that’s when you really know you’re living.

—Robin Quivers


The information provided in this chapter will assist the reader to:

  • Understand the initial phases of the research process.

  • Consider all the facets of a problem statement.

  • Identify the background, purpose, and significance of a research study.


As a way of refining the research question and developing the background, it is helpful to start writing about the project at this juncture. Information from the literature search is still fresh in your mind, and most of the literature findings will be incorporated into the early parts of the research manuscript. Writing the initial sections makes preparation for publication easier when that time comes.


The heart of the study is the problem statement, from which all other elements will flow. This is the reason for undertaking the study; it is the problem or question that caught your interest in the first place—the issue you wanted to solve in your clinical practice. After reviewing what has been written about the topic, you should be able to write about the problem comprehensively. At this point stop and ponder this thought, “Is it a problem for many healthcare professionals?” or “Am I going to write from a space I have been having difficulty with over the years or an area I want to know more about?” Have others identified the problem and tried to do something about it? Were their attempts successful or unsuccessful? What will you do differently in your attempt to solve the problem? Or are you merely trying to gather more data about it? (See Box 4-1.)

BOX 4-1 Statement of Study Problem

Phipps and Roberts state the underlying problem for their study:

Because of the challenging clinical presentation in children, adolescents, and young adults with cerebral palsy (CP), occupational therapy practitioners and other health care providers must use the best available evidence to optimize functional outcomes for these clients. Yet, the base of evidence for predicting self-care, mobility, and social function is limited to a few research studies, many with small sample sizes. The current study includes 2,768 children, adolescents, and young adults ages 0–19 yr to provide needed evidence for optimal therapy treatment planning, caregiver education, and clinical resource allocation. (Phipps & Roberts, 2012, pp. 422–423)

The research is usually driven by an action, such as carrying out research by identifying something that is wrong or something that needs attention, or by old ideas or methods that are no longer adequate. The paragraph stating the problem should be brief and to the point. Tell the reader what is wrong, what has failed, what is missing, ...

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