Definition

A research problem is the main organizing principle guiding the analysis of your paper. The problem under investigation offers us an occasion for writing and a focus that governs what we want to say. It represents the core subject matter of scholarly communication, and the method by which we approach the discovery of new knowledge and understanding.

  1. Write down one or two specific topics of interest to you in your discipline (e.g. in P.T., Nursing, O.T., Athletic Training, Mental Health, etc.).

Examples:
• In medicine, there may be discrepancies about the best practices for reducing X condition in a certain type of patient. (E.g. pneumonia in patients with Y disease or health condition).
• Obesity is a national problem in the USA, particularly among children of various ethnic/racial backgrounds. You may be interested in learning the best preventive interventions for a particular population to reduce the prevalence of obesity among children of that group.
• A particular type of musculoskeletal injury may be common in athletes in X sport. You are interested in the most effective rehabilitation methods for that type of injury, or a comparison of two methods.
• Are you interested in school social work? Examine the differing roles of a school social worker in rural and urban settings, or in primary vs. secondary schools.

  1. If you have not been working in the health care field yet, perhaps there’s a disease or condition that interests you, through friends, family or personal experience. Or, is there a disease in your heredity and you are interested in the risk factors for that condition/disease and what primary prevention methods could be employed to reduce the risk of developing it? Or, you are interested in the best secondary or tertiary prevention for that condition?
  2. Perhaps there is a particular health issue that interests you and that influenced you to enter the profession for which you are studying.
  3. There may be recent news articles about health issues that interest you, related to your hometown or country.
  4. Browse the table of contents of the target publication (eJournal) for ideas.
  5. Review topics covered in literature you are currently reading.
  6. Is there a particular aspect or problem within your specific industry that interests you?
  7. You can also combine interests: Is there a particular racial or ethnic group that you want to learn more about? What are some of the socio-economic challenges that they face in this country? Are there health disparities between them in their access to health services compared to the national mainstream?
  8. Sometimes controversial issues can be interesting to explore. For instance, is medical marijuana a valid treatment for anxiety disorders? Are there legitimate reasons to consider the legalization of currently illegal narcotics? What are the legal implications of cloning human beings?

Once you have jotted down a few topics, conduct a preliminary literature search in a database, such as: Cochrane Library, Embase, PubMed, or Scopus for a reference material on your subject. Look for research that has been done. Then begin to narrow your topic to be more specific: for example, to a particular condition among a certain population or setting. CHOOSE a topic that interests you!

The best source for specific research topics? Recent research studies, because a good research article identifies at the end the implications or recommendations for future research on the topic.

 

Source: Alderman, Jim. “Choosing a Research Topic.” Beginning Library and Information Systems Strategies. Paper 17. Jacksonville, FL: University of North Florida Digital Commons, 2014; Alvesson, Mats and Jörgen Sandberg. Constructing Research Questions: Doing Interesting Research. London: Sage, 2013; Chapter 2: Choosing a Research Topic. Adrian R. Eley. Becoming a Successful Early Career Researcher. New York: Routledge, 2012; Answering the Question. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Brainstorming. Department of English Writing Guide.