45 Research Problem Examples & Inspiration

research problems examples and definition, explained below

A research problem is an issue of concern that is the catalyst for your research. It demonstrates why the research problem needs to take place in the first place.

Generally, you will write your research problem as a clear, concise, and focused statement that identifies an issue or gap in current knowledge that requires investigation.

The problem will likely also guide the direction and purpose of a study. Depending on the problem, you will identify a suitable methodology that will help address the problem and bring solutions to light.

Research Problem Examples

In the following examples, I’ll present some problems worth addressing, and some suggested theoretical frameworks and research methodologies that might fit with the study. Note, however, that these aren’t the only ways to approach the problems. Keep an open mind and consult with your dissertation supervisor!

chrisA Note from Chris: Students tend to think they need to find a new or innovative research problem. This is a mistake. I recommend choosing a problem without worrying about if it’s been studied before. You can find a new or innovative angle later – it might be a different methodology, theoretical frame, set of research participants, or even a different setting, that will set your work apart and reveal new information about the problem. So, focus on a problem that inspires you for now. Differentiating from other studies will come later.

Psychology Problems

1. Social Media and Self-Esteem: “How does prolonged exposure to social media platforms influence the self-esteem of adolescents?”

2. Sleep and Cognitive Performance: “How does sleep quality and duration impact cognitive performance in adults?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Cognitive Psychology
  • Methodology: Experimental design with controlled sleep conditions, followed by cognitive tests. Participant sleep patterns can also be monitored using actigraphy.

3. Childhood Trauma and Adult Relationships: “How does unresolved childhood trauma influence attachment styles and relationship dynamics in adulthood?

  • Theoretical Framework: Attachment Theory
  • Methodology: Mixed methods, combining quantitative measures of attachment styles with qualitative in-depth interviews exploring past trauma and current relationship dynamics.

4. Mindfulness and Stress Reduction: “How effective is mindfulness meditation in reducing perceived stress and physiological markers of stress in working professionals?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Humanist Psychology
  • Methodology: Randomized controlled trial comparing a group practicing mindfulness meditation to a control group, measuring both self-reported stress and physiological markers (e.g., cortisol levels).

5. Implicit Bias and Decision Making: “To what extent do implicit biases influence decision-making processes in hiring practices?

  • Theoretical Framework: Cognitive Dissonance Theory
  • Methodology: Experimental design using Implicit Association Tests (IAT) to measure implicit biases, followed by simulated hiring tasks to observe decision-making behaviors.

6. Emotional Regulation and Academic Performance: “How does the ability to regulate emotions impact academic performance in college students?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Cognitive Theory of Emotion
  • Methodology: Quantitative surveys measuring emotional regulation strategies, combined with academic performance metrics (e.g., GPA).

7. Nature Exposure and Mental Well-being: “Does regular exposure to natural environments improve mental well-being and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Biophilia Hypothesis
  • Methodology: Longitudinal study comparing mental health measures of individuals with regular nature exposure to those without, possibly using ecological momentary assessment for real-time data collection.

8. Video Games and Cognitive Skills: “How do action video games influence cognitive skills such as attention, spatial reasoning, and problem-solving?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Cognitive Load Theory
  • Methodology: Experimental design with pre- and post-tests, comparing cognitive skills of participants before and after a period of action video game play.

9. Parenting Styles and Child Resilience: “How do different parenting styles influence the development of resilience in children facing adversities?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Baumrind’s Parenting Styles Inventory
  • Methodology: Mixed methods, combining quantitative measures of resilience and parenting styles with qualitative interviews exploring children’s experiences and perceptions.

10. Memory and Aging: “How does the aging process impact episodic memory, and what strategies can mitigate age-related memory decline?

  • Theoretical Framework: Information Processing Theory
  • Methodology: Cross-sectional study comparing episodic memory performance across different age groups, combined with interventions like memory training or mnemonic strategies to assess potential improvements.

Education Problems

11. Equity and Access: “How do socioeconomic factors influence students’ access to quality education, and what interventions can bridge the gap?

  • Theoretical Framework: Critical Pedagogy
  • Methodology: Mixed methods, combining quantitative data on student outcomes with qualitative interviews and focus groups with students, parents, and educators.

12. Digital Divide: How does the lack of access to technology and the internet affect remote learning outcomes, and how can this divide be addressed?

  • Theoretical Framework: Social Construction of Technology Theory
  • Methodology: Survey research to gather data on access to technology, followed by case studies in selected areas.

13. Teacher Efficacy: “What factors contribute to teacher self-efficacy, and how does it impact student achievement?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Bandura’s Self-Efficacy Theory
  • Methodology: Quantitative surveys to measure teacher self-efficacy, combined with qualitative interviews to explore factors affecting it.

14. Curriculum Relevance: “How can curricula be made more relevant to diverse student populations, incorporating cultural and local contexts?”

15. Special Education: “What are the most effective instructional strategies for students with specific learning disabilities?

  • Theoretical Framework: Social Learning Theory
  • Methodology: Experimental design comparing different instructional strategies, with pre- and post-tests to measure student achievement.

16. Dropout Rates: “What factors contribute to high school dropout rates, and what interventions can help retain students?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Critical Pedagogy
  • Methodology: Longitudinal study tracking students over time, combined with interviews with dropouts.

17. Bilingual Education: “How does bilingual education impact cognitive development and academic achievement?

  • Theoretical Framework: Social Learning Theory
  • Methodology: Comparative study of students in bilingual vs. monolingual programs, using standardized tests and qualitative interviews.

18. Classroom Management: “What reward strategies are most effective in managing diverse classrooms and promoting a positive learning environment?

19. Standardized Testing: “How do standardized tests affect student motivation, learning, and curriculum design?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Critical Theory
  • Methodology: Quantitative analysis of test scores and student outcomes, combined with qualitative interviews with educators and students.

20. STEM Education: “What methods can be employed to increase interest and proficiency in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields among underrepresented student groups?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Constructivist Learning Theory
  • Methodology: Experimental design comparing different instructional methods, with pre- and post-tests.

21. Social-Emotional Learning: “How can social-emotional learning be effectively integrated into the curriculum, and what are its impacts on student well-being and academic outcomes?”

22. Parental Involvement: “How does parental involvement influence student achievement, and what strategies can schools use to increase it?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Reggio Emilia’s Model (Community Engagement Focus)
  • Methodology: Survey research with parents and teachers, combined with case studies in selected schools.

23. Early Childhood Education: “What are the long-term impacts of quality early childhood education on academic and life outcomes?”

24. Teacher Training and Professional Development: “How can teacher training programs be improved to address the evolving needs of the 21st-century classroom?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Adult Learning Theory (Andragogy)
  • Methodology: Pre- and post-assessments of teacher competencies, combined with focus groups.

25. Educational Technology: “How can technology be effectively integrated into the classroom to enhance learning, and what are the potential drawbacks or challenges?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)
  • Methodology: Experimental design comparing classrooms with and without specific technologies, combined with teacher and student interviews.

Sociology Problems

26. Urbanization and Social Ties: “How does rapid urbanization impact the strength and nature of social ties in communities?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Structural Functionalism
  • Methodology: Mixed methods, combining quantitative surveys on social ties with qualitative interviews in urbanizing areas.

27. Gender Roles in Modern Families: “How have traditional gender roles evolved in families with dual-income households?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Gender Schema Theory
  • Methodology: Qualitative interviews with dual-income families, combined with historical data analysis.

28. Social Media and Collective Behavior: “How does social media influence collective behaviors and the formation of social movements?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Emergent Norm Theory
  • Methodology: Content analysis of social media platforms, combined with quantitative surveys on participation in social movements.

29. Education and Social Mobility: “To what extent does access to quality education influence social mobility in socioeconomically diverse settings?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Critical Theory
  • Methodology: Longitudinal study tracking educational access and subsequent socioeconomic status, combined with qualitative interviews.

30. Religion and Social Cohesion: “How do religious beliefs and practices contribute to social cohesion in multicultural societies?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Structural Functionalism
  • Methodology: Quantitative surveys on religious beliefs and perceptions of social cohesion, combined with ethnographic studies.

31. Consumer Culture and Identity Formation: “How does consumer culture influence individual identity formation and personal values?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Social Identity Theory
  • Methodology: Mixed methods, combining content analysis of advertising with qualitative interviews on identity and values.

32. Migration and Cultural Assimilation: “How do migrants negotiate cultural assimilation and preservation of their original cultural identities in their host countries?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Post-Structuralism
  • Methodology: Qualitative interviews with migrants, combined with observational studies in multicultural communities.

33. Social Networks and Mental Health: “How do social networks, both online and offline, impact mental health and well-being?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Social Network Theory
  • Methodology: Quantitative surveys assessing social network characteristics and mental health metrics, combined with qualitative interviews.

34. Crime, Deviance, and Social Control: “How do societal norms and values shape definitions of crime and deviance, and how are these definitions enforced?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Labeling Theory
  • Methodology: Content analysis of legal documents and media, combined with ethnographic studies in diverse communities.

35. Technology and Social Interaction: “How has the proliferation of digital technology influenced face-to-face social interactions and community building?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Technological Determinism
  • Methodology: Mixed methods, combining quantitative surveys on technology use with qualitative observations of social interactions in various settings.

Nursing Problems

36. Patient Communication and Recovery: “How does effective nurse-patient communication influence patient recovery rates and overall satisfaction with care?”

37. Stress Management in Nursing: “What are the primary sources of occupational stress for nurses, and how can they be effectively managed to prevent burnout?”

  • Methodology: Mixed methods, combining quantitative measures of stress and burnout with qualitative interviews exploring personal experiences and coping mechanisms.

38. Hand Hygiene Compliance: “How effective are different interventions in improving hand hygiene compliance among nursing staff, and what are the barriers to consistent hand hygiene?”

  • Methodology: Experimental design comparing hand hygiene rates before and after specific interventions, combined with focus groups to understand barriers.

39. Nurse-Patient Ratios and Patient Outcomes: “How do nurse-patient ratios impact patient outcomes, including recovery rates, complications, and hospital readmissions?”

  • Methodology: Quantitative study analyzing patient outcomes in relation to staffing levels, possibly using retrospective chart reviews.

40. Continuing Education and Clinical Competence: “How does regular continuing education influence clinical competence and confidence among nurses?”

  • Methodology: Longitudinal study tracking nurses’ clinical skills and confidence over time as they engage in continuing education, combined with patient outcome measures to assess potential impacts on care quality.

Communication Studies Problems

41. Media Representation and Public Perception: “How does media representation of minority groups influence public perceptions and biases?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Cultivation Theory
  • Methodology: Content analysis of media representations combined with quantitative surveys assessing public perceptions and attitudes.

42. Digital Communication and Relationship Building: “How has the rise of digital communication platforms impacted the way individuals build and maintain personal relationships?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Social Penetration Theory
  • Methodology: Mixed methods, combining quantitative surveys on digital communication habits with qualitative interviews exploring personal relationship dynamics.

43. Crisis Communication Effectiveness: “What strategies are most effective in managing public relations during organizational crises, and how do they influence public trust?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT)
  • Methodology: Case study analysis of past organizational crises, assessing communication strategies used and subsequent public trust metrics.

44. Nonverbal Cues in Virtual Communication: “How do nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and gestures, influence message interpretation in virtual communication platforms?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Social Semiotics
  • Methodology: Experimental design using video conferencing tools, analyzing participants’ interpretations of messages with varying nonverbal cues.

45. Influence of Social Media on Political Engagement: “How does exposure to political content on social media platforms influence individuals’ political engagement and activism?”

  • Theoretical Framework: Uses and Gratifications Theory
  • Methodology: Quantitative surveys assessing social media habits and political engagement levels, combined with content analysis of political posts on popular platforms.

Before you Go: Tips and Tricks for Writing a Research Problem

This is an incredibly stressful time for research students. The research problem is going to lock you into a specific line of inquiry for the rest of your studies.

So, here’s what I tend to suggest to my students:

  • Start with something you find intellectually stimulating – Too many students choose projects because they think it hasn’t been studies or they’ve found a research gap. Don’t over-estimate the importance of finding a research gap. There are gaps in every line of inquiry. For now, just find a topic you think you can really sink your teeth into and will enjoy learning about.
  • Take 5 ideas to your supervisor – Approach your research supervisor, professor, lecturer, TA, our course leader with 5 research problem ideas and run each by them. The supervisor will have valuable insights that you didn’t consider that will help you narrow-down and refine your problem even more.
  • Trust your supervisor – The supervisor-student relationship is often very strained and stressful. While of course this is your project, your supervisor knows the internal politics and conventions of academic research. The depth of knowledge about how to navigate academia and get you out the other end with your degree is invaluable. Don’t underestimate their advice.

I’ve got a full article on all my tips and tricks for doing research projects right here – I recommend reading it:

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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