Besides the research question, which begins the journey, the problem statement and statement of the purpose of the research will be the two most important and often repeated sentences in the report of your research. The statement of the purpose of the research is repeated a great many times to transition into and out of chapters and sections within chapters, and the function of the repetition is to remind the reader (and writer) about the focus and intention of the research.
Image by Justin Morgan
The statement of the problem is focused on what is not known or the gap you are attempting to fill with your research. For example, using the research question, “To what extent are adverse vaccine reactions related to blood type?” the problem is that some people suffer adverse effects after a vaccination, but it not known why some people suffer adverse effects and others do not. Given the centrality of blood type in transplant and transfusion medicine, it is possible that adverse reactions are the result of the blood-type of the fetal matter included in some vaccines being incompatible with the recipient’s blood type.
The nature of the problem and its phrasing leads to the statement of the purpose of the research, for example, “The purpose of this quantitative research design is to establish to what extent adverse vaccine reactions are correlated with recipients’ blood types.” I might further refine that statement of the purpose by including the type of vaccines I intend to examine to establish the extent of the relationship, for example, vaccines containing fetal matter and the COVID-19 shot in particular, and I might even include the method in order to further refine my statement of the problem.
Here is another example to consider: The research question is “What is the relationship between the perceived attractiveness of a teacher and the attribution of transformational leadership behaviors to that teacher by his or her colleagues?” In this example, the problem is that it is not known how attractiveness and the attribution of transformational leadership behaviors are related with respect to teachers and their colleagues. In other words, does being an attractive teacher mean one is more likely to be thought of as a transformational leader, in the same way as people who are more attractive are perceived to be more intelligent ?
A statement of the purpose of the research is the next step, and it includes a description of the means for collecting and analyzing data in a scientifically or an academically acceptable manner. Before finalizing the purpose statement, therefore, I must have explored what is possible methodologically in order to answer the research question posed.
Continuing with the above example, in a quantitative research design, the purpose statement might read as follows:
The purpose of this quantitative correlational study using a self-administered survey method is to examine the relationship between teachers’ perceptions of the attractiveness of their colleagues and those teachers’ perceptions of those colleagues’ transformational behaviors in three Californian high schools.
Notice that the purpose statement includes
- the methodological design (quantitative correlational design),
- the method (self-administered survey),
- the relationships or variables I intend to examine (relationship between teachers’ perceptions of the attractiveness of their colleagues and those teachers’ perceptions of those colleagues’ transformational behaviors), and
- the geographical location of the sample.
In essence, then, a purpose statement is a clear and concise description of the research focus that includes the main variables to be examined, the way in which the variables will be examined, and the population or context in which those variables and their relationships will be examined. Most often, the title of the research and the problem statement are closely linked, for example, in this instance. “Transformational Leadership and Teacher Attractiveness: A Survey of Three Californian Schools.” Notice that I have met the APA requirement that the title be no longer than 12 words.
In summary, the statement of the problem allows you to generate a researchable question, while the statement of the purpose of the research informs the reader about how you intend to answer that research question. The statement of the purpose of the research must be not only be congruent with the title of the research, the literature reviewed, and the methodology used to answer the research question, but also be consistently stated each time.
So, it is a good idea to keep a file from which you can cut and paste the research question, problem statement, and purpose statement when required. They are two critical foci that will help you tame the beast of information overload, the sometimes hundreds of articles you might access in a literature search.
 Satoshi, K., & Kovar, J. L. (2004). Why beautiful people are more intelligent. Intelligence, 32(3), 227‒243. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2004.03.003