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Research Problem vs. Research Question: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on June 23, 2024
A research problem is a broad issue needing investigation, while a research question is a specific query derived from this problem.

Key Differences

The research problem is a general area of concern or issue that a researcher identifies as needing investigation. It lays the foundation for research. In contrast, a research question is a specific, focused question that emerges from this broader problem, guiding the direction of the study.
A research problem often highlights a gap in knowledge or a societal need, setting the stage for inquiry. It is broader in scope. The research question, however, is a concise query formulated to address specific aspects of the research problem, narrowing down the focus of the investigation.
The formulation of a research problem requires understanding the background and context of the issue at hand. It's about identifying and articulating a challenge or opportunity. On the other hand, crafting a research question involves specifying what information or understanding is needed to address the research problem, often posed as a question to be answered through the study.
The research problem provides an overview of the area being explored, helping to convey the significance and rationale for the research. Whereas the research question translates this problem into a targeted inquiry, laying out a clear path for research methods and analysis.
The research problem and research question are complementary; the problem provides the context and the question provides the direction. The problem is about 'what' needs investigation, and the question is about 'how' to investigate it.

Comparison Chart


Broad, general area of interest
Specific, focused aspect of the problem


Identifies and articulates a gap in knowledge or a societal issue
Specifies what needs to be answered or investigated


Requires understanding the context and background of the issue
Involves crafting a precise query related to the problem

Role in Research

Sets the stage and direction for the research
Guides the methodology and specifics of the investigation


More abstract and conceptual
Concrete and directly answerable through research

Research Problem and Research Question Definitions

Research Problem

It's a general question or issue that guides research.
The research problem of digital privacy explores the balance between security and personal freedom.

Research Question

It's a focused question guiding the direction of study.
What factors contribute to the decline in bee populations? is a research question addressing an ecological issue.

Research Problem

It's a broad issue that needs investigation.
Climate change's impact on coastal communities is a significant research problem.

Research Question

It specifies what the researcher aims to answer.
What are the primary causes of antibiotic resistance? is a research question targeting a specific medical concern.

Research Problem

A research problem is an area of concern indicating a gap in knowledge.
The increasing resistance to antibiotics presents a critical research problem in medical science.

Research Question

A research question frames the methodology of the study.
How does digital privacy legislation vary across countries? is a research question guiding a comparative study.

Research Problem

A research problem identifies a specific area for inquiry.
The effects of social media on mental health in teenagers is an increasingly relevant research problem.

Research Question

A research question is a specific inquiry derived from a research problem.
How does social media usage affect the mental health of teenagers? stems from a broader research problem.

Research Problem

A research problem articulates the need for study.
Understanding the causes of declining bee populations is an urgent research problem.

Research Question

A research question narrows down the research problem into a testable query.
What is the impact of climate change on coastal erosion rates? is a research question within the broader climate change problem.


What makes a good research question?

It should be specific, focused, and answerable through research.

What is a research problem?

It's a broad area of concern that needs investigation.

Can a research problem lead to multiple research questions?

Yes, a broad problem can spawn several specific questions.

Why is identifying a research problem important?

It provides direction and purpose for the research.

Should a research problem be solvable?

Ideally, it should lead to research that contributes to solutions.

Is the research problem part of the research proposal?

Yes, it's typically outlined in the introduction of a proposal.

How is a research question different from a research problem?

A research question is a specific inquiry derived from the broader research problem.

What role does literature review play in defining a research problem?

It helps understand the context and background of the issue.

How specific should a research question be?

It should be narrow enough to be addressed within the scope of the study.

Can a research problem be too broad?

Yes, overly broad problems may lack focus and direction.

Can a research problem be theoretical?

Yes, it can be conceptual or theoretical, needing further exploration.

How does one validate a research problem?

Through literature review, expert consultation, and contextual relevance.

How does one identify a research problem?

By recognizing gaps in existing knowledge or societal needs.

Why is clarity important in a research problem?

Clear problems guide focused research and relevant questions.

Do all research questions require empirical data?

Not necessarily; some may be addressed through theoretical analysis.

What impact does the research problem have on methodology?

It influences the choice of methods to address the research questions.

Is the research problem always stated explicitly in a study?

Typically, yes, to provide context and rationale for the research.

Can research questions evolve during a study?

Yes, they can be refined as the research progresses.

How is a research question formulated?

By narrowing down the research problem into a specific inquiry.

What is the relationship between a research problem and hypothesis?

A hypothesis is a potential answer to a research question stemming from the problem.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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