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Chapter 3: The broad problem area and defining the problem


The broad problem area

The broad problem are refers to the entire situation where one sees a possible need

for research and problem solving. Such issues might pertain to:

1. Problem currently existing in an organizational setting that need to be


2. Areas that a manager believes needs to be improved in the organization

3. A conceptual or theoretical issue that needs to be tightened up for the basic

research to understand certain phenomena

4. Some reseach question that a basic research wants to answer empirically

Examples of broad problem areas that a manager could

observe at the workplace:

Training programs are not as effective as anticipated.

The sales volume of a product is not picking up.

Minority group members are not advancing in their careers.

The newly installed information system is not being used by the managers

for whom it was primarily designed.

The introduction of flexible work hours has created more problems than it

has solved in many companies.

Preliminary data collection

The nature of data to be gathered could be classified under three headings:

1. Background information of the organization (contextual factors)

2. Prevailing knowledge on the topic

The background details of the company can be obtained from available published

records, the web site of the company.

Company policies, procedures, and rules can be obtained from the organizations

records and documents.

Data gathered through such existing sources are called secondary data.

Secondary data, are data that already exist and do not have to be collected by the


Some secondary sources of data are statistical bulletins, goverment publications,

information published or unpublished and available from either within or outside

the organization, library records, data available from previous research, onnline

data, web sites, and the internet.

Other types of information such as the perceptions and attitudes of employes are

best obtained by talking to them by observing events, people, and objects or by

administering questionnaries to individuals.

Such data gathered for research from the actual site of occurrence of events are

called primary data.

Literature review

A good literature survey:

Ensures that important variables are not left out of the study.

Helps the development of the theoretical framework and hypotheses for


Ensures that the problem statement is precise and clear.

Enhances testability and replicability of the findings.

Reduces the risk of reinventing the wheel.

Confirms that the problem is perceived as relevant and


Data sources


Academic and professional journals


Conference proceedings

Unpublished manuscripts

Reports of government departments and corporations


The Internet

Searching for literature

Most libraries have the following electronic resources at their disposal:

Electronic journals

Full-text databases

Bibliographic databases

Abstract databases

The research proposal

Key elements:

Purpose of the study

Specific problem to be investigated.

Scope of the study

Relevance of the study

Research design:

Sampling design

Data collection methods

Data analysis

Time frame


Selected Bibliography