Week 4: Project Plan Outline
Problem statement / research issues … and why this is a problem.
Stated most simply, a problem is the difference between what is, and what might or should be. “No child should go to bed hungry, but one-quarter of all children do in
this country,” is a clear, potent problem statement. Another example might be, “Communication in our office is not very clear.” In this instance, the explanation of
“what might or should be” is simply alluded to.
Write down a “problem statement” – a comprehensive definition of the problem. Before you do, remember to define the problem in terms of needs, and not solutions. If
you define the problem in terms of possible solutions, you’re closing the door to other, possibly more effective solutions. “Violent crime in our neighborhood is
unacceptably high,” offers space for many more possible solutions than, “We need more police patrols,” or, “More citizens should have guns to protect themselves.”
Gather information on the problem.
Start with what you know. Write down what you know about the problem. Then decide what information is missing. Information is the key to effective decision making.
If you are fighting child hunger, do you know which children are hungry? When are they hungry – all the time, or especially at the end of the month, when the money has
run out? If that’s the case, then your problem statement might be, “Children in our community are often hungry at the end of the month because their parents’ paychecks
are used up too early.”
You might collect any of several types of information available. Most commonly, what you hear or read will fall into one of the following categories:
• Facts (15% of the children in our community don’t get enough to eat.)
• Inference (A significant percentage of children in our community are probably malnourished/significantly underweight.)
• Speculation (Many of the hungry children probably live in the poorer neighborhoods in town.)
• Opinion (I think the reason children go hungry is because their parents spend all of their money on inappropriate things.)
Options for a logical ‘argument’ …
What is the problem?
Why does the problem exist?
Who is causing the problem, and who is affected by it?
When did the problem first occur, or when did it become significant?
How much, or to what extent, is this problem occurring?
Anticipated outcome/opinion … how will this problem be solved?
What do you anticipate will be a good solution for this problem and why?
How would this solution be implemented in context? Is it practical?