In the first part of this post, we focused on the Introduction of chapter 1 in an Essay proposal. We will continue this post with Background of the Problem, followed by Statement of the Problem.
Background of the Problem
Like its title suggests, the background section introduces the reader to story behind the problem the Essay addresses. In many cases, it functions as a brief literature review, explaining and citing some of the most relevant research informing the problem. It introduces the reader to the disciplinary dialogue concerning the major topic and variables. Unlike what occurs in a literature review, however, the relevant research is condensed rather than examined in detail. The citation of the literature is broad rather than detailed. Often, summary statements about the literature and topic will be followed by several in-text citations.
Further, if the problem, as explicitly stated in the problem statement, concerns some aspect of society or human behavior, the background section will often describe the context of the problem. For example, if the Essay is about reducing linguistic bias in speech pathology tests, the background of the problem might include descriptions of the context where speech pathology tests are used or the history of speech pathology tests.
Statement of the Problem
As they pertain to Essays, there are, to oversimplify, two types of problems i.e., problems of knowledge and problems of situation or practice. Problems of knowledge are primarily academic and often abstract, conceptual, or theoretical in nature. These problems arise out of the literature and are often described as a deficiency, conflict of position or findings, or discrepancy in the prediction of outcomes. Although knowledge gained might be applied to improve student achievement down the road (a practical problem), the focus is on gaining an understanding of the variation rather than the application of the knowledge.
Conversely, practical problem statements concern practices and situations which have relevance in non-academic contexts such as schools, businesses, and healthcare settings and involve some social, behavioral, psychological, and organizational or health-related issue. When writing problem statements that focus on practice, the researcher will refer to the population, places, and situation involved in the problem rather than the question of knowledge. The problem statement will indicate in a concise manner what the problem is. Although it may seem rhetorically blunt, it certainly does not hurt to state the problem by starting out the sentence, “The problem is…” One can always edit for style later.