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Senior Capstone Formal Problem Statement Readings

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1. Don’t forget a thesis statement.

The thesis statement is a single sentence that summarizes your entire argument, boiling it down to its bare essentials. A good thesis statement identifies both the problem and the solution as succinctly and clearly as possible.

2. Explain your problem.

In the words of the inventor Charles Kettering, “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.”[1]One of the most important goals (if not the most important goal) of any problem statement is to articulate the problem being addressed to the reader in a way that’s clear, straightforward, and easy to understand. Succinctly summarize the problem you intend to solve — this cuts to the heart of the issue immediately and positions the most important information in the problem statement near the top, where it’s most visible

3. Propose a solution.

When you’ve explained what the problem is and why it’s so important, proceed to explain how you propose to deal with it. As with the initial statement of your problem, your explanation of your solution should be written to be as clear and concise as possible.

4. Explain the benefits of the solution.

Again, now that you’ve told your readers what should be done about the problem, it’s a very good idea to explain why this solution is a good idea.

5. Conclude by summarizing the problem and solution.

All that’s left to do is to conclude with a summary of your main arguments that allows you transition easily into the main body of your proposal. There’s no need to make this conclusion any longer than it needs to be — try to state, in just a few sentences, the basic gist of what you’ve described in your problem statement and the approach you intend to take in the body of the article.



6. Be concise.

If there’s one thing to keep in mind when writing problem statements, it’s this. Problem statements shouldn’t be any longer than they need to be to accomplish their task of laying out the problem and its solution for the reader. No sentence should be wasted. Any sentence that doesn’t directly contribute to the problem statement’s goals should be removed. Use clear, direct language. Don’t get bogged down in minor details — problem statements should deal only with the essentials of your problem and solution.

7. Don’t use jargon without defining it.

Your problem statement should be written so that it’s as easy for your audience to understand as possible. Never make the assumption that your audience automatically has all of the technical knowledge that you do or you risk alienating them and losing readers as soon as they encounter terms and information they’re not familiar with.


8. Remember the “five Ws”.

Problem statements should be as informative as possible in as few words as possible, but shouldn’t delve into minute details. If you’re ever in doubt of what to include in your problem statement, a smart idea is to try to answer the five Ws (who, what, where, when, and why), plus how. Addressing the five Ws gives your reader a good baseline level of knowledge to understand the problem and solution without treading into unnecessary levels of detail.

9. Use a formal voice.

Use a formal, dignified writing style (the same as the style hopefully used for the body of the document) in the problem statement. Keep your writing clear, plain, and direct. Don’t attempt to win your reader over by taking a friendly or casual tone in your problem statement. Don’t use humor or jokes. Don’t include pointless asides or anecdotes. Don’t use slang or colloquialisms. Good problem statements know that they have a job to accomplish and don’t waste any time or ink on unnecessary content.

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10. Always proofread for errors.

This is a must for all forms of serious writing — no first draft has ever existed that couldn’t have benefited from the careful eye of a good proofreader. When you finish your problem statement, give it a quick read. Does it seem to “flow” properly? Does it present its ideas coherently? Does it seem to be logically organized? If not, make these changes now. When you’re finally satisfied with the structure of your problem statement, double-check it for spelling, grammar, and formatting errors.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2019 by