How Do You Identify a Nursing Research Problem?

How Do You Identify a Nursing Research Problem?

In the dynamic world of nursing research, identifying a research problem is a critical and foundational step that sets the stage for meaningful investigations. A research problem serves as the compass guiding the course of your study, dictating what questions you seek to answer and why they matter. However, how do you identify a nursing research problem?

This article delves into the essence of this initial phase, shedding light on the importance of a well-defined research problem in the nursing field. Furthermore, it offers valuable insights, guidance, and solutions, including exploring your passions, reviewing the literature, consulting with experts, and evaluating the research problem, making it an essential resource for novice and experienced nurse researchers. As you embark on your journey to unravel the intricacies of nursing research, understanding how to identify a nursing research problem will be your first vital milestone.

What is a Nursing Research Problem?

A research problem is a situation that causes the researcher to feel apprehensive, confused, and ill at ease. In addition, it is the demarcation of problem areas within a particular contest involving the WHO or WHAT, the WHERE, the WHEN, and the WHY of the problem situation.

Many problem situations may give rise to research. Three sources usually bestow problem identification. Own experience or the experience of others may be a source of problem supply. A second source could be scientific literature. Therefore, you may read about specific findings and notice that a particular field was not covered. This could lead to a research problem. In addition, theories could be a third source. Therefore, shortcomings in theories could be researched.

Research can thus be aimed at clarifying or substantiating an existing theory, clarifying contradictory findings, correcting a faulty methodology, correcting the inadequate or unsuitable use of statistical techniques, reconciling conflicting opinions, or solving existing practical problems.

How Do You Identify a Nursing Research Problem?

Identifying a research problem is the first and most vital step in any nursing research project. A research problem is a specific issue, gap, or need that you want to address through your study. In addition, it guides your research question, objectives, methods, and outcomes. However, finding a relevant and feasible research problem can be demanding.

Below are steps to assist you in identifying a research problem in nursing, including;

  • Explore your interests and passions
  • Review the literature and practice guidelines
  • Consult with experts and stakeholders
  • Evaluate your research problem

Explore Your Interests and Passions

One way to start looking for a research problem is to reflect on your interests and passions as a nurse. This may include, what topics or areas are you curious or passionate about. What problems or challenges do you encounter in your practice or education? What gaps or inconsistencies do you notice in the current knowledge or evidence? Exploring your interests and passions can narrow your focus and generate potential ideas for your research problem.

Review the Literature and Practice Guidelines

Another way to identify a research problem is to review the existing literature and practice guidelines related to your topic. Therefore, you can use databases, journals, books, websites and other sources to find relevant and credible information. By reviewing the literature and practice guidelines, you can identify what is already known and what is still unknown about your topic.

In addition, you can also find out what are the current trends, issues, controversies, or gaps in the field. This can assist you in refining your ideas and formulating a specific research problem.

Consult with Experts and Stakeholders

A third way to identify a research problem is by consulting with experts and stakeholders with experience or interest in your topic. Experts and stakeholders can include your mentors, colleagues, professors, supervisors, clients, or policymakers. Consult with experts and stakeholders to get feedback, insight, perspectives, or suggestions on your research problem. You can also learn about their needs, expectations, or challenges related to your topic. This can assist you in validating and adjusting your research problem to make it more relevant and feasible.

Evaluate Your Research Problem

A final step to identify a research problem is to evaluate it according to some criteria. You can use the PICOT framework to assess your research problem. PICOT stands for Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, and Time. In addition, it is a tool to assist you in defining and structuring your research problem. Using the PICOT framework, you can check if your research problem is clear, specific, measurable, realistic, and time-bound.

Moreover, you can also use the FINER criteria to examine your research problem. FINER stands for Feasible, Interesting, Novel, Ethical, and Relevant. This is a tool to assist you in determining if your research problem is worth pursuing and can contribute to nursing knowledge and practice.

Identifying a research problem is not a linear or straightforward process. Therefore, it requires creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. By following these steps, you can identify a research problem that is meaningful and manageable for your nursing research project.

What are the Challenges Beginner Nurse Researchers face in Identifying a Research Problem?

Identifying a research problem is a vital step in the research process. For beginner nurse researchers, various challenges may arise during this phase. Some common problems encountered by beginner nurse researchers while identifying a research problem include:

  • Lack of experience and knowledge
  • Limited access to resources
  • Narrow focus or lack of clarity
  • Lack of mentorship or guidance
  • Time constraints

Lack of Experience and Knowledge

Beginner nurse researchers may have limited experience and knowledge in conducting research. This can make it difficult for them to identify relevant research problems and comprehend the existing gaps in the literature.

Limited Access to Resources

For beginner nurse researchers, access to research articles, databases, and other resources may be limited. Therefore, this can hinder their ability to conduct an inclusive literature review and identify research gaps.

Narrow Focus or Lack of Clarity

Beginner nurse researchers may struggle with narrowing down their research focus or lack clarity in defining their research problem. This can make it demanding to identify a specific and feasible research problem.

Lack of Mentorship or Guidance

Beginner nurse researchers may not have access to skilled mentors or guidance during the research problem-identification phase. Therefore, seeking advice and support in refining their research problem is complex.

Time Constraints

Beginner nurse researchers often have multiple responsibilities, such as clinical duties or coursework, which can limit the time available for research. Dedicating sufficient time and effort to identify a research problem can be demanding.


The process of identifying a nursing research problem is a pivotal and intricate endeavor that underpins the success of any research project in the field. This article has illuminated the significance of a well-defined research problem in nursing. In addition, it emphasizes its role as the guiding compass for research inquiries. Furthermore, it has provided valuable guidance on how to embark on this critical journey. This is from tapping into personal interests and passions to consulting experts and evaluating the research problem.

For novice and experienced nurse researchers, the knowledge imparted here is valuable. The challenges beginner nurse researchers face has also been acknowledged, underscoring the need for support and mentorship in this crucial phase. In essence, understanding how to identify a nursing research problem marks the initial and fundamental milestone in advancing nursing knowledge and practice. However,  If you are struggling to write your nursing paper because you don’t have time or you don’t know where to start you can order your paper here 

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