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One of the first tasks in research is to identify a social problem and derive from it a research problem. A social problem refers to an undesirable condition in your community, that may or may not have a solution that requires little research to solve (Walden University Center for Research Quality, 2016). For example, the COVID-19 pandemic would be considered a social problem. It is currently affecting the entire globe. While a research problem can be derived from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not a research problem in and of itself. Quarantine and social distancing rules are meant to address this problem, but more research would help the academic community better understand it.

This is what differentiates a research problem from a social problem. A research program is a topic you can study more to better understand, and through that study, options for resolution can be identified. According to Memmott (2014), a research problem should be something that will advance knowledge in the field, something that fills a gap in existing knowledge, and something that should extend past the research and be used in practice or for social justice. In addition, Galvan (2015) also explains that the researcher needs to be able to make a case for why this topic is important, and further, what other research has demonstrated that can be built upon. As researchers, we start with social problems that need to be addressed because we can clearly identify a need for change. But then we must ask the questions that will generate answers use to help make an impact on those problems.

My program is General Psychology, which offers a broad array of research topics. When I think about adult learners, my first thought is to examine distance education, which I am interested in teaching upon completing my PhD program. At my first residency, President Ulmer held an open forum for students to ask questions and one student asked about the graduation rate for Walden, which is currently at 21% (United States Department of Education, 2020). While Mr. Ulmer explained that there are many variables to that statistic, he also explained that Walden does not have a competitive admissions process to allow for anyone to at least give higher education an attempt, even if they did not do so well in High School or undergraduate school l. From this problem, a research question I developed was: What are the perceived barriers to distance education completion for full-time working adults?


Galvan, J. L. (2015). Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences (6th ed). Glendale, CA: Pyrczak.

Memmott, J. (2014). Identifying a research problem [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhXQNxL4VCQ

United States Department of Education. (2020). College scorecard: Walden University. Retrieved from https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/?125231-Walden-University

Walden University Center for Research Quality. (2016, July 26). Developing social problems into research problems for graduate studies [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udfldYXvUxw&feature=youtu.be

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