Skip to main content

Research Guides@Tufts

Community Health

Problem Statements: Definition & Examples

What is a 'problem statement'

  • Defines and states the issue in order to frame specific questions and connects what should be happening with what is actually happening.
  • Integration: a starting point for research
  • Context: helps the reader(s) understand the importance of your topic and problem; who will benefit from addressing this problem
  • Value: raises the awareness of the problem/issue, i.e. is this problem important to the experts in the field
  • Frames the research cycle surrounding the research topic
  • Supported by the literature


Examples: Which of these problem statements are good and why? Which are are not that good and how would you fix them?

  • Do children living in urban neighborhoods near public transportation hubs experience more health issues than children in general?
  • Why are obesity levels of families living in rural 'food deserts' higher than families living in metropolitan areas?
  • Will small businesses be able to meet the health insurance needs of their disabled employees under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?
  • What are the benefits of an 'opt-out' vaccination policy?
  • Do teenagers who have access to 'school-based health clinics' have a lower rate of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) than teenagers in general?

Rowlands, Katherine Dudden. Problem Statements and Research Questions.  [Date accessed:September 29-October 1, 2013].

Keyword Searching

Keyword Search Rules for the Library Catalog and Databases

Using AND/OR/NOT (Boolean Search Operators)

Use AND to focus search and combine different aspects of your topic.

Example: disease and environment


Use OR to expand your search and find synonyms/related terms.

Example: AIDS or HIV


Use NOT to exclude a word or phrase from your search

Example: AIDS not Africa


Keyword Searching Worksheet to get started.

Additional Search Tips

  • "Phrase search"  - Use quotation marks " " to search for a particular phrase.
    Example: "community health"
  • Truncation * - Use an asterisk to find variations of a word. Put an asterisk after the root of the word to find all variations of that word, including singular and plural.
    Example: environment* (finds environments, environmental, environmentalist, etc.)
  • (Grouping/Nesting Keywords) - Use parentheses ( ) as a way to organize and group your search terms in a way that works with Boolean operators.
    Example: (AIDS or HIV) and population growth