Problem statement for a thesis
A problem statement of an MSc thesis defines the setting, focus and purpose of the work.
It is crucial to distinguish problem statement from a thesis topic proposal. Thesis topic proposal is an idea written up by the supervisor. Problem statement is a basically a plan how to tackle the proposed problem and requires work effort from the student.
The key questions that should be answered by a reasonable research plan can be summarized as follows  (for a scientific evaluation thesis).
- Unit of study: About what?
- Motivation: Why?
- Research goal: What do we want to know?
- Research questions: What do we want to know specifically?
- Relevant concepts & theory: Meaning of key terms;
- What do we know already?
- Research design
- What are we going to do to answer the questions?
- What method do we use?
- Why is the proposed method adequate?
- Validation of the results
- Is there a relevant baseline defined?
- Is this going to answer the questions asked?
- How do you plan to interpret the results?
In order to be able to outline plan how the problem at hand should be solved, it is necessary to define the vocabulary and baseline. The key part of a problem statement is the research design and validation of the results part. For scientific approach to solving problems it is always key to check your results in a valid way. So ask the question: "How will the proposed solution be checked?" early on! Sometimes thinking of how to test/validate the results will result in (major) changes to the research design.
Depending on the topic and type of the thesis, there may be several additional questions that need to be answered. The key to a successful thesis apart from asking the right questions is the choice of appropriate Research Method.
Repeatability, reproducibility and rigor
When planning and carrying out your MSc work, it is important to understand what a reader would expect from such work. The thesis should exhibit the application of the principles of repeatability, reproducibility and rigor repeatability, reproducibility and rigor, and it is recommended to plan for appropriate measures during the definition of the problem statement.
Self evaluation of the problem statement
Additional questions to help self-evaluate the problem statement. If in doubt, please discuss them with your supervisor.
Questions that need to have answers:
- Is it clear what is going to be done? (Kas on selge, mida töös teha plaanitakse?)
- Have you stated the goals that you will attempt to achieve by doing the work? (Kas on püstitatud töös saavutatavad eesmärgid ja oodatav tulemus?)
- Is the student aware of alternative solutions and background? (Kas tudeng on teadlik valdkonna tasutast ja alternatiivsetest lahendustest?)
- Is it stated how the goals are going to be achieved? (Kas on kirjeldatud, kuidas plaanitakse eesmärke saavutada?)
- What methodology is used for the approach? Is the methodology adequate for solving the proposed problem? (Mis meetoodikat kasutatakse antud lähenemises? Kas antud metoodika on adekvaatne ülesande lahendamiseks?)
- Is it clear how the results will be validated? Is it valid from the engineering point of view? (Kuidas plaanitakse kontrollida, kas saavutatud tulemus on adekvaatne? Kas see võrdlus on planeeritud insenerlikult?)
- How current/relevant/novel the topic is? (Kui aktuaalne/uudne teema on?)
- Is the planned solution realistic? (Kas planeeritav lahendus on realistlik?)
- How complex the planned task is on the scale easy/average/hard? (Kui keeruline ülesanne on (skaalal lihtne / keskmine / keerukas)?)
- Is the problem suitable for a MSc thesis? (Kas ülesanne on sobiv magistritöö raames lahendamiseks?)