Problem - Term Overview


We all know, in one way or another, what it's like to have a problem, although it may be difficult to define it in the abstract. If we go to the dictionary, we will see that it defines a problem as "question to be clarified", "proposition or difficulty of doubtful solution" or "set of facts or circumstances that hinder the achievement of some goal". Three different definitions but they serve to draw some important coordinates.

In the first place, problems are facts and circumstances, or propositions or themes that have to do with them; and secondly, that they require a clarification or solution, in order to achieve an ultimate goal. In other words, in abstract terms, a problem is a question in need of an answer.

All the sciences and disciplines study the world from the formulation of problems, that is, of questions that require the elaboration of an answer, despite the fact that they are very different areas of knowledge. Thus, there are logically problems of all kinds: scientific, methodological, philosophical, mathematical, and an immense etcetera.

Types of problems

Beyond their classification by subject, when thinking about problems in the abstract, there is a possible difference between:

- Convergent problems: Also called logical or structured, they are problems that have a single, defined and concrete solution, despite the fact that it can be obtained through very different procedures. Its name is due to the fact that these procedures, in the end, converge in the same answer, which would be the ideal or ideal solution. These types of problems are typical of exact sciences, mathematics, chess, astronomy, etc.
- Divergent problems: If in the previous case all the methods converged towards the same solution, in this case the opposite happens: the methods diverge and yield different solutions, often contradictory to each other, since in these cases linear logic doesn't work. Generally, these are problems whose solution requires an external element, something that isn't contemplated at first and that can be of a very different nature, that is, more or less creative solutions.

On the other hand, we can also differentiate between:

- Deductive problems, when they are logically derived from a set of previous premises. That is, when they have a clear and logical deductible origin.
- Inductive problems, when the logic that originates them tends rather to the probabilistic, to the uncertain, without having a unique cause or recognizable logic.

Social problems

The social problems are those that concern the members of a society determined, often as a result of factors that are far from the control of an individual or a small group of them.

These are problems that impact the individual and economic life of citizens, and that are usually tried to remedy through political mechanisms. Examples of social problems are: social inequality, discrimination, public health, mass migration or social immobility.

Economic problems

Economic problems are those that are related to the world of production, finance and consumption, that is, with the economy. They generally have to do with the distribution of wealth and consumption opportunities, within the framework of the great central problem of the economy, which is summarized in that "resources are finite, and needs infinite."

Consequently, rational planning is required to try to get the most out of the available resources, knowing that they are never totally enough anywhere.

Economic problems tend to trigger other types of problems, such as social or political, and are central to the stability of government systems. Examples of economic problems are: unemployment, currency devaluation, inflation, economic depression or falling consumption.

Environmental problems

The environmental problems are those involving some degree of damage to the environment, ie, greater or lesser degree of alteration of the physical, chemical and biological profile of nature.

Unfortunately, these types of problems seem to be intrinsic to human industrial activity, and in some cases they can be extremely serious, resulting in permanent damage to the ecosystem or large-scale changes that paradoxically threaten everyone's life. the living beings, even the humanity that brings.

Environmental problems can be reversible or irreversible, depending on the time it takes for nature to regain balance and repair the damage caused. Involve various forms of pollution of air, water and soil as well as the destruction of the natural environment with economic or industrial purposes.

Examples of environmental problems are: deforestation, the indiscriminate hunting of species at risk of extinction, the destruction of ecosystems and the impoverishment of world biodiversity, atmospheric pollution and global warming, or the acidification of sea waters.

Research problems

When developing an investigation, both in the exact sciences and in the humanities or social sciences, the first step lies in defining the problem to be addressed, that is, finding the question to which answers will be sought (that is, solutions). Only by choosing the problem well (although this may sound strange) can then choose the path that leads to the desired solutions.

In methodological language, this stage is called "problem statement", and it's usually associated with the question, what? or what matter?, in the sense that researchers must be able to explain what they are interested in, and be able to delimit the topic. In other words: you must choose which question to try to find the solution to.

Research problems can be as diverse as the interests of researchers. Each investigation will address and cover them within the framework of the parameters that they themselves establish : to what extent will this or that phenomenon be studied? Under what specific conditions? What kinds of solutions will the research point to?

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