Cover Page ofThe Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing
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Section 1.3

Problem Statement

If you are focusing on a problem, be sure to define and state it specifically enough that you can writeabout it. Avoid trying to investigate or write about multiple problems or about broad or overlyambitious problems. Vague problem definition leads to unsuccessful proposals and vague,unmanageable documents. Naming a topic is not the same as defining a problem.


Weak

Coda file system. [This definition is too vague; it suggests a broad topic butnot an approach to the topic.]

Improved

Protecting against temporary link failures in mobile computing: A design for the coda filesystem.

Weak

Engine starting and warm-up behavior.

Improved

Effects of fuel enrichment on engine starting and warm-up behavior.


Problem statements often have three elements:

  1. the problem itself, stated clearly and with enough contextual detail to establish why it is important;
  2. the method of solving the problem, often stated as a claim or a working thesis;
  3. the purpose, statement of objective and scope of the document the writer is preparing.

These elements should be brief so that the reader does not get lost.


[problem and its context] A recent trend in the design of new aircraft is the addition ofwinglets, which are small fins attached to the ends of the main wing. After an aircraft has taken offand is cruising, winglets improve its performance by reducing the drag caused by the main wing. However, during the critical stages of aircraft takeoff and landing, the winglets cause two problems. First, they cause vibrations in the main wing, commonly called buffeting. Second, they cause theaircraft to lose some control of yaw, the motion of the nose right and left. In a study funded byNASA [Ref. 2], the main wing of a DC-10 transport aircraft was outfitted with winglets, and itexperienced significant buffeting during takeoff and landing.

[approach of the current research] In our current project, we examine winglet-inducedbuffeting in three wing designs. We record buffeting and yaw under experimental wind-tunneltakeoff and landing conditions for (1) a wing without winglets, (2) another wing with conventionalwinglets, and (3) a wing with spheroid winglets. Our objective is to determine the degree to whichdifferences between load lifts on the wings and their winglets during takeoff and landing are causingthe performance problems we have described.

[purpose and scope of current document] In this study, we develop theoretical models ofwinglet load lifts and compare these to the lifts of wings and winglets actually recorded during testingconditions.

--Tan T. Trinh, "Winglets at Takeoffs and Landings"


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## Problem Statement Guidelines ##
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