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Problem Redefinition

Techniques for redefining your problem statement.

Restate your problem using the following techniques:

  • Broaden the focus. Explore the more general problems that your problem may be a part of.
  • Narrow the focus. Break down your problem and focus on its component parts.
  • Redirect the focus. Change the focus of your problem statement in bold ways to gain new perspectives.
  • Reverse the focus. Take on the opposite view of your problem statement. This technique may challenge the underlying premise and identify what's directly causing the problem.
  • Rephrase the issue. Rephrase or paraphrase the words in your problem statement. See our Relational Words and Paraphrase Keywords tools.
  • Pros and cons. What do you like about your problem statement? What do you not like about it? Think of ways to improve the parts that you're not satisfied with.
  • Focus on conciseness. What parts of your problem statement are highly defined? What parts are ambiguous? In what ways, can you make the language of your problem statement more clear and concise?
  • Value-Laden Words. Examine the language you are using for value-laden words. Replace any value-laden words in your Problem Statement with words that don’t carry an emotional or judgmental connotation. To analyze your values or the values inherent in your situation, see our Values tool.
  • Validate your thinking. Have you validated that you are working on the real problem? If so, how?
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Publications icon


Structured Analytic Techniques For Intelligence Analysis, by Richards J. Heuer Jr. and Randolph H. Pherson, Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011.

The Thinker's Toolkit, by Morgan D. Jones, New York: Three Rivers Press, 1995.