EXAMPLE A: Problem Identification/Statement Paper

Problem Statement Paper
Joan Jarvis
Spring Arbor University
For some time communication scholars have been interested in message effects
from male and female sources (Schein, 1975; Bunyi & Andrews, 1985). As a field for
applying these interests, the impact of male and female communicator messages in
formal organizations may be an area of productive inquiry. This paper suggests a research
problem on this topic.
In proposing strategies for bridging the gender leadership gap, researchers have
often overlooked the role that communication competencies and communication styles
play in the leadership advancement of both women and men (Hackman & Johnson, 1997,
pp. 312-13). As such, exploring this topic may suggest practices for fostering diversity in
the workplace and reducing negative gender stereotypes. The benefits of fostering
diversity to employers further include cost savings, higher creativity and better decisionmaking (Jamieson, 1995).
Researchers have identified important differences in communication practice
between men and women (Tannen, 1990). Among women’s distinctive communication
message behaviors, tag questions have stimulated interest and study (Bradley, 1981).
When women are observed in organizational settings, their use of tag questions might be
expected to influence such variables as their rates of promotion and their work
performance ratings. This inference is strengthened by research that has found a strong
correlation between perceived communication competence and career success (ShockleyZalabak, Staley, & Morley, 1988, p. 553). Based on such speculation, the following
problem is advanced for research: Do women whose speech includes tag questions
receive fewer promotions in formal organizations than women whose speech does not
include tag questions?
This paper has isolated tag questions in women’s speech as a communication
variable and asked a research question relating it to rates of promotion in the
organization. This problem suggests a potentially fruitful research area to guide future
investigation since women tend to be underrepresented in middle and upper-management
Bradley, P. H. (1981). The folk-linguistics of women’s speech: An empirical
examination. Communication Monographs, 48, 73-90.
Bunyi, J. M., & Andrews, P. H.. (1985). Gender and leadership emergence: An
experimental study. Southern Speech Communication Journal, 50, 246-260.
Hackman, M. Z., & Johnson, C.E. (1997). Leadership: A communication
perspective (2nd ed). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Jamieson, K. H. (1995). Beyond the double bind: Women and leadership. New
York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Schein, V. E. (1975). Relationships between sex role stereotypes and requisite
management characteristics among female managers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60,
Shockley-Zalabak, P., Staley, C.C., & Morley, D.D. (1988). The female
professional: Perceived communication proficiencies as predictors of organizational
advancement. Human Relations, 41, 553-67.
Tannen, D. (1990). You just don’t understand: Women and men in conversation.
New York, NY: Ballantine.