How to set an objective for your dissertation

Date published by Date updated: March 24, 2017

The objective of your dissertation explains why you are undertaking your research. It should describe what you specifically want to achieve through your investigation and what you will study. You should identify this objective as part of your problem definition.

Formulating a dissertation objective

The key here is to remember that your goal is not to solve a problem, as this goes beyond your capacity as a researcher. Your objective should instead identify what your study itself will achieve.

For example, a company where you are interning may ask you to investigate why its Facebook page is receiving a declining number of “likes.” It’s likely that the company believes that understanding these causes will help it to solve the problem.

In this case, however, your goal is to focus on just the “why”; the company itself will use the results of your analysis to decide the “how” on its own.

If your work is more theoretical, your objective may be to explore if a particular model is relevant for a specific situation or to identify the attitudes that members of a sample population have on a given topic.

Remember, your objectives need to be grounded in your preliminary research and problem definition.

Example of a problem definition

Example dissertation objectives

Voorbeelden doelstellingen
The aim of the research is to determine how the teachers’ skills can be improved so that they are able to better recognize and assist gifted students.
The objective of the research is to use quantitative and qualitative research methods to gain insight into why the number of “likes” on the Facebook page is dropping among company X’s target audience.

Why do you need to set an objective for dissertation?

By setting an objective, you demonstrate the relevance of your research and ensure that everyone involved in it has the same expectations.

Relevance

The objective reveals the relevance of your research, which may vary.

In theoretical research, the goal is often to expand existing knowledge on a particular subject. If your research is more practical, the objective may be more socially relevant. For instance, the above example about understanding the skills that would help teachers to better identify and guide gifted students has social relevance.

Create appropriate expectations

A good objective creates clear expectations and avoids problems later in the research process.

If you are writing your dissertation on a topic requested by a particular organization, it’s especially important to ensure that you and that “client” have the same expectations. Remember that your aim is to not to find a ready-made solution to a problem, as solving the problem is not your job.

Tips for identifying a good dissertation objective

Step 1: Define your problem

Your problem definition should serve as the basis for setting the objective of your dissertation.

Step 2: Identify the components of your dissertation objective

  1. The type of research you will undertake
  2. The relevance of the research
  3. The client’s needs/desires (if relevant)

Step 3: Formulate the objective using a standard structure

Examples of structures for an objective
This research aims to obtain knowledge and insight concerning… and to …
The objective of the study is to … by ….

You also need to create a problem statement

In addition to setting an objective, you also need to formulate a problem statement that describes the problem or issue that needs to be resolved.

On to your main research question!

Once you have established your objective and problem statement, it’s time to move on to formulating your main research question and associated sub-questions.

Is this article helpful? (your vote is anonymous)
Processing your vote...
Your vote is saved :-)
You have already voted. Thanks :-)
2 visitors think this article is helpful. 2 votes in total.
Scribbr prof

Your dissertation without language mistakes and blunders?

Get help from a professional Scribbr editor.
More info & rates » Trustpilot score of 9.8

Article by Bas Swaen

Bas is co-founder of Scribbr. Bas loves to teach and is an experienced thesis writer. He tries to help students with writing clear and easy to comprehend articles about difficult topics.

Comment now