Research Objectives | Definition & Examples
Research objectives describe what your research is trying to achieve and explain why you are pursuing it. They summarize the approach and purpose of your project and help to focus your research.
- Establish the scope and depth of your project
- Contribute to your research design
- Indicate how your project will contribute to existing knowledge
What is a research objective?
Research objectives describe what your research project intends to accomplish. They should guide every step of the research process, including how you collect data, build your argument, and develop your conclusions.
Your research objectives may evolve slightly as your research progresses, but they should always line up with the research carried out and the actual content of your paper.
A distinction is often made between research objectives and research aims.
A research aim typically refers to a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear at the end of your problem statement, before your research objectives.
Your research objectives are more specific than your research aim and indicate the particular focus and approach of your project. Though you will only have one research aim, you will likely have several research objectives.
Why are research objectives important?
Research objectives are important because they:
- Establish the scope and depth of your project: This helps you avoid unnecessary research. It also means that your research methods and conclusions can easily be evaluated.
- Contribute to your research design: When you know what your objectives are, you have a clearer idea of what methods are most appropriate for your research.
- Indicate how your project will contribute to extant research: They allow you to display your knowledge of up-to-date research, employ or build on current research methods, and attempt to contribute to recent debates.
How to write research aims and objectives
Once you’ve established a research problem you want to address, you need to decide how you will address it. This is where your research aim and objectives come in.
Step 1: Decide on a general aim
Your research aim should reflect your research problem and should be relatively broad.
Step 2: Decide on specific objectives
Break down your aim into a limited number of steps that will help you resolve your research problem. What specific aspects of the problem do you want to examine or understand?
Step 3: Formulate your aims and objectives
Once you’ve established your research aim and objectives, you need to explain them clearly and concisely to the reader.
You’ll lay out your aims and objectives at the end of your problem statement, which appears in your introduction. Frame them as clear declarative statements, and use appropriate verbs to accurately characterize the work that you will carry out.
SMART research objectives
The acronym “SMART” is commonly used in relation to research objectives. It states that your objectives should be:
- Specific: Make sure your objectives aren’t overly vague. Your research needs to be clearly defined in order to get useful results.
- Measurable: Know how you’ll measure whether your objectives have been achieved.
- Achievable: Your objectives may be challenging, but they should be feasible. Make sure that relevant groundwork has been done on your topic or that relevant primary or secondary sources exist. Also ensure that you have access to relevant research facilities (labs, library resources, research databases, etc.).
- Relevant: Make sure that they directly address the research problem you want to work on and that they contribute to the current state of research in your field.
- Time-based: Set clear deadlines for objectives to ensure that the project stays on track.
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Frequently asked questions about research objectives
- What is a research objective?
- What’s an example of a research objective?
- How do I write a research objective?
- What’s the difference between research aims and objectives?
A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement, before your research objectives.
Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.
- How do I determine scope of research?
Scope of research is determined at the beginning of your research process, prior to the data collection stage. Sometimes called “scope of study,” your scope delineates what will and will not be covered in your project. It helps you focus your work and your time, ensuring that you’ll be able to achieve your goals and outcomes.
Defining a scope can be very useful in any research project, from a research proposal to a thesis or dissertation. A scope is needed for all types of research: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods.
To define your scope of research, consider the following:
- Budget constraints or any specifics of grant funding
- Your proposed timeline and duration
- Specifics about your population of study, your proposed sample size, and the research methodology you’ll pursue
- Any inclusion and exclusion criteria
- Any anticipated control, extraneous, or confounding variables that could bias your research if not accounted for properly.
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