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Research Objectives – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

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Research Objectives

Research Objectives

Research objectives refer to the specific goals or aims of a research study. They provide a clear and concise description of what the researcher hopes to achieve by conducting the research . The objectives are typically based on the research questions and hypotheses formulated at the beginning of the study and are used to guide the research process.

Types of Research Objectives

Here are the different types of research objectives in research:

  • Exploratory Objectives: These objectives are used to explore a topic, issue, or phenomenon that has not been studied in-depth before. The aim of exploratory research is to gain a better understanding of the subject matter and generate new ideas and hypotheses .
  • Descriptive Objectives: These objectives aim to describe the characteristics, features, or attributes of a particular population, group, or phenomenon. Descriptive research answers the “what” questions and provides a snapshot of the subject matter.
  • Explanatory Objectives : These objectives aim to explain the relationships between variables or factors. Explanatory research seeks to identify the cause-and-effect relationships between different phenomena.
  • Predictive Objectives: These objectives aim to predict future events or outcomes based on existing data or trends. Predictive research uses statistical models to forecast future trends or outcomes.
  • Evaluative Objectives : These objectives aim to evaluate the effectiveness or impact of a program, intervention, or policy. Evaluative research seeks to assess the outcomes or results of a particular intervention or program.
  • Prescriptive Objectives: These objectives aim to provide recommendations or solutions to a particular problem or issue. Prescriptive research identifies the best course of action based on the results of the study.
  • Diagnostic Objectives : These objectives aim to identify the causes or factors contributing to a particular problem or issue. Diagnostic research seeks to uncover the underlying reasons for a particular phenomenon.
  • Comparative Objectives: These objectives aim to compare two or more groups, populations, or phenomena to identify similarities and differences. Comparative research is used to determine which group or approach is more effective or has better outcomes.
  • Historical Objectives: These objectives aim to examine past events, trends, or phenomena to gain a better understanding of their significance and impact. Historical research uses archival data, documents, and records to study past events.
  • Ethnographic Objectives : These objectives aim to understand the culture, beliefs, and practices of a particular group or community. Ethnographic research involves immersive fieldwork and observation to gain an insider’s perspective of the group being studied.
  • Action-oriented Objectives: These objectives aim to bring about social or organizational change. Action-oriented research seeks to identify practical solutions to social problems and to promote positive change in society.
  • Conceptual Objectives: These objectives aim to develop new theories, models, or frameworks to explain a particular phenomenon or set of phenomena. Conceptual research seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the subject matter by developing new theoretical perspectives.
  • Methodological Objectives: These objectives aim to develop and improve research methods and techniques. Methodological research seeks to advance the field of research by improving the validity, reliability, and accuracy of research methods and tools.
  • Theoretical Objectives : These objectives aim to test and refine existing theories or to develop new theoretical perspectives. Theoretical research seeks to advance the field of knowledge by testing and refining existing theories or by developing new theoretical frameworks.
  • Measurement Objectives : These objectives aim to develop and validate measurement instruments, such as surveys, questionnaires, and tests. Measurement research seeks to improve the quality and reliability of data collection and analysis by developing and testing new measurement tools.
  • Design Objectives : These objectives aim to develop and refine research designs, such as experimental, quasi-experimental, and observational designs. Design research seeks to improve the quality and validity of research by developing and testing new research designs.
  • Sampling Objectives: These objectives aim to develop and refine sampling techniques, such as probability and non-probability sampling methods. Sampling research seeks to improve the representativeness and generalizability of research findings by developing and testing new sampling techniques.

How to Write Research Objectives

Writing clear and concise research objectives is an important part of any research project, as it helps to guide the study and ensure that it is focused and relevant. Here are some steps to follow when writing research objectives:

  • Identify the research problem : Before you can write research objectives, you need to identify the research problem you are trying to address. This should be a clear and specific problem that can be addressed through research.
  • Define the research questions : Based on the research problem, define the research questions you want to answer. These questions should be specific and should guide the research process.
  • Identify the variables : Identify the key variables that you will be studying in your research. These are the factors that you will be measuring, manipulating, or analyzing to answer your research questions.
  • Write specific objectives: Write specific, measurable objectives that will help you answer your research questions. These objectives should be clear and concise and should indicate what you hope to achieve through your research.
  • Use the SMART criteria: To ensure that your research objectives are well-defined and achievable, use the SMART criteria. This means that your objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
  • Revise and refine: Once you have written your research objectives, revise and refine them to ensure that they are clear, concise, and achievable. Make sure that they align with your research questions and variables, and that they will help you answer your research problem.

Example of Research Objectives

Examples of research objectives Could be:

Research Objectives for the topic of “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Employment”:

  • To investigate the effects of the adoption of AI on employment trends across various industries and occupations.
  • To explore the potential for AI to create new job opportunities and transform existing roles in the workforce.
  • To examine the social and economic implications of the widespread use of AI for employment, including issues such as income inequality and access to education and training.
  • To identify the skills and competencies that will be required for individuals to thrive in an AI-driven workplace, and to explore the role of education and training in developing these skills.
  • To evaluate the ethical and legal considerations surrounding the use of AI for employment, including issues such as bias, privacy, and the responsibility of employers and policymakers to protect workers’ rights.

When to Write Research Objectives

  • At the beginning of a research project : Research objectives should be identified and written down before starting a research project. This helps to ensure that the project is focused and that data collection and analysis efforts are aligned with the intended purpose of the research.
  • When refining research questions: Writing research objectives can help to clarify and refine research questions. Objectives provide a more concrete and specific framework for addressing research questions, which can improve the overall quality and direction of a research project.
  • After conducting a literature review : Conducting a literature review can help to identify gaps in knowledge and areas that require further research. Writing research objectives can help to define and focus the research effort in these areas.
  • When developing a research proposal: Research objectives are an important component of a research proposal. They help to articulate the purpose and scope of the research, and provide a clear and concise summary of the expected outcomes and contributions of the research.
  • When seeking funding for research: Funding agencies often require a detailed description of research objectives as part of a funding proposal. Writing clear and specific research objectives can help to demonstrate the significance and potential impact of a research project, and increase the chances of securing funding.
  • When designing a research study : Research objectives guide the design and implementation of a research study. They help to identify the appropriate research methods, sampling strategies, data collection and analysis techniques, and other relevant aspects of the study design.
  • When communicating research findings: Research objectives provide a clear and concise summary of the main research questions and outcomes. They are often included in research reports and publications, and can help to ensure that the research findings are communicated effectively and accurately to a wide range of audiences.
  • When evaluating research outcomes : Research objectives provide a basis for evaluating the success of a research project. They help to measure the degree to which research questions have been answered and the extent to which research outcomes have been achieved.
  • When conducting research in a team : Writing research objectives can facilitate communication and collaboration within a research team. Objectives provide a shared understanding of the research purpose and goals, and can help to ensure that team members are working towards a common objective.

Purpose of Research Objectives

Some of the main purposes of research objectives include:

  • To clarify the research question or problem : Research objectives help to define the specific aspects of the research question or problem that the study aims to address. This makes it easier to design a study that is focused and relevant.
  • To guide the research design: Research objectives help to determine the research design, including the research methods, data collection techniques, and sampling strategy. This ensures that the study is structured and efficient.
  • To measure progress : Research objectives provide a way to measure progress throughout the research process. They help the researcher to evaluate whether they are on track and meeting their goals.
  • To communicate the research goals : Research objectives provide a clear and concise description of the research goals. This helps to communicate the purpose of the study to other researchers, stakeholders, and the general public.

Advantages of Research Objectives

Here are some advantages of having well-defined research objectives:

  • Focus : Research objectives help to focus the research effort on specific areas of inquiry. By identifying clear research questions, the researcher can narrow down the scope of the study and avoid getting sidetracked by irrelevant information.
  • Clarity : Clearly stated research objectives provide a roadmap for the research study. They provide a clear direction for the research, making it easier for the researcher to stay on track and achieve their goals.
  • Measurability : Well-defined research objectives provide measurable outcomes that can be used to evaluate the success of the research project. This helps to ensure that the research is effective and that the research goals are achieved.
  • Feasibility : Research objectives help to ensure that the research project is feasible. By clearly defining the research goals, the researcher can identify the resources required to achieve those goals and determine whether those resources are available.
  • Relevance : Research objectives help to ensure that the research study is relevant and meaningful. By identifying specific research questions, the researcher can ensure that the study addresses important issues and contributes to the existing body of knowledge.

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What is a Research Objective? Definition, Types, Examples and Best Practices

By Nick Jain

Published on: September 8, 2023

What is Research Objective?

Table of Contents

What is a Research Objective?

Types of research objectives, top 6 examples of research objectives, research objectives best practices.

A research objective is defined as a clear and concise statement of the specific goals and aims of a research study. It outlines what the researcher intends to accomplish and what they hope to learn or discover through their research. Research objectives are crucial for guiding the research process and ensuring that the study stays focused and on track.

Key characteristics of research objectives include:

  • Clarity: Research objectives should be clearly defined and easy to understand. One should ensure there is no space for ambiguity or misinterpretation.
  • Specificity: Objectives should be specific and narrowly focused on the aspects of the research topic that the study intends to investigate. They should answer the question of “what” or “which” rather than “how” or “why.”
  • Measurability: Research objectives should be formulated in a way that allows for measurement and evaluation. This means that there should be a way to determine whether the objectives have been achieved or not.
  • Relevance: Objectives should be relevant to the research topic and align with the overall research question or hypothesis. They should address important aspects of the subject matter.
  • Realistic: Objectives should be attainable within the constraints of the study, including time, resources, and feasibility.
  • Time-bound: Research objectives may have associated timelines or deadlines to indicate when the research aims should be accomplished.

Research objectives help researchers stay focused on the purpose of their study and guide the development of research methods , data collection, and analysis. They also serve as a basis for evaluating the success of the research once it’s completed. In the context of a research project, research objectives typically follow the formulation of a research question or hypothesis and serve as a roadmap for conducting the study.

Types of Research Objectives

Research objectives can be categorized into different types based on their focus and purpose within a research study. Here are some common types of research objectives:

1. Descriptive Objectives

These objectives aim to provide a detailed and accurate description of a phenomenon, event, or subject. They focus on answering questions about what, who, where, and when.

Example: “To delineate the demographic attributes of the study’s participants.”

2. Exploratory Objectives

Exploratory objectives are used when researchers seek to gain a better understanding of a topic, especially when there is limited existing knowledge. They often involve preliminary investigations.

Example: “To investigate the possible determinants impacting consumer inclinations towards sustainable products.”

3. Explanatory Objectives

Explanatory objectives are designed to identify the relationships between variables and explain the causes or reasons behind certain phenomena.

Example: “To examine the causal relationship between smoking habits and the development of lung cancer.”

4. Comparative Objectives

These objectives involve comparing two or more variables, groups, or situations to identify similarities, differences, patterns, or trends.

Example: “To compare the performance of two different marketing strategies in terms of their impact on sales.”

5. Predictive Objectives

Predictive objectives aim to forecast or predict future outcomes or trends based on existing data or patterns.

Example: “To forecast customer attrition rates within an online subscription service by utilizing historical usage patterns and satisfaction data.”

6. Normative Objectives

Normative objectives involve establishing standards, guidelines, or recommendations for a specific area of study.

Example: “To develop industry-specific ethical guidelines for the responsible use of artificial intelligence.”

7. Qualitative Objectives

Qualitative objectives are used in qualitative research to explore and understand experiences, perceptions, and behaviors in-depth.

Example: “To reveal the latent motivations and emotions of participants within a qualitative interview investigation.”

8. Quantitative Objectives

Quantitative objectives involve the collection and analysis of numerical data to measure and quantify specific phenomena.

Example: “To ascertain the relationship between income levels and the availability of educational resources among a selected group of households.”

9. Longitudinal Objectives

Longitudinal objectives involve studying the same subjects or entities over an extended period to track changes or developments.

Example: “To assess the cognitive development of children from kindergarten through high school graduation.”

10. Cross-Sectional Objectives

Cross-sectional objectives involve the study of a sample at a single point in time to gather data about a population’s characteristics or attitudes.

Example: “To assess the present employment situation and job satisfaction levels among healthcare sector employees.”

The choice of research objective type depends on the nature of the research , the research questions or hypotheses, and the overall goals of the study. Researchers often use a combination of these types to address different aspects of their research inquiries.

Learn more: What is Research Design?

Research objectives can vary widely depending on the field of study and the specific research topic. However, I can provide you with some examples of research objectives in different domains to illustrate their diversity:

1. Healthcare Research

  • To investigate the relationship between regular physical activity and the incidence of cardiovascular diseases in adults aged 40-60.
  • To assess the effectiveness of a new drug in reducing symptoms of a specific medical condition over a six-month period.
  • To identify the factors influencing healthcare-seeking behavior among a specific demographic group.

2. Educational Research

  • To examine the impact of technology integration in the classroom on students’ academic performance in mathematics.
  • To determine the effectiveness of a new teaching method for improving reading comprehension in elementary school children.
  • To explore the factors that contribute to student dropout rates in a particular educational institution.

3. Environmental Science Research

  • To analyze the effects of climate change on the migration patterns of a specific bird species in a particular region.
  • To investigate the long-term impact of deforestation on local biodiversity in a tropical rainforest.
  • To assess the effectiveness of a conservation program in preserving a critically endangered species.

4. Business and Marketing Research

  • To evaluate consumer preferences for eco-friendly packaging materials in the cosmetics industry.
  • To analyze the market potential for a new product in a specific geographical area.
  • To identify the key factors influencing customer loyalty in the fast-food restaurant industry.

5. Social Science Research

  • To examine the relationship between socioeconomic status and access to quality healthcare in urban areas.
  • To investigate the influence of adolescents’ use of social media on their mental well-being.
  • To investigate the factors contributing to workplace diversity and inclusion in a multinational corporation.

6. Psychological Research

  • To investigate the effects of mindfulness meditation on reducing symptoms of anxiety in adults.
  • To explore the relationship between early childhood experiences and attachment styles in adulthood.
  • To analyze the factors influencing decision-making in individuals with specific personality traits.

These examples cover a range of research objectives across different disciplines. Keep in mind that research objectives should be tailored to the specific research question or hypothesis and should be formulated to guide the research process effectively.

Learn more: What is Voice of Customer Research?

Research Objectives Best Practices

Creating effective research objectives is essential for conducting a successful research study. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when formulating research objectives:

  • Be Specific and Clear: Research objectives should be precise and unambiguous. They should clearly state what the study aims to achieve, leaving no room for misinterpretation.
  • Align with Research Questions or Hypotheses: Ensure that your research objectives directly align with the broader research questions or hypotheses that guide your study. They should help you address those overarching inquiries.
  • Use Action Verbs: Start your research objectives with action verbs that describe what you intend to do. Common action verbs include “to investigate,” “to analyze,” “to examine,” “to compare,” “to determine,” etc.
  • Focus on Measurable Outcomes: Make sure your research objectives are formulated in a way that allows for measurement and evaluation. There should be a way to determine whether the objectives have been achieved or not.
  • Be Realistic and Feasible: Set research objectives that are attainable within the constraints of your study, including available time, budget, and resources. Unrealistic objectives can lead to frustration and failure.
  • Consider the Scope of the Study: Keep the scope of your research in mind when defining objectives. Ensure that your objectives are neither too broad nor too narrow. They should be manageable within the context of your study.
  • Prioritize Objectives: If you have multiple research objectives, consider prioritizing them. Identify which objectives are most crucial to the success of your study and allocate resources accordingly.
  • Ensure Relevance: Objectives should be directly relevant to the research topic and the overall purpose of the study. Avoid including objectives that do not contribute to answering your research questions or testing your hypotheses.
  • Consider the Target Audience: Think about who will be reading your research objectives. They should be understandable to both experts in your field and non-expert stakeholders.
  • Review and Refine: It’s a good practice to review and refine your research objectives after initial formulation. Seek feedback from peers, advisors, or mentors to ensure they are well-constructed and aligned with your study’s goals.
  • Specific: Clarify the specific goal or objective you would like to achieve.
  • Measurable: Include criteria for measuring success.
  • Achievable: Set realistic and attainable objectives.
  • Relevant: Ensure they are relevant to your research .
  • Time-bound: Include a timeframe for achieving each objective.
  • Be Open to Adaptation: Research objectives may evolve as your study progresses and new information emerges. Be open to adapting them if necessary to better align with your research findings and goals.
  • Document Your Objectives: Keep a clear record of your research objectives in your research proposal, plan, or protocol. This documentation helps maintain focus throughout the study.

By following these best practices, you can create research objectives that guide your study effectively and contribute to its success in achieving its intended outcomes.

Learn more: What is Competitive Research?

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Research Aims, Objectives & Questions

The “Golden Thread” Explained Simply (+ Examples)

By: David Phair (PhD) and Alexandra Shaeffer (PhD) | June 2022

The research aims , objectives and research questions (collectively called the “golden thread”) are arguably the most important thing you need to get right when you’re crafting a research proposal , dissertation or thesis . We receive questions almost every day about this “holy trinity” of research and there’s certainly a lot of confusion out there, so we’ve crafted this post to help you navigate your way through the fog.

Overview: The Golden Thread

  • What is the golden thread
  • What are research aims ( examples )
  • What are research objectives ( examples )
  • What are research questions ( examples )
  • The importance of alignment in the golden thread

What is the “golden thread”?  

The golden thread simply refers to the collective research aims , research objectives , and research questions for any given project (i.e., a dissertation, thesis, or research paper). These three elements are bundled together because it’s extremely important that they align with each other, and that the entire research project aligns with them.

Importantly, the golden thread needs to weave its way through the entirety of any research project , from start to end. In other words, it needs to be very clearly defined right at the beginning of the project (the topic ideation and proposal stage) and it needs to inform almost every decision throughout the rest of the project. For example, your research design and methodology will be heavily influenced by the golden thread (we’ll explain this in more detail later), as well as your literature review.

The research aims, objectives and research questions (the golden thread) define the focus and scope ( the delimitations ) of your research project. In other words, they help ringfence your dissertation or thesis to a relatively narrow domain, so that you can “go deep” and really dig into a specific problem or opportunity. They also help keep you on track , as they act as a litmus test for relevance. In other words, if you’re ever unsure whether to include something in your document, simply ask yourself the question, “does this contribute toward my research aims, objectives or questions?”. If it doesn’t, chances are you can drop it.

Alright, enough of the fluffy, conceptual stuff. Let’s get down to business and look at what exactly the research aims, objectives and questions are and outline a few examples to bring these concepts to life.

Free Webinar: How To Find A Dissertation Research Topic

Research Aims: What are they?

Simply put, the research aim(s) is a statement that reflects the broad overarching goal (s) of the research project. Research aims are fairly high-level (low resolution) as they outline the general direction of the research and what it’s trying to achieve .

Research Aims: Examples  

True to the name, research aims usually start with the wording “this research aims to…”, “this research seeks to…”, and so on. For example:

“This research aims to explore employee experiences of digital transformation in retail HR.”   “This study sets out to assess the interaction between student support and self-care on well-being in engineering graduate students”  

As you can see, these research aims provide a high-level description of what the study is about and what it seeks to achieve. They’re not hyper-specific or action-oriented, but they’re clear about what the study’s focus is and what is being investigated.

Need a helping hand?

general objectives of research

Research Objectives: What are they?

The research objectives take the research aims and make them more practical and actionable . In other words, the research objectives showcase the steps that the researcher will take to achieve the research aims.

The research objectives need to be far more specific (higher resolution) and actionable than the research aims. In fact, it’s always a good idea to craft your research objectives using the “SMART” criteria. In other words, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound”.

Research Objectives: Examples  

Let’s look at two examples of research objectives. We’ll stick with the topic and research aims we mentioned previously.  

For the digital transformation topic:

To observe the retail HR employees throughout the digital transformation. To assess employee perceptions of digital transformation in retail HR. To identify the barriers and facilitators of digital transformation in retail HR.

And for the student wellness topic:

To determine whether student self-care predicts the well-being score of engineering graduate students. To determine whether student support predicts the well-being score of engineering students. To assess the interaction between student self-care and student support when predicting well-being in engineering graduate students.

  As you can see, these research objectives clearly align with the previously mentioned research aims and effectively translate the low-resolution aims into (comparatively) higher-resolution objectives and action points . They give the research project a clear focus and present something that resembles a research-based “to-do” list.

The research objectives detail the specific steps that you, as the researcher, will take to achieve the research aims you laid out.

Research Questions: What are they?

Finally, we arrive at the all-important research questions. The research questions are, as the name suggests, the key questions that your study will seek to answer . Simply put, they are the core purpose of your dissertation, thesis, or research project. You’ll present them at the beginning of your document (either in the introduction chapter or literature review chapter) and you’ll answer them at the end of your document (typically in the discussion and conclusion chapters).  

The research questions will be the driving force throughout the research process. For example, in the literature review chapter, you’ll assess the relevance of any given resource based on whether it helps you move towards answering your research questions. Similarly, your methodology and research design will be heavily influenced by the nature of your research questions. For instance, research questions that are exploratory in nature will usually make use of a qualitative approach, whereas questions that relate to measurement or relationship testing will make use of a quantitative approach.  

Let’s look at some examples of research questions to make this more tangible.

Research Questions: Examples  

Again, we’ll stick with the research aims and research objectives we mentioned previously.  

For the digital transformation topic (which would be qualitative in nature):

How do employees perceive digital transformation in retail HR? What are the barriers and facilitators of digital transformation in retail HR?  

And for the student wellness topic (which would be quantitative in nature):

Does student self-care predict the well-being scores of engineering graduate students? Does student support predict the well-being scores of engineering students? Do student self-care and student support interact when predicting well-being in engineering graduate students?  

You’ll probably notice that there’s quite a formulaic approach to this. In other words, the research questions are basically the research objectives “converted” into question format. While that is true most of the time, it’s not always the case. For example, the first research objective for the digital transformation topic was more or less a step on the path toward the other objectives, and as such, it didn’t warrant its own research question.  

So, don’t rush your research questions and sloppily reword your objectives as questions. Carefully think about what exactly you’re trying to achieve (i.e. your research aim) and the objectives you’ve set out, then craft a set of well-aligned research questions . Also, keep in mind that this can be a somewhat iterative process , where you go back and tweak research objectives and aims to ensure tight alignment throughout the golden thread.

The importance of strong alignment 

Alignment is the keyword here and we have to stress its importance . Simply put, you need to make sure that there is a very tight alignment between all three pieces of the golden thread. If your research aims and research questions don’t align, for example, your project will be pulling in different directions and will lack focus . This is a common problem students face and can cause many headaches (and tears), so be warned.

Take the time to carefully craft your research aims, objectives and research questions before you run off down the research path. Ideally, get your research supervisor/advisor to review and comment on your golden thread before you invest significant time into your project, and certainly before you start collecting data .  

Recap: The golden thread

In this post, we unpacked the golden thread of research, consisting of the research aims , research objectives and research questions . You can jump back to any section using the links below.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below – we always love to hear from you. Also, if you’re interested in 1-on-1 support, take a look at our private coaching service here.

general objectives of research

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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31 Comments

Isaac Levi

Thank you very much for your great effort put. As an Undergraduate taking Demographic Research & Methodology, I’ve been trying so hard to understand clearly what is a Research Question, Research Aim and the Objectives in a research and the relationship between them etc. But as for now I’m thankful that you’ve solved my problem.

Hatimu Bah

Well appreciated. This has helped me greatly in doing my dissertation.

Dr. Abdallah Kheri

An so delighted with this wonderful information thank you a lot.

so impressive i have benefited a lot looking forward to learn more on research.

Ekwunife, Chukwunonso Onyeka Steve

I am very happy to have carefully gone through this well researched article.

Infact,I used to be phobia about anything research, because of my poor understanding of the concepts.

Now,I get to know that my research question is the same as my research objective(s) rephrased in question format.

I please I would need a follow up on the subject,as I intends to join the team of researchers. Thanks once again.

Tosin

Thanks so much. This was really helpful.

sylas

i found this document so useful towards my study in research methods. thanks so much.

Michael L. Andrion

This is my 2nd read topic in your course and I should commend the simplified explanations of each part. I’m beginning to understand and absorb the use of each part of a dissertation/thesis. I’ll keep on reading your free course and might be able to avail the training course! Kudos!

Scarlett

Thank you! Better put that my lecture and helped to easily understand the basics which I feel often get brushed over when beginning dissertation work.

Enoch Tindiwegi

This is quite helpful. I like how the Golden thread has been explained and the needed alignment.

Sora Dido Boru

This is quite helpful. I really appreciate!

Chulyork

The article made it simple for researcher students to differentiate between three concepts.

Afowosire Wasiu Adekunle

Very innovative and educational in approach to conducting research.

Sàlihu Abubakar Dayyabu

I am very impressed with all these terminology, as I am a fresh student for post graduate, I am highly guided and I promised to continue making consultation when the need arise. Thanks a lot.

Mohammed Shamsudeen

A very helpful piece. thanks, I really appreciate it .

Sonam Jyrwa

Very well explained, and it might be helpful to many people like me.

JB

Wish i had found this (and other) resource(s) at the beginning of my PhD journey… not in my writing up year… 😩 Anyways… just a quick question as i’m having some issues ordering my “golden thread”…. does it matter in what order you mention them? i.e., is it always first aims, then objectives, and finally the questions? or can you first mention the research questions and then the aims and objectives?

UN

Thank you for a very simple explanation that builds upon the concepts in a very logical manner. Just prior to this, I read the research hypothesis article, which was equally very good. This met my primary objective.

My secondary objective was to understand the difference between research questions and research hypothesis, and in which context to use which one. However, I am still not clear on this. Can you kindly please guide?

Derek Jansen

In research, a research question is a clear and specific inquiry that the researcher wants to answer, while a research hypothesis is a tentative statement or prediction about the relationship between variables or the expected outcome of the study. Research questions are broader and guide the overall study, while hypotheses are specific and testable statements used in quantitative research. Research questions identify the problem, while hypotheses provide a focus for testing in the study.

Saen Fanai

Exactly what I need in this research journey, I look forward to more of your coaching videos.

Abubakar Rofiat Opeyemi

This helped a lot. Thanks so much for the effort put into explaining it.

Lamin Tarawally

What data source in writing dissertation/Thesis requires?

What is data source covers when writing dessertation/thesis

Latifat Muhammed

This is quite useful thanks

Yetunde

I’m excited and thankful. I got so much value which will help me progress in my thesis.

Amer Al-Rashid

where are the locations of the reserch statement, research objective and research question in a reserach paper? Can you write an ouline that defines their places in the researh paper?

Webby

Very helpful and important tips on Aims, Objectives and Questions.

Refiloe Raselane

Thank you so much for making research aim, research objectives and research question so clear. This will be helpful to me as i continue with my thesis.

Annabelle Roda-Dafielmoto

Thanks much for this content. I learned a lot. And I am inspired to learn more. I am still struggling with my preparation for dissertation outline/proposal. But I consistently follow contents and tutorials and the new FB of GRAD Coach. Hope to really become confident in writing my dissertation and successfully defend it.

Joe

As a researcher and lecturer, I find splitting research goals into research aims, objectives, and questions is unnecessarily bureaucratic and confusing for students. For most biomedical research projects, including ‘real research’, 1-3 research questions will suffice (numbers may differ by discipline).

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general objectives of research

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Frequently asked questions

How do i write a research objective.

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

Frequently asked questions: Writing a research paper

A research project is an academic, scientific, or professional undertaking to answer a research question . Research projects can take many forms, such as qualitative or quantitative , descriptive , longitudinal , experimental , or correlational . What kind of research approach you choose will depend on your topic.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .

However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:

  • Researchability
  • Feasibility and specificity
  • Relevance and originality

Research questions anchor your whole project, so it’s important to spend some time refining them.

In general, they should be:

  • Focused and researchable
  • Answerable using credible sources
  • Complex and arguable
  • Feasible and specific
  • Relevant and original

All research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly

Writing Strong Research Questions

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.

Your research objectives indicate how you’ll try to address your research problem and should be specific:

Research objectives describe what you intend your research project to accomplish.

They summarize the approach and purpose of the project and help to focus your research.

Your objectives should appear in the introduction of your research paper , at the end of your problem statement .

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in Chicago style are to:

  • Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman
  • Use 1 inch margins or larger
  • Apply double line spacing
  • Indent every new paragraph ½ inch
  • Include a title page
  • Place page numbers in the top right or bottom center
  • Cite your sources with author-date citations or Chicago footnotes
  • Include a bibliography or reference list

To automatically generate accurate Chicago references, you can use Scribbr’s free Chicago reference generator .

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:

  • Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman
  • Set 1 inch page margins
  • Include a four-line MLA heading on the first page
  • Center the paper’s title
  • Use title case capitalization for headings
  • Cite your sources with MLA in-text citations
  • List all sources cited on a Works Cited page at the end

To format a paper in APA Style , follow these guidelines:

  • Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial
  • If submitting for publication, insert a running head on every page
  • Apply APA heading styles
  • Cite your sources with APA in-text citations
  • List all sources cited on a reference page at the end

No, it’s not appropriate to present new arguments or evidence in the conclusion . While you might be tempted to save a striking argument for last, research papers follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the results and discussion sections if you are following a scientific structure). The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

The conclusion of a research paper has several key elements you should make sure to include:

  • A restatement of the research problem
  • A summary of your key arguments and/or findings
  • A short discussion of the implications of your research

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem

and your problem statement

  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an overview of the paper

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general objectives of research

  • Aims and Objectives – A Guide for Academic Writing
  • Doing a PhD

One of the most important aspects of a thesis, dissertation or research paper is the correct formulation of the aims and objectives. This is because your aims and objectives will establish the scope, depth and direction that your research will ultimately take. An effective set of aims and objectives will give your research focus and your reader clarity, with your aims indicating what is to be achieved, and your objectives indicating how it will be achieved.

Introduction

There is no getting away from the importance of the aims and objectives in determining the success of your research project. Unfortunately, however, it is an aspect that many students struggle with, and ultimately end up doing poorly. Given their importance, if you suspect that there is even the smallest possibility that you belong to this group of students, we strongly recommend you read this page in full.

This page describes what research aims and objectives are, how they differ from each other, how to write them correctly, and the common mistakes students make and how to avoid them. An example of a good aim and objectives from a past thesis has also been deconstructed to help your understanding.

What Are Aims and Objectives?

Research aims.

A research aim describes the main goal or the overarching purpose of your research project.

In doing so, it acts as a focal point for your research and provides your readers with clarity as to what your study is all about. Because of this, research aims are almost always located within its own subsection under the introduction section of a research document, regardless of whether it’s a thesis , a dissertation, or a research paper .

A research aim is usually formulated as a broad statement of the main goal of the research and can range in length from a single sentence to a short paragraph. Although the exact format may vary according to preference, they should all describe why your research is needed (i.e. the context), what it sets out to accomplish (the actual aim) and, briefly, how it intends to accomplish it (overview of your objectives).

To give an example, we have extracted the following research aim from a real PhD thesis:

Example of a Research Aim

The role of diametrical cup deformation as a factor to unsatisfactory implant performance has not been widely reported. The aim of this thesis was to gain an understanding of the diametrical deformation behaviour of acetabular cups and shells following impaction into the reamed acetabulum. The influence of a range of factors on deformation was investigated to ascertain if cup and shell deformation may be high enough to potentially contribute to early failure and high wear rates in metal-on-metal implants.

Note: Extracted with permission from thesis titled “T he Impact And Deformation Of Press-Fit Metal Acetabular Components ” produced by Dr H Hothi of previously Queen Mary University of London.

Research Objectives

Where a research aim specifies what your study will answer, research objectives specify how your study will answer it.

They divide your research aim into several smaller parts, each of which represents a key section of your research project. As a result, almost all research objectives take the form of a numbered list, with each item usually receiving its own chapter in a dissertation or thesis.

Following the example of the research aim shared above, here are it’s real research objectives as an example:

Example of a Research Objective

  • Develop finite element models using explicit dynamics to mimic mallet blows during cup/shell insertion, initially using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum.
  • Investigate the number, velocity and position of impacts needed to insert a cup.
  • Determine the relationship between the size of interference between the cup and cavity and deformation for different cup types.
  • Investigate the influence of non-uniform cup support and varying the orientation of the component in the cavity on deformation.
  • Examine the influence of errors during reaming of the acetabulum which introduce ovality to the cavity.
  • Determine the relationship between changes in the geometry of the component and deformation for different cup designs.
  • Develop three dimensional pelvis models with non-uniform bone material properties from a range of patients with varying bone quality.
  • Use the key parameters that influence deformation, as identified in the foam models to determine the range of deformations that may occur clinically using the anatomic models and if these deformations are clinically significant.

It’s worth noting that researchers sometimes use research questions instead of research objectives, or in other cases both. From a high-level perspective, research questions and research objectives make the same statements, but just in different formats.

Taking the first three research objectives as an example, they can be restructured into research questions as follows:

Restructuring Research Objectives as Research Questions

  • Can finite element models using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum together with explicit dynamics be used to mimic mallet blows during cup/shell insertion?
  • What is the number, velocity and position of impacts needed to insert a cup?
  • What is the relationship between the size of interference between the cup and cavity and deformation for different cup types?

Difference Between Aims and Objectives

Hopefully the above explanations make clear the differences between aims and objectives, but to clarify:

  • The research aim focus on what the research project is intended to achieve; research objectives focus on how the aim will be achieved.
  • Research aims are relatively broad; research objectives are specific.
  • Research aims focus on a project’s long-term outcomes; research objectives focus on its immediate, short-term outcomes.
  • A research aim can be written in a single sentence or short paragraph; research objectives should be written as a numbered list.

How to Write Aims and Objectives

Before we discuss how to write a clear set of research aims and objectives, we should make it clear that there is no single way they must be written. Each researcher will approach their aims and objectives slightly differently, and often your supervisor will influence the formulation of yours on the basis of their own preferences.

Regardless, there are some basic principles that you should observe for good practice; these principles are described below.

Your aim should be made up of three parts that answer the below questions:

  • Why is this research required?
  • What is this research about?
  • How are you going to do it?

The easiest way to achieve this would be to address each question in its own sentence, although it does not matter whether you combine them or write multiple sentences for each, the key is to address each one.

The first question, why , provides context to your research project, the second question, what , describes the aim of your research, and the last question, how , acts as an introduction to your objectives which will immediately follow.

Scroll through the image set below to see the ‘why, what and how’ associated with our research aim example.

Explaining aims vs objectives

Note: Your research aims need not be limited to one. Some individuals per to define one broad ‘overarching aim’ of a project and then adopt two or three specific research aims for their thesis or dissertation. Remember, however, that in order for your assessors to consider your research project complete, you will need to prove you have fulfilled all of the aims you set out to achieve. Therefore, while having more than one research aim is not necessarily disadvantageous, consider whether a single overarching one will do.

Research Objectives

Each of your research objectives should be SMART :

  • Specific – is there any ambiguity in the action you are going to undertake, or is it focused and well-defined?
  • Measurable – how will you measure progress and determine when you have achieved the action?
  • Achievable – do you have the support, resources and facilities required to carry out the action?
  • Relevant – is the action essential to the achievement of your research aim?
  • Timebound – can you realistically complete the action in the available time alongside your other research tasks?

In addition to being SMART, your research objectives should start with a verb that helps communicate your intent. Common research verbs include:

Table of Research Verbs to Use in Aims and Objectives

Last, format your objectives into a numbered list. This is because when you write your thesis or dissertation, you will at times need to make reference to a specific research objective; structuring your research objectives in a numbered list will provide a clear way of doing this.

To bring all this together, let’s compare the first research objective in the previous example with the above guidance:

Checking Research Objective Example Against Recommended Approach

Research Objective:

1. Develop finite element models using explicit dynamics to mimic mallet blows during cup/shell insertion, initially using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum.

Checking Against Recommended Approach:

Q: Is it specific? A: Yes, it is clear what the student intends to do (produce a finite element model), why they intend to do it (mimic cup/shell blows) and their parameters have been well-defined ( using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum ).

Q: Is it measurable? A: Yes, it is clear that the research objective will be achieved once the finite element model is complete.

Q: Is it achievable? A: Yes, provided the student has access to a computer lab, modelling software and laboratory data.

Q: Is it relevant? A: Yes, mimicking impacts to a cup/shell is fundamental to the overall aim of understanding how they deform when impacted upon.

Q: Is it timebound? A: Yes, it is possible to create a limited-scope finite element model in a relatively short time, especially if you already have experience in modelling.

Q: Does it start with a verb? A: Yes, it starts with ‘develop’, which makes the intent of the objective immediately clear.

Q: Is it a numbered list? A: Yes, it is the first research objective in a list of eight.

Mistakes in Writing Research Aims and Objectives

1. making your research aim too broad.

Having a research aim too broad becomes very difficult to achieve. Normally, this occurs when a student develops their research aim before they have a good understanding of what they want to research. Remember that at the end of your project and during your viva defence , you will have to prove that you have achieved your research aims; if they are too broad, this will be an almost impossible task. In the early stages of your research project, your priority should be to narrow your study to a specific area. A good way to do this is to take the time to study existing literature, question their current approaches, findings and limitations, and consider whether there are any recurring gaps that could be investigated .

Note: Achieving a set of aims does not necessarily mean proving or disproving a theory or hypothesis, even if your research aim was to, but having done enough work to provide a useful and original insight into the principles that underlie your research aim.

2. Making Your Research Objectives Too Ambitious

Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available. It is natural to want to set ambitious research objectives that require sophisticated data collection and analysis, but only completing this with six months before the end of your PhD registration period is not a worthwhile trade-off.

3. Formulating Repetitive Research Objectives

Each research objective should have its own purpose and distinct measurable outcome. To this effect, a common mistake is to form research objectives which have large amounts of overlap. This makes it difficult to determine when an objective is truly complete, and also presents challenges in estimating the duration of objectives when creating your project timeline. It also makes it difficult to structure your thesis into unique chapters, making it more challenging for you to write and for your audience to read.

Fortunately, this oversight can be easily avoided by using SMART objectives.

Hopefully, you now have a good idea of how to create an effective set of aims and objectives for your research project, whether it be a thesis, dissertation or research paper. While it may be tempting to dive directly into your research, spending time on getting your aims and objectives right will give your research clear direction. This won’t only reduce the likelihood of problems arising later down the line, but will also lead to a more thorough and coherent research project.

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  • Writing Tips

How to Write Research Objectives

How to Write Research Objectives

3-minute read

  • 22nd November 2021

Writing a research paper, thesis, or dissertation ? If so, you’ll want to state your research objectives in the introduction of your paper to make it clear to your readers what you’re trying to accomplish. But how do you write effective research objectives? In this post, we’ll look at two key topics to help you do this:

  • How to use your research aims as a basis for developing objectives.
  • How to use SMART criteria to refine your research objectives.

For more advice on how to write strong research objectives, see below.

Research Aims and Objectives

There is an important difference between research aims and research objectives:

  • A research aim defines the main purpose of your research. As such, you can think of your research aim as answering the question “What are you doing?”
  • Research objectives (as most studies will have more than one) are the steps you will take to fulfil your aims. As such, your objectives should answer the question “How are you conducting your research?”

For instance, an example research aim could be:

This study will investigate the link between dehydration and the incidence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in intensive care patients in Australia.

To develop a set of research objectives, you would then break down the various steps involved in meeting said aim. For example:

This study will investigate the link between dehydration and the incidence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in intensive care patients in Australia. To achieve this, the study objectives w ill include:

  • Replicat ing a small Singaporean study into the role of dehydration in UTIs in hospital patients (Sepe, 2018) in a larger Australian cohort.
  • Trialing the use of intravenous fluids for intensive care patients to prevent dehydration.
  • Assessing the relationship between the age of patients and quantities of intravenous fluids needed to counter dehydration.

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Note that the objectives don’t go into any great detail here. The key is to briefly summarize each component of your study. You can save details for how you will conduct the research for the methodology section of your paper.

Make Your Research Objectives SMART

A great way to refine your research objectives is to use SMART criteria . Borrowed from the world of project management, there are many versions of this system. However, we’re going to focus on developing specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound objectives.

In other words, a good research objective should be all of the following:

  • S pecific – Is the objective clear and well-defined?
  • M easurable – How will you know when the objective has been achieved? Is there a way to measure the thing you’re seeking to do?
  • A chievable – Do you have the support and resources necessary to undertake this action? Are you being overly ambitious with this objective?
  • R elevant – Is this objective vital for fulfilling your research aim?
  • T imebound – Can this action be realistically undertaken in the time you have?

If you follow this system, your research objectives will be much stronger.

Expert Research Proofreading

Whatever your research aims and objectives, make sure to have your academic writing proofread by the experts!

Our academic editors can help you with research papers and proposals , as well as any other scholarly document you need checking. And this will help to ensure that your academic writing is always clear, concise, and precise.

Submit a free sample document today to trial our services and find out more.

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How to prepare a Research Proposal

Health research, medical education and clinical practice form the three pillars of modern day medical practice. As one authority rightly put it: ‘Health research is not a luxury, but an essential need that no nation can afford to ignore’. Health research can and should be pursued by a broad range of people. Even if they do not conduct research themselves, they need to grasp the principles of the scientific method to understand the value and limitations of science and to be able to assess and evaluate results of research before applying them. This review paper aims to highlight the essential concepts to the students and beginning researchers and sensitize and motivate the readers to access the vast literature available on research methodologies.

Most students and beginning researchers do not fully understand what a research proposal means, nor do they understand its importance. 1 A research proposal is a detailed description of a proposed study designed to investigate a given problem. 2

A research proposal is intended to convince others that you have a worthwhile research project and that you have the competence and the work-plan to complete it. Broadly the research proposal must address the following questions regardless of your research area and the methodology you choose: What you plan to accomplish, why do you want to do it and how are you going to do it. 1 The aim of this article is to highlight the essential concepts and not to provide extensive details about this topic.

The elements of a research proposal are highlighted below:

1. Title: It should be concise and descriptive. It must be informative and catchy. An effective title not only prick’s the readers interest, but also predisposes him/her favorably towards the proposal. Often titles are stated in terms of a functional relationship, because such titles clearly indicate the independent and dependent variables. 1 The title may need to be revised after completion of writing of the protocol to reflect more closely the sense of the study. 3

2. Abstract: It is a brief summary of approximately 300 words. It should include the main research question, the rationale for the study, the hypothesis (if any) and the method. Descriptions of the method may include the design, procedures, the sample and any instruments that will be used. 1 It should stand on its own, and not refer the reader to points in the project description. 3

3. Introduction: The introduction provides the readers with the background information. Its purpose is to establish a framework for the research, so that readers can understand how it relates to other research. 4 It should answer the question of why the research needs to be done and what will be its relevance. It puts the proposal in context. 3

The introduction typically begins with a statement of the research problem in precise and clear terms. 1

The importance of the statement of the research problem 5 : The statement of the problem is the essential basis for the construction of a research proposal (research objectives, hypotheses, methodology, work plan and budget etc). It is an integral part of selecting a research topic. It will guide and put into sharper focus the research design being considered for solving the problem. It allows the investigator to describe the problem systematically, to reflect on its importance, its priority in the country and region and to point out why the proposed research on the problem should be undertaken. It also facilitates peer review of the research proposal by the funding agencies.

Then it is necessary to provide the context and set the stage for the research question in such a way as to show its necessity and importance. 1 This step is necessary for the investigators to familiarize themselves with existing knowledge about the research problem and to find out whether or not others have investigated the same or similar problems. This step is accomplished by a thorough and critical review of the literature and by personal communication with experts. 5 It helps further understanding of the problem proposed for research and may lead to refining the statement of the problem, to identify the study variables and conceptualize their relationships, and in formulation and selection of a research hypothesis. 5 It ensures that you are not "re-inventing the wheel" and demonstrates your understanding of the research problem. It gives due credit to those who have laid the groundwork for your proposed research. 1 In a proposal, the literature review is generally brief and to the point. The literature selected should be pertinent and relevant. 6

Against this background, you then present the rationale of the proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing.

4. Objectives: Research objectives are the goals to be achieved by conducting the research. 5 They may be stated as ‘general’ and ‘specific’.

The general objective of the research is what is to be accomplished by the research project, for example, to determine whether or not a new vaccine should be incorporated in a public health program.

The specific objectives relate to the specific research questions the investigator wants to answer through the proposed study and may be presented as primary and secondary objectives, for example, primary: To determine the degree of protection that is attributable to the new vaccine in a study population by comparing the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups. 5 Secondary: To study the cost-effectiveness of this programme.

Young investigators are advised to resist the temptation to put too many objectives or over-ambitious objectives that cannot be adequately achieved by the implementation of the protocol. 3

5. Variables: During the planning stage, it is necessary to identify the key variables of the study and their method of measurement and unit of measurement must be clearly indicated. Four types of variables are important in research 5 :

a. Independent variables: variables that are manipulated or treated in a study in order to see what effect differences in them will have on those variables proposed as being dependent on them. The different synonyms for the term ‘independent variable’ which are used in literature are: cause, input, predisposing factor, risk factor, determinant, antecedent, characteristic and attribute.

b. Dependent variables: variables in which changes are results of the level or amount of the independent variable or variables.

Synonyms: effect, outcome, consequence, result, condition, disease.

c. Confounding or intervening variables: variables that should be studied because they may influence or ‘mix’ the effect of the independent variables. For instance, in a study of the effect of measles (independent variable) on child mortality (dependent variable), the nutritional status of the child may play an intervening (confounding) role.

d. Background variables: variables that are so often of relevance in investigations of groups or populations that they should be considered for possible inclusion in the study. For example sex, age, ethnic origin, education, marital status, social status etc.

The objective of research is usually to determine the effect of changes in one or more independent variables on one or more dependent variables. For example, a study may ask "Will alcohol intake (independent variable) have an effect on development of gastric ulcer (dependent variable)?"

Certain variables may not be easy to identify. The characteristics that define these variables must be clearly identified for the purpose of the study.

6. Questions and/ or hypotheses: If you as a researcher know enough to make prediction concerning what you are studying, then the hypothesis may be formulated. A hypothesis can be defined as a tentative prediction or explanation of the relationship between two or more variables. In other words, the hypothesis translates the problem statement into a precise, unambiguous prediction of expected outcomes. Hypotheses are not meant to be haphazard guesses, but should reflect the depth of knowledge, imagination and experience of the investigator. 5 In the process of formulating the hypotheses, all variables relevant to the study must be identified. For example: "Health education involving active participation by mothers will produce more positive changes in child feeding than health education based on lectures". Here the independent variable is types of health education and the dependent variable is changes in child feeding.

A research question poses a relationship between two or more variables but phrases the relationship as a question; a hypothesis represents a declarative statement of the relations between two or more variables. 7

For exploratory or phenomenological research, you may not have any hypothesis (please do not confuse the hypothesis with the statistical null hypothesis). 1 Questions are relevant to normative or census type research (How many of them are there? Is there a relationship between them?). Deciding whether to use questions or hypotheses depends on factors such as the purpose of the study, the nature of the design and methodology, and the audience of the research (at times even the outlook and preference of the committee members, particularly the Chair). 6

7. Methodology: The method section is very important because it tells your research Committee how you plan to tackle your research problem. The guiding principle for writing the Methods section is that it should contain sufficient information for the reader to determine whether the methodology is sound. Some even argue that a good proposal should contain sufficient details for another qualified researcher to implement the study. 1 Indicate the methodological steps you will take to answer every question or to test every hypothesis illustrated in the Questions/hypotheses section. 6 It is vital that you consult a biostatistician during the planning stage of your study, 8 to resolve the methodological issues before submitting the proposal.

This section should include:

Research design: The selection of the research strategy is the core of research design and is probably the single most important decision the investigator has to make. The choice of the strategy, whether descriptive, analytical, experimental, operational or a combination of these depend on a number of considerations, 5 but this choice must be explained in relation to the study objectives. 3

Research subjects or participants: Depending on the type of your study, the following questions should be answered 3 , 5

  • - What are the criteria for inclusion or selection?
  • - What are the criteria for exclusion?
  • - What is the sampling procedure you will use so as to ensure representativeness and reliability of the sample and to minimize sampling errors? The key reason for being concerned with sampling is the issue of validity-both internal and external of the study results. 9
  • - Will there be use of controls in your study? Controls or comparison groups are used in scientific research in order to increase the validity of the conclusions. Control groups are necessary in all analytical epidemiological studies, in experimental studies of drug trials, in research on effects of intervention programmes and disease control measures and in many other investigations. Some descriptive studies (studies of existing data, surveys) may not require control groups.
  • - What are the criteria for discontinuation?

Sample size: The proposal should provide information and justification (basis on which the sample size is calculated) about sample size in the methodology section. 3 A larger sample size than needed to test the research hypothesis increases the cost and duration of the study and will be unethical if it exposes human subjects to any potential unnecessary risk without additional benefit. A smaller sample size than needed can also be unethical as it exposes human subjects to risk with no benefit to scientific knowledge. Calculation of sample size has been made easy by computer software programmes, but the principles underlying the estimation should be well understood.

Interventions: If an intervention is introduced, a description must be given of the drugs or devices (proprietary names, manufacturer, chemical composition, dose, frequency of administration) if they are already commercially available. If they are in phases of experimentation or are already commercially available but used for other indications, information must be provided on available pre-clinical investigations in animals and/or results of studies already conducted in humans (in such cases, approval of the drug regulatory agency in the country is needed before the study). 3

Ethical issues 3 : Ethical considerations apply to all types of health research. Before the proposal is submitted to the Ethics Committee for approval, two important documents mentioned below (where appropriate) must be appended to the proposal. In additions, there is another vital issue of Conflict of Interest, wherein the researchers should furnish a statement regarding the same.

The Informed consent form (informed decision-making): A consent form, where appropriate, must be developed and attached to the proposal. It should be written in the prospective subjects’ mother tongue and in simple language which can be easily understood by the subject. The use of medical terminology should be avoided as far as possible. Special care is needed when subjects are illiterate. It should explain why the study is being done and why the subject has been asked to participate. It should describe, in sequence, what will happen in the course of the study, giving enough detail for the subject to gain a clear idea of what to expect. It should clarify whether or not the study procedures offer any benefits to the subject or to others, and explain the nature, likelihood and treatment of anticipated discomfort or adverse effects, including psychological and social risks, if any. Where relevant, a comparison with risks posed by standard drugs or treatment must be included. If the risks are unknown or a comparative risk cannot be given it should be so stated. It should indicate that the subject has the right to withdraw from the study at any time without, in any way, affecting his/her further medical care. It should assure the participant of confidentiality of the findings.

Ethics checklist: The proposal must describe the measures that will be undertaken to ensure that the proposed research is carried out in accordance with the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki on Ethical Principles for Medical research involving Human Subjects. 10 It must answer the following questions:

  • • Is the research design adequate to provide answers to the research question? It is unethical to expose subjects to research that will have no value.
  • • Is the method of selection of research subjects justified? The use of vulnerable subjects as research participants needs special justification. Vulnerable subjects include those in prison, minors and persons with mental disability. In international research it is important to mention that the population in which the study is conducted will benefit from any potential outcome of the research and the research is not being conducted solely for the benefit of some other population. Justification is needed for any inducement, financial or otherwise, for the participants to be enrolled in the study.
  • • Are the interventions justified, in terms of risk/benefit ratio? Risks are not limited to physical harm. Psychological and social risks must also be considered.
  • • For observations made, have measures been taken to ensure confidentiality?

Research setting 5 : The research setting includes all the pertinent facets of the study, such as the population to be studied (sampling frame), the place and time of study.

Study instruments 3 , 5 : Instruments are the tools by which the data are collected. For validated questionnaires/interview schedules, reference to published work should be given and the instrument appended to the proposal. For new a questionnaire which is being designed specifically for your study the details about preparing, precoding and pretesting of questionnaire should be furnished and the document appended to the proposal. Descriptions of other methods of observations like medical examination, laboratory tests and screening procedures is necessary- for established procedures, reference of published work cited but for new or modified procedure, an adequate description is necessary with justification for the same.

Collection of data: A short description of the protocol of data collection. For example, in a study on blood pressure measurement: time of participant arrival, rest for 5p. 10 minutes, which apparatus (standard calibrated) to be used, in which room to take measurement, measurement in sitting or lying down position, how many measurements, measurement in which arm first (whether this is going to be randomized), details of cuff and its placement, who will take the measurement. This minimizes the possibility of confusion, delays and errors.

Data analysis: The description should include the design of the analysis form, plans for processing and coding the data and the choice of the statistical method to be applied to each data. What will be the procedures for accounting for missing, unused or spurious data?

Monitoring, supervision and quality control: Detailed statement about the all logistical issues to satisfy the requirements of Good Clinical Practices (GCP), protocol procedures, responsibilities of each member of the research team, training of study investigators, steps taken to assure quality control (laboratory procedures, equipment calibration etc)

Gantt chart: A Gantt chart is an overview of tasks/proposed activities and a time frame for the same. You put weeks, days or months at one side, and the tasks at the other. You draw fat lines to indicate the period the task will be performed to give a timeline for your research study (take help of tutorial on youtube). 11

Significance of the study: Indicate how your research will refine, revise or extend existing knowledge in the area under investigation. How will it benefit the concerned stakeholders? What could be the larger implications of your research study?

Dissemination of the study results: How do you propose to share the findings of your study with professional peers, practitioners, participants and the funding agency?

Budget: A proposal budget with item wise/activity wise breakdown and justification for the same. Indicate how will the study be financed.

References: The proposal should end with relevant references on the subject. For web based search include the date of access for the cited website, for example: add the sentence "accessed on June 10, 2008".

Appendixes: Include the appropriate appendixes in the proposal. For example: Interview protocols, sample of informed consent forms, cover letters sent to appropriate stakeholders, official letters for permission to conduct research. Regarding original scales or questionnaires, if the instrument is copyrighted then permission in writing to reproduce the instrument from the copyright holder or proof of purchase of the instrument must be submitted.

Research-Methodology

Formulating Research Aims and Objectives

Formulating research aim and objectives in an appropriate manner is one of the most important aspects of your thesis. This is because research aim and objectives determine the scope, depth and the overall direction of the research. Research question is the central question of the study that has to be answered on the basis of research findings.

Research aim emphasizes what needs to be achieved within the scope of the research, by the end of the research process. Achievement of research aim provides answer to the research question.

Research objectives divide research aim into several parts and address each part separately. Research aim specifies WHAT needs to be studied and research objectives comprise a number of steps that address HOW research aim will be achieved.

As a rule of dumb, there would be one research aim and several research objectives. Achievement of each research objective will lead to the achievement of the research aim.

Consider the following as an example:

Research title: Effects of organizational culture on business profitability: a case study of Virgin Atlantic

Research aim: To assess the effects of Virgin Atlantic organizational culture on business profitability

Following research objectives would facilitate the achievement of this aim:

  • Analyzing the nature of organizational culture at Virgin Atlantic by September 1, 2022
  • Identifying factors impacting Virgin Atlantic organizational culture by September 16, 2022
  • Analyzing impacts of Virgin Atlantic organizational culture on employee performances by September 30, 2022
  • Providing recommendations to Virgin Atlantic strategic level management in terms of increasing the level of effectiveness of organizational culture by October 5, 2022

Figure below illustrates additional examples in formulating research aims and objectives:

Formulating Research Aims and Objectives

Formulation of research question, aim and objectives

Common mistakes in the formulation of research aim relate to the following:

1. Choosing the topic too broadly . This is the most common mistake. For example, a research title of “an analysis of leadership practices” can be classified as too broad because the title fails to answer the following questions:

a) Which aspects of leadership practices? Leadership has many aspects such as employee motivation, ethical behaviour, strategic planning, change management etc. An attempt to cover all of these aspects of organizational leadership within a single research will result in an unfocused and poor work.

b) An analysis of leadership practices in which country? Leadership practices tend to be different in various countries due to cross-cultural differences, legislations and a range of other region-specific factors. Therefore, a study of leadership practices needs to be country-specific.

c) Analysis of leadership practices in which company or industry? Similar to the point above, analysis of leadership practices needs to take into account industry-specific and/or company-specific differences, and there is no way to conduct a leadership research that relates to all industries and organizations in an equal manner.

Accordingly, as an example “a study into the impacts of ethical behaviour of a leader on the level of employee motivation in US healthcare sector” would be a more appropriate title than simply “An analysis of leadership practices”.

2. Setting an unrealistic aim . Formulation of a research aim that involves in-depth interviews with Apple strategic level management by an undergraduate level student can be specified as a bit over-ambitious. This is because securing an interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook or members of Apple Board of Directors might not be easy. This is an extreme example of course, but you got the idea. Instead, you may aim to interview the manager of your local Apple store and adopt a more feasible strategy to get your dissertation completed.

3. Choosing research methods incompatible with the timeframe available . Conducting interviews with 20 sample group members and collecting primary data through 2 focus groups when only three months left until submission of your dissertation can be very difficult, if not impossible. Accordingly, timeframe available need to be taken into account when formulating research aims and objectives and selecting research methods.

Moreover, research objectives need to be formulated according to SMART principle,

 where the abbreviation stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

Examples of SMART research objectives

At the conclusion part of your research project you will need to reflect on the level of achievement of research aims and objectives. In case your research aims and objectives are not fully achieved by the end of the study, you will need to discuss the reasons. These may include initial inappropriate formulation of research aims and objectives, effects of other variables that were not considered at the beginning of the research or changes in some circumstances during the research process.

Research Aims and Objectives

John Dudovskiy

iEduNote. Studying Made Simple!

Research Objectives: Meaning, Types

Research Objectives: Meaning, Types

A research objective addresses the purpose of the investigation and the types of knowledge generated from one’s investigation. It provides a framework for what is to be achieved by the study

What is the Research Objective?

A research objective addresses the purpose of the investigation and the types of knowledge generated from one’s investigation. Looking at the objectives of the research , one can anticipate what is to be achieved by the study.

A research objective indicates the population of interest and independent and dependent variables.

Many researchers state their research objective in the declarative form as a broad statement of purpose, such as the objective of this study is to examine the relationship between the initial salary (dependent variable) of those who are employed in NGOs (population of interest) and their previous job experience (independent variable).

The descriptive study does not always have variables that can be designated as independent or dependent.

In such a case, the objective indicates the nature of the inquiry, the study variables, and the population under study, as we find in the example.

This study aims to assess the women’s decision-making autonomy regarding their health care, their child’s health care, large household purchases, household purchases for daily needs, and visits to the women’s family or relatives.

In causal studies, the objectives are usually stated in the form of hypotheses.

Here is an example: Participation of women in household decision-making increases with age, their level of education, and the number of surviving children.

We can enumerate three major reasons for formulating the objectives of the research;

  • Focus the study on narrowing it down to essentials;
  • Avoid collection of data that are not strictly necessary for understanding and solving the problem at hand;
  • Organize the study in clearly defined components or phases.

While formulating the research objectives, we should keep in mind that the results will be compared to the objectives when the study is evaluated.

If the objectives have not been formulated clearly, the study cannot be evaluated as desired. It is because of this reason; we should take care that the objectives fulfill certain criteria;

  • They are realistic to fit the local environment.
  • They cover the different aspects of the problem.
  • They consider the contributing factors in a coherent way and logical sequence.
  • They consider ethical issues, if any.
  • They are phrased in operational terms.

Objectives should be closely related to the research problem statement, giving the sponsor specific, concrete, and achievable goals.

It is best to state the objectives of a study in general terms first and then move down to specific terms.

4 Types of Research Objectives

From this point of view, objectives are of two types: general and specific. We elaborate on these two concepts below, along with two more objectives: immediate objective and ultimate objective.

General Objective

The general objective of a study states what is expected to be achieved by the study in general terms.

For example, if the problem identified is the low utilization of Child Welfare Clinics (CWC), the general objective of the study could be:

  • Identify the reasons for the low utilization of Child Welfare Clinics to find solutions.

Similarly, in a study on anemia in pregnancy, the general objective could be stated as:

  • To study the changes in the hemoglobin level with an increase in the duration of pregnancy.

Or in a study to examine the contribution of goat farming to poverty alleviation, the general objective may be framed as follows:

  • To assess the impact of investment in goat farming for poverty alleviation in rural Bangladesh.

Specific Objectives

Given that we have rightly stated the general objectives, it is advisable to break it down into several smaller, logically connected parts. These are normally referred to as specific objectives.

Specific objectives should systematically address the various aspects of the problems defined under the problem statement and the key factors that are assumed to influence or cause the problems.

They should specify what you will do in your study, where this study will be done, and for what purpose.

If formulated properly, specific objectives will facilitate the development of the research methodology and help the researcher orient the collection, analysis, interpretation, and utilization of data.

Thus in the anemia survey just cited above, the specific objectives could be

  • To determine through history, the duration of pregnancy, parity, and the last birth interval of pregnant women in the study;
  • To assess the hemoglobin level of pregnant women using Sahli’s method;
  • To determine the changes in hemoglobin level with the duration of pregnancy, controlling for birth and parity.

Immediate Objectives

In addition to general objectives and specific objectives, a few studies, particularly evaluative studies, attempt to specify immediate objectives.

The immediate objective serves to indicate the focus of the proposed research in behavioral terms. The objective should specify the following points:

  • Why are we going to do the study?
  • Who will conduct the study?
  • When will the study be conducted?
  • What are we going to study?
  • Whom will the study cover?
  • How will the study be conducted?

The ‘why’  question addresses the rationale and objectives of the study.

The ‘whose’  question is designed to identify the individuals, firms, or organizations responsible for implementing the study.

The ‘when’  question seeks to know the study period.

The ‘what’  question addresses the issue of a statement of the problem, including the key variables.

The ‘ whom’ question seeks to answer the population to be studied.

The ‘ how’   question seeks to know the methodology to be followed, including the research design and sampling strategy to be employed.

Ultimate Objective

Most applied research studies have a statement of ultimate objective that focuses on how the results will be used to motivate the program managers and policymakers to implement and execute the recommendations from the survey results.

In the anemia survey, the ultimate objective may be stated as follows:

It is expected that the study’s findings will help enhance understanding of the effect of pregnancy on hemoglobin levels of mothers and thereby guide the physician’s incorrect iron therapy for pregnant women during the different gestational periods.

In the child nutrition survey cited above, the ultimate objectives were to highlight issues that policymakers and program managers need to address to improve the nutrition status of children in the country.

How are research objectives typically stated in causal studies?

What are the main reasons for formulating research objectives.

The main reasons for formulating research objectives are to focus the study, avoid unnecessary data collection , and organize the study in clearly defined components or phases.

What is the difference between general and specific research objectives?

The general objective of a study states the expected outcome in broad terms, while specific objectives break down the general objective into smaller, logically connected parts that address various aspects of the research problem.

What are the immediate objectives in research?

Immediate objectives indicate the focus of the proposed research in behavioral terms, specifying why, who, when, what, whom, and how the study will be conducted.

How does an ultimate objective differ from other research objectives?

The ultimate objective focuses on how the results of the research will be used, aiming to motivate program managers and policymakers to implement the recommendations derived from the study’s findings.

Why is it essential to state research objectives clearly?

Clear research objectives are crucial because the study’s results will be compared to these objectives when evaluating the study. If the objectives are not clearly formulated, the study cannot be evaluated as desired.

With a clear understanding of research objectives; for more learning use our complete guideline on research and research methodology concepts .

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How to Write Objectives in a Research Proposal

Last Updated: May 19, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Felipe Corredor . Felipe is a Senior College Admissions Consultant at American College Counselors with over seven years of experience. He specializes in helping clients from all around the world gain admission into America's top universities through private, one-on-one consulting. He helps guide clients through the entire college admissions process and perfect every aspect of their college applications. Felipe earned a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Chicago and recently received his MBA. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 119,631 times.

A research proposal is a detailed outline for a significant research project. They’re common for class assignments, capstone papers, grant applications, and even job applications in some fields, so it's possible you'll have to prepare one at some point. The objectives are a very important part of a research proposal because they outline where the project is headed and what it will accomplish. Developing objectives can be a little tricky, so take some time to consider them. Then work on wording them carefully so your readers understand your goals. With clear objectives, your research proposal will be much stronger.

Brainstorming Your Objectives

Step 1 State your main research question to guide your ideas.

  • For example, your research question might be “What is the effect of prolonged TV-watching on children?” You can then use that question to build your study around.
  • Narrow down your research topic if it’s too broad. A broad research topic makes breaking the objectives down much more difficult. A research question like “How can we save the environment?” is a huge question. Something like “What safety measures would prevent ocean pollution?” is more specific and attainable. [2] X Research source

Step 2 Describe the ultimate goal of your study.

  • Remember that in most cases, you shouldn’t state that your study will prove or disprove something exactly since you haven’t done the work yet. Don’t say “This study proves that honey is not an effective treatment for acne.” Instead, make it something like “This study will demonstrate whether or not honey is an effective treatment for acne.”

Step 3 Break that goal down into sub-categories to develop your objectives.

  • If your research question was “What is the effect of prolonged TV-watching on children?” then there are a few categories you could look at. Objectives wrapped up within that question might be: 1) the incidence of eyestrain among children who watch a lot of TV, 2) their muscular development, 3) their level of socialization with other children. Design your objectives around answering these questions.

Step 4 Limit your objectives to 3 to 5 at most.

  • You could always state in your research proposal that you plan to design future experiments or studies to answer additional questions. Most experiments leave unanswered questions and subsequent studies try to tackle them.

Step 5 Divide your objectives into 1 general and 3-4 specific ones.

  • A general objective might be "Establish the effect of diet on mental health." Some specific goals in that project could be 1) Determine if processed foods make depression worse, 2) Identify foods that improve mood, 3) Measure if portion sizes have an impact on mood.
  • Not all research proposals want you to divide between general and specific goals. Remember to follow the instructions for the proposal you're writing.

Step 6 Assess each objective using the SMART acronym.

  • The best goals align with each letter in the SMART acronym. The weaker ones are missing some letters. For example, you might come up with a topic that’s specific, measurable, and time-bound, but not realistic or attainable. This is a weak objective because you probably can’t achieve it.
  • Think about the resources at your disposal. Some objectives might be doable with the right equipment, but if you don’t have that equipment, then you can’t achieve that goal. For example, you might want to map DNA structures, but you can’t view DNA without an electron microscope.
  • Ask the same question for your entire project. Is it attainable overall? You don’t want to try to achieve too much and overwhelm yourself.
  • The specific words in this acronym sometimes change, but the sentiment is the same. Your objectives should overall be clear and specific, measurable, feasible, and limited by time.

Using the Right Language

Step 1 Start each objective with an action verb.

  • Verbs like use, understand, or study is vague and weak. Instead, choose words like calculate, compare, and assess.
  • Your objective list might read like this: 1) Compare the muscle development of children who play video games to children who don’t, 2) Assess whether or not video games cause eyestrain, 3) Determine if videogames inhibit a child’s socialization skills.
  • Some proposals use the infinitive form of verbs, like “to measure” or “to determine.” This is also fine but refer to the proposal instructions to see if this is correct.

Step 2 State each objective clearly and concisely.

  • You can further explain your objectives further in the research proposal. No need to elaborate a lot when you’re just listing them.
  • If you’re having trouble shortening an objective to 1 sentence, then you probably need to split it into 2 objectives. It might also be too complicated for this project.

Step 3 Use specific language so readers know what your goals are.

  • For example, “Determine if sunlight is harmful” is too vague. Instead, state the objective as “Determine if prolonged sun exposure increases subjects’ risk of skin cancer.”
  • It’s helpful to let someone else read your proposal and see if they understand the objectives. If they’re confused, then you need to be more specific.

Step 4 State your objectives as outcomes rather than a process.

  • For example, don’t say “Measure the effect of radiation on living tissue.” Instead, say “Determine what level of radiation is dangerous to living tissue.”
  • Remember, don’t state the objectives as you’ve already done the experiments. They’re still not answered.

Writing the Objectives

Step 1 Insert your objectives after your introduction and problem statement.

  • This is a common format for research proposals, but not universal. Always follow the format that the instructions provided.
  • Depending on how long your introduction has to be, you might also list the objectives there. This depends on whether or not you have room.

Step 2 Note the objectives...

  • At the very least, the abstract should list the general objective. This tells the readers what your study is working towards.

Step 3 Introduce the section with your general objective first.

  • In some research projects, the general objective is called a long-term goal instead. Adjust your language to the proposal requirements.
  • Some proposals directions may just want the specific objectives rather than a division between the general and specific ones. Don’t divide them if the instructions tell you not to.

Step 4 List your specific objectives next.

  • Your introduction may be as follows: "My long-term objective with this project is determining whether or not prolonged video-game playing is harmful to children under 5. I will accomplish this aim by meeting the following objectives: 1) Compare the muscle development of children who play videogames to children who don’t 2) Assess whether or not videogames cause eyestrain 3) Determine if videogames inhibit a child’s socialization skills"
  • The specific objectives are usually listed as a bullet or numbered points. However, follow the instructions given.

Research Proposal Templates

general objectives of research

Expert Q&A

  • It’s always a good idea to let someone else read your research proposals and make sure they’re clear. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Proofread! A great proposal could be ruined by typos and errors. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0

general objectives of research

  • Some proposal instructions are very specific, and applicants that don’t follow the format are eliminated. Always follow the instructions given to stay within the requirements. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0

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Write a Synopsis for Research

  • ↑ https://uk.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-assets/15490_book_item_15490.pdf
  • ↑ https://research-methodology.net/research-methodology/research-aims-and-objectives/
  • ↑ https://www.uh.edu/~lsong5/documents/A%20sample%20proposal%20with%20comment.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3282423/
  • ↑ https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/evaluation/pdf/brief3b.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=231&section=8.6.2
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6398294/
  • ↑ https://arxiv.org/pdf/physics/0601009.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.bpcc.edu/institutional-advancement-grants/how-to-write-goals-and-objectives-for-grant-proposals
  • ↑ https://guides.library.illinois.edu/c.php?g=504643&p=3454882

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21 Research Objectives Examples (Copy and Paste)

research aim and research objectives, explained below

Research objectives refer to the definitive statements made by researchers at the beginning of a research project detailing exactly what a research project aims to achieve.

These objectives are explicit goals clearly and concisely projected by the researcher to present a clear intention or course of action for his or her qualitative or quantitative study. 

Research objectives are typically nested under one overarching research aim. The objectives are the steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve the aim (see the examples below, for example, which demonstrate an aim followed by 3 objectives, which is what I recommend to my research students).

Research Objectives vs Research Aims

Research aim and research objectives are fundamental constituents of any study, fitting together like two pieces of the same puzzle.

The ‘research aim’ describes the overarching goal or purpose of the study (Kumar, 2019). This is usually a broad, high-level purpose statement, summing up the central question that the research intends to answer.

Example of an Overarching Research Aim:

“The aim of this study is to explore the impact of climate change on crop productivity.” 

Comparatively, ‘research objectives’ are concrete goals that underpin the research aim, providing stepwise actions to achieve the aim.

Objectives break the primary aim into manageable, focused pieces, and are usually characterized as being more specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Examples of Specific Research Objectives:

1. “To examine the effects of rising temperatures on the yield of rice crops during the upcoming growth season.” 2. “To assess changes in rainfall patterns in major agricultural regions over the first decade of the twenty-first century (2000-2010).” 3. “To analyze the impact of changing weather patterns on crop diseases within the same timeframe.”

The distinction between these two terms, though subtle, is significant for successfully conducting a study. The research aim provides the study with direction, while the research objectives set the path to achieving this aim, thereby ensuring the study’s efficiency and effectiveness.

How to Write Research Objectives

I usually recommend to my students that they use the SMART framework to create their research objectives.

SMART is an acronym standing for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It provides a clear method of defining solid research objectives and helps students know where to start in writing their objectives (Locke & Latham, 2013).

Each element of this acronym adds a distinct dimension to the framework, aiding in the creation of comprehensive, well-delineated objectives.

Here is each step:

  • Specific : We need to avoid ambiguity in our objectives. They need to be clear and precise (Doran, 1981). For instance, rather than stating the objective as “to study the effects of social media,” a more focused detail would be “to examine the effects of social media use (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) on the academic performance of college students.”
  • Measurable: The measurable attribute provides a clear criterion to determine if the objective has been met (Locke & Latham, 2013). A quantifiable element, such as a percentage or a number, adds a measurable quality. For example, “to increase response rate to the annual customer survey by 10%,” makes it easier to ascertain achievement.
  • Achievable: The achievable aspect encourages researchers to craft realistic objectives, resembling a self-check mechanism to ensure the objectives align with the scope and resources at disposal (Doran, 1981). For example, “to interview 25 participants selected randomly from a population of 100” is an attainable objective as long as the researcher has access to these participants.
  • Relevance : Relevance, the fourth element, compels the researcher to tailor the objectives in alignment with overarching goals of the study (Locke & Latham, 2013). This is extremely important – each objective must help you meet your overall one-sentence ‘aim’ in your study.
  • Time-Bound: Lastly, the time-bound element fosters a sense of urgency and prioritization, preventing procrastination and enhancing productivity (Doran, 1981). “To analyze the effect of laptop use in lectures on student engagement over the course of two semesters this year” expresses a clear deadline, thus serving as a motivator for timely completion.

You’re not expected to fit every single element of the SMART framework in one objective, but across your objectives, try to touch on each of the five components.

Research Objectives Examples

1. Field: Psychology

Aim: To explore the impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance in college students.

  • Objective 1: To compare cognitive test scores of students with less than six hours of sleep and those with 8 or more hours of sleep.
  • Objective 2: To investigate the relationship between class grades and reported sleep duration.
  • Objective 3: To survey student perceptions and experiences on how sleep deprivation affects their cognitive capabilities.

2. Field: Environmental Science

Aim: To understand the effects of urban green spaces on human well-being in a metropolitan city.

  • Objective 1: To assess the physical and mental health benefits of regular exposure to urban green spaces.
  • Objective 2: To evaluate the social impacts of urban green spaces on community interactions.
  • Objective 3: To examine patterns of use for different types of urban green spaces. 

3. Field: Technology

Aim: To investigate the influence of using social media on productivity in the workplace.

  • Objective 1: To measure the amount of time spent on social media during work hours.
  • Objective 2: To evaluate the perceived impact of social media use on task completion and work efficiency.
  • Objective 3: To explore whether company policies on social media usage correlate with different patterns of productivity.

4. Field: Education

Aim: To examine the effectiveness of online vs traditional face-to-face learning on student engagement and achievement.

  • Objective 1: To compare student grades between the groups exposed to online and traditional face-to-face learning.
  • Objective 2: To assess student engagement levels in both learning environments.
  • Objective 3: To collate student perceptions and preferences regarding both learning methods.

5. Field: Health

Aim: To determine the impact of a Mediterranean diet on cardiac health among adults over 50.

  • Objective 1: To assess changes in cardiovascular health metrics after following a Mediterranean diet for six months.
  • Objective 2: To compare these health metrics with a similar group who follow their regular diet.
  • Objective 3: To document participants’ experiences and adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

6. Field: Environmental Science

Aim: To analyze the impact of urban farming on community sustainability.

  • Objective 1: To document the types and quantity of food produced through urban farming initiatives.
  • Objective 2: To assess the effect of urban farming on local communities’ access to fresh produce.
  • Objective 3: To examine the social dynamics and cooperative relationships in the creating and maintaining of urban farms.

7. Field: Sociology

Aim: To investigate the influence of home offices on work-life balance during remote work.

  • Objective 1: To survey remote workers on their perceptions of work-life balance since setting up home offices.
  • Objective 2: To conduct an observational study of daily work routines and family interactions in a home office setting.
  • Objective 3: To assess the correlation, if any, between physical boundaries of workspaces and mental boundaries for work in the home setting.

8. Field: Economics

Aim: To evaluate the effects of minimum wage increases on small businesses.

  • Objective 1: To analyze cost structures, pricing changes, and profitability of small businesses before and after minimum wage increases.
  • Objective 2: To survey small business owners on the strategies they employ to navigate minimum wage increases.
  • Objective 3: To examine employment trends in small businesses in response to wage increase legislation.

9. Field: Education

Aim: To explore the role of extracurricular activities in promoting soft skills among high school students.

  • Objective 1: To assess the variety of soft skills developed through different types of extracurricular activities.
  • Objective 2: To compare self-reported soft skills between students who participate in extracurricular activities and those who do not.
  • Objective 3: To investigate the teachers’ perspectives on the contribution of extracurricular activities to students’ skill development.

10. Field: Technology

Aim: To assess the impact of virtual reality (VR) technology on the tourism industry.

  • Objective 1: To document the types and popularity of VR experiences available in the tourism market.
  • Objective 2: To survey tourists on their interest levels and satisfaction rates with VR tourism experiences.
  • Objective 3: To determine whether VR tourism experiences correlate with increased interest in real-life travel to the simulated destinations.

11. Field: Biochemistry

Aim: To examine the role of antioxidants in preventing cellular damage.

  • Objective 1: To identify the types and quantities of antioxidants in common fruits and vegetables.
  • Objective 2: To determine the effects of various antioxidants on free radical neutralization in controlled lab tests.
  • Objective 3: To investigate potential beneficial impacts of antioxidant-rich diets on long-term cellular health.

12. Field: Linguistics

Aim: To determine the influence of early exposure to multiple languages on cognitive development in children.

  • Objective 1: To assess cognitive development milestones in monolingual and multilingual children.
  • Objective 2: To document the number and intensity of language exposures for each group in the study.
  • Objective 3: To investigate the specific cognitive advantages, if any, enjoyed by multilingual children.

13. Field: Art History

Aim: To explore the impact of the Renaissance period on modern-day art trends.

  • Objective 1: To identify key characteristics and styles of Renaissance art.
  • Objective 2: To analyze modern art pieces for the influence of the Renaissance style.
  • Objective 3: To survey modern-day artists for their inspirations and the influence of historical art movements on their work.

14. Field: Cybersecurity

Aim: To assess the effectiveness of two-factor authentication (2FA) in preventing unauthorized system access.

  • Objective 1: To measure the frequency of unauthorized access attempts before and after the introduction of 2FA.
  • Objective 2: To survey users about their experiences and challenges with 2FA implementation.
  • Objective 3: To evaluate the efficacy of different types of 2FA (SMS-based, authenticator apps, biometrics, etc.).

15. Field: Cultural Studies

Aim: To analyze the role of music in cultural identity formation among ethnic minorities.

  • Objective 1: To document the types and frequency of traditional music practices within selected ethnic minority communities.
  • Objective 2: To survey community members on the role of music in their personal and communal identity.
  • Objective 3: To explore the resilience and transmission of traditional music practices in contemporary society.

16. Field: Astronomy

Aim: To explore the impact of solar activity on satellite communication.

  • Objective 1: To categorize different types of solar activities and their frequencies of occurrence.
  • Objective 2: To ascertain how variations in solar activity may influence satellite communication.
  • Objective 3: To investigate preventative and damage-control measures currently in place during periods of high solar activity.

17. Field: Literature

Aim: To examine narrative techniques in contemporary graphic novels.

  • Objective 1: To identify a range of narrative techniques employed in this genre.
  • Objective 2: To analyze the ways in which these narrative techniques engage readers and affect story interpretation.
  • Objective 3: To compare narrative techniques in graphic novels to those found in traditional printed novels.

18. Field: Renewable Energy

Aim: To investigate the feasibility of solar energy as a primary renewable resource within urban areas.

  • Objective 1: To quantify the average sunlight hours across urban areas in different climatic zones. 
  • Objective 2: To calculate the potential solar energy that could be harnessed within these areas.
  • Objective 3: To identify barriers or challenges to widespread solar energy implementation in urban settings and potential solutions.

19. Field: Sports Science

Aim: To evaluate the role of pre-game rituals in athlete performance.

  • Objective 1: To identify the variety and frequency of pre-game rituals among professional athletes in several sports.
  • Objective 2: To measure the impact of pre-game rituals on individual athletes’ performance metrics.
  • Objective 3: To examine the psychological mechanisms that might explain the effects (if any) of pre-game ritual on performance.

20. Field: Ecology

Aim: To investigate the effects of urban noise pollution on bird populations.

  • Objective 1: To record and quantify urban noise levels in various bird habitats.
  • Objective 2: To measure bird population densities in relation to noise levels.
  • Objective 3: To determine any changes in bird behavior or vocalization linked to noise levels.

21. Field: Food Science

Aim: To examine the influence of cooking methods on the nutritional value of vegetables.

  • Objective 1: To identify the nutrient content of various vegetables both raw and after different cooking processes.
  • Objective 2: To compare the effect of various cooking methods on the nutrient retention of these vegetables.
  • Objective 3: To propose cooking strategies that optimize nutrient retention.

The Importance of Research Objectives

The importance of research objectives cannot be overstated. In essence, these guideposts articulate what the researcher aims to discover, understand, or examine (Kothari, 2014).

When drafting research objectives, it’s essential to make them simple and comprehensible, specific to the point of being quantifiable where possible, achievable in a practical sense, relevant to the chosen research question, and time-constrained to ensure efficient progress (Kumar, 2019). 

Remember that a good research objective is integral to the success of your project, offering a clear path forward for setting out a research design , and serving as the bedrock of your study plan. Each objective must distinctly address a different dimension of your research question or problem (Kothari, 2014). Always bear in mind that the ultimate purpose of your research objectives is to succinctly encapsulate your aims in the clearest way possible, facilitating a coherent, comprehensive and rational approach to your planned study, and furnishing a scientific roadmap for your journey into the depths of knowledge and research (Kumar, 2019). 

Kothari, C.R (2014). Research Methodology: Methods and Techniques . New Delhi: New Age International.

Kumar, R. (2019). Research Methodology: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners .New York: SAGE Publications.

Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management review, 70 (11), 35-36.

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2013). New Developments in Goal Setting and Task Performance . New York: Routledge.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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general objectives of research

The Importance Of Research Objectives

Imagine you’re a student planning a vacation in a foreign country. You’re on a tight budget and need to draw…

The Importance Of Research Objectives

Imagine you’re a student planning a vacation in a foreign country. You’re on a tight budget and need to draw up a pocket-friendly plan. Where do you begin? The first step is to do your research.

Before that, you make a mental list of your objectives—finding reasonably-priced hotels, traveling safely and finding ways of communicating with someone back home. These objectives help you focus sharply during your research and be aware of the finer details of your trip.

More often than not, research is a part of our daily lives. Whether it’s to pick a restaurant for your next birthday dinner or to prepare a presentation at work, good research is the foundation of effective learning. Read on to understand the meaning, importance and examples of research objectives.

Why Do We Need Research?

What are the objectives of research, what goes into a research plan.

Research is a careful and detailed study of a particular problem or concern, using scientific methods. An in-depth analysis of information creates space for generating new questions, concepts and understandings. The main objective of research is to explore the unknown and unlock new possibilities. It’s an essential component of success.

Over the years, businesses have started emphasizing the need for research. You’ve probably noticed organizations hiring research managers and analysts. The primary purpose of business research is to determine the goals and opportunities of an organization. It’s critical in making business decisions and appropriately allocating available resources.

Here are a few benefits of research that’ll explain why it is a vital aspect of our professional lives:

Expands Your Knowledge Base

One of the greatest benefits of research is to learn and gain a deeper understanding. The deeper you dig into a topic, the more well-versed you are. Furthermore, research has the power to help you build on any personal experience you have on the subject.

Keeps You Up To Date

Research encourages you to discover the most recent information available. Updated information prevents you from falling behind and helps you present accurate information. You’re better equipped to develop ideas or talk about a topic when you’re armed with the latest inputs.

Builds Your Credibility

Research provides you with a good foundation upon which you can develop your thoughts and ideas. People take you more seriously when your suggestions are backed by research. You can speak with greater confidence because you know that the information is accurate.

Sparks Connections

Take any leading nonprofit organization, you’ll see how they have a strong research arm supported by real-life stories. Research also becomes the base upon which real-life connections and impact can be made. It even helps you communicate better with others and conveys why you’re pursuing something.

Encourages Curiosity

As we’ve already established, research is mostly about using existing information to create new ideas and opinions. In the process, it sparks curiosity as you’re encouraged to explore and gain deeper insights into a subject. Curiosity leads to higher levels of positivity and lower levels of anxiety.

Well-defined objectives of research are an essential component of successful research engagement. If you want to drive all aspects of your research methodology such as data collection, design, analysis and recommendation, you need to lay down the objectives of research methodology. In other words, the objectives of research should address the underlying purpose of investigation and analysis. It should outline the steps you’d take to achieve desirable outcomes. Research objectives help you stay focused and adjust your expectations as you progress.

The objectives of research should be closely related to the problem statement, giving way to specific and achievable goals. Here are the four types of research objectives for you to explore:

General Objective

Also known as secondary objectives, general objectives provide a detailed view of the aim of a study. In other words, you get a general overview of what you want to achieve by the end of your study. For example, if you want to study an organization’s contribution to environmental sustainability, your general objective could be: a study of sustainable practices and the use of renewable energy by the organization.

Specific Objectives

Specific objectives define the primary aim of the study. Typically, general objectives provide the foundation for identifying specific objectives. In other words, when general objectives are broken down into smaller and logically connected objectives, they’re known as specific objectives. They help define the who, what, why, when and how aspects of your project. Once you identify the main objective of research, it’s easier to develop and pursue a plan of action.

Let’s take the example of ‘a study of an organization’s contribution to environmental sustainability’ again. The specific objectives will look like this:

To determine through history how the organization has changed its practices and adopted new solutions

To assess how the new practices, technology and strategies will contribute to the overall effectiveness

Once you’ve identified the objectives of research, it’s time to organize your thoughts and streamline your research goals. Here are a few effective tips to develop a powerful research plan and improve your business performance.

Set SMART Goals

Your research objectives should be SMART—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-constrained. When you focus on utilizing available resources and setting realistic timeframes and milestones, it’s easier to prioritize objectives. Continuously track your progress and check whether you need to revise your expectations or targets. This way, you’re in greater control over the process.

Create A Plan

Create a plan that’ll help you select appropriate methods to collect accurate information. A well-structured plan allows you to use logical and creative approaches towards problem-solving. The complexity of information and your skills are bound to influence your plan, which is why you need to make room for flexibility. The availability of resources will also play a big role in influencing your decisions.

Collect And Collate

After you’ve created a plan for the research process, make a list of the data you’re going to collect and the methods you’ll use. Not only will it help make sense of your insights but also keep track of your approach. The information you collect should be:

Logical, rigorous and objective

Can be reproduced by other people working on the same subject

Free of errors and highlighting necessary details

Current and updated

Includes everything required to support your argument/suggestions

Analyze And Keep Ready

Data analysis is the most crucial part of the process and there are many ways in which the information can be utilized. Four types of data analysis are often seen in a professional environment. While they may be divided into separate categories, they’re linked to each other.

Descriptive Analysis:

The most commonly used data analysis, descriptive analysis simply summarizes past data. For example, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) use descriptive analysis. It establishes certain benchmarks after studying how someone has been performing in the past.

Diagnostic Analysis:

The next step is to identify why something happened. Diagnostic analysis uses the information gathered through descriptive analysis and helps find the underlying causes of an outcome. For example, if a marketing initiative was successful, you deep-dive into the strategies that worked.

Predictive Analysis:

It attempts to answer ‘what’s likely to happen’. Predictive analysis makes use of past data to predict future outcomes. However, the accuracy of predictions depends on the quality of the data provided. Risk assessment is an ideal example of using predictive analysis.

Prescriptive Analysis: 

The most sought-after type of data analysis, prescriptive analysis combines the insights of all of the previous analyses. It’s a huge organizational commitment as it requires plenty of effort and resources. A great example of prescriptive analysis is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which consumes large amounts of data. You need to be prepared to commit to this type of analysis.

Review And Interpret

Once you’ve collected and collated your data, it’s time to review it and draw accurate conclusions. Here are a few ways to improve the review process:

Identify the fundamental issues, opportunities and problems and make note of recurring trends if any

Make a list of your insights and check which is the most or the least common. In short, keep track of the frequency of each insight

Conduct a SWOT analysis and identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

Write down your conclusions and recommendations of the research

When we think about research, we often associate it with academicians and students. but the truth is research is for everybody who is willing to learn and enhance their knowledge. If you want to master the art of strategically upgrading your knowledge, Harappa Education’s Learning Expertly course has all the answers. Not only will it help you look at things from a fresh perspective but also show you how to acquire new information with greater efficiency. The Growth Mindset framework will teach you how to believe in your abilities to grow and improve. The Learning Transfer framework will help you apply your learnings from one context to another. Begin the journey of tactful learning and self-improvement today!

Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics related to the THINK Habit such as  Learning From Experience ,  Critical Thinking  & What is  Brainstorming  to think clearly and rationally.

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How to Write Research Objectives in Research Proposal

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by  Antony W

January 26, 2022

general objectives of research

In this guide, you’ll learn how to write objectives in a research proposal, step-by-step. Whether your proposal is for a grant application, a class assignment, or a capstone paper, we’ll give you the insight you need to develop your objectives and get everything right the first time.

Objectives are important in a research proposal because they give a potential reader (or your target audience) a clear insight on what your project is about, where it’s headed, and what it’s likely to accomplish. Clear objectives make the project easy to write, not to mention that you end up with a stronger proposal that easily convinces your reader.

Developing reasonable objectives for a research proposal isn’t as straightforward. You have to build them on the main theme of your research’s aim. So you do have to take some time to write and look at them with careful consideration.

In the rest of this guide, we’ll give you some helpful tips that you can use to write the objectives the right way.

Brainstorm Your Research Objectives

Your research question plays an important role in the brainstorming stage because it helps you to figure out the objectives of your research proposal. Write down the research question, analyze it, and then think about the steps that you’d take to answer the question.

Instructors suggest narrowing down broad research question to make it easy to break down the objectives of the proposal. For example, a research question such as “What safety measures can we take to protect children from cyber bullying” is more specific and therefore easily attainable. In other words, your research question should be as specific as possible.

It’s in the brainstorming stage that you identify and describe the primary goal of your study. State the expected result more definitely, so that a reader knows exactly what you want a proposed project to achieve. Refrain from stating that your research seeks to prove or disprove an issue. You haven’t done research at this point so there can’t be an absolute certainty.

Now that you have your research question and the goal of your study, determine what steps you’d take to approach your research. At this point, you should be able to break your goal down into small categories from which you can get your list of objectives.

Write down as many objective as you can find after breaking your goal down into sub-categories. Then identify 3 to 5 objectives that make the most sense. Narrowing down is important to ensure the assignment doesn’t overwhelm you and the project doesn’t end up rather unwieldy. Limiting the objectives to 5 at most also ensures you end up with a substantial project that answers the most important questions.

Your research proposal needs to have general and specific objective. A general objective is what you expect your research project to achieve in the long-term, and the specific objectives act as the building blocks for what you expect to achieve.

Determine whether your objectives are SMART. The last thing you want to waste your time on is a research objective that isn’t Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. If all your objectives meet all these criteria, then you have strong objectives for your study. If one or more of your objectives doesn’t pass this test, consider looking at your list and make changes accordingly.

Write the Objectives of Your Research Proposal

It’s important to understand the format of a research proposal before you start writing your objectives. Ideally, you’ll start your research proposal with an introduction and your research question. After laying a foundation and establishing a direction for your project, list the general and specific objectives that you came up with in the brainstorming stage.

Some instructors advise that students should include abstract in their research proposals. If the assignment guideline requires that you give a detailed summary of the proposal, include the research objectives in this section but don’t go into detailed explanation for each.

Start with the general objective first. Give a short description about the research project and then mention its ultimate goal. Follow this with the most specific objectives of the project in a numbered list, making sure you give each objective a number.

Do check the assignment brief to know what type of objective you should include in the project. That’s because some instructors often ask for more specific objectives rather than diving them into two. Always rely on the instructions provided, even if you think they state contrary to what you’ve learned over the years. 

Use an Appropriate Language When Writing

The language you use to write a research proposal is just as significant as the formatting of the document itself. So you shouldn’t just write your objectives vaguely and expect to score good grades.

Instead of using a genera writing approach to write the objectives of a research proposal:

  • Begin each objective with verbs because they are all about actions. Verbs make each objective look not just dynamic but also actionable.
  • Each objective should not be more than a sentence long. Delete unnecessary and ambiguous words to make the language you use clear, simple, and actionable. If the sentence can make sense without a word or phrase, there’s no point having the word or phrase in the sentence.
  • Use a language used in the area of your study and make sure what you’re putting down in words is easy to read and understand. You don’t need specific data here, but make sure readers know what you intend the project to achieve. 

We can’t stress enough how significant it is to make your objectives as actionable as possible. Rather than making your objective read like questions, structure them such that they are definitive answers. That way, you’ll end up with a stronger proposal that’s equally interesting to read.

Get Help With Writing A Research Proposal

Do you need help with your research proposal writing but don’t know which academic writing service to trust? We’re here to help. Help for Assessment helps students understand their assignments and complete their research papers on time. Click here to place an order and we will help you get your research proposal written fast. 

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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Well-developed and focused research objectives go a long way in ensuring the success of a research project. The objectives even steer and shape the way the resulting research paper is structured . This article explains how to develop and frame your research objectives. Before that, let’s clarify the difference between research aims and objectives.

Research objective vs. research aim

  • Focus : A research aim describes the central goal or purpose of the study, broadly indicating what is to be achieved. Objectives specify how it will be achieved. Thus, research objectives divide the main aim into parts and address each part separately. While drafting a dissertation or thesis , the objectives can be used as a reference to establish the structure for the paper’s sections and subsections (or chapters).
  • Form : A research aim is expressed as a single sentence or short paragraph , while research objectives are listed out in numbered form (bulleted or in running text). 

Developing research objectives: Process

Let’s look at how you should move from the problem statement to the objectives. (See figure below.)

First, you come up with a problem statement describing the problem that needs solving (a controversy, knowledge gap , aspect that can be improved/enhanced, etc.), along with the rationale , which justifies the study.

You then formulate the central question of the study that is to be answered based on the study findings.

The research hypothesis is the formal prediction that is to be tested.

So, where do the objectives fit in?

The research objectives specify how the research question will be answered; in other words, the objectives determine what is to be measured to test the hypothesis . 

general objectives of research

Progression from a problem statement in a broad area of study to the development of the research objectives

Developing research objectives: Pointers

  • Objectives guide the choice or development of the necessary methodology for the study.
  • The objectives and research questions should be aligned with the overall problem being researched. They are intricately related: the objectives cannot be met without answering the research questions !

Framing research objectives

  • Objectives should be ‘ SMART ’:
  • Objectives should be stated using action verbs , for example…
  • To investigate…
  • To explore…
  • To ascertain the impact of…
  • To compare…
  • Objectives should be stated in logical sequence .

Research objective: Example(s)

Here is an example containing multiple research objectives, beginning with a problem statement.

Biodiversity losses are accelerating in the forests of northeast India. While measures are being taken by diverse players to stem these losses, there has been no formal study to quantify or compare the effects of the steps taken.
How do interventions by government research institutes compare with actions by indigenous people in managing plant biodiversity loss in the forests of Meghalaya, India?
Actions and interventions by indigenous people and local communities are more effective than interventions by government research institutes in plant genetic resource conservation in the forests of Meghalaya.
To investigate and compare the impact of the effectiveness of plant genetic resource conservation measures by research institutes and those by indigenous people and local communities in the forests of Meghalaya. To examine the ecological outcomes of specific conservation practices followed by local communities in Meghalaya. To identify specific plant species rescued by local communities in Meghalaya in the last few years.

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  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: Acknowledgements
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: Introduction
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 1.  Health Services in Ethiopia
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 2.  Management and Leadership in Community Healthcare
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 3.  Planning Health Programmes
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 4.  Implementing your Health Plans
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 5.  Monitoring and Control
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 6.  Management of Supplies at Health Post Level
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 7.  Principles of Healthcare Ethics
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 8.  Ethical Dilemmas in Health Service Delivery
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 9.  Rights and Obligations of Health Extension Practitioners
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 10.  General Principles of Health Research and Introduction to Community Surveys
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 11.  Developing Your Community Profile
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research: 12.  Data Collection and Analysis for Your Baseline Community Survey
  • Introduction
  • Learning Outcomes for Study Session 13
  • 13.1.1  Components of a community profile report
  • 13.2.1  Clarifying the problem of malaria infection in your community
  • 13.2.2  Criteria for choosing health problems to research
  • 13.2.3  Poor sanitary conditions: creating a research question
  • 13.2.4  Community participation in prioritising health issues
  • 13.3  Choosing which topic to research

13.4.1  What other sources should you consult?

13.4.2  Research objectives

Summary of Study Session 13

  • Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) for Study Session 13
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research: 14.  Research Strategies and Study Designs for Small-Scale Research
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 15.  Sampling Methods and Sample Size in Small-Scale Research
  • Health Management, Ethics and Research Module: 16.  Extended Case Study on Health Management, Ethics and Research
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Health Management, Ethics and Research

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The final part of clarifying your research project involves thinking in more detail about your research objectives . Research objectives should be closely related to the statement of the problem and summarise what you hope will be achieved by the study. For example, if the problem identified is low utilisation of antenatal care services, the general objective of the study could be to identify the reasons for this low uptake, in order to find ways of improving it.

Writing your research objectives clearly helps to:

  • Define the focus of your study
  • Clearly identify variables to be measured
  • Indicate the various steps to be involved
  • Establish the limits of the study
  • Avoid collection of any data that is not strictly necessary.

What do you think might happen if you started a research project, but hadn’t written any clear research objectives?

Without clearly written research objectives, you might be confused about the limits of the study, what data should be collected, or how to conduct the research.

Objectives can be general or specific. The general objective of your study states what you expect to achieve in general terms. Specific objectives break down the general objective into smaller, logically connected parts that systematically address the various aspects of the problem. Your specific objectives should specify exactly what you will do in each phase of your study, how, where, when and for what purpose.

How should your objectives be stated?

Your objectives should be stated using action verbs that are specific enough to be measured, for example: to compare, to calculate, to assess, to determine, to verify, to calculate, to describe, to explain, etc. Avoid the use of vague non-active verbs such as: to appreciate, to understand, to believe, to study, etc., because it is difficult to evaluate whether they have been achieved.

Case Study 13.3 General and specific objectives for a counselling project

A research study designed to assess the accessibility and acceptability of the Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) Services for HIV infection in kebele X had the following general and specific objectives:

General objective: To identify factors that affects the acceptability of VCT services and to assess community attitudes towards comprehensive care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Specific objectives:

  • To assess the knowledge, attitude and practice of the community towards HIV/AIDS and VCT services.
  • To identify barriers and concerns related to VCT and its uptake.
  • To assess the awareness and perception of the study community regarding comprehensive care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

What is the difference between the specific objectives and the general objective of a research project? You can use the example in Case Study 13.3 to help you answer this question.

Specific objectives are detailed objectives that describe what will be researched during the study, whereas the general objective is a much broader statement about what the study aims to achieve overall.

In the next study session, we will move on to teach you about research strategies and alternative study designs that you may choose to conduct for a small-scale research project in your community.

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

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General objectives and specific objectives

The general and specific objectives are fundamental elements for the accomplishment of academic works, like for example, a thesis of degree.

The  general objective is a statement that summarizes the central idea and purpose  of a work.

The  specific objectives detail the processes necessary  for the complete accomplishment of the work.

General objective

The general objective should present the central idea of ​​an academic work, succinctly and objectively stating the purpose of the study and the goal to be achieved.

In other words, the general objective synthesizes the hypothesis or problem to be investigated, specifies the purpose of the study and defines the topic.

General objective example

“Verify if there is a relationship between the increase in Internet access and the decrease in the use of television in the southwestern region of Mexico.”

The purpose of the work is expressed in “verifying if there is a relationship between the increase in Internet access and the decrease in the use of television.” The delimitation is expressed in “in the southwestern region of Mexico.”

Specific objectives

The specific objectives are directly related to the general objectives, detailing the processes necessary for their realization. In this way, the specific objectives serve as a guide for how the work will be approached.

The specific objectives should present in detail the goals of the project. This is how the object studied is related to its particularities and the steps to be followed to meet the general objective are identified.

Example of specific objectives

Continuing with the previous example, the specific objectives could be:

  • Analyze the increase in Internet access in the last year;
  • Analyze the number of televisions in homes in the southwestern region of Mexico;
  • Verify the use of television in homes in the southwestern region of Mexico;
  • Compare the standard of increasing Internet access with a decrease in the use of televisions.

See also  Goal and objective .

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Reference and bibliography

Reference and bibliography

Process and procedure

Process and procedure

Inductive and deductive method

Inductive and deductive method

About author.

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JessicaTempest

Bachelor in Technological and Industrial Chemistry from the Federal University of Alagoas in 2018 and a Technical in Chemistry from the Federal Institute of Education, Science, and Technology of Pernambuco in 2011. Completed complementary courses involving information management, intellectual property, laboratory techniques, and operation of chemical processes. I have been working since 2016 with online content production. I also held positions in the administrative, educational, laboratory, and industrial areas. 

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This paper is in the following e-collection/theme issue:

Published on 11.1.2024 in Vol 26 (2024)

Development and Validation of a Robust and Interpretable Early Triaging Support System for Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19: Predictive Algorithm Modeling and Interpretation Study

Authors of this article:

Author Orcid Image

Original Paper

  • Sangwon Baek 1, 2 , BA   ; 
  • Yeon joo Jeong 3 , MD   ; 
  • Yun-Hyeon Kim 4 , MD   ; 
  • Jin Young Kim 5 , MD   ; 
  • Jin Hwan Kim 6 , MD   ; 
  • Eun Young Kim 7 , MD   ; 
  • Jae-Kwang Lim 8 , MD   ; 
  • Jungok Kim 9 , MD   ; 
  • Zero Kim 1, 10 , PhD   ; 
  • Kyunga Kim 10, 11, 12 * , PhD   ; 
  • Myung Jin Chung 1, 10, 12, 13 * , MD, PhD  

1 Medical AI Research Center, Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea

2 Center for Data Science, New York University, New York, NY, United States

3 Department of Radiology, Research Institute for Convergence of Biomedical Science and Technology, Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital, Yangsan, Republic of Korea

4 Department of Radiology, Chonnam National University Hospital, Gwangju, Republic of Korea

5 Department of Radiology, Keimyung University Dongsan Hospital, Daegu, Republic of Korea

6 Department of Radiology, Chungnam National University Hospital, Daejeon, Republic of Korea

7 Department of Radiology, Gachon University Gil Medical Center, Incheon, Republic of Korea

8 Department of Radiology, School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Republic of Korea

9 Department of Infectious Diseases, Chungnam National University Sejong Hospital, Sejong, Republic of Korea

10 Department of Data Convergence & Future Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea

11 Biomedical Statistics Center, Research Institute for Future Medicine, Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea

12 Department of Digital Health, SAIHST, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

13 Department of Radiology, Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea

*these authors contributed equally

Corresponding Author:

Kyunga Kim, PhD

Biomedical Statistics Center, Research Institute for Future Medicine

Samsung Medical Center

81 Irwon-ro, Gangnam-gu

Seoul, 06351

Republic of Korea

Phone: 82 2 3410 6745

Fax:82 2 3410 2525

Email: [email protected]

Background: Robust and accurate prediction of severity for patients with COVID-19 is crucial for patient triaging decisions. Many proposed models were prone to either high bias risk or low-to-moderate discrimination. Some also suffered from a lack of clinical interpretability and were developed based on early pandemic period data. Hence, there has been a compelling need for advancements in prediction models for better clinical applicability.

Objective: The primary objective of this study was to develop and validate a machine learning–based Robust and Interpretable Early Triaging Support (RIETS) system that predicts severity progression (involving any of the following events: intensive care unit admission, in-hospital death, mechanical ventilation required, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation required) within 15 days upon hospitalization based on routinely available clinical and laboratory biomarkers.

Methods: We included data from 5945 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 from 19 hospitals in South Korea collected between January 2020 and August 2022. For model development and external validation, the whole data set was partitioned into 2 independent cohorts by stratified random cluster sampling according to hospital type (general and tertiary care) and geographical location (metropolitan and nonmetropolitan). Machine learning models were trained and internally validated through a cross-validation technique on the development cohort. They were externally validated using a bootstrapped sampling technique on the external validation cohort. The best-performing model was selected primarily based on the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC), and its robustness was evaluated using bias risk assessment. For model interpretability, we used Shapley and patient clustering methods.

Results: Our final model, RIETS, was developed based on a deep neural network of 11 clinical and laboratory biomarkers that are readily available within the first day of hospitalization. The features predictive of severity included lactate dehydrogenase, age, absolute lymphocyte count, dyspnea, respiratory rate, diabetes mellitus, c-reactive protein, absolute neutrophil count, platelet count, white blood cell count, and saturation of peripheral oxygen. RIETS demonstrated excellent discrimination (AUROC=0.937; 95% CI 0.935-0.938) with high calibration (integrated calibration index=0.041), satisfied all the criteria of low bias risk in a risk assessment tool, and provided detailed interpretations of model parameters and patient clusters. In addition, RIETS showed potential for transportability across variant periods with its sustainable prediction on Omicron cases (AUROC=0.903, 95% CI 0.897-0.910).

Conclusions: RIETS was developed and validated to assist early triaging by promptly predicting the severity of hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Its high performance with low bias risk ensures considerably reliable prediction. The use of a nationwide multicenter cohort in the model development and validation implicates generalizability. The use of routinely collected features may enable wide adaptability. Interpretations of model parameters and patients can promote clinical applicability. Together, we anticipate that RIETS will facilitate the patient triaging workflow and efficient resource allocation when incorporated into a routine clinical practice.

Introduction

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the global health care system confronted an urgent threat despite concerted efforts from health care institutions and providers to contain the rapid spread of the disease, which has claimed the lives of 6.97 million people as of October 2023 [ 1 ]. The overwhelming influx of patients into hospitals strained medical resources and hindered optimal treatment provision by health care practitioners [ 2 ]. This global outbreak may continue to exist with the advent of new SARS-CoV-2 variants due to its tendency to mutate during host adaptation [ 3 ]. Recently, a high proportion of population immunity and decreasing fatality rates initiated global movements toward endemic status following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement that COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency of international concern [ 4 , 5 ]. However, COVID-19 cases continue to rise with the emergence of new subvariants, such as SARS-CoV-2 EG.5 and BA.2.86 [ 6 , 7 ]. Therefore, a robust and interpretable early triaging system is necessary to accurately triage patients in preparation for the next pandemic [ 8 ].

Many prognostic models for patients with COVID-19 severity and mortality have been proposed, yet most were reported unsuitable for clinical application by several systematic review studies [ 9 - 11 ]. Most models were either at a high or unclear risk of bias (Wynants et al [ 10 ]: 305 out of 310 studies, 98.4%; Buttia et al [ 11 ]: 312 out of 314 studies, 99.4%) such that their reported discriminative performances were deemed neither reliable nor generalizable [ 10 , 11 ]. These high-risk models were developed with predictors selected based on univariable analysis, failed to deal with model overfitting represented by miscalibration, performed no or limited external validations with sufficient samples, imputed missing data without a clear explanation, or considered a limited number of machine learning (ML) algorithms [ 10 , 11 ]. Although there were some models with a low risk of bias, these models had low to moderate discriminative power, were based on the data from the early pandemic period, and had limited clinical interpretability [ 9 , 10 ]. Therefore, the development of a robust, interpretable, and generalizable model with high discriminative power is required to provide practical benefit in managing the next possible pandemic [ 12 , 13 ].

We aimed to develop and validate an ML-based Robust and Interpretable Early Triaging Support (RIETS) system to predict severity based on routinely collected biomarkers using a nationwide multicenter cohort. In addition, we tried to improve model interpretability through patient clustering and characterization.

Ethical Considerations

The study protocol was approved and the requirement for informed consent was waived by the institutional review boards (IRBs) of all participating hospitals. In addition, the use and management of a cloud-based data storage platform for the secondary analysis was approved by the IRB of Samsung Medical Center (SMC 2020-09-100-002). All unique identifiers were removed prior to uploading. All data in the study database were assigned a research specific serial number and deidentified to protect the confidentiality of the study patients.

Study Setting and Design

This study was a nationwide, multicenter, retrospective, prognostic study conducted in South Korea. We collected data for adult patients who were confirmed to have COVID-19 via real-time polymerase chain reaction and were hospitalized at 19 main referral hospitals between January 5, 2020, and August 29, 2022 (Methods S1 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). Among 9199 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, we excluded 406 patients diagnosed either more than 15 days before or more than 1 day after the hospitalization date, as well as 2848 patients who had missing data in any variable of interest ( Figure 1 ). A total of 5945 patients (5106 nonsevere and 839 severe) remained for the analysis. The 19 hospitals were divided into 4 strata according to hospital type and location: metropolitan area general hospitals, nonmetropolitan area general hospitals, metropolitan area tertiary care hospitals, and nonmetropolitan area tertiary care hospitals. We then used a random cluster sampling method to partition hospitals in each stratum and construct development and validation cohorts. For reporting and bias-risk assessment, we adhered to the following guidelines: Guidelines for Developing Machine Learning Predictive Models in Biomedical Research [ 14 ], Transparent Reporting of a multivariable prediction model for Individual Prognosis (TRIPOD; File S1 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ), and Diagnosis and Prediction Model Risk of Bias Assessment Tool (PROBAST; File S2 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ) [ 15 ].

general objectives of research

Data Collection

A set of data collection guidelines were predetermined by our clinical experts. We developed a standard data collection form and prepared cloud database storage. Adhering to the set guidelines, researchers affiliated with each participating hospital gathered patient data with 32 features from demographic, clinical, laboratory, and radiological findings within the first day of hospitalization. We specified these features based on previous prognostic models and a literature review describing common biomarkers associated with severe COVID-19 [ 16 ]. The final severity status of each patient was determined on day 15 of hospitalization. All data collected in each hospital were deidentified and uploaded onto the cloud database storage. The entire data set underwent a quality assurance process, including typo rectification, outlier handling, and double-checking with the electronic health records in each participating hospital.

Definition of COVID-19 Severity

We declared the COVID-19 severity for patients under one or more of the following conditions during their hospitalization: (1) mechanical ventilation required; (2) extracorporeal membrane oxygenation required; (3) admission to intensive care unit; or (4) patient’s death. This criterion aligns closely with severe status (score of 6 or higher) in the WHO Clinical Progression Scale, which is developed by reaching a consensus among a group of international medical experts [ 17 ].

Identification of Candidate Feature Subsets

Among the 32 collected features, 27 readily accessible features without missing data remained for prediction modeling ( Figure 2 A). In order to identify subsets of robust features against feature selection methods, we considered 6 feature engineering methods (FEMs) based on 2 ML algorithms with optimal hyperparameter tuning and 4 feature importance measures: random forest (RF)-based mean decreases in Gini impurity feature importance; RF-based permutation feature importance; RF-based Shapley values; extreme gradient boosting (XGB)-based built-in feature importance; XGB-based permutation feature importance; and XGB-based Shapley values.

general objectives of research

All features were ranked by importance measure by each FEM. We considered various criteria (ie, top K; K=5, 6, …, 15) for high-ranking features, termed high rankers. Based on each criterion K, we generated candidate feature subsets in two steps: (1) we selected high rankers with K highest importance rankings by each FEM, and (2) we identified features that were stably selected as high rankers by at least 50% of all FEMs. This process resulted in candidate subsets of robust features. The set of all 27 features was used as the reference model to identify the performance improvements in subset models during model evaluation.

Model Development and Validation

A total of 60 candidate feature subsets were used for the model development, including 59 identified subsets of robust features and the reference set of all 27 features (Figure S1 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). We first fine-tuned the hyperparameters of 6 ML-based algorithms, namely, deep neural network (DNN), multivariable logistic regression, RF, XGB, gradient boosting machine, and support vector machine, by applying Bayesian optimization on the development cohort. Then, we simultaneously developed all possible 360 combinations of 6 ML-based algorithms and those 60 feature subsets and evaluated the performances in both internal and external validations ( Figure 2 B). The model predictive performance was evaluated using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) score and other cutoff-based measures, such as sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predicted values, positive and negative likelihood ratios, and diagnostic odds ratio.

Model development and internal validation were done with the development cohort in the following steps. First, we used 5 iterations of stratified 5-fold cross-validation to explore the internal validity of each combination of feature subsets and ML algorithms as a model development procedure. The procedures were evaluated by the mean values of performance metrics and their 95% CIs calculated from the repeated cross-validation process (Methods S2 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). Second, we used the entire development cohort to construct prediction models based on each of the internally validated development procedures.

External validation was conducted for the prediction models with the validation cohort. Each prediction model was evaluated by the mean values and 95% CIs of performance measures that were calculated from 100 iterations of bootstrapped sampling (Methods S2 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). The final prediction model was proposed in three steps: (1) for each ML algorithm, we selected the optimal feature subset that produced the model with best discriminative performance in both internal and external validations; (2) the 3 prediction models with the best predictivity were chosen to compare their usefulness via calibration, reclassification improvement, and decision curve analysis (DCA); (3) the DNN-based final prediction model, RIETS, was proposed by considering its discriminative ability along with clinical applicability [ 18 ].

Model Performance Visualization and Feature Interpretation

We used graphical representations to visualize the performance of RIETS contrasted with other ML-based models and provided interpretation for the selected features ( Figure 2 C; Methods S3 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). Receiver operating characteristic curves demonstrated the discriminative model performance. Calibration plots implicated the model’s reliability in practical settings by displaying the correlation between predicted and observed risks. DCA plots indicated the net benefit of incorporating the model in clinical decision-making by quantifying the weighted trade-off between true positive and false positive identifications [ 19 ]. Reclassification plots displayed the proportion of patients that were reclassified correctly or incorrectly by RIETS compared to other ML-based models. Lastly, the Shapley additive explanations summary plot interpreted the contributions of individual features in RIETS when classifying severe and nonsevere cases [ 20 ].

Patient Clustering and Characterization Using Discriminative Dimensionality Reduction

We used discriminative dimensionality reduction via learning a tree (DDRTree) to cluster and characterize patients based on the features in RIETS. DDRTree is a tree-based unsupervised learning technique that reduces multidimensional features into a 2-dimensional space to visualize patients in the form of a tree structure (see Methods S3 in Multimedia Appendix 1 for procedures). This tool is known to capture cluster information with higher accuracy compared to conventional dimensionality reduction methods [ 21 , 22 ].

Each patient in a tree was colored with dark red to indicate high odds for severity and light green to indicate low odds for severity ( Figure 3 ). Then, in Figure 4 , dark blue and light green colors were overlaid to represent high and low concentrations of each laboratory marker, respectively. Severity risk of each patient can be identified through Figure 3 A, the risk distribution with or without a pre-existing condition can be seen in Figures 3 B and 3C, and feature values associated with each patient can be inferred from Figure 4 . We integrated these observations to cluster patients into subgroups and characterize each subgroup (subgroup boundaries are shown in Figure 3 A).

general objectives of research

Definition of Variant-Dominant Periods

The predominant circulating variant at the time of hospitalization was identified through viral whole genome sequencing and could differ across nations [ 23 ]. According to predominant circulating variants during the pandemic in South Korea, we segmented our study period into 3 variant-dominant periods and constructed the corresponding patient subcohorts: original Alpha-dominant period (January 5, 2020 to May 1, 2021), Delta-dominant period (May 1, 2021 to November 24, 2021), and Omicron-dominant period (November 24, 2021 to August 24, 2022) [ 23 ].

Analysis of Model Transportability on Omicron Variant Cases

We developed modifications of RIETS to explore its prediction transportability across different variant-dominant periods. Each modified model was constructed using the variant dominant subcohorts in the development cohort. For instance, the “RIETS-All” model was based on the entire development cohort and the “RIETS-Omicron” model was based on the Omicron-dominant development cohort. We evaluated all possible combinations of modified RIETS and compared their discriminative performances among patients in the external validation cohort. Consequently, we identified the best-performing model, named “RIETS-Ensemble,” that integrates the 3 models based on original Alpha-Omicron, Delta-Omicron, and Omicron. Then, the “RIETS-Ensemble” model was contrasted to the “RIETS-All” and “RIETS-Omicron” models to visualize marginal improvements. All developed models were compared using the AUROC as a measure for discriminative performance.

Statistical Analysis

Patient characteristics were summarized as median (IQR) and number (%) for continuous and categorical variables, respectively, and compared between the development and validation cohorts via absolute standardized mean difference (ASMD). The ASMD was calculated using Cohen D and H formulas for continuous and categorical variables, respectively. No considerable difference was identified with an ASMD below 0.2. For cutoff-based performance measures, Youden index was used to find an optimal threshold at which the average of sensitivity and specificity was maximized. The integrated calibration index (ICI), derived from the weighted mean difference between observed and predicted probabilities for the outcome, was used to quantify and assess calibration. ICI was preferred over other calibration metrics (eg, calibration-in-the-large and slope) due to its high stability from capturing the entire range of predicted probabilities during its computation [ 24 ]. A 2-sided P value below 0.05 was set to declare statistical significance. All statistical analyses were performed using Python (Python Software Foundation, version 3.9).

Patient Characteristics

Among the 5945 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 used for the development and validation of RIETS, 4019 (67.6%) and 1926 (32.4%) were allocated into the development and validation cohorts, respectively ( Table 1 ). The median age was higher in the development cohort than in the validation cohort (mean 60, SD 45-70 years vs mean 55, SD 35-65 years, respectively; ASMD=0.333). The proportion of male patients was similar in both the development (n=2130, 48.8%) and validation (n=757, 47.9%) cohorts. Hypertension was the most prevalent comorbidity for both the development (n=1622, 37.2%) and validation (n=492, 31.1%) cohorts. While the most frequent symptoms across both cohorts were cough (n=2623, 44.1%) and fever (n=2366, 39.8%), the rankings of observed symptoms were similar in both cohorts. All variables pertaining to vital signs and blood biochemistry showed no considerable difference between cohorts (ASMD<0.2), except for the absolute neutrophil count (ANC; ASMD=0.319).

a ASMD: absolute standardized mean difference.

b SPO2: saturation of peripheral oxygen.

The baseline characteristics were also compared between 839 (14.1%) patients with nonsevere COVID-19 and 5106 (85.9%) patients with severe COVID-19 (Table S1 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). Patients with severe COVID-19 were older (mean 70, SD 60-75 years vs mean 55, SD 40-70 years; ASMD=0.733). A larger proportion of patients with severe COVID-19 had dyspnea (ASMD=0.902) and diabetes mellitus (DM; ASMD=0.524). Patients with severe COVID-19 were more likely to have an increased respiratory rate (RR; ASMD=0.911) and decreased saturation of peripheral oxygen (SPO2; ASMD=0.705) upon hospital admission. In addition, patients with severe COVID-19 presented with higher ANC (ASMD=0.971), higher lactate dehydrogenase (LDH; ASMD=0.726), and higher white blood cell (WBC) count (ASMD=0.693).

Performance of RIETS

RIETS is a DNN-based final model with the subset of 11 features that demonstrated the highest discriminative power (AUROC=0.937, 95% CI 0.935-0.938; diagnostic odds ratio=46.14, 95% CI 43.40-48.87; specificity=0.867, 95% CI 0.865-0.869; sensitivity=0.869, 95% CI 0.864-0.875) amongst the 6 ML-based models (AUROC=0.862-0.929) ( Figure 5 A and Table 2 ). RIETS also exhibited a superior discriminative ability compared to the existing low risk of bias models (AUROC=0.60-0.80; Table S2 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ).

general objectives of research

a AUROC: area under receiver operating characteristic curve.

b PPV: positive predictive value.

c NPV: negative predictive value.

d LRP: likelihood ratio positive.

e LRN: likelihood ratio negative.

f DOR: diagnostic odds ratio.

g RIETS: Robust and Interpretable Early Triaging System.

In comparison with other ML-based models, RIETS exhibited net reclassification improvement (0.54%-6.14%), especially on nonsevere cases (2.14%-6.14%) (Table S3 and Figure S2 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ) and had the most stable prediction during cost sensitivity learning [ 25 ] (Figure S3 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). RIETS also maintained sustainable prediction transportability (AUROC=0.903, 95% CI 0.897-0.910) on the limited number of cases (n=449, 7.6%) in the Omicron-dominant period when an ensemble learning technique was applied (Figure S4, Table S4, and Methods S4 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ).

Moreover, a PROBAST evaluation indicated that RIETS has a low risk of bias and minimal concerns regarding applicability (Methods S2 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). RIETS also attained the best calibration (ICI=0.041) among comparable ML-based models (ICI=0.052-0.071; Figure 5 B). Overall, it showed a higher net clinical benefit than the “intervention for none” and “intervention for all” reference strategies in DCA ( Figure 5 C).

Feature Interpretation

RIETS comprised 11 clinical and laboratory features: LDH, age, absolute lymphocyte counts (ALC), dyspnea, RR, DM, c-reactive protein (CRP), ANC, platelet counts (PLT), WBC, and SPO2. These features were ordered by their contribution to the severity prediction by using Shapley values ( Figure 6 ). LDH was the highest ranked, followed by age, ALC, and dyspnea. In addition, pre-existing conditions (age, dyspnea, and DM) available at the time of admission were generally ranked higher relative to those of laboratory markers (CRP, ANC, PLT, WBC, and SPO2).

general objectives of research

Patient Clustering and Characterization

We identified 4 patient subgroups using DDRTree, a tree-based unsupervised learning technique, based on the features in RIETS: the upper-right group (URG), middle-right group (MRG), lower-right group (LRG), and lower-left group (LLG) ( Figure 3 A). Among the 4 subgroups, the URG comprised the largest proportion of patients at high risk for severity, followed by the MRG, LRG, and LLG. The majority of patients in the URG and MRG had dyspnea, were older than 60 years, and had elevated RR, CRP, and LDH ( Figure 3 B). High ANC and WBC were additionally observed in the MRG. Those in the LRG and LLG had elevated ANC, WBC, and PLT. There was a negligible variation in SPO2 or DM across the tree. Moreover, we compared the patient distribution per each variant period (original Alpha-dominant, Delta-dominant, and Omicron-dominant) and found no distinguishable pattern (Figure S5 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ).

Principal Findings

We developed and validated RIETS, an ML-based prognostic model for severity among patients hospitalized with COVID-19, based on a temporally and geographically extensive cohort with heterogeneous feature distributions (Figure S6 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). RIETS incorporates 11 promptly and routinely available features upon hospitalization and is intended to assist early patient triaging. RIETS provides risk estimates that indicate the odds for severity progression along with feature and patient interpretation. These outputs can support clinicians in making decisions for appropriate medical measures, such as the administration of antiviral medication, transportation to the intensive care unit, and proactive preparation of medical resources. Although several prognostic models with low risk of bias excel in analogous tasks [ 26 - 30 ], RIETS offers substantial improvements in several aspects owing to its discriminative power and novel interpretability (Table S2 and S5 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ).

According to PROBAST, RIETS can be regarded as a clinically applicable model with a low risk of bias because of its generalizability and methodologically rigorous procedure. First, RIETS can be generalized across diverse populations because it was developed and validated based on a large data set from a multicenter cohort (19 general and tertiary care hospitals) over the 3-year pandemic period (from January 2020 to August 2022). In contrast, previous prognostic models were either based on a large multicenter cohort during the early pandemic period [ 28 , 31 , 32 ] or a single center cohort covering a longer pandemic period [ 29 , 30 , 33 ]. Second, we executed a rigorous modeling procedure to establish RIETS. We exhaustively developed and simultaneously validated all possible combinations of candidate feature subsets and modeling algorithms (Figure S7 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). Contrary to our study design, previous prognostic studies relied on a single feature selection approach (clinical consensus, least absolute shrinkage and selection operator regression, recursive feature elimination, and sequential forward selection) [ 26 , 28 , 32 , 34 , 35 ]. Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution in the model fine-tuning process [ 36 ], this comprehensive modeling procedure can provide engineering value in attaining optimal prediction with parsimonious feature usage.

RIETS demonstrated superior discriminative performance in contrast to previous prognostic models with a low risk of bias (RIETS: AUROC=0.937, 95% CI 0.935-0.938; previous studies: 95% CI 0.60-0.80) while maintaining comparable calibration (ICI=0.041 vs calibration-in-the-large=0.00; slope=0.96; Table S2 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ). It has high accuracies both in severe cases (sensitivity=0.869, 95% CI 0.864-0.875) and in nonsevere cases (specificity=0.867, 95% CI 0.865-0.869). This strength can offer considerable benefits in triaging situations because prompt treatment for critically ill patients is facilitated without the resource overutilization on less critical patients [ 37 ].

RIETS also can be broadly adaptable across health care systems. Unlike some well-established models based on advanced technology-based, expensive, and time-consuming features [ 30 , 32 , 38 ], RIETS comprises 11 readily available features obtainable from routine blood tests and patient-reported conditions at admission. Thus, it is interoperable even for health care systems in low- and middle-income countries and may offer significant operational benefits during resource allocation across the global population [ 12 ]. In addition, RIETS exhibited sustainable performance on Omicron cases, implicating its potential for transportability across new variant cases with differing virulency [ 39 ] and limited case availability (Figure S4 and Table S4 in Multimedia Appendix 1 ).

Lastly, RIETS offers substantial interpretability that may induce improvements in model reliability and operational workflow. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt in patient clustering and characterization amongst the COVID-19 prognostic models ( Figures 3 and 4 ). Given that bias risks are inevitable in ML systems, the interpretability of RIETS can promote transparent feedback, mitigate those bias risks, and earn trust as a clinical decision support system [ 40 , 41 ]. Moreover, the patient clustering tool in RIETS provides clinicians with useful information for treatment planning and resource preparation. For instance, the graphical representations of patients can enable monitoring of the characteristics of incoming patients and facilitate the identification of representative clusters at the moment. This can be used to plan the customized patient care and to initiate the preemptive preparation of medical resources for those representative patient clusters.

Limitations

This study has some limitations to be addressed. First, the study participants were patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in South Korea from January 2020 to August 2022. Hence, a further study with other ethnic and variant groups is recommended to validate the generalizability of RIETS. Second, the vaccination records were not accounted for during the analysis due to a high missing rate. Although vaccination often decreases the severity [ 42 , 43 ], a recent study showed that some vaccinated patients with certain chief complaints remained at high risk for severity [ 44 ]. This finding implicates that the impact of vaccination on severe case discrimination may not be large as long as the distributions of clinical signs remain similar across different variants. Lastly, the information on SARS-CoV-2 variants confirmed by viral whole genome sequencing were not available for each patient. We used variant dominant periods to define variant subcohorts while anticipating some misclassifications.

Conclusions

We developed and validated RIETS, an ML-based COVID-19 severity prediction system, to promote the early triaging of hospitalized patients with COVID-19. RIETS demonstrated high prediction power and considerable reliability with low bias risk. Model development and validation on a nationwide, multicenter cohort implicated its generalizability. The use of routinely collected features for model construction facilitated its adaptability. Visual interpretations of model parameters and patients improved its usability and applicability. When incorporated into routine clinical practice, we anticipate RIETS to have a direct clinical impact for enabling efficient medical resource allocation as well as proactive patient care.

Acknowledgments

The use and management of a cloud-based data storage platform was approved by the IRB of Samsung Medical Center (SMC 2020-09-100-002). This research was supported both by a grant of the Information and Communications Promotion Fund (ICT promotion fund) through the National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA), funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), South Korea; and the Future Medicine 20*30 Project of Samsung Medical Center (SMO1230061). The funders played no role in study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation of data, or the writing of this manuscript.

Authors express appreciation to the patients involved across the 19 participated hospitals and to the healthcare practitioners for their assistance in data collection and extraction. Special thanks are given to Jongyeop Kim, Sungho Jung, Jungmin Choi, and Yena Kim for their roles in assembling, de-identifying, and organizing the raw data.

Data Availability

This study used deidentified data from cloud-based data storage constructed by the Medical AI Center of Samsung Medical Center. Given the multisite origin of these data, access to data will require approval from the clinical sites and participating institutions; requests can be made to the corresponding author. We have deployed RIETS as a web-based open-source application to allow for vast usability from the wider public [ 45 ].

Authors' Contributions

SB handled data preprocessing, model development, results interpretation, and manuscript drafting and revision. YJJ, YHK, JYK, JHK, EYK, JKL, and JK provided patient data and revised the manuscript. ZK assisted with administrative support and revised the manuscript. MJC conceived the idea, established a multicenter cloud-data platform, acquired funding, and revised the manuscript. KK designed and supervised the study, interpreted the results, and revised the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript for submission.

Conflicts of Interest

None declared.

RIETS for COVID-19 Severity Prediction.

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Abbreviations

Edited by A Mavragani; submitted 24.08.23; peer-reviewed by KF Chen, P Okoro, Y Su; comments to author 18.10.23; revised version received 03.11.23; accepted 25.12.23; published 11.01.24

©Sangwon Baek, Yeon joo Jeong, Yun-Hyeon Kim, Jin Young Kim, Jin Hwan Kim, Eun Young Kim, Jae-Kwang Lim, Jungok Kim, Zero Kim, Kyunga Kim, Myung Jin Chung. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (https://www.jmir.org), 11.01.2024.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on https://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

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    4. Objectives: Research objectives are the goals to be achieved by conducting the research. 5 They may be stated as 'general' and 'specific'. The general objective of the research is what is to be accomplished by the research project, for example, to determine whether or not a new vaccine should be incorporated in a public health program.

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  13. (PDF) General Research Objectives

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    General objective: To identify factors that affects the acceptability of VCT services and to assess community attitudes towards comprehensive care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS. Specific objectives: To assess the knowledge, attitude and practice of the community towards HIV/AIDS and VCT services.

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  24. Journal of Medical Internet Research

    Background: Robust and accurate prediction of severity for patients with COVID-19 is crucial for patient triaging decisions. Many proposed models were prone to either high bias risk or low-to-moderate discrimination. Some also suffered from a lack of clinical interpretability and were developed based on early pandemic period data. Hence, there has been a compelling need for advancements in ...