Research Objectives: Definition and How To Write Them

Updated February 16, 2023

Research is an integral part of many occupations, making it a valuable career skill. Research objectives, which are specific outcomes that you aim to achieve through research, can drive your projects and help you achieve your overall goals. If your job involves conducting research, knowing how to develop research objectives is a crucial skill.

In this article, we discuss the definition and purpose of research objectives and explore steps you can follow to write your own research objectives.

What are research objectives?

Research objectives are the outcomes that you aim to achieve by conducting research. Many research projects contain more than one research objective. Creating strong research objectives can help your organization achieve its overall goals. The purpose of research objectives is to drive the research project, including data collection, analysis and conclusions. Research objectives also help you narrow in on the focus of your research and key variables, guiding you through the research process.

Typically, research objectives appear early in a research proposal, often between the introduction and the research question. Sometimes, depending on the length of the paper or proposal, you can place the research objectives in the introduction. Usually, researchers also list their objectives in the abstract of their proposal.

Related: Types of Research Methods

How to write research objectives

Identifying your research objectives is crucial to conducting a successful research project. Here are three simple steps that you can follow to identify and write your research objectives:

1. Pinpoint the major focus of your research

The first step to writing your research objectives is to pinpoint the major focus of your research project. In this step, make sure to clearly describe what you aim to achieve through your research. You can identify a research focus by reading through your industry's literature and finding gaps in existing research. Once you find a gap that you can fill through your research project, you can start narrowing down a focus for your research project and setting an overall goal that you want to achieve through your research.

Related: 60 Research Ideas for Your Next Paper or Project

2. Break down your research focus into research objectives

Once you know the primary goal of your research project, you can break it down into smaller steps and separate objectives. You can choose one general objective and a few other specific, narrow objectives. In the general objective, state in a broad sense what you aim to achieve through your research. Then, use the specific objectives to describe how you can achieve your general goal.

For example, your general objective could be, "Determine how work environment affects performance." In this case, your specific objectives might be, "Determine whether sunlight improves performance," and "Measure how performance changes when work environment changes."

Related: Research Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Write your research objectives in the SMART format

Another key step to writing strong research objectives is to use the SMART format. Using this format can make your objectives clearer and easier to understand, which can make you more likely to achieve them. Make sure your objectives meet these criteria:

  • Specific: Be specific about your desired outcomes. Your objectives should be clearly written and leave no room for confusion. This can help you keep them narrow and focused.

  • Measurable: Making your objectives measurable is essential to achieving them. You can create metrics to measure your progress toward achieving your objectives.

  • Achievable: Be sure to create objectives that you can realistically achieve to help you avoid getting overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations. Make sure you have the resources and budget to accomplish your objectives.

  • Relevant: Make your objectives relevant to your research and your overall goals. This can help you stay motivated and on track throughout your research project.

  • Time-based: You can establish deadlines to help you keep your research process on track. You can set a major deadline for your entire project as well as smaller deadlines for each objective.

Related: How To Write A SMART Goal (And How They Work)

Tips for writing your research objectives

Here are some tips you can use to help you write great research objectives:

Be concise

One tip for writing strong research objectives is to write your objectives as concisely as you can. Try to remove unnecessary words and filler to make your objectives as easy to understand as possible. If possible, try to keep each individual objective to only one sentence. This can make it easier to use your objectives to guide your research process.

Keep your number of objectives limited

It's also important to write only a few specific research objectives. Try to limit your number of objectives to five or less to help you avoid getting overwhelmed by trying to accomplish a long list of objectives. You can also choose one general objective and a few other specific, pointed objectives.

Related: Types of Research: Definitions and Examples

Use action verbs

Using action verbs is another way you can strengthen your research objectives. Using action verbs can help you measure whether you've accomplished your research objective, and it can also make your objectives feel more actionable and engaging. Some action verbs you could consider using are:

  • Assess

  • Determine

  • Calculate

  • Compare

  • Explain

  • Describe

Related: Tips on Setting Goals

Be realistic

Another tip for writing research objectives is to keep them realistic. Make sure you can achieve them with the time and resources you already have. Unrealistic objectives can make you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, so it's important to create objectives that you can realistically achieve.

Ask for feedback

You can also improve your research objectives by asking a mentor or colleague to review your research objective drafts. This can help you spot any errors you might have missed and make your objectives more understandable to other people.

Proofread and review your objectives

It's also important to proofread and review your objectives to make sure they're free of typos and other errors. Check your spelling and grammar to ensure that your objectives appear professional and perfectly accurate.

Explore more articles

  • How To Measure Quality in 5 Steps (With Tips)
  • 5 Scientific Fields of Study (With 22 Subcategories)
  • What Are Professional Services? (Definition and Examples)
  • 8 Types of Business Needs (Plus Definition)
  • How To Apologize for a Mistake Professionally (And Examples)
  • What Is a Sales Budget? Definition, What's Included
  • 14 Best Certification Courses for HR Professionals
  • 11 Things To Do After Having Overslept for Work
  • Kotler's 5 A's of Sales Marketing: Definition and Tips
  • What Is a Growth Strategy? (With Tips and Examples)
  • How To Write an Effective RFP Response (With Example)
  • Manager Effectiveness: Definition and 14 Tips To Improve It