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Aims and Objectives of a Research Proposal

by Emily Pate, Demand Media

    Formulating aims and objectives for your research studies helps sculpt and guide your work after you've decided on a topic. While your aims give your research thematic and theoretic direction, objectives give concrete steps on how to manifest those concepts and theories. A strong topic begins with an area you're interested in researching, then focuses on a need, problem or unexplored issue in that area, usually from a particular perspective or approach.

    Aims

    A research proposal's aims are statements that broadly point out what you hope to accomplish and your desired outcomes from the research. Aims focus on long-term intended outcomes -- your aspirations in reference to the research. They're typically not numbered in a research proposal. Strong research proposals set out only two to three aims. Each aim may have several objectives associated with it.

    Objectives

    Objectives lay out how you plan to accomplish your aims. While aims are broad in nature, objectives are focused and practical. They tend to pinpoint your research's more immediate effects. They include a list of practical steps and tasks you're going to take to meet your aims. Objectives are typically numbered, so each one stands alone. Each objective must have a concrete method set out. If you're having trouble developing this, writing out a research time-line before defining your objectives may help.

    What They Should Do

    Both aims and objectives should be brief and concise. They must be interrelated. Each aim should have one or more objectives describing how that aim should be met. Aims and objectives should both be realistic goals and methods with respect to what resources you have available and the scope of research. Don't choose something too broad, for instance, or that would take much more research time than you have. Aims and objectives also let your advisers know how you intend to approach a given subject and how you plan to get access to subjects, goods and services, samplings and other resources. They also provide plans for dealing with ethical or practical problems you may encounter.

    Things to Avoid

    When you're writing your aims and objectives, don't make them too broad or vague. Aims are more general than objectives, they shouldn't be over-optimistic or unrealistic about what you want to achieve. They shouldn't repeat each other or be simple lists of items related to your research. Stay way from focusing content on your research site or job. Stick to the specific aims and objectives of your actual research study. Check that your aims and objectives contain methods that can sustain what you hope to find. If they don't match, rethink the methods or aims and objectives of your research.

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    About the Author

    Emily Pate holds a Bachelor of Arts in theater arts and government from New Mexico State University. She has worked as a dance and substitute teacher, administrative assistant and in film and videogame production. She has more than 16 years of theatrical experience as an actor, director and playwright.

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