Lesson 3: Research objectives
While your problem formulation serves to describe the aim of your thesis, the objectives provide an accurate description of the specific actions you will take in order to reach this aim. As with the problem formulation, the overall objective should be framed in a single sentence.
Once again, take a look at the problem formulation from the previous lesson: “Is the level of knowledge on recommended nutritional practices related to the nutritional status of pregnant women attending antenatal care in Northern Uganda?”
The correspondent overall objective should be written as an infinitive sentence e.g.:
“To analyse the association between nutritional knowledge and the nutritional status of pregnant women attending antenatal care (ANC) in Northern Uganda.
Here you see that the overall objective states exactly how you intend to address your problem: “I want to find the answer to problem A, by completing action B”. You then have to explain or detail action B through a set of specific objectives (usually between two and four), e.g.:
- To assess the knowledge level among ANC attendees on the recommended nutritional practices during pregnancy
- To assess the nutritional status of pregnant women attending ANC
- To analyse the statistical association between nutritional knowledge level and nutritional status in pregnant women attending ANC
Each specific objective consists of one infinitive sentence and should be phrased in a way that makes it possible to draw a conclusion from within the scope of the thesis.
The more precisely you formulate your specific objectives, the simpler it will be to define the type of study and which method(s) you will use in your further research. You can refine your specific objective by clearly stating if your given action is to understand, analyse or create – in tune with the hierarchy of learning objectives and the key to the assessment of knowledge content as found in for example Bloom’s taxonomy. In this way, your specific objectives will signal your level of ambition as well as where you will place the greatest effort in your thesis.
Your well-defined research objectives will help you identify the type of study you will do. Practical limitations and/or advice from your supervisor may require that you reformulate all or some of your objectives. Don’t worry; this is all part of the research process.
Do you now know how to formulate objectives? Test your knowledge in the following.