Archived Material (Dissertations)

Step 1: Dissertation proposals

Aims and objectives


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The primary focus of your research project is usually expressed in terms of aims and objectives.

What is the difference between an aim and an objective in an academic context?

Aim

  • An intention or aspiration; what you hope to achieve.
  • Aims are statements of intent, written in broad terms.
  • Aims set out what you hope to achieve at the end of the project.

Objective

  • A goal or a step on the way to meeting the aim; how you will achieve it.
  • Objectives use specific statements which define measurable outcomes. For example: what steps will you take to achieve the desired outcome?

Objectives should be S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific – be precise about what you are going to do
  • Measureable –you will know when you have reached your goal
  • Achievable – Don’t attempt too much. A less ambitious but completed objective is better than an over-ambitious one that you cannot possible achieve.
  • Realistic – do you have the necessary resources to achieve the objective? For example: time, money, skills, etc?
  • Time constrained – determine when each stage needs to be completed. Is there time in your schedule to allow for unexpected delays?

Remember:

Use strong positive statements which use strong verbs. Avoid weaker verbs.

Strong verbs: collect, construct, classify, develop, devise, measure, produce, revise, select, synthesise
Weak verbs: appreciate, consider, enquire, learn, know, understand, be aware of, appreciate, listen, perceive

How many aims or objectives should there be?

  • There are no fixed number of aims or objectives.
  •  Some tutors are happy with one clear strong aim, whilst others like to see a main aim supported by at least two subsidiary aims.
  • You will be required to produce sufficient objectives to be able to measure progress towards meeting the aim/s.

Remember:

Aims describe what you want to achieve. Objectives describe how you are going to achieve those aims.

Example
Aim: To investigate the relationship between tectonic-plate movement and the gravitational effect of the alignment of the major planets.

Objectives:

  • Data sets will be extracted from the known historical record of tectonic-plate movement
  • Data sets will be extracted from astronomical tables detailing the various alignments of the major planets covering the same period as data from the geological record.
  • The data from both sets will be synthesised to establish if correlation points exist between major geological events and planetary alignments.