How to write objectives in a research proposal

How to write objectives in a research proposal

The research objective of a research proposal or scientific article defines the direction or content of a research investigation. Without the research objectives, the proposal or research paper is in disarray. It is like a fisherman riding on a boat without any purpose and with no destination in sight. Therefore, at the beginning of any research venture, the researcher must be clear about what he or she intends to do or achieve in conducting a study.

How do you define the objectives of a study? What are the uses of the research objective? How would a researcher write this essential part of the research? This article aims to provide answers to these questions.

Table of Contents

Definition of a Research Objective

A research objective describes, in a few words, the result of the research project after its implementation. It answers the question, “What does the researcher want or hope to achieve at the end of the research project.” The research objective provides direction to the performance of the study.

What are the Uses of the Research Objective?

The uses of the research objective are enumerated below:

  1. serves as the researcher’s guide in identifying the appropriate research design,
  2. identifies the variables of the study, and
  3. specifies the data collection procedure and the corresponding analysis for the data generated.

The research design serves as the “blueprint” for the research investigation. The University of Southern California describes the different types of research design extensively. It details the data to be gathered, data collection procedure, data measurement, and statistical tests to use in the analysis.

The variables of the study include those factors that the researcher wants to evaluate in the study. These variables narrow down the research to several manageable components to see differences or correlations between them.

Specifying the data collection procedure ensures data accuracy and integrity. Thus, the probability of error is minimized. Generalizations or conclusions based on valid arguments founded on reliable data strengthens research findings on particular issues and problems.

How is the Research Objective Written?

A research objective must be achievable, i.e., it must be framed keeping in mind the available time, infrastructure required for research, and other resources. Before forming a research objective, you should read about all the developments in your area of research and find gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed. Readings will help you come up with suitable objectives for your research project.

5 Examples of Research Objectives

The following examples of research objectives based on several published studies on various topics demonstrate how the research objectives are written:

  1. This study aims to find out if there is a difference in quiz scores between students exposed to direct instruction and flipped classrooms (Webb and Doman, 2016).
  2. This study seeks to examine the extent, range, and method of coral reef rehabilitation projects in five shallow reef areas adjacent to popular tourist destinations in the Philippines (Yeemin et al., 2006).
  3. This study aims to investigate species richness of mammal communities in five protected areas over the past 20 years (Evans et al., 2006).
  4. This study aims to clarify the demographic, epidemiological, clinical, and radiological features of 2019-nCoV patients with other causes of pneumonia (Zhao et al., 2020).
  5. This research aims to assess species extinction risks for sample regions that cover some 20% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface.

Finally, writing the research objectives requires constant practice, experience, and knowledge about the topic investigated. Clearly written objectives save time, money, and effort.

Once you have a clear idea of your research objectives, you can now develop your conceptual framework which is a crucial element of your research paper as it guides the flow of your research. The conceptual framework will help you develop your methodology and statistical tests.

I wrote a detailed, step-by-step guide on how to develop a conceptual framework with illustration in my post titled “Conceptual Framework: A Step by Step Guide on How to Make One.“


Evans, K. L., Rodrigues, A. S., Chown, S. L., & Gaston, K. J. (2006). Protected areas and regional avian species richness in South Africa. Biology letters, 2(2), 184-188.

Thomas, C. D., Cameron, A., Green, R. E., Bakkenes, M., Beaumont, L. J., Collingham, Y. C., … & Hughes, L. (2004). Extinction risk from climate change. Nature, 427(6970), 145-148.

Webb, M., & Doman, E. (2016). Does the Flipped Classroom Lead to Increased Gains on Learning Outcomes in ESL/EFL Contexts?. CATESOL Journal, 28(1), 39-67.

Yeemin, T., Sutthacheep, M., & Pettongma, R. (2006). Coral reef restoration projects in Thailand. Ocean & Coastal Management, 49(9-10), 562-575.

Zhao, D., Yao, F., Wang, L., Zheng, L., Gao, Y., Ye, J., Guo, F., Zhao, H. & Gao, R. (2020). A comparative study on the clinical features of COVID-19 pneumonia to other pneumonias, Clinical Infectious Diseases, ciaa247,

© 2020 March 23 P. A. Regoniel
Updated 17 November 2020

How to write objectives in a research proposal

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How long does it take the person reading your thesis to understand what you’re doing and how you’re doing it? If the answer is anything other than ’in the opening paragraphs of the thesis’ then keep reading.

If you tell them as early as possible what you’re doing and how you’re doing it – and do so in clear and simple terms – whatever you write after will make much more sense. If you leave them guessing for ten pages, everything they read in those ten pages has no coherence. You’ll know where it is all leading, but they won’t.

Unless you tell them.

If you tell the reader what you’re doing as early as possible in clear and simple terms, whatever you write after will make much more sense.

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What are aims & objectives?

If you build a house without foundations, it’s pretty obvious what will happen. It’ll collapse. Your thesis is the same; fail to build the foundations and your thesis just won’t work .

Your aims and objectives are those foundations. That’s why we’ve put them right at the top of our PhD Writing Template (if you haven’t already downloaded it, join the thousands who have by clicking here ).

If you write your aims and objectives clearly then you’ll make your reader’s life easier.

A lot of students fail to clearly articulate their aims and objectives because they aren’t sure themselves what they actually are.

Picture this: if there’s one thing that every PhD student hates it’s being asked by a stranger what their research is on.

How to write objectives in a research proposal

Your PhD thesis.
All on one page.

Use our free PhD structure template to quickly visualise every element of your thesis.

Research aims

Your research aims are the answer to the question, ‘What are you doing?’

1. You need to clearly describe what your intentions are and what you hope to achieve. These are your aims.

2. Your aims may be to test theory in a new empirical setting, derive new theory entirely, construct a new data-set, replicate an existing study, question existing orthodoxy, and so on. Whatever they are, clearly articulate them and do so early. Definitely include them in your introduction and, if you’re smart, you’ll write them in your abstract.

3. Be very explicit. In the opening paragraphs, say, in simple terms, ‘the aim of this thesis is to…’

4. Think of your aims then as a statement of intent. They are a promise to the reader that you are going to do something. You use the next two hundred pages or so to follow through on that promise. If you don’t make the promise, the reader won’t understand your follow-through. Simple as that.

Because they serve as the starting point of the study, there needs to be a flow from your aims through your objectives (more on this below) to your research questions and contribution and then into the study itself. If you have completed your research and found that you answered a different question (not that uncommon), make sure your original aims are still valid. If they aren’t, refine them.

If you struggle to explain in simple terms what your research is about and why it matters, you may need to refine your aims and objectives to make them more concise.

When writing up your aims, there are a number of things to bear in mind.

1. Avoid listing too many. Your PhD isn’t as long as you think it is and you won’t have time or room for more than around two or three.

2. When you write them up, be very specific. Don’t leave things so vague that the reader is left unsure or unclear on what you aim to achieve.

3. Make sure there is a logical flow between each of your aims. They should make sense together and should each be separate components which, when added together, are bigger than the sum of their parts.

Research objectives

Your aims answer the question, ‘What are you doing?’ The objectives are the answer to the question, ‘How are you doing it?’

Research objectives refer to the goals or steps that you will take to achieve your aims.

When you write them, make sure they are SMART.

  1. Specific: talk in a precise and clear way about what you are going to do.
  2. Measurable: how will you know when you have achieved your aim?
  3. Achievable: make sure that you aren’t overly ambitious.
  4. Realistic: recognise the time and resource constraints that come with doing a PhD and don’t attempt to do too much.
  5. Time constrained: determine when each objective needs to be completed.

You need to be as explicit as possible here. Leave the reader in no doubt about what you will do to achieve your aims. Step by step. Leave no ambiguity. At the same time, be careful not to repeat your methods chapter here. Just hint at your methods by presenting the headlines. You’ll have plenty of space in your methods discussion to flesh out the detail.

Elsewhere in the thesis you will necessarily have to talk in a complex language and juggle complex ideas. Here you don’t. You can write in clear, plain sentences.

Though research objectives are no more than two or three lines the importance has far-reaching implications. Therefore, composing such a small but the most effective research proposal objectives becomes a tiresome job for the students. These are easily found on this webpage which will on doubt make your research paper constructed within a few times and sure to be selected by your supervisors.

Doing such a research objective is difficult but not that much. All you have to do is to read the following article. Find more interesting reviews and tips to build yourself an excellent objective paper for your ongoing research dissertation. Make sure to avail of this opportunity for building your perfect paper.

How to compose the objectives of the research proposal?

First Step:

Write down the research problem that you wish to address in your objective paper of the research proposal. This means identifying what product or service you want to evaluate on a priority basis. Specify the stakeholders in the decisions to be made from the research. Identify specific information management wants from the study. Consider what the research report will contain and look like. You can get the best resources by visiting the web contents of this page made with the collective data of the research works of our organizations.

Second Step:

Identify major topics to cover in the research study. Write down the first three most important questions to be answered. Consider studying brand awareness, buying behavior, and use of the product. You can also find it on the related page link to help you build the desired research proposal that you need to build in the short span of time. Related links are available for helping you with the problems and identifying the issue for your objective research proposal.

Third Step:

Write clear, concise research objectives for your paper so that its easily understood and drown a healthy hypothesis from it. Research objectives can be written in three sentences. These can be easily be located from our webpage that you will refer for your dissertation research paper The first must describe the interview action for the study. The second outlines the information required. The third summarizes how management will use the research. By following these easy simple steps you will surely be able to complete your dissertation on time and for more help can also see the other related pages on this webpage.

How to write objectives in a research proposal

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Vision and Reality

How to write objectives in a research proposal

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The goals and objectives section of your grant proposal can make or break your request for funding.

This section of your proposal describes what your organization hopes to accomplish with your project. It also spells out the specific results or outcomes you plan to achieve.

You’ll have to convince your funder, such as a foundation or government agency, that your goals embody a worthy vision and that you can realistically achieve your objectives.

What Is a Goal?

A goal is a broad statement of what you wish to accomplish.

  • big and broad, even visionary
  • general intentions
  • intangible
  • abstract
  • hard to measure  

A goal is really about the ultimate impact or outcome that you hope to bring about.

Link the goals of your grant proposal back to your need statement.

To more effectively “hook” grant reviewers, use visionary words in your goals. Try terms such as decrease, deliver, develop, establish, improve, increase, produce, and provide.

What Are Objectives? And How Do You Make Them SMART?

A goal is only as good as the objectives that go with it.

The objective represents a step toward accomplishing a goal.

An objective is:

  • narrow
  • precise
  • tangible
  • concrete
  • measurable

Beverly A. Browning, in her Grant Writing for Dummies, suggests using the S.M.A.R.T. method of writing your objectives. Make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  

Browning also suggests two other types of objectives to consider. They are “process objectives” and “impact objectives.” The first, process objective, describes a task or activity with a specific start and end. The second type, the impact objective, describes the future impact your project will have should it be funded. One can use all three types of objectives within a proposal to accomplish particular goals.  

According to Mim Carlson and Tori O’Neal-McElrath, in Winning Grants, you should keep the following in mind when preparing your objectives:  

  • State your objectives in quantifiable terms.
  • State your objectives as outcomes, not process.
  • Objectives should specify the result of an activity.
  • Objectives should identify the target audience or community that you plan to serve.
  • Objectives need to be realistic and something you can accomplish within the grant period.

Here is an example of a goal and its matching objective:

Goal: Decrease the degree of malnutrition among young children in the southwest region of Baltimore. (note the vision of this’s what you hope to accomplish)

Objective: By the end of year one, provide 125 mothers in the southwest area of Baltimore with a 2-hour training program that will provide health and nutrition information. (notice how this SMART objective is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound).

Evaluation Method: Instructors will track the number of mothers who receive the training, when they received it, and where.

More Tips for Writing Good Goals and Objectives

Carlson and O’Neal-McElrath, in Winning Grants, suggest you keep the following in mind as you write your goals and objectives for your grant:  

  • Tie your goals and objectives directly to your need statement.
  • Include all relevant groups and individuals in your target population.
  • Always allow plenty of time to accomplish the objectives.
  • Do not confuse your outcome objectives for methods.
  • Figure out how you will measure the change projected in each objective. If there is no way to measure an objective, it needs to be altered or dropped.
  • Don’t forget to budget for the evaluation (measurement) of your objectives.

Not sure how many objectives you should have for each goal? Aim for a minimum of three for each goal, but don’t worry if you need much more.   Your project may have many steps involved in achieving a particular goal.

Just keep in mind that each objective must be measurable to be included. The quality of that measurement will impress your grant reviewers more than the sheer number of objectives.

Evaluation of Goals and Objectives Must be Appropriate and Adequate

Evaluation of goals and objectives can take many forms. For instance, you could simply count people who received your service or use surveys or focus groups that ask people to report actions or feelings after having received the service.

Think about whether you need quantitative or qualitative information. The first counts things. The second explores experiences and feelings.   You may need both types of information, depending on your objective.

Most funders require that proposal writers include an evaluation plan, spelling out how the results of each objective will be measured. Not including an effective evaluation plan can result in the proposal’s rejection.  

Take plenty of time to write your goals and objectives. Their quality could make the difference in convincing your funder to provide money for your project or turning down your request.

Just follow these 6 golden rules

There are a number of research guidelines that are evergreen—they don’t change and are vital for the success of any research study. This post is as important today as it was when written several years ago by our former Sr. Research Analyst, Kevin Lyons. Kevin may have moved on, but we stand by this terrific guidance.

—Donna Van De Water, September 17, 2020

A critical component of a successful research engagement is a set of clearly defined and meaningful objectives. Having well-defined objectives narrows and focuses the research and ensures that the findings are relevant to decision-makers.

The research objectives drive all aspects of the methodology, including instrument design, data collection, analysis, and ultimately the recommendations.

Six important guidelines that should be observed when developing research objectives are:
1. They should be presented briefly and concisely
2. They should be presented in logical sequence
3. They should be realistic (e.g., achieved within the expected timeframe, achieved within the available resources)
4. They should be phrased in operational terms (i.e., in a way that brings the organization closer to its business objectives)
5. They should use action verbs that are specific enough to be evaluated or measured (e.g., assess, determine, compare, verify, calculate, describe).
6. They should be static once the study work begins (i.e., objectives should not be moving targets)

Creating good objectives can help organizations realize their business goals. For example, a nonprofit community medical center needed to inform a communications campaign that will, in the end, expand their donor base and increase the consistency and dollar value of donations from existing donors. With these goals in mind, the presentation below explores three potential research objectives by demonstrating the following:

  • What the research must achieve
  • Example of a weak objective, and why’s it’s weak
  • Example of a stronger objective

How to write objectives in a research proposal

How to write objectives in a research proposal

How to write objectives in a research proposal

Investing time in developing clear, articulated, and strong research objectives is an important step in a successful research engagement. Having these bullets to guide the process is invaluable and will likely save time over the course of the engagement. There is no better way to ensure that the right questions are being asked and answered.

Dissertation & thesis writing secrets, tips and guides

When you have decided on a dissertation topic and you are ready to get approval from your instructor and the community that will review your work, you will need to write a proposal. There are many features that should be included in the proposal, but you only have so much room to include those features. The goals and objectives section of the proposal are the most important part because this section will help the committee decide if you should continue on the path you have chosen.


The proposal needs to include a goals section that shows the committee what you are hoping to realize through the researching and writing you will do. This section of paper includes long term goals, almost like a resolution, but you will need to show how you expect to get to the results. You do not include your goals in a bulleted list and you should not have more than three goals. However, your goals can have subheadings with smaller objectives that you want to accomplish to get to the ultimate goal. You will want to be specific and precise as you explain what you want to prove and how you will get it done. If your committee members have too many questions, your proposal will be returned and you will have to begin again.


The objectives section is even more detailed that the goals. Objectives can be broken down into daily accomplishments with the idea that those accomplishments will eventually help you reach your goal. The goals should be broad and open, but the objectives should include the small steps you will take each day. The objectives will be concrete actions. While the goals are not bulleted or numbered, the objective are, usually because they need to occur in steps. Many people will create timelines to help them manage the number of objectives they need to meet in order to find success on their dissertations.

Suggestions for Success

It is important that the goals and objectives work together seamlessly. They need to be related, as the objectives eventually lead to the two or three goals. The methods should be understandable and doable, so you always feel like you are getting closer to the goal. The objectives will discuss ideas about how your research will be completed and what sources you will use. The objectives will also include the who, what, when, where, and how of the research you will be doing. Your objectives should also include plans for the times that the objectives do not lead you closer to the goal, too.

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Thesis writing guides

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  • Do Not buy thesis samples
  • Why PhD thesis is time-consuming
  • Art coursework writing assistance
  • Guide on a history thesis
  • Be sure not to copy from PhD thesis samples
  • Improving PhD writing skills
  • PhD dissertation writing secrets
  • Composing a perfect dissertation
  • Dissertation literature review
  • Getting a use of disertation databases
  • Buying a plagiarism free dissertation
  • Dissertation editing process
  • Rough drafts can help you write a good dissertation
  • PhD dissertaion isn’t a problem
  • Dissertation draft
  • 5 Steps to a successful Master’s thesis
  • Dissertation writing tips
  • Creating an excellent dissertation
  • Tips for nteresting thesis
  • Review and refine dissertation format
  • Creating a PhD Thesis Structure
  • Formulating a dissertation proposal
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The above dissertation and thesis writing manuals, guides, samples and tips have been prepared by our team of writers and editors. You can use them free of charge.


There is a lot of information out there on how to write a research objective. However, finding reliable information while trying to accomplish everything else on one’s plate can consume a lot of time. Meaning, for those who are new to writing NSF proposals, figuring out how to construct a high-quality research objective can quickly become a daunting task.

Below I provide some info to either help those who would like a quick refresher on or who are new to writing research objectives for NSF proposals. Information in Figures 1, 2, and 3 were taken from the power point slides of a March 2009, NSF CAREER workshop at George Mason University.

What was provided in this workshop nine years ago still appears to be the most concise overview on NSF research objectives to date. I have reorganized and slightly modified the information in the figures that came from these 2009 slides to ensure relevancy for current NSF PI/CoPI research objective expectations. If there is anything major that I have missed, please let me know. If you would like to see this on SlideShare please click here.

Writing the Research Objective

Writing the research objective is in many ways considered to be the hardest part of the proposal. In fact, one of the quickest ways to have your proposal dismissed by a reviewer is to provide a poorly written research objective.

Having a well-stated objective allows and leads the reader or reviewer to inherently understand the approach that will or should probably be taken to accomplish the specified aim/s. It also helps the writer to determine the best way to organize, establish, and demonstrate many of the intellectual merit aspects of their proposal.

When writing a research objective there are certain words that imply to the reader or reviewer that one is not doing research. Above all, make sure to avoid these words when writing your objective, Figure 1. In some cases there are exceptions to this rule. If provided, one should always check the related NSF solicitation.

How to write objectives in a research proposal

There are also other best practices that should be considered when writing your research objective, Figure 1. For example, best practices suggest that one should provide the research objective early in the proposal and it should be kept under twenty-five (25) words. Having more than 25 words for standard PI/CoPI NSF proposals will exponentially decrease the quality of the research objective (i.e., limit readability and clarity of the objective).

Following these best practices will help one to avoid writing research objectives incorrectly such as those provided in Figure 2. These research objectives are incorrect for several reasons. For example, the first three objectives provided in Figure 2 use the words, “Design or Develop”. The fourth research objective showcases the proverbial “State-Of-The-Union” address format.

How to write objectives in a research proposal

Lastly, in Figure 3, I provide ways or structures of how a research objective can be written that conveys to the reader or NSF reviewer that there is a high likelihood that one has submitted a research proposal.

How to write objectives in a research proposal


I have provided a quick summary of what it takes to write a quality research objective. As with anything there are always more specifics that could be provided but I hope that this short synopsis of how to write a research objective points you in the right direction. If there are any questions or comments, please email me at [email protected] I wish you all the very best on your NSF proposal submissions!

Written by:

Dr. Michael Thompson aka “The Broader Impacts Guy”

Michael was the Founding Director of the Broader Impacts in Research (BIR) organization, Senior Staff of the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), and Affiliate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma (OU). Dr Thompson is a member of Social Value International (SVI) and Social/Societal Value United States (SV-US) which employs and embodies Social/Societal Return on Investment (SROI) methods and practice. Dr. Thompson is also a member of the National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI). He served on the National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI) Working Group, which developed the Broader Impacts Guiding Principles and Questions for National Science Foundation Proposals.

Research Proposal is the most important part of your application procedure while applying for any local or international scholarships below are some guidelines to walk students through the process to write effective and impressive Research Proposal.

Why write a Research Proposal?

Your research proposal is a guideline for the reader about your research question and introduction to the problem. Moreover, your proposal will walk the reader through about existing approaches to achieve the objective as well as it will differentiate your work from the existing one. Your research proposal should be 4-7 pages long containing 2000 to 3500 words. Research Proposal discloses your level of expertise in the mentioned field as a writer of research proposal requires knowledge of the desired field. Although you are just providing your research interest you can rationalize you’re pointing out methodology and requirements for your research. While writing your research proposal you should keep in mind that it’s just a starting point and your direction of research might change as your research evolve. You can always approach us for help in helping you write your research proposal.

Benefits of writing a Research Proposal

  • Research Proposal will help you to brainstorm and be inquisitive about your research goal.
  • This will help you provide skill sets and your questions in a comprehensive way.
  • It also helps to clearly state your objectives for the research.
  • Help to clarify steps to carry out research, answer the question by reviewing the literature and providing an answer to the questions in mind.
  • This step of your research helps you to neat your writing and research skills.
  • This also helps to identify various methods and approaches for analyzing data and deducing results from it

Key elements of the Research Study

What do you want to achieve?

Clearly state your research question, objectives and method you are going to adopt to achieve your goal.

Why do you want to do it?

Provide your motivation behind your interest in the topic by providing evidence from the literature.

How are you going to do it?

Provide your research design by keeping in mind that what you are proposing is important to society and is doable.