A research objective addresses the purpose of the investigation and types of knowledge to be generated out of one’s investigation. Looking at the objectives of the research, one can anticipate what is to be achieved by the study. A research objective indicates the population of interest, the independent variable, and the dependent variable.
Many researchers state their research objective in the declarative form as a broad statement of purpose, such as the objective of this study is to examine the relationship between the initial salary (dependent variable) of those who are employed in NGOs (population of interest) and their previous job experience (independent variable).
The descriptive study does not always have variables that can be designated as independent or dependent. In such a case, the objective indicates the nature of the inquiry, the study variables, and the population under study, as we find in the example: The purpose of this study is to assess the women’s decision making autonomy regarding their health care, their child’s health care, large household purchases, household purchases for daily needs, and visits to the women’s family or relatives.
In causal studies, the objectives are usually stated in the form of hypotheses.
Here is an example: Participation of women in household decision making increases with age, their level of education, and the number of surviving children.
We can enumerate three major reasons for formulating the objectives of the research;
- Focus the study on narrowing it down to essentials;
- Avoid collection of data that are not strictly necessary for understanding and solving the problem in hand;
- Organize the study in clearly defined components or phases.
While formulating the research objectives, we should keep in mind that the results would be compared to the objectives when the study is evaluated.
If the objectives have not been formulated clearly, the study cannot be evaluated as desired. It is because of this reason; we should take care that the objectives fulfill certain criteria;
- They are realistic to fit the local environment.
- They cover the different aspects of the problem.
- They consider the contributing factors in a coherent way and in a logical sequence.
- They consider ethical issues if any.
- They are phrased in operational terms.
Objectives should be closely related to the statement of the research problem, giving the sponsor-specific, concrete and achievable goals.
It is best to state the objectives of a study in general terms first and then to move down to specific terms.
From this point of view, objectives are of two types: general and specific. We elaborate on these two concepts below, along with two more objectives, viz. immediate objective and ultimate objective.
Types of Research Objectives
- General Objective.
- Specific Objectives.
- Immediate Objectives.
- Ultimate Objective.
The general objective of a study states what is expected to be achieved by the study in general terms.
For example, if the problem identified is the low utilization of Child Welfare Clinics (CWC), the general objective of the study could be:
- To identify the reasons for the low utilization of Child Welfare Clinics in order to find solutions.
Similarly, in a study on anemia in pregnancy, the general objective could be stated as:
- To study the changes in the hemoglobin level with an increase in the duration of pregnancy.
Or in a study to examine the contribution of goat farming in poverty alleviation, the general objective may be framed as follows:
- To assess the impact of investment in goat farming for poverty alleviation in rural Bangladesh.
Given that we have rightly stated the general objectives, it is advisable to break it down into several smaller, logically connected parts. These are normally referred to as specific objectives.
Specific objectives should systematically address the various aspects of the problems defined under the statement of the problem and the key factors that are assumed to influence or cause the problems.
They should specify what you will do in your study, where this study will be done, and for what purpose.
If formulated properly, specific objectives will facilitate the development of the research methodology and will help the researcher to orient the collection, analysis, interpretation, and utilization of data.
Thus in the anemia survey, just cited above, the specific objectives could be
- To determine through history, the duration of pregnancy, parity and the last birth interval of pregnant women in the study;
- To assess hemoglobin level of the pregnant women using Sahli’s method;
- To determine the changes in hemoglobin level with the duration of pregnancy, controlling for birth and parity.
In addition to general objective and specific objectives, a few studies, particularly evaluative studies, attempt to specify immediate objectives. Immediate objective serves to indicate the focus of the proposed research in behavioral terms.
The objective should specify the following points:
- Why are we going to do the study?
- Who will conduct the study?
- When will the study be conducted?
- What are we going to study?
- Whom will the study cover?
- How will the study be conducted?
The ‘why’ question addresses the rationale and objectives of the study.
The ‘whose’ question is designed to identify the individuals, firms, or organizations responsible for implementing the study, while the ‘when’ question seeks to know the study period.
The ‘what’ question addresses the issue of a statement of the problem, including the key variables.
The ‘whom’ question seeks to answer the population to be studied.
The ‘how’ question seeks to know the methodology to be followed, including the research design and sampling strategy to be employed.
Most applied research studies have a statement of ultimate objective that focuses on how the results will be used to motivate the program managers and policymakers for implementing and executing the recommendations followed from the survey results.
In the anemia survey, the ultimate objective may be stated as follows:
It is expected that findings of the study will help in enhancing understanding of the effect of pregnancy on hemoglobin levels of mothers and thereby guide the physicians incorrect iron therapy for pregnant women during the different gestational periods.
In the child nutrition survey cited above, the ultimate objectives were to highlight issues that policymakers and program managers need to address to improve the nutrition status of children in the country.