Research: Aims and objectives

Last updated: Monday, April 10, 2017

Once you have an idea for research, then you need to turn it into a statement that summarises what you will be investigating. This is generally called the aim of your research. Some research requires more than one aim, but at the beginning of your research career don't be over-ambitious. Try and limit yourself to a single sentence if you can, and this will help to focus your thinking. Make the aim as clear and uncomplicated as possible. It may help to try phrasing it as a question to start with. Another good tip is to imagine that you're writing the aim for someone who knows nothing about what you're doing. Here are some examples of research aims:

  • To investigate whether inpatient counselling of diabetes patients by a pharmacist reduces rates of re-admission to hospital.
  • To assess the effects of regular stock control of ward medicines by pharmacy staff on drug wastage and expenditure.
  • To compare two techniques for improving patient adherence with medicines prescribed for heart failure.
  • To test the best method for educating doctors about the hospital formulary.

The objectives of the research should then be listed. These are simply the steps by which the aims are going to be achieved. It is very useful to split the work up into practical, bite-size chunks that you can tick off as they are completed. If nothing else, achieving each objective demonstrates command and control of the project and helps the project stay on course. Note that objectives only contain the framework of what you will do: they do not contain basic things like 'stick stamps on questionnaire envelopes' – these are taken as read. Eight or nine objectives are probably the maximum you need, but often far fewer. Here's an example:
Aim
To investigate whether inpatient counselling of diabetes patients by a pharmacist reduces rates of re-admission to hospital.

Objectives:

1. Review the literature.
2. Define 're-admission' and identify the methods by which data relevant to this outcome can be collected.
3. Specify the characteristics of the patient group to be investigated: age, type of diabetes etc
4. Prepare protocol, including patient information leaflet and referral methods.
5. Investigate whether approval will be needed from the Trust's research ethics committee for this study.
6. Design and pilot methods of counselling and patient follow-up.
7. Data collection and analysis.
8. Report on findings and publish.
Setting aims and objectives will help both your research team and readers of the final work to decide if you have succeeded in what you set out to do. If this is your first experience of research, it is wise to keep the research aims and objectives as simple as possible.