The objective of your dissertation explains why you are undertaking your research. It should describe what you specifically want to achieve through your investigation and what you will study. You should identify this objective as part of your problem definition.
Formulating a dissertation objective
The key here is to remember that your goal is not to solve a problem, as this goes beyond your capacity as a researcher. Your objective should instead identify what your study itself will achieve.
For example, a company where you are interning may ask you to investigate why its Facebook page is receiving a declining number of “likes.” It’s likely that the company believes that understanding these causes will help it to solve the problem.
In this case, however, your goal is to focus on just the “why”; the company itself will use the results of your analysis to decide the “how” on its own.
If your work is more theoretical, your objective may be to explore if a particular model is relevant for a specific situation or to identify the attitudes that members of a sample population have on a given topic.
Remember, your objectives need to be grounded in your preliminary research and problem definition.
Example of a problem definition
Example dissertation objectives
The aim of the research is to determine how the teachers’ skills can be improved so that they are able to better recognize and assist gifted students.
The objective of the research is to use quantitative and qualitative research methods to gain insight into why the number of “likes” on the Facebook page is dropping among company X’s target audience.
Why do you need to set an objective for dissertation?
By setting an objective, you demonstrate the relevance of your research and ensure that everyone involved in it has the same expectations.
The objective reveals the relevance of your research, which may vary.
In theoretical research, the goal is often to expand existing knowledge on a particular subject. If your research is more practical, the objective may be more socially relevant. For instance, the above example about understanding the skills that would help teachers to better identify and guide gifted students has social relevance.
Create appropriate expectations
A good objective creates clear expectations and avoids problems later in the research process.
If you are writing your dissertation on a topic requested by a particular organization, it’s especially important to ensure that you and that “client” have the same expectations. Remember that your aim is to not to find a ready-made solution to a problem, as solving the problem is not your job.
Tips for identifying a good dissertation objective
Step 1: Define your problem
Your problem definition should serve as the basis for setting the objective of your dissertation.
Step 2: Identify the components of your dissertation objective
- The type of research you will undertake
- The relevance of the research
- The client’s needs/desires (if relevant)
Step 3: Formulate the objective using a standard structure
Examples of structures for an objective
This research aims to obtain knowledge and insight concerning… and to …
The objective of the study is to … by ….
You also need to create a problem statement
In addition to setting an objective, you also need to formulate a problem statement that describes the problem or issue that needs to be resolved.
On to your main research question!
Once you have established your objective and problem statement, it’s time to move on to formulating your main research question and associated sub-questions.
Formulating research aim and objectives in an appropriate manner is one of the most important aspects of your thesis. This is because research aim and objectives determine the scope, depth and the overall direction of the research. Research question is the central question of the study that has to be answered on the basis of research findings.
Achievement of research aim provides answer to the research question. Research objectives divide research aim into several parts and address each part separately. Moreover, research aim specifies WHAT needs to be studied and research objectives comprise a number of steps that address HOW research aim will be achieved.
As a rule of dumb, there would be one research aim and several research objectives to facilitate the achievement of this aim.
The following is an example:
Research title: Effects of organizational culture on business profitability: a case study of Virgin Atlantic
Research aim: To assess the effects of Virgin Atlantic organizational culture on business profitability
Following research objectives would facilitate the achievement of this aim:
- Analyzing the nature of organizational culture at Virgin Atlantic by September 1, 2018
- Identifying factors impacting Virgin Atlantic organizational culture by September 16, 2018
- Analyzing impacts of Virgin Atlantic organizational culture on employee performances by September 30, 2018
- Providing recommendations to Virgin Atlantic strategic level management in terms of increasing the level of effectiveness of organizational culture by October 5, 2018
Figure below illustrates additional examples in formulating research aims and objectives:
Formulation of research question, aim and objectives
Common mistakes in the formulation of research aim relate to the following:
1. Choosing the topic too broadly. This is the most common mistake. For example, a research title of “An analysis of leadership practices” can be classified as too broad because the title fails to answer the following questions:
a) Which aspects of leadership practices? Leadership has many aspects such as employee motivation, ethical behaviour, strategic planning, change management etc. An attempt to cover all of these aspects of organizational leadership within a single research will result in a poor work.
b) An analysis of leadership practices in which country? Leadership practices tend to be different in various countries due to cross-cultural differences, legislations and a range of other region-specific factors. Therefore, a study of leadership practices needs to be country-specific.
c) Analysis of leadership practices in which company or industry? Similar to the point above, analysis of leadership practices needs to take into account industry-specific and company-specific differences, and there is no way to conduct a leadership research that relates to all industries and organizations in an equal manner.
Accordingly, “A study into the impacts of ethical behaviour of a leader on the level of employee motivation in US healthcare sector” would be a more appropriate title than simply “An analysis of leadership practices”.
2. Setting an unrealistic aim. Formulation of a research aim that involves in-depth interviews with Apple strategic level management by an undergraduate level student can be specified as a bit over-ambitious. This is because securing an interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook or members of Apple management board might not be easy. This is an extreme example, but you got the idea. Instead, you may aim to interview the manager of your local Apple store and adopt a more feasible strategy to get your dissertation completed.
3. Choosing research methods incompatible with the timeframe available. Conducting interviews with 20 sample group members and collecting primary data through 2 focus groups when only three months left until submission of your dissertation can be very difficult, if not impossible. Accordingly, timeframe available need to be taken into account when formulating research aims and objectives and selecting specific research methods.
Moreover, research objectives need to be formulated according to SMART objectives, where the abbreviation stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
|Ineffective (incomplete) research objectives||SMART research objectives|
|Study employee motivation of Coca-Cola||To study the impacts of management practices on the levels of employee motivation at Coca-Cola US by December 5, 2018|
|Analyze consumer behaviour in catering industry|
|Analyzing changes in consumer behaviour in catering industry in the 21st century in the UK by March 1, 2019|
|Recommend Toyota Motor Corporation management on new market entry strategy|
|Formulating recommendations to Toyota Motor Corporation management on the choice of appropriate strategy to enter Vietnam market by June 9, 2018|
|Analyze the impact of social media marketing on business|
|Assessing impacts of integration of social media into marketing strategy on the level of brand awareness by March 30, 2017|
|Finding out about time management principles used by Accenture managers||Identifying main time-management strategies used by managers of Accenture France by December 1, 2017|
Examples of SMART research objectives
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