This blog will look at writing an ‘Aim’ statement and ‘Objectives’ for a Master’s thesis, but should also be helpful for final year projects at undergraduate level.
Here is a short video clip on writing the Aims and Objectives.
Where should the Aims and Objectives be?
The Aims and Objectives need to be in chapter 1, the introduction to the research project. Chapter 1 should be an introduction to the project, and not an introduction to the topic – which is covered in the Literature Review, usually chapter 2. However there needs to be a few pages of background introduction to set the scene and the reasons for the research. Therefore, the Aims and Objectives should be around page 2, 3, or 4.
Tips for Writing the AIM Statement
There will be one overall AIM statement as described here. Sometimes a research project may contain several distinct aims, however they need to fit together to an overall research AIM.
The AIM is really just a longer and more explanatory version of the research title. The AIM can be an expansion of the title to 3 to 6 sentences, but make sure you cover these three elements.
- Why is this research necessary – some background showing a problem.
- What is this research about – an expansion of the title.
- How is the research to be performed – a brief statement of the intended research methods.
Initially aim for 1 sentence for each item, but expanding to two sentences for each will be OK. The AIM statement should not exceed a paragraph or a quarter to a third of a page.
Example of an Aim Statement
As an example, I will take a project title: “An investigation into Project Management Life-Cycles in the Automotive Industry: Honda as a case study.”
The AIM will need to include:
- Why: Oversupply and unfilled manufacturing capacity, and increasing innovation in the industry are causing all automotive companies problems. This states the problem.
- What: This project seeks to examine how Project Life Cycles are implemented in the Honda Motor Company.
- How: By case study analysis and comparison with other automotive companies.
Put those three sentences together and the AIM statement becomes:
Aim Statement: Oversupply and unfilled manufacturing capacity is leading to increasing innovation in the automotive industry. This requires all automotive companies to reduce their project life cycles to remain competitive. This project seeks to examine how Project Life Cycles are implemented in the Honda Motor Company. The research will use case study analysis and comparison of Honda Project Life Cycles implementation with that of other automotive companies.
The first part of the aim statement – the problem – is what needs to be covered in the first 2 or 3 pages of the introduction chapter. Some researchers may then introduce a secondary aim statement to complement the first. In this example there may be a secondary AIM to distribute or publish the research findings.
Writing Objectives for a Master’s Dissertation
I suggest that 6-9 Objectives is an initial target, and there are often comments that 9 may be too many. However, as a Project Manager my natural inclination is to break a project into manageable chunks of work. Also, if there are 9 objectives and one objective is not met, then there are still 8 objectives that are met.
The objectives when read alone should tell a story through the dissertation. This can be done by ensuring:
- 2 or 3 Objectives apply to the Literature Review – Demonstrating knowledge. Verbs such as Research, Examine, Study, and Investigate are suitable.
- 2 or 3 Objectives apply to the Research Methodology – How the research is performed. These might include: Collect data, Select interviewees, Analyse results as examples.
- 2 or 3 Objectives focus on the Critical Evaluation or Discussion chapters. Verbs such as Analyse, Compare, Discuss, and Evaluate would be appropriate.
- There may be one or two final objectives. To Conclude, and/or To Recommend.
I have already issued blogs about the requirements of a Master’s Dissertation from the QAA perspective and the three elements of a Master’s Dissertation. Using the above approach to write the objectives will demonstrate that these requirements have been met.
When writing objectives, keep to just one verb, and avoid the use of ‘and’. If you are using ‘and’ then perhaps this objective should be broken into two separate objectives.
Don’t forget that the objectives will need to be repeated and commented on in the conclusion chapter of the dissertation.
Examples of Research Objectives
For the example AIM from earlier, here are some suggested project objectives. Note how they start broad, and become more specific:
- To examine the current status of the Automotive Industry
- To study Project Management as it applies to the Automotive Industry
- To research Project Life Cycles specifically as used within the Automotive Industry
- To identify suitable case studies concerning Automotive Project Life Cycles for evaluation
- To analyse the case studies
- To compare Project Life Cycles as demonstrated b the case study companies
- To critical evaluate the use of Project Life Cycles at Honda Motor Company
- To recommend improvements to the Honda Motor Company in their use of Project Life Cycles
Just reading the verbs tells a story through the dissertation. To examine, to study, to research, to identify, to analyse, to compare, to evaluate and to recommend.
Higher Level Verbs
Don’t forget to use Blooms Higher level verbs when looking at the critical evaluation section. It is also important not to duplicate a verb. There are around 40-50 different verbs that you could use to write your objectives, and therefore it looks lazy to use the same verb more than once.
The Project Aim is an expansion of the title covering Why, What and How. The objectives should cover the whole dissertation from the Literature Review, through the Research Methodology, and to the Critical Evaluation and Conclusions.