DEFINITION

An
‘objective’ is a clear statement of
something that needs to be accomplished over a period of time. Study may have
one objective, primary or secondary objectives, parallel objectives, or several
objectives that must be achieved sequentially.

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INTRODUCTION

It is important to understand the difference between
‘Aims’ and ‘Objectives’ at the start of study itself.

Aims or goals are a broad statement of what you wish
to accomplish. Goals
are broad, general, intangible, and
abstract. A goal is really about the final impact or outcome that you
wish to bring about. They emphasize
what is to be accomplished (not how it is to be accomplished)

Once aims have been established, the
next task is to formulate the objectives.

‘Objectives’ are a step toward accomplishing
a goal. In contrast to the goal, an objective is narrow, precise, tangible, concrete, and can
be measured. Objectives are subsidiary to aims
and are the steps you are going to take to answer your research questions or a
specific list of tasks needed to accomplish the goals of the study. The primary
objective should be coupled with the hypothesis of the study.

Keep
the following in mind when preparing your objectives:

State your objectives in
quantifiable terms.State your objectives in terms
of outcomes, not process.Objectives should specify the
result of an activity.Objectives should identify the
target audience or community being served.Objectives need to be realistic
and capable of being accomplished within the study period.

When you create a specific objective,
you stand a greater chance of achieving the objective because you know
precisely what you are working towards. Objectives are usually headed by infinitive verbs such as to
identify/ establish/ describe/ determine/ estimate/ develop/ compare/ analyze
etc.

 

WHAT TO DO

While planning to write objectives, use SMART criteria, which are
enlisted in Table 1. Let us
clarify with an example:

Not
specific: Encourage more diabetics to do regular blood sugar
monitoring

Specific:
Increase
number of diabetics who do regular blood sugar monitoring

Not
measurable: Increase number of diabetics who do regular
blood sugar monitoring

Measurable:
Increase
number of diabetics who do regular blood sugar monitoring by 10%

Not achievable:
Increase number of diabetics who do regular blood sugar monitoring by 10% in
one week

Achievable:
Increase number of diabetics who do regular blood sugar monitoring by 10% in
six months

Not
relevant: Increase number of diabetics who do regular blood
sugar monitoring and watch less TV.

Relevant:
Increase number of diabetics who do regular blood sugar monitoring and blood
pressure monitoring.

Not
time bound: Increase number of diabetics who do regular
blood sugar monitoring by 10% .

Time
bound: Increase number of diabetics who do regular blood
sugar monitoring by 10% in six months.

 

WHAT NOT TO DO

The
‘Objectives’ should not be:

too
vague, ambitious or broad in scoperepetition
of each other in different terms.just
a list of things related to your research topicContradict
your methods – i.e. they should not imply methodological goals or
standards of measurement, proof or generalizability of findings that the
methods cannot sustain.

 

CONCLUSION

The study objective is an active statement about how the
study is going to answer the specific research question. Objectives can (and
often do) state exactly which outcome measures are going to be used within
their statements. They are important because they not only help guide the
development of the protocol and design of study but also play a role in sample
size calculations and determining the power of the study. Use of SMART criteria
is prudent for better formulation of your study objectives.