How to set your Project Objectives and Research Questions

One of the first tasks you need to do when starting to work on your project is to set your project objectives and research questions. Project objectives can be thought of as tasks that you need to undertake in order to answer your specific research questions. Successfully completing your objectives enables you to answer your research questions.

Make sure you choose project objectives which are realistic given your knowledge of the chosen topic.

The objectives need to be specific, achievable and provide you with a logical structure to your information gathering and research. Producing a long list of objectives, or no objectives at all leads to failure. The objectives can start with words like:

  • To evaluate…
  • To understand…
  • To analyse…
An example of a project objective would be: To evaluate the financial performance of the x plc over the last 3 years using ratio analysis.

Once you have the scope (the project objectives) set, you now need to set your research questions.

They will give your project focus and make it more manageable as it allows you to focus on a smaller area. They also stop you from drifting off into information gathering and analysis that does not relate to your research.

Your research question can change as you go through your project. For example, if you have problems accessing the data; your findings are surprising and seem to answer a more interesting or focused question, etc. The research questions normally start with words like:

  • What, Why, Will, How, When, Does, Can and so on.
An example of a research question would be: How has x plc performed compared to y plc in terms of profitability?

Ensure you set realistic, achievable research questions and project objectives (think SMART). You are not producing a Masters or Doctoral dissertation, so limit yourself to what you can achieve within the set word count, structure and context of the research questions.  Clear and realistic research questions and objectives are a must.

Your conclusions must answer all your research questions and meet the project objectives you set.

You can find more examples of the project objectives and research questions in the Research Report Exemplars.

Anna