Writer at work: deciding on goal Conceptual still life with writer's workplace, sharp red pencil, notebooks and drown target symbol
Time to practise your aim

Developing research aims

What do you intend to achieve?

Your research aims should clearly identify what you are trying to achieve. The aims section outlines your problem and what it would look like if it were solved.

It differs from your research question and method because it doesn’t tell you precisely what question you’ll be asking or how you’ll be answering it. Instead, it identifies the purpose of your research.

Start off with the broad aims of what you’re trying to achieve. In other words, what’s the problem you’re trying to solve?

You might, for example, be trying to:

  • evaluate a program
  • empower a group of people
  • make something more efficient
  • challenge a long-held view.

Of course, the list could go on.

Notice that all of the examples above begin with verbs? This will help you to focus on what you want to do with your project.

Expanding your research aims

Good research aims should unfold like a concertina, moving from the general to the specific.

This is a similar process to that described in Why Numbers Matter. That is, you need to move from the big picture of a problem, narrow your focus and then isolate a specific strategy you could use to help solve a problem.

Let’s take Miranda Blake’s research about the effect of raising the price of unhealthy drinks as an example. Her aims might read something along the lines of:

  • reduce the prevalence of obesity in Australia
  • encourage people to make healthier choices about what they eat and drink
  • reduce the sale of unhealthy drinks from convenience stores
  • investigate the effect of increasing the price of unhealthy drinks
  • analyse these effects on sales of all drinks, and staff and customer attitudes
  • develop recommendations for the reduction of sales of unhealthy drinks in convenience stores.

Your task

Head to the aims section of your portfolio and write out your research aims. Take some time to think about which problem, approach or mix of approaches you have the time, skill, resources and genuine motivation to pursue.

If you developed a portfolio for previous courses, it will be very helpful to take a look at the research aims you developed there.

Share a link to your research aims in the comments. Find two or three others and take the time to reply with thoughtful, constructive feedback on them.


Blake, M. R., Peeters, A., Lancsar, E., Boelsen-Robinson, T., Corben, K., Stevenson, C. E., Palermo, C. & Backholer, K. (2017). Retailer-Led Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Price Increase Reduces Purchases in a Hospital Convenience Store in Melbourne, Australia: A Mixed Methods Evaluation. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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This article is from the free online course:

Why Planning Your Research Matters

Deakin University