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21 Research Objectives Examples (Copy and Paste)

research aim and research objectives, explained below

Research objectives refer to the definitive statements made by researchers at the beginning of a research project detailing exactly what a research project aims to achieve.

These objectives are explicit goals clearly and concisely projected by the researcher to present a clear intention or course of action for his or her qualitative or quantitative study. 

Research objectives are typically nested under one overarching research aim. The objectives are the steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve the aim (see the examples below, for example, which demonstrate an aim followed by 3 objectives, which is what I recommend to my research students).

Research Objectives vs Research Aims

Research aim and research objectives are fundamental constituents of any study, fitting together like two pieces of the same puzzle.

The ‘research aim’ describes the overarching goal or purpose of the study (Kumar, 2019). This is usually a broad, high-level purpose statement, summing up the central question that the research intends to answer.

Example of an Overarching Research Aim:

“The aim of this study is to explore the impact of climate change on crop productivity.” 

Comparatively, ‘research objectives’ are concrete goals that underpin the research aim, providing stepwise actions to achieve the aim.

Objectives break the primary aim into manageable, focused pieces, and are usually characterized as being more specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Examples of Specific Research Objectives:

1. “To examine the effects of rising temperatures on the yield of rice crops during the upcoming growth season.” 2. “To assess changes in rainfall patterns in major agricultural regions over the first decade of the twenty-first century (2000-2010).” 3. “To analyze the impact of changing weather patterns on crop diseases within the same timeframe.”

The distinction between these two terms, though subtle, is significant for successfully conducting a study. The research aim provides the study with direction, while the research objectives set the path to achieving this aim, thereby ensuring the study’s efficiency and effectiveness.

How to Write Research Objectives

I usually recommend to my students that they use the SMART framework to create their research objectives.

SMART is an acronym standing for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It provides a clear method of defining solid research objectives and helps students know where to start in writing their objectives (Locke & Latham, 2013).

Each element of this acronym adds a distinct dimension to the framework, aiding in the creation of comprehensive, well-delineated objectives.

Here is each step:

  • Specific : We need to avoid ambiguity in our objectives. They need to be clear and precise (Doran, 1981). For instance, rather than stating the objective as “to study the effects of social media,” a more focused detail would be “to examine the effects of social media use (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) on the academic performance of college students.”
  • Measurable: The measurable attribute provides a clear criterion to determine if the objective has been met (Locke & Latham, 2013). A quantifiable element, such as a percentage or a number, adds a measurable quality. For example, “to increase response rate to the annual customer survey by 10%,” makes it easier to ascertain achievement.
  • Achievable: The achievable aspect encourages researchers to craft realistic objectives, resembling a self-check mechanism to ensure the objectives align with the scope and resources at disposal (Doran, 1981). For example, “to interview 25 participants selected randomly from a population of 100” is an attainable objective as long as the researcher has access to these participants.
  • Relevance : Relevance, the fourth element, compels the researcher to tailor the objectives in alignment with overarching goals of the study (Locke & Latham, 2013). This is extremely important – each objective must help you meet your overall one-sentence ‘aim’ in your study.
  • Time-Bound: Lastly, the time-bound element fosters a sense of urgency and prioritization, preventing procrastination and enhancing productivity (Doran, 1981). “To analyze the effect of laptop use in lectures on student engagement over the course of two semesters this year” expresses a clear deadline, thus serving as a motivator for timely completion.

You’re not expected to fit every single element of the SMART framework in one objective, but across your objectives, try to touch on each of the five components.

Research Objectives Examples

1. Field: Psychology

Aim: To explore the impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance in college students.

  • Objective 1: To compare cognitive test scores of students with less than six hours of sleep and those with 8 or more hours of sleep.
  • Objective 2: To investigate the relationship between class grades and reported sleep duration.
  • Objective 3: To survey student perceptions and experiences on how sleep deprivation affects their cognitive capabilities.

2. Field: Environmental Science

Aim: To understand the effects of urban green spaces on human well-being in a metropolitan city.

  • Objective 1: To assess the physical and mental health benefits of regular exposure to urban green spaces.
  • Objective 2: To evaluate the social impacts of urban green spaces on community interactions.
  • Objective 3: To examine patterns of use for different types of urban green spaces. 

3. Field: Technology

Aim: To investigate the influence of using social media on productivity in the workplace.

  • Objective 1: To measure the amount of time spent on social media during work hours.
  • Objective 2: To evaluate the perceived impact of social media use on task completion and work efficiency.
  • Objective 3: To explore whether company policies on social media usage correlate with different patterns of productivity.

4. Field: Education

Aim: To examine the effectiveness of online vs traditional face-to-face learning on student engagement and achievement.

  • Objective 1: To compare student grades between the groups exposed to online and traditional face-to-face learning.
  • Objective 2: To assess student engagement levels in both learning environments.
  • Objective 3: To collate student perceptions and preferences regarding both learning methods.

5. Field: Health

Aim: To determine the impact of a Mediterranean diet on cardiac health among adults over 50.

  • Objective 1: To assess changes in cardiovascular health metrics after following a Mediterranean diet for six months.
  • Objective 2: To compare these health metrics with a similar group who follow their regular diet.
  • Objective 3: To document participants’ experiences and adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

6. Field: Environmental Science

Aim: To analyze the impact of urban farming on community sustainability.

  • Objective 1: To document the types and quantity of food produced through urban farming initiatives.
  • Objective 2: To assess the effect of urban farming on local communities’ access to fresh produce.
  • Objective 3: To examine the social dynamics and cooperative relationships in the creating and maintaining of urban farms.

7. Field: Sociology

Aim: To investigate the influence of home offices on work-life balance during remote work.

  • Objective 1: To survey remote workers on their perceptions of work-life balance since setting up home offices.
  • Objective 2: To conduct an observational study of daily work routines and family interactions in a home office setting.
  • Objective 3: To assess the correlation, if any, between physical boundaries of workspaces and mental boundaries for work in the home setting.

8. Field: Economics

Aim: To evaluate the effects of minimum wage increases on small businesses.

  • Objective 1: To analyze cost structures, pricing changes, and profitability of small businesses before and after minimum wage increases.
  • Objective 2: To survey small business owners on the strategies they employ to navigate minimum wage increases.
  • Objective 3: To examine employment trends in small businesses in response to wage increase legislation.

9. Field: Education

Aim: To explore the role of extracurricular activities in promoting soft skills among high school students.

  • Objective 1: To assess the variety of soft skills developed through different types of extracurricular activities.
  • Objective 2: To compare self-reported soft skills between students who participate in extracurricular activities and those who do not.
  • Objective 3: To investigate the teachers’ perspectives on the contribution of extracurricular activities to students’ skill development.

10. Field: Technology

Aim: To assess the impact of virtual reality (VR) technology on the tourism industry.

  • Objective 1: To document the types and popularity of VR experiences available in the tourism market.
  • Objective 2: To survey tourists on their interest levels and satisfaction rates with VR tourism experiences.
  • Objective 3: To determine whether VR tourism experiences correlate with increased interest in real-life travel to the simulated destinations.

11. Field: Biochemistry

Aim: To examine the role of antioxidants in preventing cellular damage.

  • Objective 1: To identify the types and quantities of antioxidants in common fruits and vegetables.
  • Objective 2: To determine the effects of various antioxidants on free radical neutralization in controlled lab tests.
  • Objective 3: To investigate potential beneficial impacts of antioxidant-rich diets on long-term cellular health.

12. Field: Linguistics

Aim: To determine the influence of early exposure to multiple languages on cognitive development in children.

  • Objective 1: To assess cognitive development milestones in monolingual and multilingual children.
  • Objective 2: To document the number and intensity of language exposures for each group in the study.
  • Objective 3: To investigate the specific cognitive advantages, if any, enjoyed by multilingual children.

13. Field: Art History

Aim: To explore the impact of the Renaissance period on modern-day art trends.

  • Objective 1: To identify key characteristics and styles of Renaissance art.
  • Objective 2: To analyze modern art pieces for the influence of the Renaissance style.
  • Objective 3: To survey modern-day artists for their inspirations and the influence of historical art movements on their work.

14. Field: Cybersecurity

Aim: To assess the effectiveness of two-factor authentication (2FA) in preventing unauthorized system access.

  • Objective 1: To measure the frequency of unauthorized access attempts before and after the introduction of 2FA.
  • Objective 2: To survey users about their experiences and challenges with 2FA implementation.
  • Objective 3: To evaluate the efficacy of different types of 2FA (SMS-based, authenticator apps, biometrics, etc.).

15. Field: Cultural Studies

Aim: To analyze the role of music in cultural identity formation among ethnic minorities.

  • Objective 1: To document the types and frequency of traditional music practices within selected ethnic minority communities.
  • Objective 2: To survey community members on the role of music in their personal and communal identity.
  • Objective 3: To explore the resilience and transmission of traditional music practices in contemporary society.

16. Field: Astronomy

Aim: To explore the impact of solar activity on satellite communication.

  • Objective 1: To categorize different types of solar activities and their frequencies of occurrence.
  • Objective 2: To ascertain how variations in solar activity may influence satellite communication.
  • Objective 3: To investigate preventative and damage-control measures currently in place during periods of high solar activity.

17. Field: Literature

Aim: To examine narrative techniques in contemporary graphic novels.

  • Objective 1: To identify a range of narrative techniques employed in this genre.
  • Objective 2: To analyze the ways in which these narrative techniques engage readers and affect story interpretation.
  • Objective 3: To compare narrative techniques in graphic novels to those found in traditional printed novels.

18. Field: Renewable Energy

Aim: To investigate the feasibility of solar energy as a primary renewable resource within urban areas.

  • Objective 1: To quantify the average sunlight hours across urban areas in different climatic zones. 
  • Objective 2: To calculate the potential solar energy that could be harnessed within these areas.
  • Objective 3: To identify barriers or challenges to widespread solar energy implementation in urban settings and potential solutions.

19. Field: Sports Science

Aim: To evaluate the role of pre-game rituals in athlete performance.

  • Objective 1: To identify the variety and frequency of pre-game rituals among professional athletes in several sports.
  • Objective 2: To measure the impact of pre-game rituals on individual athletes’ performance metrics.
  • Objective 3: To examine the psychological mechanisms that might explain the effects (if any) of pre-game ritual on performance.

20. Field: Ecology

Aim: To investigate the effects of urban noise pollution on bird populations.

  • Objective 1: To record and quantify urban noise levels in various bird habitats.
  • Objective 2: To measure bird population densities in relation to noise levels.
  • Objective 3: To determine any changes in bird behavior or vocalization linked to noise levels.

21. Field: Food Science

Aim: To examine the influence of cooking methods on the nutritional value of vegetables.

  • Objective 1: To identify the nutrient content of various vegetables both raw and after different cooking processes.
  • Objective 2: To compare the effect of various cooking methods on the nutrient retention of these vegetables.
  • Objective 3: To propose cooking strategies that optimize nutrient retention.

The Importance of Research Objectives

The importance of research objectives cannot be overstated. In essence, these guideposts articulate what the researcher aims to discover, understand, or examine (Kothari, 2014).

When drafting research objectives, it’s essential to make them simple and comprehensible, specific to the point of being quantifiable where possible, achievable in a practical sense, relevant to the chosen research question, and time-constrained to ensure efficient progress (Kumar, 2019). 

Remember that a good research objective is integral to the success of your project, offering a clear path forward for setting out a research design , and serving as the bedrock of your study plan. Each objective must distinctly address a different dimension of your research question or problem (Kothari, 2014). Always bear in mind that the ultimate purpose of your research objectives is to succinctly encapsulate your aims in the clearest way possible, facilitating a coherent, comprehensive and rational approach to your planned study, and furnishing a scientific roadmap for your journey into the depths of knowledge and research (Kumar, 2019). 

Kothari, C.R (2014). Research Methodology: Methods and Techniques . New Delhi: New Age International.

Kumar, R. (2019). Research Methodology: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners .New York: SAGE Publications.

Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management review, 70 (11), 35-36.

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2013). New Developments in Goal Setting and Task Performance . New York: Routledge.

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Research Objectives: The Compass of Your Study

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Table of contents

  • 1 Definition and Purpose of Setting Clear Research Objectives
  • 2 How Research Objectives Fit into the Overall Research Framework
  • 3 Types of Research Objectives
  • 4 Aligning Objectives with Research Questions and Hypotheses
  • 5 Role of Research Objectives in Various Research Phases
  • 6.1 Key characteristics of well-defined research objectives
  • 6.2 Step-by-Step Guide on How to Formulate Both General and Specific Research Objectives
  • 6.3 How to Know When Your Objectives Need Refinement
  • 7 Research Objectives Examples in Different Fields
  • 8 Conclusion

Embarking on a research journey without clear objectives is like navigating the sea without a compass. This article delves into the essence of establishing precise research objectives, serving as the guiding star for your scholarly exploration.

We will unfold the layers of how the objective of study not only defines the scope of your research but also directs every phase of the research process, from formulating research questions to interpreting research findings. By bridging theory with practical examples, we aim to illuminate the path to crafting effective research objectives that are both ambitious and attainable. Let’s chart the course to a successful research voyage, exploring the significance, types, and formulation of research paper objectives.

Definition and Purpose of Setting Clear Research Objectives

Defining the research objectives includes which two tasks? Research objectives are clear and concise statements that outline what you aim to achieve through your study. They are the foundation for determining your research scope, guiding your data collection methods, and shaping your analysis. The purpose of research proposal and setting clear objectives in it is to ensure that your research efforts are focused and efficient, and to provide a roadmap that keeps your study aligned with its intended outcomes.

To define the research objective at the outset, researchers can avoid the pitfalls of scope creep, where the study’s focus gradually broadens beyond its initial boundaries, leading to wasted resources and time. Clear objectives facilitate communication with stakeholders, such as funding bodies, academic supervisors, and the broader academic community, by succinctly conveying the study’s goals and significance. Furthermore, they help in the formulation of precise research questions and hypotheses, making the research process more systematic and organized. Yet, it is not always easy. For this reason, PapersOwl is always ready to help. Lastly, clear research objectives enable the researcher to critically assess the study’s progress and outcomes against predefined benchmarks, ensuring the research stays on track and delivers meaningful results.

How Research Objectives Fit into the Overall Research Framework

Research objectives are integral to the research framework as the nexus between the research problem, questions, and hypotheses. They translate the broad goals of your study into actionable steps, ensuring every aspect of your research is purposefully aligned towards addressing the research problem. This alignment helps in structuring the research design and methodology, ensuring that each component of the study is geared towards answering the core questions derived from the objectives. Creating such a difficult piece may take a lot of time. If you need it to be accurate yet fast delivered, consider getting professional research paper writing help whenever the time comes. It also aids in the identification and justification of the research methods and tools used for data collection and analysis, aligning them with the objectives to enhance the validity and reliability of the findings.

Furthermore, by setting clear objectives, researchers can more effectively evaluate the impact and significance of their work in contributing to existing knowledge. Additionally, research objectives guide literature review, enabling researchers to focus their examination on relevant studies and theoretical frameworks that directly inform their research goals.

Types of Research Objectives

In the landscape of research, setting objectives is akin to laying down the tracks for a train’s journey, guiding it towards its destination. Constructing these tracks involves defining two main types of objectives: general and specific. Each serves a unique purpose in guiding the research towards its ultimate goals, with general objectives providing the broad vision and specific objectives outlining the concrete steps needed to fulfill that vision. Together, they form a cohesive blueprint that directs the focus of the study, ensuring that every effort contributes meaningfully to the overarching research aims.

  • General objectives articulate the overarching goals of your study. They are broad, setting the direction for your research without delving into specifics. These objectives capture what you wish to explore or contribute to existing knowledge.
  • Specific objectives break down the general objectives into measurable outcomes. They are precise, detailing the steps needed to achieve the broader goals of your study. They often correspond to different aspects of your research question , ensuring a comprehensive approach to your study.

To illustrate, consider a research project on the impact of digital marketing on consumer behavior. A general objective might be “to explore the influence of digital marketing on consumer purchasing decisions.” Specific objectives could include “to assess the effectiveness of social media advertising in enhancing brand awareness” and “to evaluate the impact of email marketing on customer loyalty.”

Aligning Objectives with Research Questions and Hypotheses

The harmony between what research objectives should be, questions, and hypotheses is critical. Objectives define what you aim to achieve; research questions specify what you seek to understand, and hypotheses predict the expected outcomes.

This alignment ensures a coherent and focused research endeavor. Achieving it necessitates a thoughtful consideration of how each component interrelates, ensuring that the objectives are not only ambitious but also directly answerable through the research questions and testable via the hypotheses. This interconnectedness facilitates a streamlined approach to the research process, enabling researchers to systematically address each aspect of their study in a logical sequence. Moreover, it enhances the clarity and precision of the research, making it easier for peers and stakeholders to grasp the study’s direction and potential contributions.

Role of Research Objectives in Various Research Phases

Throughout the research process, objectives guide your choices and strategies – from selecting the appropriate research design and methods to analyzing data and interpreting results. They are the criteria against which you measure the success of your study. In the initial stages, research objectives inform the selection of a topic, helping to narrow down a broad area of interest into a focused question that can be explored in depth. During the methodology phase, they dictate the type of data needed and the best methods for obtaining that data, ensuring that every step taken is purposeful and aligned with the study’s goals. As the research progresses, objectives provide a framework for analyzing the collected data, guiding the researcher in identifying patterns, drawing conclusions, and making informed decisions.

Crafting Effective Research Objectives

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The effective objective of research is pivotal in laying the groundwork for a successful investigation. These objectives clarify the focus of your study and determine its direction and scope. Ensuring that your objectives are well-defined and aligned with the SMART criteria is crucial for setting a strong foundation for your research.

Key characteristics of well-defined research objectives

Well-defined research objectives are characterized by the SMART criteria – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Specific objectives clearly define what you plan to achieve, eliminating any ambiguity. Measurable objectives allow you to track progress and assess the outcome. Achievable objectives are realistic, considering the research sources and time available. Relevant objectives align with the broader goals of your field or research question. Finally, Time-bound objectives have a clear timeline for completion, adding urgency and a schedule to your work.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Formulate Both General and Specific Research Objectives

So lets get to the part, how to write research objectives properly?

  • Understand the issue or gap in existing knowledge your study aims to address.
  • Gain insights into how similar challenges have been approached to refine your objectives.
  • Articulate the broad goal of research based on your understanding of the problem.
  • Detail the specific aspects of your research, ensuring they are actionable and measurable.

How to Know When Your Objectives Need Refinement

Your objectives of research may require refinement if they lack clarity, feasibility, or alignment with the research problem. If you find yourself struggling to design experiments or methods that directly address your objectives, or if the objectives seem too broad or not directly related to your research question, it’s likely time for refinement. Additionally, objectives in research proposal that do not facilitate a clear measurement of success indicate a need for a more precise definition. Refinement involves ensuring that each objective is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, enhancing your research’s overall focus and impact.

Research Objectives Examples in Different Fields

The application of research objectives spans various academic disciplines, each with its unique focus and methodologies. To illustrate how the objectives of the study guide a research paper across different fields, here are some research objective examples:

  • In Health Sciences , a research aim may be to “determine the efficacy of a new vaccine in reducing the incidence of a specific disease among a target population within one year.” This objective is specific (efficacy of a new vaccine), measurable (reduction in disease incidence), achievable (with the right study design and sample size), relevant (to public health), and time-bound (within one year).
  • In Environmental Studies , the study objectives could be “to assess the impact of air pollution on urban biodiversity over a decade.” This reflects a commitment to understanding the long-term effects of human activities on urban ecosystems, emphasizing the need for sustainable urban planning.
  • In Economics , an example objective of a study might be “to analyze the relationship between fiscal policies and unemployment rates in developing countries over the past twenty years.” This seeks to explore macroeconomic trends and inform policymaking, highlighting the role of economic research study in societal development.

These examples of research objectives describe the versatility and significance of research objectives in guiding scholarly inquiry across different domains. By setting clear, well-defined objectives, researchers can ensure their studies are focused and impactful and contribute valuable knowledge to their respective fields.

Defining research studies objectives and problem statement is not just a preliminary step, but a continuous guiding force throughout the research journey. These goals of research illuminate the path forward and ensure that every stride taken is meaningful and aligned with the ultimate goals of the inquiry. Whether through the meticulous application of the SMART criteria or the strategic alignment with research questions and hypotheses, the rigor in crafting and refining these objectives underscores the integrity and relevance of the research. As scholars venture into the vast terrains of knowledge, the clarity, and precision of their objectives serve as beacons of light, steering their explorations toward discoveries that advance academic discourse and resonate with the broader societal needs.

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Research Aims, Objectives & Questions

The “Golden Thread” Explained Simply (+ Examples)

By: David Phair (PhD) and Alexandra Shaeffer (PhD) | June 2022

The research aims , objectives and research questions (collectively called the “golden thread”) are arguably the most important thing you need to get right when you’re crafting a research proposal , dissertation or thesis . We receive questions almost every day about this “holy trinity” of research and there’s certainly a lot of confusion out there, so we’ve crafted this post to help you navigate your way through the fog.

Overview: The Golden Thread

  • What is the golden thread
  • What are research aims ( examples )
  • What are research objectives ( examples )
  • What are research questions ( examples )
  • The importance of alignment in the golden thread

What is the “golden thread”?  

The golden thread simply refers to the collective research aims , research objectives , and research questions for any given project (i.e., a dissertation, thesis, or research paper ). These three elements are bundled together because it’s extremely important that they align with each other, and that the entire research project aligns with them.

Importantly, the golden thread needs to weave its way through the entirety of any research project , from start to end. In other words, it needs to be very clearly defined right at the beginning of the project (the topic ideation and proposal stage) and it needs to inform almost every decision throughout the rest of the project. For example, your research design and methodology will be heavily influenced by the golden thread (we’ll explain this in more detail later), as well as your literature review.

The research aims, objectives and research questions (the golden thread) define the focus and scope ( the delimitations ) of your research project. In other words, they help ringfence your dissertation or thesis to a relatively narrow domain, so that you can “go deep” and really dig into a specific problem or opportunity. They also help keep you on track , as they act as a litmus test for relevance. In other words, if you’re ever unsure whether to include something in your document, simply ask yourself the question, “does this contribute toward my research aims, objectives or questions?”. If it doesn’t, chances are you can drop it.

Alright, enough of the fluffy, conceptual stuff. Let’s get down to business and look at what exactly the research aims, objectives and questions are and outline a few examples to bring these concepts to life.

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Research Aims: What are they?

Simply put, the research aim(s) is a statement that reflects the broad overarching goal (s) of the research project. Research aims are fairly high-level (low resolution) as they outline the general direction of the research and what it’s trying to achieve .

Research Aims: Examples  

True to the name, research aims usually start with the wording “this research aims to…”, “this research seeks to…”, and so on. For example:

“This research aims to explore employee experiences of digital transformation in retail HR.”   “This study sets out to assess the interaction between student support and self-care on well-being in engineering graduate students”  

As you can see, these research aims provide a high-level description of what the study is about and what it seeks to achieve. They’re not hyper-specific or action-oriented, but they’re clear about what the study’s focus is and what is being investigated.

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example of objective of the study in research paper

Research Objectives: What are they?

The research objectives take the research aims and make them more practical and actionable . In other words, the research objectives showcase the steps that the researcher will take to achieve the research aims.

The research objectives need to be far more specific (higher resolution) and actionable than the research aims. In fact, it’s always a good idea to craft your research objectives using the “SMART” criteria. In other words, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound”.

Research Objectives: Examples  

Let’s look at two examples of research objectives. We’ll stick with the topic and research aims we mentioned previously.  

For the digital transformation topic:

To observe the retail HR employees throughout the digital transformation. To assess employee perceptions of digital transformation in retail HR. To identify the barriers and facilitators of digital transformation in retail HR.

And for the student wellness topic:

To determine whether student self-care predicts the well-being score of engineering graduate students. To determine whether student support predicts the well-being score of engineering students. To assess the interaction between student self-care and student support when predicting well-being in engineering graduate students.

  As you can see, these research objectives clearly align with the previously mentioned research aims and effectively translate the low-resolution aims into (comparatively) higher-resolution objectives and action points . They give the research project a clear focus and present something that resembles a research-based “to-do” list.

The research objectives detail the specific steps that you, as the researcher, will take to achieve the research aims you laid out.

Research Questions: What are they?

Finally, we arrive at the all-important research questions. The research questions are, as the name suggests, the key questions that your study will seek to answer . Simply put, they are the core purpose of your dissertation, thesis, or research project. You’ll present them at the beginning of your document (either in the introduction chapter or literature review chapter) and you’ll answer them at the end of your document (typically in the discussion and conclusion chapters).  

The research questions will be the driving force throughout the research process. For example, in the literature review chapter, you’ll assess the relevance of any given resource based on whether it helps you move towards answering your research questions. Similarly, your methodology and research design will be heavily influenced by the nature of your research questions. For instance, research questions that are exploratory in nature will usually make use of a qualitative approach, whereas questions that relate to measurement or relationship testing will make use of a quantitative approach.  

Let’s look at some examples of research questions to make this more tangible.

Research Questions: Examples  

Again, we’ll stick with the research aims and research objectives we mentioned previously.  

For the digital transformation topic (which would be qualitative in nature):

How do employees perceive digital transformation in retail HR? What are the barriers and facilitators of digital transformation in retail HR?  

And for the student wellness topic (which would be quantitative in nature):

Does student self-care predict the well-being scores of engineering graduate students? Does student support predict the well-being scores of engineering students? Do student self-care and student support interact when predicting well-being in engineering graduate students?  

You’ll probably notice that there’s quite a formulaic approach to this. In other words, the research questions are basically the research objectives “converted” into question format. While that is true most of the time, it’s not always the case. For example, the first research objective for the digital transformation topic was more or less a step on the path toward the other objectives, and as such, it didn’t warrant its own research question.  

So, don’t rush your research questions and sloppily reword your objectives as questions. Carefully think about what exactly you’re trying to achieve (i.e. your research aim) and the objectives you’ve set out, then craft a set of well-aligned research questions . Also, keep in mind that this can be a somewhat iterative process , where you go back and tweak research objectives and aims to ensure tight alignment throughout the golden thread.

The importance of strong alignment 

Alignment is the keyword here and we have to stress its importance . Simply put, you need to make sure that there is a very tight alignment between all three pieces of the golden thread. If your research aims and research questions don’t align, for example, your project will be pulling in different directions and will lack focus . This is a common problem students face and can cause many headaches (and tears), so be warned.

Take the time to carefully craft your research aims, objectives and research questions before you run off down the research path. Ideally, get your research supervisor/advisor to review and comment on your golden thread before you invest significant time into your project, and certainly before you start collecting data .  

Recap: The golden thread

In this post, we unpacked the golden thread of research, consisting of the research aims , research objectives and research questions . You can jump back to any section using the links below.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below – we always love to hear from you. Also, if you’re interested in 1-on-1 support, take a look at our private coaching service here.

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39 Comments

Isaac Levi

Thank you very much for your great effort put. As an Undergraduate taking Demographic Research & Methodology, I’ve been trying so hard to understand clearly what is a Research Question, Research Aim and the Objectives in a research and the relationship between them etc. But as for now I’m thankful that you’ve solved my problem.

Hatimu Bah

Well appreciated. This has helped me greatly in doing my dissertation.

Dr. Abdallah Kheri

An so delighted with this wonderful information thank you a lot.

so impressive i have benefited a lot looking forward to learn more on research.

Ekwunife, Chukwunonso Onyeka Steve

I am very happy to have carefully gone through this well researched article.

Infact,I used to be phobia about anything research, because of my poor understanding of the concepts.

Now,I get to know that my research question is the same as my research objective(s) rephrased in question format.

I please I would need a follow up on the subject,as I intends to join the team of researchers. Thanks once again.

Tosin

Thanks so much. This was really helpful.

Ishmael

I know you pepole have tried to break things into more understandable and easy format. And God bless you. Keep it up

sylas

i found this document so useful towards my study in research methods. thanks so much.

Michael L. Andrion

This is my 2nd read topic in your course and I should commend the simplified explanations of each part. I’m beginning to understand and absorb the use of each part of a dissertation/thesis. I’ll keep on reading your free course and might be able to avail the training course! Kudos!

Scarlett

Thank you! Better put that my lecture and helped to easily understand the basics which I feel often get brushed over when beginning dissertation work.

Enoch Tindiwegi

This is quite helpful. I like how the Golden thread has been explained and the needed alignment.

Sora Dido Boru

This is quite helpful. I really appreciate!

Chulyork

The article made it simple for researcher students to differentiate between three concepts.

Afowosire Wasiu Adekunle

Very innovative and educational in approach to conducting research.

Sàlihu Abubakar Dayyabu

I am very impressed with all these terminology, as I am a fresh student for post graduate, I am highly guided and I promised to continue making consultation when the need arise. Thanks a lot.

Mohammed Shamsudeen

A very helpful piece. thanks, I really appreciate it .

Sonam Jyrwa

Very well explained, and it might be helpful to many people like me.

JB

Wish i had found this (and other) resource(s) at the beginning of my PhD journey… not in my writing up year… 😩 Anyways… just a quick question as i’m having some issues ordering my “golden thread”…. does it matter in what order you mention them? i.e., is it always first aims, then objectives, and finally the questions? or can you first mention the research questions and then the aims and objectives?

UN

Thank you for a very simple explanation that builds upon the concepts in a very logical manner. Just prior to this, I read the research hypothesis article, which was equally very good. This met my primary objective.

My secondary objective was to understand the difference between research questions and research hypothesis, and in which context to use which one. However, I am still not clear on this. Can you kindly please guide?

Derek Jansen

In research, a research question is a clear and specific inquiry that the researcher wants to answer, while a research hypothesis is a tentative statement or prediction about the relationship between variables or the expected outcome of the study. Research questions are broader and guide the overall study, while hypotheses are specific and testable statements used in quantitative research. Research questions identify the problem, while hypotheses provide a focus for testing in the study.

Saen Fanai

Exactly what I need in this research journey, I look forward to more of your coaching videos.

Abubakar Rofiat Opeyemi

This helped a lot. Thanks so much for the effort put into explaining it.

Lamin Tarawally

What data source in writing dissertation/Thesis requires?

What is data source covers when writing dessertation/thesis

Latifat Muhammed

This is quite useful thanks

Yetunde

I’m excited and thankful. I got so much value which will help me progress in my thesis.

Amer Al-Rashid

where are the locations of the reserch statement, research objective and research question in a reserach paper? Can you write an ouline that defines their places in the researh paper?

Webby

Very helpful and important tips on Aims, Objectives and Questions.

Refiloe Raselane

Thank you so much for making research aim, research objectives and research question so clear. This will be helpful to me as i continue with my thesis.

Annabelle Roda-Dafielmoto

Thanks much for this content. I learned a lot. And I am inspired to learn more. I am still struggling with my preparation for dissertation outline/proposal. But I consistently follow contents and tutorials and the new FB of GRAD Coach. Hope to really become confident in writing my dissertation and successfully defend it.

Joe

As a researcher and lecturer, I find splitting research goals into research aims, objectives, and questions is unnecessarily bureaucratic and confusing for students. For most biomedical research projects, including ‘real research’, 1-3 research questions will suffice (numbers may differ by discipline).

Abdella

Awesome! Very important resources and presented in an informative way to easily understand the golden thread. Indeed, thank you so much.

Sheikh

Well explained

New Growth Care Group

The blog article on research aims, objectives, and questions by Grad Coach is a clear and insightful guide that aligns with my experiences in academic research. The article effectively breaks down the often complex concepts of research aims and objectives, providing a straightforward and accessible explanation. Drawing from my own research endeavors, I appreciate the practical tips offered, such as the need for specificity and clarity when formulating research questions. The article serves as a valuable resource for students and researchers, offering a concise roadmap for crafting well-defined research goals and objectives. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced researcher, this article provides practical insights that contribute to the foundational aspects of a successful research endeavor.

yaikobe

A great thanks for you. it is really amazing explanation. I grasp a lot and one step up to research knowledge.

UMAR SALEH

I really found these tips helpful. Thank you very much Grad Coach.

Rahma D.

I found this article helpful. Thanks for sharing this.

Juhaida

thank you so much, the explanation and examples are really helpful

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Writing the Research Objectives: 5 Straightforward Examples

The research objective of a research proposal or scientific article defines the direction or content of a research investigation. Without the research objectives, the proposal or research paper is in disarray. It is like a fisherman riding on a boat without any purpose and with no destination in sight. Therefore, at the beginning of any research venture, the researcher must be clear about what he or she intends to do or achieve in conducting a study.

How do you define the objectives of a study? What are the uses of the research objective? How would a researcher write this essential part of the research? This article aims to provide answers to these questions.

Table of Contents

Definition of a research objective.

A research objective describes, in a few words, the result of the research project after its implementation. It answers the question,

“ What does the researcher want or hope to achieve at the end of the research project.”  

The research objective provides direction to the performance of the study.

What are the Uses of the Research Objective?

The uses of the research objective are enumerated below:

  • serves as the researcher’s guide in identifying the appropriate research design,
  • identifies the variables of the study, and
  • specifies the data collection procedure and the corresponding analysis for the data generated.

The research design serves as the “blueprint” for the research investigation. The University of Southern California describes the different types of research design extensively. It details the data to be gathered, data collection procedure, data measurement, and statistical tests to use in the analysis.

The variables of the study include those factors that the researcher wants to evaluate in the study. These variables narrow down the research to several manageable components to see differences or correlations between them.

Specifying the data collection procedure ensures data accuracy and integrity . Thus, the probability of error is minimized. Generalizations or conclusions based on valid arguments founded on reliable data strengthens research findings on particular issues and problems.

In data mining activities where large data sets are involved, the research objective plays a crucial role. Without a clear objective to guide the machine learning process, the desired outcomes will not be met.

How is the Research Objective Written?

A research objective must be achievable, i.e., it must be framed keeping in mind the available time, infrastructure required for research, and other resources.

Before forming a research objective, you should read about all the developments in your area of research and find gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed. Readings will help you come up with suitable objectives for your research project.

5 Examples of Research Objectives

The following examples of research objectives based on several published studies on various topics demonstrate how the research objectives are written:

  • This study aims to find out if there is a difference in quiz scores between students exposed to direct instruction and flipped classrooms (Webb and Doman, 2016).
  • This study seeks to examine the extent, range, and method of coral reef rehabilitation projects in five shallow reef areas adjacent to popular tourist destinations in the Philippines (Yeemin et al ., 2006).
  • This study aims to investigate species richness of mammal communities in five protected areas over the past 20 years (Evans et al ., 2006).
  • This study aims to clarify the demographic, epidemiological, clinical, and radiological features of 2019-nCoV patients with other causes of pneumonia (Zhao et al ., 2020).
  • This research aims to assess species extinction risks for sample regions that cover some 20% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface.

Finally, writing the research objectives requires constant practice, experience, and knowledge about the topic investigated. Clearly written objectives save time, money, and effort.

Once you have a clear idea of your research objectives, you can now develop your conceptual framework which is a crucial element of your research paper as it guides the flow of your research. The conceptual framework will help you develop your methodology and statistical tests.

I wrote a detailed, step-by-step guide on how to develop a conceptual framework with illustration in my post titled “ Conceptual Framework: A Step by Step Guide on How to Make One. “

Evans, K. L., Rodrigues, A. S., Chown, S. L., & Gaston, K. J. (2006). Protected areas and regional avian species richness in South Africa.  Biology letters ,  2 (2), 184-188.

Thomas, C. D., Cameron, A., Green, R. E., Bakkenes, M., Beaumont, L. J., Collingham, Y. C., … & Hughes, L. (2004). Extinction risk from climate change. Nature, 427(6970), 145-148.

Webb, M., & Doman, E. (2016). Does the Flipped Classroom Lead to Increased Gains on Learning Outcomes in ESL/EFL Contexts?. CATESOL Journal, 28(1), 39-67.

Yeemin, T., Sutthacheep, M., & Pettongma, R. (2006). Coral reef restoration projects in Thailand.  Ocean & Coastal Management ,  49 (9-10), 562-575.

Zhao, D., Yao, F., Wang, L., Zheng, L., Gao, Y., Ye, J., Guo, F., Zhao, H. & Gao, R. (2020). A comparative study on the clinical features of COVID-19 pneumonia to other pneumonias, Clinical Infectious Diseases , ciaa247, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa247

© 2020 March 23 P. A. Regoniel Updated 17 November 2020 | Updated 18 January 2024

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5 thesis writing tips for greater impact, about the author, patrick regoniel.

Dr. Regoniel, a faculty member of the graduate school, served as consultant to various environmental research and development projects covering issues and concerns on climate change, coral reef resources and management, economic valuation of environmental and natural resources, mining, and waste management and pollution. He has extensive experience on applied statistics, systems modelling and analysis, an avid practitioner of LaTeX, and a multidisciplinary web developer. He leverages pioneering AI-powered content creation tools to produce unique and comprehensive articles in this website.

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Crafting Clear Pathways: Writing Objectives in Research Papers

Struggling to write research objectives? Follow our easy steps to learn how to craft effective and compelling objectives in research papers.

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Are you struggling to define the goals and direction of your research? Are you losing yourself while doing research and tend to go astray from the intended research topic? Fear not, as many face the same problem and it is quite understandable to overcome this, a concept called research objective comes into play here.

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of the objectives in research papers and why they are essential for a successful study. We will be studying what they are and how they are used in research.

What is a Research Objective?

A research objective is a clear and specific goal that a researcher aims to achieve through a research study. It serves as a roadmap for the research, providing direction and focus. Research objectives are formulated based on the research questions or hypotheses, and they help in defining the scope of the study and guiding the research design and methodology. They also assist in evaluating the success and outcomes of the research.

Types of Research Objectives

There are typically three main types of objectives in a research paper:

  • Exploratory Objectives: These objectives are focused on gaining a deeper understanding of a particular phenomenon, topic, or issue. Exploratory research objectives aim to explore and identify new ideas, insights, or patterns that were previously unknown or poorly understood. This type of objective is commonly used in preliminary or qualitative studies.
  • Descriptive Objectives: Descriptive objectives seek to describe and document the characteristics, behaviors, or attributes of a specific population, event, or phenomenon. The purpose is to provide a comprehensive and accurate account of the subject of study. Descriptive research objectives often involve collecting and analyzing data through surveys, observations, or archival research.
  • Explanatory or Causal Objectives: Explanatory objectives aim to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between variables or factors. These objectives focus on understanding why certain events or phenomena occur and how they are related to each other. 

Also Read: What are the types of research?

Steps for Writing Objectives in Research Paper

1. identify the research topic:.

Clearly define the subject or topic of your research. This will provide a broad context for developing specific research objectives.

2. Conduct a Literature Review

Review existing literature and research related to your topic. This will help you understand the current state of knowledge, identify any research gaps, and refine your research objectives accordingly.

3. Identify the Research Questions or Hypotheses

Formulate specific research questions or hypotheses that you want to address in your study. These questions should be directly related to your research topic and guide the development of your research objectives.

4. Focus on Specific Goals

Break down the broader research questions or hypothesis into specific goals or objectives. Each objective should focus on a particular aspect of your research topic and be achievable within the scope of your study.

5. Use Clear and Measurable Language

Write your research objectives using clear and precise language. Avoid vague terms and use specific and measurable terms that can be observed, analyzed, or measured.

6. Consider Feasibility

Ensure that your research objectives are feasible within the available resources, time constraints, and ethical considerations. They should be realistic and attainable given the limitations of your study.

7. Prioritize Objectives

If you have multiple research objectives, prioritize them based on their importance and relevance to your overall research goals. This will help you allocate resources and focus your efforts accordingly.

8. Review and Refine

Review your research objectives to ensure they align with your research questions or hypotheses, and revise them if necessary. Seek feedback from peers or advisors to ensure clarity and coherence.

Tips for Writing Objectives in Research Paper

1. be clear and specific.

Clearly state what you intend to achieve with your research. Use specific language that leaves no room for ambiguity or confusion. This ensures that your objectives are well-defined and focused.

2. Use Action Verbs

Begin each research objective with an action verb that describes a measurable action or outcome. This helps make your objectives more actionable and measurable.

3. Align with Research Questions or Hypotheses

Your research objectives should directly address the research questions or hypotheses you have formulated. Ensure there is a clear connection between them to maintain coherence in your study.

4. Be Realistic and Feasible

Set research objectives that are attainable within the constraints of your study, including available resources, time, and ethical considerations. Unrealistic objectives may undermine the validity and reliability of your research.

5. Consider Relevance and Significance

Your research objectives should be relevant to your research topic and contribute to the broader field of study. Consider the potential impact and significance of achieving the objectives.

SMART Goals for Writing Research Objectives

To ensure that your research objectives are well-defined and effectively guide your study, you can apply the SMART framework. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Here’s how you can make your research objectives SMART:

  • Specific : Clearly state what you want to achieve in a precise and specific manner. Avoid vague or generalized language. Specify the population, variables, or phenomena of interest.
  • Measurable : Ensure that your research objectives can be quantified or observed in a measurable way. This allows for objective evaluation and assessment of progress.
  • Achievable : Set research objectives that are realistic and attainable within the available resources, time, and scope of your study. Consider the feasibility of conducting the research and collecting the necessary data.
  • Relevant : Ensure that your research objectives are directly relevant to your research topic and contribute to the broader knowledge or understanding of the field. They should align with the purpose and significance of your study.
  • Time-bound : Set a specific timeframe or deadline for achieving your research objectives. This helps create a sense of urgency and provides a clear timeline for your study.

Examples of Research Objectives

Here are some examples of research objectives from various fields of study:

  • To examine the relationship between social media usage and self-esteem among young adults aged 18-25 in order to understand the potential impact on mental well-being.
  • To assess the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention in reducing stress levels and improving coping mechanisms among individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders.
  • To investigate the factors influencing consumer purchasing decisions in the e-commerce industry, with a focus on the role of online reviews and social media influencers.
  • To analyze the effects of climate change on the biodiversity of coral reefs in a specific region, using remote sensing techniques and field surveys.

Importance of Research Objectives

Research objectives play a crucial role in the research process and hold significant importance for several reasons:

  • Guiding the Research Process: Research objectives provide a clear roadmap for the entire research process. They help researchers stay focused and on track, ensuring that the study remains purposeful and relevant. 
  • Defining the Scope of the Study: Research objectives help in determining the boundaries and scope of the study. They clarify what aspects of the research topic will be explored and what will be excluded. 
  • Providing Direction for Data Collection and Analysis: Research objectives assist in identifying the type of data to be collected and the methods of data collection. They also guide the selection of appropriate data analysis techniques. 
  • Evaluating the Success of the Study: Research objectives serve as benchmarks for evaluating the success and outcomes of the research. They provide measurable criteria against which the researcher can assess whether the objectives have been met or not. 
  • Enhancing Communication and Collaboration: Clearly defined research objectives facilitate effective communication and collaboration among researchers, advisors, and stakeholders. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid While Writing Research Objectives

When writing research objectives, it’s important to be aware of common mistakes and pitfalls that can undermine the effectiveness and clarity of your objectives. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Vague or Ambiguous Language: One of the key mistakes is using vague or ambiguous language that lacks specificity. Ensure that your research objectives are clearly and precisely stated, leaving no room for misinterpretation or confusion.
  • Lack of Measurability: Research objectives should be measurable, meaning that they should allow for the collection of data or evidence that can be quantified or observed. Avoid setting objectives that cannot be measured or assessed objectively.
  • Lack of Alignment with Research Questions or Hypotheses: Your research objectives should directly align with the research questions or hypotheses you have formulated. Make sure there is a clear connection between them to maintain coherence in your study.
  • Overgeneralization : Avoid writing research objectives that are too broad or encompass too many variables or phenomena. Overgeneralized objectives may lead to a lack of focus or feasibility in conducting the research.
  • Unrealistic or Unattainable Objectives: Ensure that your research objectives are realistic and attainable within the available resources, time, and scope of your study. Setting unrealistic objectives may compromise the validity and reliability of your research.

In conclusion, research objectives are integral to the success and effectiveness of any research study. They provide a clear direction, focus, and purpose, guiding the entire research process from start to finish. By formulating specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound objectives, researchers can define the scope of their study, guide data collection and analysis, and evaluate the outcomes of their research.

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  • Writing Tips

How to Write Research Objectives

How to Write Research Objectives

3-minute read

  • 22nd November 2021

Writing a research paper, thesis, or dissertation ? If so, you’ll want to state your research objectives in the introduction of your paper to make it clear to your readers what you’re trying to accomplish. But how do you write effective research objectives? In this post, we’ll look at two key topics to help you do this:

  • How to use your research aims as a basis for developing objectives.
  • How to use SMART criteria to refine your research objectives.

For more advice on how to write strong research objectives, see below.

Research Aims and Objectives

There is an important difference between research aims and research objectives:

  • A research aim defines the main purpose of your research. As such, you can think of your research aim as answering the question “What are you doing?”
  • Research objectives (as most studies will have more than one) are the steps you will take to fulfil your aims. As such, your objectives should answer the question “How are you conducting your research?”

For instance, an example research aim could be:

This study will investigate the link between dehydration and the incidence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in intensive care patients in Australia.

To develop a set of research objectives, you would then break down the various steps involved in meeting said aim. For example:

This study will investigate the link between dehydration and the incidence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in intensive care patients in Australia. To achieve this, the study objectives w ill include:

  • Replicat ing a small Singaporean study into the role of dehydration in UTIs in hospital patients (Sepe, 2018) in a larger Australian cohort.
  • Trialing the use of intravenous fluids for intensive care patients to prevent dehydration.
  • Assessing the relationship between the age of patients and quantities of intravenous fluids needed to counter dehydration.

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Note that the objectives don’t go into any great detail here. The key is to briefly summarize each component of your study. You can save details for how you will conduct the research for the methodology section of your paper.

Make Your Research Objectives SMART

A great way to refine your research objectives is to use SMART criteria . Borrowed from the world of project management, there are many versions of this system. However, we’re going to focus on developing specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound objectives.

In other words, a good research objective should be all of the following:

  • S pecific – Is the objective clear and well-defined?
  • M easurable – How will you know when the objective has been achieved? Is there a way to measure the thing you’re seeking to do?
  • A chievable – Do you have the support and resources necessary to undertake this action? Are you being overly ambitious with this objective?
  • R elevant – Is this objective vital for fulfilling your research aim?
  • T imebound – Can this action be realistically undertaken in the time you have?

If you follow this system, your research objectives will be much stronger.

Expert Research Proofreading

Whatever your research aims and objectives, make sure to have your academic writing proofread by the experts!

Our academic editors can help you with research papers and proposals , as well as any other scholarly document you need checking. And this will help to ensure that your academic writing is always clear, concise, and precise.

Submit a free sample document today to trial our services and find out more.

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example of objective of the study in research paper

  • Aims and Objectives – A Guide for Academic Writing
  • Doing a PhD

One of the most important aspects of a thesis, dissertation or research paper is the correct formulation of the aims and objectives. This is because your aims and objectives will establish the scope, depth and direction that your research will ultimately take. An effective set of aims and objectives will give your research focus and your reader clarity, with your aims indicating what is to be achieved, and your objectives indicating how it will be achieved.

Introduction

There is no getting away from the importance of the aims and objectives in determining the success of your research project. Unfortunately, however, it is an aspect that many students struggle with, and ultimately end up doing poorly. Given their importance, if you suspect that there is even the smallest possibility that you belong to this group of students, we strongly recommend you read this page in full.

This page describes what research aims and objectives are, how they differ from each other, how to write them correctly, and the common mistakes students make and how to avoid them. An example of a good aim and objectives from a past thesis has also been deconstructed to help your understanding.

What Are Aims and Objectives?

Research aims.

A research aim describes the main goal or the overarching purpose of your research project.

In doing so, it acts as a focal point for your research and provides your readers with clarity as to what your study is all about. Because of this, research aims are almost always located within its own subsection under the introduction section of a research document, regardless of whether it’s a thesis , a dissertation, or a research paper .

A research aim is usually formulated as a broad statement of the main goal of the research and can range in length from a single sentence to a short paragraph. Although the exact format may vary according to preference, they should all describe why your research is needed (i.e. the context), what it sets out to accomplish (the actual aim) and, briefly, how it intends to accomplish it (overview of your objectives).

To give an example, we have extracted the following research aim from a real PhD thesis:

Example of a Research Aim

The role of diametrical cup deformation as a factor to unsatisfactory implant performance has not been widely reported. The aim of this thesis was to gain an understanding of the diametrical deformation behaviour of acetabular cups and shells following impaction into the reamed acetabulum. The influence of a range of factors on deformation was investigated to ascertain if cup and shell deformation may be high enough to potentially contribute to early failure and high wear rates in metal-on-metal implants.

Note: Extracted with permission from thesis titled “T he Impact And Deformation Of Press-Fit Metal Acetabular Components ” produced by Dr H Hothi of previously Queen Mary University of London.

Research Objectives

Where a research aim specifies what your study will answer, research objectives specify how your study will answer it.

They divide your research aim into several smaller parts, each of which represents a key section of your research project. As a result, almost all research objectives take the form of a numbered list, with each item usually receiving its own chapter in a dissertation or thesis.

Following the example of the research aim shared above, here are it’s real research objectives as an example:

Example of a Research Objective

  • Develop finite element models using explicit dynamics to mimic mallet blows during cup/shell insertion, initially using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum.
  • Investigate the number, velocity and position of impacts needed to insert a cup.
  • Determine the relationship between the size of interference between the cup and cavity and deformation for different cup types.
  • Investigate the influence of non-uniform cup support and varying the orientation of the component in the cavity on deformation.
  • Examine the influence of errors during reaming of the acetabulum which introduce ovality to the cavity.
  • Determine the relationship between changes in the geometry of the component and deformation for different cup designs.
  • Develop three dimensional pelvis models with non-uniform bone material properties from a range of patients with varying bone quality.
  • Use the key parameters that influence deformation, as identified in the foam models to determine the range of deformations that may occur clinically using the anatomic models and if these deformations are clinically significant.

It’s worth noting that researchers sometimes use research questions instead of research objectives, or in other cases both. From a high-level perspective, research questions and research objectives make the same statements, but just in different formats.

Taking the first three research objectives as an example, they can be restructured into research questions as follows:

Restructuring Research Objectives as Research Questions

  • Can finite element models using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum together with explicit dynamics be used to mimic mallet blows during cup/shell insertion?
  • What is the number, velocity and position of impacts needed to insert a cup?
  • What is the relationship between the size of interference between the cup and cavity and deformation for different cup types?

Difference Between Aims and Objectives

Hopefully the above explanations make clear the differences between aims and objectives, but to clarify:

  • The research aim focus on what the research project is intended to achieve; research objectives focus on how the aim will be achieved.
  • Research aims are relatively broad; research objectives are specific.
  • Research aims focus on a project’s long-term outcomes; research objectives focus on its immediate, short-term outcomes.
  • A research aim can be written in a single sentence or short paragraph; research objectives should be written as a numbered list.

How to Write Aims and Objectives

Before we discuss how to write a clear set of research aims and objectives, we should make it clear that there is no single way they must be written. Each researcher will approach their aims and objectives slightly differently, and often your supervisor will influence the formulation of yours on the basis of their own preferences.

Regardless, there are some basic principles that you should observe for good practice; these principles are described below.

Your aim should be made up of three parts that answer the below questions:

  • Why is this research required?
  • What is this research about?
  • How are you going to do it?

The easiest way to achieve this would be to address each question in its own sentence, although it does not matter whether you combine them or write multiple sentences for each, the key is to address each one.

The first question, why , provides context to your research project, the second question, what , describes the aim of your research, and the last question, how , acts as an introduction to your objectives which will immediately follow.

Scroll through the image set below to see the ‘why, what and how’ associated with our research aim example.

Explaining aims vs objectives

Note: Your research aims need not be limited to one. Some individuals per to define one broad ‘overarching aim’ of a project and then adopt two or three specific research aims for their thesis or dissertation. Remember, however, that in order for your assessors to consider your research project complete, you will need to prove you have fulfilled all of the aims you set out to achieve. Therefore, while having more than one research aim is not necessarily disadvantageous, consider whether a single overarching one will do.

Research Objectives

Each of your research objectives should be SMART :

  • Specific – is there any ambiguity in the action you are going to undertake, or is it focused and well-defined?
  • Measurable – how will you measure progress and determine when you have achieved the action?
  • Achievable – do you have the support, resources and facilities required to carry out the action?
  • Relevant – is the action essential to the achievement of your research aim?
  • Timebound – can you realistically complete the action in the available time alongside your other research tasks?

In addition to being SMART, your research objectives should start with a verb that helps communicate your intent. Common research verbs include:

Table of Research Verbs to Use in Aims and Objectives

Last, format your objectives into a numbered list. This is because when you write your thesis or dissertation, you will at times need to make reference to a specific research objective; structuring your research objectives in a numbered list will provide a clear way of doing this.

To bring all this together, let’s compare the first research objective in the previous example with the above guidance:

Checking Research Objective Example Against Recommended Approach

Research Objective:

1. Develop finite element models using explicit dynamics to mimic mallet blows during cup/shell insertion, initially using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum.

Checking Against Recommended Approach:

Q: Is it specific? A: Yes, it is clear what the student intends to do (produce a finite element model), why they intend to do it (mimic cup/shell blows) and their parameters have been well-defined ( using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum ).

Q: Is it measurable? A: Yes, it is clear that the research objective will be achieved once the finite element model is complete.

Q: Is it achievable? A: Yes, provided the student has access to a computer lab, modelling software and laboratory data.

Q: Is it relevant? A: Yes, mimicking impacts to a cup/shell is fundamental to the overall aim of understanding how they deform when impacted upon.

Q: Is it timebound? A: Yes, it is possible to create a limited-scope finite element model in a relatively short time, especially if you already have experience in modelling.

Q: Does it start with a verb? A: Yes, it starts with ‘develop’, which makes the intent of the objective immediately clear.

Q: Is it a numbered list? A: Yes, it is the first research objective in a list of eight.

Mistakes in Writing Research Aims and Objectives

1. making your research aim too broad.

Having a research aim too broad becomes very difficult to achieve. Normally, this occurs when a student develops their research aim before they have a good understanding of what they want to research. Remember that at the end of your project and during your viva defence , you will have to prove that you have achieved your research aims; if they are too broad, this will be an almost impossible task. In the early stages of your research project, your priority should be to narrow your study to a specific area. A good way to do this is to take the time to study existing literature, question their current approaches, findings and limitations, and consider whether there are any recurring gaps that could be investigated .

Note: Achieving a set of aims does not necessarily mean proving or disproving a theory or hypothesis, even if your research aim was to, but having done enough work to provide a useful and original insight into the principles that underlie your research aim.

2. Making Your Research Objectives Too Ambitious

Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available. It is natural to want to set ambitious research objectives that require sophisticated data collection and analysis, but only completing this with six months before the end of your PhD registration period is not a worthwhile trade-off.

3. Formulating Repetitive Research Objectives

Each research objective should have its own purpose and distinct measurable outcome. To this effect, a common mistake is to form research objectives which have large amounts of overlap. This makes it difficult to determine when an objective is truly complete, and also presents challenges in estimating the duration of objectives when creating your project timeline. It also makes it difficult to structure your thesis into unique chapters, making it more challenging for you to write and for your audience to read.

Fortunately, this oversight can be easily avoided by using SMART objectives.

Hopefully, you now have a good idea of how to create an effective set of aims and objectives for your research project, whether it be a thesis, dissertation or research paper. While it may be tempting to dive directly into your research, spending time on getting your aims and objectives right will give your research clear direction. This won’t only reduce the likelihood of problems arising later down the line, but will also lead to a more thorough and coherent research project.

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example of objective of the study in research paper

The Importance Of Research Objectives

Imagine you’re a student planning a vacation in a foreign country. You’re on a tight budget and need to draw…

The Importance Of Research Objectives

Imagine you’re a student planning a vacation in a foreign country. You’re on a tight budget and need to draw up a pocket-friendly plan. Where do you begin? The first step is to do your research.

Before that, you make a mental list of your objectives—finding reasonably-priced hotels, traveling safely and finding ways of communicating with someone back home. These objectives help you focus sharply during your research and be aware of the finer details of your trip.

More often than not, research is a part of our daily lives. Whether it’s to pick a restaurant for your next birthday dinner or to prepare a presentation at work, good research is the foundation of effective learning. Read on to understand the meaning, importance and examples of research objectives.

Why Do We Need Research?

What are the objectives of research, what goes into a research plan.

Research is a careful and detailed study of a particular problem or concern, using scientific methods. An in-depth analysis of information creates space for generating new questions, concepts and understandings. The main objective of research is to explore the unknown and unlock new possibilities. It’s an essential component of success.

Over the years, businesses have started emphasizing the need for research. You’ve probably noticed organizations hiring research managers and analysts. The primary purpose of business research is to determine the goals and opportunities of an organization. It’s critical in making business decisions and appropriately allocating available resources.

Here are a few benefits of research that’ll explain why it is a vital aspect of our professional lives:

Expands Your Knowledge Base

One of the greatest benefits of research is to learn and gain a deeper understanding. The deeper you dig into a topic, the more well-versed you are. Furthermore, research has the power to help you build on any personal experience you have on the subject.

Keeps You Up To Date

Research encourages you to discover the most recent information available. Updated information prevents you from falling behind and helps you present accurate information. You’re better equipped to develop ideas or talk about a topic when you’re armed with the latest inputs.

Builds Your Credibility

Research provides you with a good foundation upon which you can develop your thoughts and ideas. People take you more seriously when your suggestions are backed by research. You can speak with greater confidence because you know that the information is accurate.

Sparks Connections

Take any leading nonprofit organization, you’ll see how they have a strong research arm supported by real-life stories. Research also becomes the base upon which real-life connections and impact can be made. It even helps you communicate better with others and conveys why you’re pursuing something.

Encourages Curiosity

As we’ve already established, research is mostly about using existing information to create new ideas and opinions. In the process, it sparks curiosity as you’re encouraged to explore and gain deeper insights into a subject. Curiosity leads to higher levels of positivity and lower levels of anxiety.

Well-defined objectives of research are an essential component of successful research engagement. If you want to drive all aspects of your research methodology such as data collection, design, analysis and recommendation, you need to lay down the objectives of research methodology. In other words, the objectives of research should address the underlying purpose of investigation and analysis. It should outline the steps you’d take to achieve desirable outcomes. Research objectives help you stay focused and adjust your expectations as you progress.

The objectives of research should be closely related to the problem statement, giving way to specific and achievable goals. Here are the four types of research objectives for you to explore:

General Objective

Also known as secondary objectives, general objectives provide a detailed view of the aim of a study. In other words, you get a general overview of what you want to achieve by the end of your study. For example, if you want to study an organization’s contribution to environmental sustainability, your general objective could be: a study of sustainable practices and the use of renewable energy by the organization.

Specific Objectives

Specific objectives define the primary aim of the study. Typically, general objectives provide the foundation for identifying specific objectives. In other words, when general objectives are broken down into smaller and logically connected objectives, they’re known as specific objectives. They help define the who, what, why, when and how aspects of your project. Once you identify the main objective of research, it’s easier to develop and pursue a plan of action.

Let’s take the example of ‘a study of an organization’s contribution to environmental sustainability’ again. The specific objectives will look like this:

To determine through history how the organization has changed its practices and adopted new solutions

To assess how the new practices, technology and strategies will contribute to the overall effectiveness

Once you’ve identified the objectives of research, it’s time to organize your thoughts and streamline your research goals. Here are a few effective tips to develop a powerful research plan and improve your business performance.

Set SMART Goals

Your research objectives should be SMART—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-constrained. When you focus on utilizing available resources and setting realistic timeframes and milestones, it’s easier to prioritize objectives. Continuously track your progress and check whether you need to revise your expectations or targets. This way, you’re in greater control over the process.

Create A Plan

Create a plan that’ll help you select appropriate methods to collect accurate information. A well-structured plan allows you to use logical and creative approaches towards problem-solving. The complexity of information and your skills are bound to influence your plan, which is why you need to make room for flexibility. The availability of resources will also play a big role in influencing your decisions.

Collect And Collate

After you’ve created a plan for the research process, make a list of the data you’re going to collect and the methods you’ll use. Not only will it help make sense of your insights but also keep track of your approach. The information you collect should be:

Logical, rigorous and objective

Can be reproduced by other people working on the same subject

Free of errors and highlighting necessary details

Current and updated

Includes everything required to support your argument/suggestions

Analyze And Keep Ready

Data analysis is the most crucial part of the process and there are many ways in which the information can be utilized. Four types of data analysis are often seen in a professional environment. While they may be divided into separate categories, they’re linked to each other.

Descriptive Analysis:

The most commonly used data analysis, descriptive analysis simply summarizes past data. For example, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) use descriptive analysis. It establishes certain benchmarks after studying how someone has been performing in the past.

Diagnostic Analysis:

The next step is to identify why something happened. Diagnostic analysis uses the information gathered through descriptive analysis and helps find the underlying causes of an outcome. For example, if a marketing initiative was successful, you deep-dive into the strategies that worked.

Predictive Analysis:

It attempts to answer ‘what’s likely to happen’. Predictive analysis makes use of past data to predict future outcomes. However, the accuracy of predictions depends on the quality of the data provided. Risk assessment is an ideal example of using predictive analysis.

Prescriptive Analysis: 

The most sought-after type of data analysis, prescriptive analysis combines the insights of all of the previous analyses. It’s a huge organizational commitment as it requires plenty of effort and resources. A great example of prescriptive analysis is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which consumes large amounts of data. You need to be prepared to commit to this type of analysis.

Review And Interpret

Once you’ve collected and collated your data, it’s time to review it and draw accurate conclusions. Here are a few ways to improve the review process:

Identify the fundamental issues, opportunities and problems and make note of recurring trends if any

Make a list of your insights and check which is the most or the least common. In short, keep track of the frequency of each insight

Conduct a SWOT analysis and identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

Write down your conclusions and recommendations of the research

When we think about research, we often associate it with academicians and students. but the truth is research is for everybody who is willing to learn and enhance their knowledge. If you want to master the art of strategically upgrading your knowledge, Harappa Education’s Learning Expertly course has all the answers. Not only will it help you look at things from a fresh perspective but also show you how to acquire new information with greater efficiency. The Growth Mindset framework will teach you how to believe in your abilities to grow and improve. The Learning Transfer framework will help you apply your learnings from one context to another. Begin the journey of tactful learning and self-improvement today!

Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics related to the THINK Habit such as  Learning From Experience ,  Critical Thinking  & What is  Brainstorming  to think clearly and rationally.

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How to Write Objectives in a Research Proposal

Last Updated: April 30, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Felipe Corredor . Felipe is a Senior College Admissions Consultant at American College Counselors with over seven years of experience. He specializes in helping clients from all around the world gain admission into America's top universities through private, one-on-one consulting. He helps guide clients through the entire college admissions process and perfect every aspect of their college applications. Felipe earned a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Chicago and recently received his MBA. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 126,157 times.

A research proposal is a detailed outline for a significant research project. They’re common for class assignments, capstone papers, grant applications, and even job applications in some fields, so it's possible you'll have to prepare one at some point. The objectives are a very important part of a research proposal because they outline where the project is headed and what it will accomplish. Developing objectives can be a little tricky, so take some time to consider them. Then work on wording them carefully so your readers understand your goals. With clear objectives, your research proposal will be much stronger.

Brainstorming Your Objectives

Step 1 State your main research question to guide your ideas.

  • For example, your research question might be “What is the effect of prolonged TV-watching on children?” You can then use that question to build your study around.
  • Narrow down your research topic if it’s too broad. A broad research topic makes breaking the objectives down much more difficult. A research question like “How can we save the environment?” is a huge question. Something like “What safety measures would prevent ocean pollution?” is more specific and attainable. [2] X Research source

Step 2 Describe the ultimate goal of your study.

  • Remember that in most cases, you shouldn’t state that your study will prove or disprove something exactly since you haven’t done the work yet. Don’t say “This study proves that honey is not an effective treatment for acne.” Instead, make it something like “This study will demonstrate whether or not honey is an effective treatment for acne.”

Step 3 Break that goal down into sub-categories to develop your objectives.

  • If your research question was “What is the effect of prolonged TV-watching on children?” then there are a few categories you could look at. Objectives wrapped up within that question might be: 1) the incidence of eyestrain among children who watch a lot of TV, 2) their muscular development, 3) their level of socialization with other children. Design your objectives around answering these questions.

Step 4 Limit your objectives to 3 to 5 at most.

  • You could always state in your research proposal that you plan to design future experiments or studies to answer additional questions. Most experiments leave unanswered questions and subsequent studies try to tackle them.

Step 5 Divide your objectives into 1 general and 3-4 specific ones.

  • A general objective might be "Establish the effect of diet on mental health." Some specific goals in that project could be 1) Determine if processed foods make depression worse, 2) Identify foods that improve mood, 3) Measure if portion sizes have an impact on mood.
  • Not all research proposals want you to divide between general and specific goals. Remember to follow the instructions for the proposal you're writing.

Step 6 Assess each objective using the SMART acronym.

  • The best goals align with each letter in the SMART acronym. The weaker ones are missing some letters. For example, you might come up with a topic that’s specific, measurable, and time-bound, but not realistic or attainable. This is a weak objective because you probably can’t achieve it.
  • Think about the resources at your disposal. Some objectives might be doable with the right equipment, but if you don’t have that equipment, then you can’t achieve that goal. For example, you might want to map DNA structures, but you can’t view DNA without an electron microscope.
  • Ask the same question for your entire project. Is it attainable overall? You don’t want to try to achieve too much and overwhelm yourself.
  • The specific words in this acronym sometimes change, but the sentiment is the same. Your objectives should overall be clear and specific, measurable, feasible, and limited by time.

Using the Right Language

Step 1 Start each objective with an action verb.

  • Verbs like use, understand, or study is vague and weak. Instead, choose words like calculate, compare, and assess.
  • Your objective list might read like this: 1) Compare the muscle development of children who play video games to children who don’t, 2) Assess whether or not video games cause eyestrain, 3) Determine if videogames inhibit a child’s socialization skills.
  • Some proposals use the infinitive form of verbs, like “to measure” or “to determine.” This is also fine but refer to the proposal instructions to see if this is correct.

Step 2 State each objective clearly and concisely.

  • You can further explain your objectives further in the research proposal. No need to elaborate a lot when you’re just listing them.
  • If you’re having trouble shortening an objective to 1 sentence, then you probably need to split it into 2 objectives. It might also be too complicated for this project.

Step 3 Use specific language so readers know what your goals are.

  • For example, “Determine if sunlight is harmful” is too vague. Instead, state the objective as “Determine if prolonged sun exposure increases subjects’ risk of skin cancer.”
  • It’s helpful to let someone else read your proposal and see if they understand the objectives. If they’re confused, then you need to be more specific.

Step 4 State your objectives as outcomes rather than a process.

  • For example, don’t say “Measure the effect of radiation on living tissue.” Instead, say “Determine what level of radiation is dangerous to living tissue.”
  • Remember, don’t state the objectives as you’ve already done the experiments. They’re still not answered.

Writing the Objectives

Step 1 Insert your objectives after your introduction and problem statement.

  • This is a common format for research proposals, but not universal. Always follow the format that the instructions provided.
  • Depending on how long your introduction has to be, you might also list the objectives there. This depends on whether or not you have room.

Step 2 Note the objectives...

  • At the very least, the abstract should list the general objective. This tells the readers what your study is working towards.

Step 3 Introduce the section with your general objective first.

  • In some research projects, the general objective is called a long-term goal instead. Adjust your language to the proposal requirements.
  • Some proposals directions may just want the specific objectives rather than a division between the general and specific ones. Don’t divide them if the instructions tell you not to.

Step 4 List your specific objectives next.

  • Your introduction may be as follows: "My long-term objective with this project is determining whether or not prolonged video-game playing is harmful to children under 5. I will accomplish this aim by meeting the following objectives: 1) Compare the muscle development of children who play videogames to children who don’t 2) Assess whether or not videogames cause eyestrain 3) Determine if videogames inhibit a child’s socialization skills"
  • The specific objectives are usually listed as a bullet or numbered points. However, follow the instructions given.

Research Proposal Templates

example of objective of the study in research paper

Expert Q&A

  • It’s always a good idea to let someone else read your research proposals and make sure they’re clear. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Proofread! A great proposal could be ruined by typos and errors. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

example of objective of the study in research paper

  • Some proposal instructions are very specific, and applicants that don’t follow the format are eliminated. Always follow the instructions given to stay within the requirements. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0

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Write a Synopsis for Research

  • ↑ https://uk.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-assets/15490_book_item_15490.pdf
  • ↑ https://research-methodology.net/research-methodology/research-aims-and-objectives/
  • ↑ https://www.uh.edu/~lsong5/documents/A%20sample%20proposal%20with%20comment.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3282423/
  • ↑ https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/evaluation/pdf/brief3b.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=231&section=8.6.2
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6398294/
  • ↑ https://arxiv.org/pdf/physics/0601009.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.bpcc.edu/institutional-advancement-grants/how-to-write-goals-and-objectives-for-grant-proposals

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Research Aims and Objectives: The dynamic duo for successful research

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Picture yourself on a road trip without a destination in mind — driving aimlessly, not knowing where you’re headed or how to get there. Similarly, your research is navigated by well-defined research aims and objectives. Research aims and objectives are the foundation of any research project. They provide a clear direction and purpose for the study, ensuring that you stay focused and on track throughout the process. They are your trusted navigational tools, leading you to success.

Understanding the relationship between research objectives and aims is crucial to any research project’s success, and we’re here to break it down for you in this article. Here, we’ll explore the importance of research aims and objectives, understand their differences, and delve into the impact they have on the quality of research.

Understanding the Difference between Research Aims and Objectives

In research, aims and objectives are two important components but are often used interchangeably. Though they may sound similar, they are distinct and serve different purposes.

Research Aims:

Research aims are broad statements that describe the overall purpose of your study. They provide a general direction for your study and indicate the intended achievements of your research. Aims are usually written in a general and abstract manner describing the ultimate goal of the research.

Research Objectives:

Research objectives are specific, measurable, and achievable goals that you aim to accomplish within a specified timeframe. They break down the research aims into smaller, more manageable components and provide a clear picture of what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it.

example of objective of the study in research paper

In the example, the objectives provide specific targets that must be achieved to reach the aim. Essentially, aims provide the overall direction for the research while objectives provide specific targets that must be achieved to accomplish the aims. Aims provide a broad context for the research, while the objectives provide smaller steps that the researcher must take to accomplish the overall research goals. To illustrate, when planning a road trip, your research aim is the destination you want to reach, and your research objectives are the specific routes you need to take to get there.

Aims and objectives are interconnected. Objectives play a key role in defining the research methodology, providing a roadmap for how you’ll collect and analyze data, while aim is the final destination, which represents the ultimate goal of your research. By setting specific goals, you’ll be able to design a research plan that helps you achieve your objectives and, ultimately, your research aim.

Importance of Well-defined Aims and Objectives

The impact of clear research aims and objectives on the quality of research cannot be understated. But it’s not enough to simply have aims and objectives. Well-defined research aims and objectives are important for several reasons:

  • Provides direction: Clear aims and well-defined objectives provide a specific direction for your research study, ensuring that the research stays focused on a specific topic or problem. This helps to prevent the research from becoming too broad or unfocused, and ensures that the study remains relevant and meaningful.
  • Guides research design: The research aim and objectives help guide the research design and methodology, ensuring that your study is designed in a way that will answer the research questions and achieve the research objectives.
  • Helps with resource allocation: Clear research aims and objectives helps you to allocate resources effectively , including time, financial resources, human resources, and other required materials. With a well-defined aim and objectives, you can identify the resources required to conduct the research, and allocate them in a way that maximizes efficiency and productivity.
  • Assists in evaluation: Clearly specified research aims and objectives allow for effective evaluation of your research project’s success. You can assess whether the research has achieved its objectives, and whether the aim has been met. This evaluation process can help to identify areas of the research project that may require further attention or modification.
  • Enhances communication: Well-defined research aims and objectives help to enhance communication among the research team, stakeholders, funding agencies, and other interested parties. Clear aims and objectives ensure that everyone involved in your research project understands the purpose and goals of the study. This can help to foster collaboration and ensure that everyone is working towards the same end goal.

How to Formulate Research Aims and Objectives

Formulating effective research aims and objectives involves a systematic process to ensure that they are clear, specific, achievable, and relevant. Start by asking yourself what you want to achieve through your research. What impact do you want your research to have? Once you have a clear understanding of your aims, you can then break them down into specific, achievable objectives. Here are some steps you can follow when developing research aims and objectives:

  • Identify the research question : Clearly identify the questions you want to answer through your research. This will help you define the scope of your research. Understanding the characteristics of a good research question will help you generate clearer aims and objectives.
  • Conduct literature review : When defining your research aim and objectives, it’s important to conduct a literature review to identify key concepts, theories, and methods related to your research problem or question. Conducting a thorough literature review can help you understand what research has been done in the area and what gaps exist in the literature.
  • Identify the research aim: Develop a research aim that summarizes the overarching goal of your research. The research aim should be broad and concise.
  • Develop research objectives: Based on your research questions and research aim, develop specific research objectives that outline what you intend to achieve through your research. These objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
  • Use action verbs: Use action verbs such as “investigate,” “examine,” “analyze,” and “compare” to describe your research aims and objectives. This makes them more specific and measurable.
  • Ensure alignment with research question: Ensure that the research aim and objectives are aligned with the research question. This helps to ensure that the research remains focused and that the objectives are specific enough to answer your research question.
  • Refine and revise: Once the research aim and objectives have been developed, refine and revise them as needed. Seek feedback from your colleagues, mentors, or supervisors to ensure that they are clear, concise, and achievable within the given resources and timeframe.
  • Communicate: After finalizing the research aim and objectives, they should be communicated to the research team, stakeholders, and other interested parties. This helps to ensure that everyone is working towards the same end goal and understands the purpose of the study.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid While Formulating Aims and Objectives

There are several common mistakes that researchers can make when writing research aims and objectives. These include:

  • Being too broad or vague: Aims and objectives that are too general or unclear can lead to confusion and lack of focus. It is important to ensure that the aims and objectives are concise and clear.
  • Being too narrow or specific: On the other hand, aims and objectives that are too narrow or specific may limit the scope of the research and make it difficult to draw meaningful conclusions or implications.
  • Being too ambitious: While it is important to aim high, being too ambitious with the aims and objectives can lead to unrealistic expectations and can be difficult to achieve within the constraints of the research project.
  • Lack of alignment: The aims and objectives should be directly linked to the research questions being investigated. Otherwise, this will lead to a lack of coherence in the research project.
  • Lack of feasibility: The aims and objectives should be achievable within the constraints of the research project, including time, budget, and resources. Failing to consider feasibility may cause compromise of the research quality.
  • Failing to consider ethical considerations: The aims and objectives should take into account any ethical considerations, such as ensuring the safety and well-being of study participants.
  • Failing to involve all stakeholders: It’s important to involve all relevant stakeholders, such as participants, supervisors, and funding agencies, in the development of the aims and objectives to ensure they are appropriate and relevant.

To avoid these common pitfalls, it is important to be specific, clear, relevant, and realistic when writing research aims and objectives. Seek feedback from colleagues or supervisors to ensure that the aims and objectives are aligned with the research problem , questions, and methodology, and are achievable within the constraints of the research project. It’s important to continually refine your aims and objectives as you go. As you progress in your research, it’s not uncommon for research aims and objectives to evolve slightly, but it’s important that they remain consistent with the study conducted and the research topic.

In summary, research aims and objectives are the backbone of any successful research project. They give you the ability to cut through the noise and hone in on what really matters. By setting clear goals and aligning them with your research questions and methodology, you can ensure that your research is relevant, impactful, and of the highest quality. So, before you hit the road on your research journey, make sure you have a clear destination and steps to get there. Let us know in the comments section below the challenges you faced and the strategies you followed while fomulating research aims and objectives! Also, feel free to reach out to us at any stage of your research or publication by using #AskEnago  and tagging @EnagoAcademy on Twitter , Facebook , and Quora . Happy researching!

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Research Method

Home » Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

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Research Paper

Research Paper

Definition:

Research Paper is a written document that presents the author’s original research, analysis, and interpretation of a specific topic or issue.

It is typically based on Empirical Evidence, and may involve qualitative or quantitative research methods, or a combination of both. The purpose of a research paper is to contribute new knowledge or insights to a particular field of study, and to demonstrate the author’s understanding of the existing literature and theories related to the topic.

Structure of Research Paper

The structure of a research paper typically follows a standard format, consisting of several sections that convey specific information about the research study. The following is a detailed explanation of the structure of a research paper:

The title page contains the title of the paper, the name(s) of the author(s), and the affiliation(s) of the author(s). It also includes the date of submission and possibly, the name of the journal or conference where the paper is to be published.

The abstract is a brief summary of the research paper, typically ranging from 100 to 250 words. It should include the research question, the methods used, the key findings, and the implications of the results. The abstract should be written in a concise and clear manner to allow readers to quickly grasp the essence of the research.

Introduction

The introduction section of a research paper provides background information about the research problem, the research question, and the research objectives. It also outlines the significance of the research, the research gap that it aims to fill, and the approach taken to address the research question. Finally, the introduction section ends with a clear statement of the research hypothesis or research question.

Literature Review

The literature review section of a research paper provides an overview of the existing literature on the topic of study. It includes a critical analysis and synthesis of the literature, highlighting the key concepts, themes, and debates. The literature review should also demonstrate the research gap and how the current study seeks to address it.

The methods section of a research paper describes the research design, the sample selection, the data collection and analysis procedures, and the statistical methods used to analyze the data. This section should provide sufficient detail for other researchers to replicate the study.

The results section presents the findings of the research, using tables, graphs, and figures to illustrate the data. The findings should be presented in a clear and concise manner, with reference to the research question and hypothesis.

The discussion section of a research paper interprets the findings and discusses their implications for the research question, the literature review, and the field of study. It should also address the limitations of the study and suggest future research directions.

The conclusion section summarizes the main findings of the study, restates the research question and hypothesis, and provides a final reflection on the significance of the research.

The references section provides a list of all the sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style such as APA, MLA or Chicago.

How to Write Research Paper

You can write Research Paper by the following guide:

  • Choose a Topic: The first step is to select a topic that interests you and is relevant to your field of study. Brainstorm ideas and narrow down to a research question that is specific and researchable.
  • Conduct a Literature Review: The literature review helps you identify the gap in the existing research and provides a basis for your research question. It also helps you to develop a theoretical framework and research hypothesis.
  • Develop a Thesis Statement : The thesis statement is the main argument of your research paper. It should be clear, concise and specific to your research question.
  • Plan your Research: Develop a research plan that outlines the methods, data sources, and data analysis procedures. This will help you to collect and analyze data effectively.
  • Collect and Analyze Data: Collect data using various methods such as surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments. Analyze data using statistical tools or other qualitative methods.
  • Organize your Paper : Organize your paper into sections such as Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion. Ensure that each section is coherent and follows a logical flow.
  • Write your Paper : Start by writing the introduction, followed by the literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and follows the required formatting and citation styles.
  • Edit and Proofread your Paper: Review your paper for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure that it is well-structured and easy to read. Ask someone else to review your paper to get feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • Cite your Sources: Ensure that you properly cite all sources used in your research paper. This is essential for giving credit to the original authors and avoiding plagiarism.

Research Paper Example

Note : The below example research paper is for illustrative purposes only and is not an actual research paper. Actual research papers may have different structures, contents, and formats depending on the field of study, research question, data collection and analysis methods, and other factors. Students should always consult with their professors or supervisors for specific guidelines and expectations for their research papers.

Research Paper Example sample for Students:

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health among Young Adults

Abstract: This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults. A literature review was conducted to examine the existing research on the topic. A survey was then administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Introduction: Social media has become an integral part of modern life, particularly among young adults. While social media has many benefits, including increased communication and social connectivity, it has also been associated with negative outcomes, such as addiction, cyberbullying, and mental health problems. This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults.

Literature Review: The literature review highlights the existing research on the impact of social media use on mental health. The review shows that social media use is associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems. The review also identifies the factors that contribute to the negative impact of social media, including social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Methods : A survey was administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The survey included questions on social media use, mental health status (measured using the DASS-21), and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and regression analysis.

Results : The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Discussion : The study’s findings suggest that social media use has a negative impact on the mental health of young adults. The study highlights the need for interventions that address the factors contributing to the negative impact of social media, such as social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Conclusion : In conclusion, social media use has a significant impact on the mental health of young adults. The study’s findings underscore the need for interventions that promote healthy social media use and address the negative outcomes associated with social media use. Future research can explore the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health. Additionally, longitudinal studies can investigate the long-term effects of social media use on mental health.

Limitations : The study has some limitations, including the use of self-report measures and a cross-sectional design. The use of self-report measures may result in biased responses, and a cross-sectional design limits the ability to establish causality.

Implications: The study’s findings have implications for mental health professionals, educators, and policymakers. Mental health professionals can use the findings to develop interventions that address the negative impact of social media use on mental health. Educators can incorporate social media literacy into their curriculum to promote healthy social media use among young adults. Policymakers can use the findings to develop policies that protect young adults from the negative outcomes associated with social media use.

References :

  • Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2019). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports, 15, 100918.
  • Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., Barrett, E. L., Sidani, J. E., Colditz, J. B., … & James, A. E. (2017). Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among US young adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 1-9.
  • Van der Meer, T. G., & Verhoeven, J. W. (2017). Social media and its impact on academic performance of students. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 16, 383-398.

Appendix : The survey used in this study is provided below.

Social Media and Mental Health Survey

  • How often do you use social media per day?
  • Less than 30 minutes
  • 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • 1 to 2 hours
  • 2 to 4 hours
  • More than 4 hours
  • Which social media platforms do you use?
  • Others (Please specify)
  • How often do you experience the following on social media?
  • Social comparison (comparing yourself to others)
  • Cyberbullying
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
  • Have you ever experienced any of the following mental health problems in the past month?
  • Do you think social media use has a positive or negative impact on your mental health?
  • Very positive
  • Somewhat positive
  • Somewhat negative
  • Very negative
  • In your opinion, which factors contribute to the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Social comparison
  • In your opinion, what interventions could be effective in reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Education on healthy social media use
  • Counseling for mental health problems caused by social media
  • Social media detox programs
  • Regulation of social media use

Thank you for your participation!

Applications of Research Paper

Research papers have several applications in various fields, including:

  • Advancing knowledge: Research papers contribute to the advancement of knowledge by generating new insights, theories, and findings that can inform future research and practice. They help to answer important questions, clarify existing knowledge, and identify areas that require further investigation.
  • Informing policy: Research papers can inform policy decisions by providing evidence-based recommendations for policymakers. They can help to identify gaps in current policies, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and inform the development of new policies and regulations.
  • Improving practice: Research papers can improve practice by providing evidence-based guidance for professionals in various fields, including medicine, education, business, and psychology. They can inform the development of best practices, guidelines, and standards of care that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • Educating students : Research papers are often used as teaching tools in universities and colleges to educate students about research methods, data analysis, and academic writing. They help students to develop critical thinking skills, research skills, and communication skills that are essential for success in many careers.
  • Fostering collaboration: Research papers can foster collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers by providing a platform for sharing knowledge and ideas. They can facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships that can lead to innovative solutions to complex problems.

When to Write Research Paper

Research papers are typically written when a person has completed a research project or when they have conducted a study and have obtained data or findings that they want to share with the academic or professional community. Research papers are usually written in academic settings, such as universities, but they can also be written in professional settings, such as research organizations, government agencies, or private companies.

Here are some common situations where a person might need to write a research paper:

  • For academic purposes: Students in universities and colleges are often required to write research papers as part of their coursework, particularly in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Writing research papers helps students to develop research skills, critical thinking skills, and academic writing skills.
  • For publication: Researchers often write research papers to publish their findings in academic journals or to present their work at academic conferences. Publishing research papers is an important way to disseminate research findings to the academic community and to establish oneself as an expert in a particular field.
  • To inform policy or practice : Researchers may write research papers to inform policy decisions or to improve practice in various fields. Research findings can be used to inform the development of policies, guidelines, and best practices that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • To share new insights or ideas: Researchers may write research papers to share new insights or ideas with the academic or professional community. They may present new theories, propose new research methods, or challenge existing paradigms in their field.

Purpose of Research Paper

The purpose of a research paper is to present the results of a study or investigation in a clear, concise, and structured manner. Research papers are written to communicate new knowledge, ideas, or findings to a specific audience, such as researchers, scholars, practitioners, or policymakers. The primary purposes of a research paper are:

  • To contribute to the body of knowledge : Research papers aim to add new knowledge or insights to a particular field or discipline. They do this by reporting the results of empirical studies, reviewing and synthesizing existing literature, proposing new theories, or providing new perspectives on a topic.
  • To inform or persuade: Research papers are written to inform or persuade the reader about a particular issue, topic, or phenomenon. They present evidence and arguments to support their claims and seek to persuade the reader of the validity of their findings or recommendations.
  • To advance the field: Research papers seek to advance the field or discipline by identifying gaps in knowledge, proposing new research questions or approaches, or challenging existing assumptions or paradigms. They aim to contribute to ongoing debates and discussions within a field and to stimulate further research and inquiry.
  • To demonstrate research skills: Research papers demonstrate the author’s research skills, including their ability to design and conduct a study, collect and analyze data, and interpret and communicate findings. They also demonstrate the author’s ability to critically evaluate existing literature, synthesize information from multiple sources, and write in a clear and structured manner.

Characteristics of Research Paper

Research papers have several characteristics that distinguish them from other forms of academic or professional writing. Here are some common characteristics of research papers:

  • Evidence-based: Research papers are based on empirical evidence, which is collected through rigorous research methods such as experiments, surveys, observations, or interviews. They rely on objective data and facts to support their claims and conclusions.
  • Structured and organized: Research papers have a clear and logical structure, with sections such as introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. They are organized in a way that helps the reader to follow the argument and understand the findings.
  • Formal and objective: Research papers are written in a formal and objective tone, with an emphasis on clarity, precision, and accuracy. They avoid subjective language or personal opinions and instead rely on objective data and analysis to support their arguments.
  • Citations and references: Research papers include citations and references to acknowledge the sources of information and ideas used in the paper. They use a specific citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, to ensure consistency and accuracy.
  • Peer-reviewed: Research papers are often peer-reviewed, which means they are evaluated by other experts in the field before they are published. Peer-review ensures that the research is of high quality, meets ethical standards, and contributes to the advancement of knowledge in the field.
  • Objective and unbiased: Research papers strive to be objective and unbiased in their presentation of the findings. They avoid personal biases or preconceptions and instead rely on the data and analysis to draw conclusions.

Advantages of Research Paper

Research papers have many advantages, both for the individual researcher and for the broader academic and professional community. Here are some advantages of research papers:

  • Contribution to knowledge: Research papers contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field or discipline. They add new information, insights, and perspectives to existing literature and help advance the understanding of a particular phenomenon or issue.
  • Opportunity for intellectual growth: Research papers provide an opportunity for intellectual growth for the researcher. They require critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, which can help develop the researcher’s skills and knowledge.
  • Career advancement: Research papers can help advance the researcher’s career by demonstrating their expertise and contributions to the field. They can also lead to new research opportunities, collaborations, and funding.
  • Academic recognition: Research papers can lead to academic recognition in the form of awards, grants, or invitations to speak at conferences or events. They can also contribute to the researcher’s reputation and standing in the field.
  • Impact on policy and practice: Research papers can have a significant impact on policy and practice. They can inform policy decisions, guide practice, and lead to changes in laws, regulations, or procedures.
  • Advancement of society: Research papers can contribute to the advancement of society by addressing important issues, identifying solutions to problems, and promoting social justice and equality.

Limitations of Research Paper

Research papers also have some limitations that should be considered when interpreting their findings or implications. Here are some common limitations of research papers:

  • Limited generalizability: Research findings may not be generalizable to other populations, settings, or contexts. Studies often use specific samples or conditions that may not reflect the broader population or real-world situations.
  • Potential for bias : Research papers may be biased due to factors such as sample selection, measurement errors, or researcher biases. It is important to evaluate the quality of the research design and methods used to ensure that the findings are valid and reliable.
  • Ethical concerns: Research papers may raise ethical concerns, such as the use of vulnerable populations or invasive procedures. Researchers must adhere to ethical guidelines and obtain informed consent from participants to ensure that the research is conducted in a responsible and respectful manner.
  • Limitations of methodology: Research papers may be limited by the methodology used to collect and analyze data. For example, certain research methods may not capture the complexity or nuance of a particular phenomenon, or may not be appropriate for certain research questions.
  • Publication bias: Research papers may be subject to publication bias, where positive or significant findings are more likely to be published than negative or non-significant findings. This can skew the overall findings of a particular area of research.
  • Time and resource constraints: Research papers may be limited by time and resource constraints, which can affect the quality and scope of the research. Researchers may not have access to certain data or resources, or may be unable to conduct long-term studies due to practical limitations.

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Muhammad Hassan

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Association of ultra-processed food consumption with all cause and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study

Linked editorial.

Ultra-processed foods linked to higher mortality

  • Related content
  • Peer review
  • Zhe Fang , doctoral student 1 ,
  • Sinara Laurini Rossato , adjunct professor 2 3 ,
  • Dong Hang , associate professor 3 4 ,
  • Neha Khandpur , assistant professor 3 5 6 ,
  • Kai Wang , research associate 1 ,
  • Chun-Han Lo , resident physician 7 ,
  • Walter C Willett , professor 1 3 8 ,
  • Edward L Giovannucci , professor 1 3 ,
  • Mingyang Song , associate professor 1 3 9
  • 1 Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
  • 2 Laboratory of Research and Extension in Epidemiology (Lapex-Epi), Institute of Geography, Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, Uberlândia, MG, Brazil
  • 3 Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
  • 4 Department of Epidemiology, Jiangsu Key Lab of Cancer Biomarkers, Prevention and Treatment, Collaborative Innovation Center for Cancer Personalized Medicine, School of Public Health, Gusu School, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, China
  • 5 Division of Human Nutrition and Health, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands
  • 6 Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
  • 7 Department of Internal Medicine, Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV, USA
  • 8 Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
  • 9 Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit and Division of Gastroenterology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
  • Correspondence to: M Song msong{at}hsph.harvard.edu (or @MingyangSong3 on X/Twitter)
  • Accepted 13 March 2024

Objective To examine the association of ultra-processed food consumption with all cause mortality and cause specific mortality.

Design Population based cohort study.

Setting Female registered nurses from 11 US states in the Nurses’ Health Study (1984-2018) and male health professionals from all 50 US states in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2018).

Participants 74 563 women and 39 501 men with no history of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, or diabetes at baseline.

Main outcome measures Multivariable Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for the association of ultra-processed food intake measured by semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire every four years with all cause mortality and cause specific mortality due to cancer, cardiovascular, and other causes (including respiratory and neurodegenerative causes).

Results 30 188 deaths of women and 18 005 deaths of men were documented during a median of 34 and 31 years of follow-up, respectively. Compared with those in the lowest quarter of ultra-processed food consumption, participants in the highest quarter had a 4% higher all cause mortality (hazard ratio 1.04, 95% confidence interval 1.01 to 1.07) and 9% higher mortality from causes other than cancer or cardiovascular diseases (1.09, 1.05 to 1.13). The all cause mortality rate among participants in the lowest and highest quarter was 1472 and 1536 per 100 000 person years, respectively. No associations were found for cancer or cardiovascular mortality. Meat/poultry/seafood based ready-to-eat products (for example, processed meat) consistently showed strong associations with mortality outcomes (hazard ratios ranged from 1.06 to 1.43). Sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages (1.09, 1.07 to 1.12), dairy based desserts (1.07, 1.04 to 1.10), and ultra-processed breakfast food (1.04, 1.02 to 1.07) were also associated with higher all cause mortality. No consistent associations between ultra-processed foods and mortality were observed within each quarter of dietary quality assessed by the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 score, whereas better dietary quality showed an inverse association with mortality within each quarter of ultra-processed foods.

Conclusions This study found that a higher intake of ultra-processed foods was associated with slightly higher all cause mortality, driven by causes other than cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The associations varied across subgroups of ultra-processed foods, with meat/poultry/seafood based ready-to-eat products showing particularly strong associations with mortality.

Introduction

Ultra-processed foods are ready-to-eat/heat industrial formulations made mostly or entirely from substances derived from foods, including flavors, colors, texturizers, and other additives, with little if any intact whole food. 1 Ultra-processed foods, which are typically of low nutritional quality and high energy density, have been dominating the food supply of high income countries, and their consumption is markedly increasing in middle income countries. 2 Ultra-processed food consumption accounts for 57% of daily energy intake among adults and 67% among youths in the US according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). 3 4

Ultra-processed foods usually disproportionately contribute added sugars, sodium, saturated fats and trans fats, and refined carbohydrates to the diet together with low fiber. 5 6 As well as having low nutritional quality, ultra-processed foods may contain harmful substances, such as additives and contaminants formed during the processing. 7 8 9 10 Growing evidence from large prospective cohorts show that ultra-processed food is associated with adverse health outcomes, such as overweight/obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. 11 12 13 14 A systematic review showed that high ultra-processed food consumption was associated with increased risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, depression, and postmenopausal breast cancer. 15 However, few prospective cohort studies with a follow-up longer than 20 years have examined the association for all cause mortality or cause specific mortality, especially mortality due to cancer. High quality evidence from cohorts with a long follow-up is critical to inform dietary recommendations and food policies.

Leveraging the rich data obtained through repeated assessments for more than 30 years in two large US prospective cohorts, we examined the associations of total ultra-processed food and subgroups of ultra-processed food with mortality from all causes and major individual causes.

Study population

We used data from two large prospective cohorts in the US: the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) began in 1976 and included 121 700 female registered nurses aged 30-55 years from 11 states; the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) began in 1986 and enrolled 51 529 male health professionals aged 40-75 years from all 50 states. Every two years participants completed a mailed questionnaire enquiring about medical and lifestyle information. The baseline of this study was set to 1984 for the NHS and 1986 for the HPFS when the ultra-processed food data were first available. We excluded participants at baseline if they had reported a history of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, or diabetes; left more than 70 food items blank in the food frequency questionnaire or had implausible caloric intakes (<800 or >4200 kcal/d for men; <600 or >3500 kcal/d for women); or had missing data on ultra-processed food intakes. After exclusions, we included 74 563 women from the NHS and 39 501 men from the HPFS (supplementary figure A).

Assessment of ultra-processed food intake

Diet was assessed using a validated semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire administered every four years. 16 We grouped all foods into four categories of the Nova classification: unprocessed or minimally processed foods, processed culinary ingredients, processed foods, and ultra-processed foods, which has been described in detail elsewhere. 17 we further categorized ultra-processed foods into nine mutually exclusive subgroups (supplementary table B; supplementary figure B): ultra-processed breads and breakfast foods; fats, condiments, and sauces; packaged sweet snacks and desserts; sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages; ready-to-eat/heat mixed dishes; meat/poultry/seafood based ready-to-eat products (for example, processed meat); packaged savory snacks; dairy based desserts; and other. Because alcohol is a well studied risk factor for premature death and a distinct factor in diet, we did not consider alcohol in ultra-processed foods in the primary analysis. Moreover, as wholegrain foods have established benefit for lowering all cause mortality, 18 we removed whole grains from ultra-processed foods in the primary analysis. We measured ultra-processed food intake as servings per day and adjusted it for total energy intake by using the residual method. 19

Ascertainment of outcomes

Death of a cohort member was notified by the next of kin via the post office when questionnaires or newsletters were returned or was identified through searches of the vital records of states and of the National Death Index. Study investigators blinded to the exposure status reviewed death certificates and extracted information from medical records to confirm the cause of death according to ICD-8 (international classification of diseases, 8th revision). The primary outcome of this study was all cause mortality. The secondary outcomes included deaths from cancer (ICD-8 codes 140-207), cardiovascular diseases (ICD-8 codes 390-459), and other causes (including respiratory diseases (ICD-8 codes 460-519) and neurodegenerative diseases (ICD-8 codes 290, 332, 340, 342, and 348)).

Assessment of covariates

Biennial follow-up questionnaires were used to collect self-reported information on body weight, marital status, smoking status and pack years, physical activity, family history of cancer/cardiovascular diseases/diabetes, and physical examination for screening purposes, as well as menopausal status and postmenopausal hormone use for women. We calculated body mass index as weight in kilograms divided by height squared in meters. Physical activity was assessed with a validated questionnaire and converted into metabolic equivalent task hours. 20 Alcohol drinking was measured by food frequency questionnaires as the number of drinks per week (considering one drink as one glass, bottle, or can of beer; one 4 ounce glass of wine; or one shot of liquor) and then converted into grams per day. We assessed overall dietary quality by using the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI) score. 21

Statistical analysis

Follow-up time accrued from the date of return of the baseline questionnaire to the date of death or the end of follow-up (30 June 2018 for NHS; 31 January 2018 for HPFS), whichever came first. To better represent long term dietary habits and to minimize within person variation, we calculated cumulative averages of ultra-processed food consumption as the primary exposure. We did primary analyses in pooled cohorts and a secondary analysis in each cohort separately. We used time varying Cox proportional hazards models stratified by age (months), questionnaire cycle (two year interval), and cohort (in pooled analyses) with the counting process data structure to estimate the hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals according to quarters of ultra-processed food consumption. We calculated P for trend on the basis of the Wald test by assigning the median intake to each quarter and modeling it as a continuous variable. In the multivariable model, we adjusted for race/ethnicity, marital status, physical activity, body mass index, smoking status and pack years, alcohol consumption, physical examination performed for screening purposes, family history of diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, or cancer, and menopausal status and hormone use (women only). We carried forward non-missing values from the previous survey cycle to replace missing data. If the value remained missing, we created missing indicators. The percentage of missing data is shown in supplementary table A. We also tested for the dose-response relation by using the restricted cubic spline regression. 22

In secondary analyses, we further categorized ultra-processed foods into mutually exclusive subgroups (supplementary tables B and C) to investigate whether the associations were driven by specific food groups. 13 Furthermore, to assess the independent and combined association of ultra-processed food consumption and overall dietary quality with mortality, we categorized individuals jointly according to quarters of AHEI score and quarters of ultra-processed food intake and estimated the hazard ratios by using participants with the highest quarter of AHEI score and lowest quarter of ultra-processed food intake as the reference.

We did several sensitivity analyses to test the robustness of the results. Firstly, given that people are likely to change their dietary habits after the diagnosis of certain chronic diseases, we stopped updating ultra-processed food consumption after the diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, or diabetes during follow-up. Secondly, because of the uncertainty of the etiological time window, we introduced an eight to 12 year lag period between assessment of ultra-processed food intake and each follow-up period (for example, we used ultra-processed food intake from the 1986 questionnaire to assess the mortality risk in the period of 1994 to 1998). Thirdly, we added back to total ultra-processed food whole grains and distilled alcohol individually and in combination (that is, using the standard Nova definition) and repeated the analysis. Finally, we removed from the multivariable model pack years of smoking, which was not adjusted for in most previous studies, and further adjusted for AHEI score, to assess the confounding by smoking and dietary quality, respectively. We also removed from the multivariable model body mass index, which might be a mediator. Furthermore, we did the stratified analysis by major risk factors and repeated the primary analysis with ultra-processed food intake measured by percentage of energy.

We used SAS statistical package (version 9.4) for all the statistical analyses. We considered a P value <0.05 (two sided) to be statistically significant unless otherwise specified.

Patient and public involvement

The public was concerned about the health effects of ultra-processed foods, and their concerns informed our research question. Although participants were not involved in the study design, they played a central role in the conduct of the study by completing the biennial questionnaires in our cohorts, and we appreciate their contributions. We could not directly involve members of the public in this study, as no funding was available or set aside for patient and public involvement and our study team was not trained to work directly with the public.

During a median of 34 years of follow-up, we documented 48 193 deaths (30 188 deaths of women and 18 005 deaths of men), including 13 557 deaths due to cancer, 11 416 deaths due to cardiovascular diseases, 3926 deaths due to respiratory diseases, and 6343 deaths due to neurodegenerative diseases. Table 1 shows the characteristics of participants according to quarters of energy adjusted ultra-processed food consumption throughout follow-up. Participants with higher ultra-processed food consumption were younger, more physically inactive, and more likely to smoke and had higher body mass index, lower consumption of alcohol, whole fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, and lower AHEI score.

Age standardized characteristics of study participants according to quarters of ultra-processed food (UPF) consumption across entire follow-up period. Values are number (percentage) of person years unless stated otherwise

  • View inline

Table 2 shows the hazard ratios of mortality according to quarters of ultra-processed food consumption. In the age, sex, and total calorie adjusted analysis, we observed strong positive associations between ultra-processed food and mortality outcomes. The associations became substantially attenuated in the multivariable analysis ( table 2 ; supplementary figure C). Compared with participants in the lowest quarter (median 3.0 servings/day), those in the highest quarter (median 7.4 servings/day) had a 4% higher risk of total deaths (multivariable adjusted hazard ratio 1.04, 95% confidence interval 1.01 to 1.07; P for trend=0.005) and a 9% higher risk of other deaths (1.09, 1.05 to 1.13; P for trend<0.001), including an 8% higher risk of neurodegenerative deaths (1.08, 1.01 to 1.17; P for trend=0.1). We found no associations for deaths due to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, or respiratory diseases. The all cause mortality rate among participants in the lowest and highest quarter of ultra-processed food consumption was 1472 and 1536 per 100 000 person years, respectively.

Hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for mortality according to quarters of ultra-processed food (UPF) consumption

Table 3 shows the associations for nine subgroups of ultra-processed foods. Meat/poultry/seafood based ready-to-eat products (for example, processed meat) showed the strongest association with higher all cause mortality (hazard ratio 1.13 (1.10 to 1.16) comparing highest versus lowest quarter) and mortality due to individual causes other than cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases (hazard ratios ranged from 1.06 to 1.43). Other subgroups also showed an association with higher all cause mortality, including sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages (1.09, 1.07 to 1.12), other ultra-processed foods (mainly composed of artificial sweeteners) (1.08, 1.05 to 1.11), dairy based desserts (1.07, 1.04 to 1.10), and ultra-processed breakfast foods excluding whole grains (1.04, 1.02 to 1.07). When further separating sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, we found a generally stronger association for sugar sweetened than artificially sweetened beverages; we present these results and those for other selected individual ultra-processed food categories in supplementary table D.

Multivariable hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for mortality according to quarters of subgroups of ultra-processed food consumption *

When we examined ultra-processed food intake and AHEI score together ( fig 1 ), we did not observe a consistent association of ultra-processed foods with mortality within each quarter of the AHEI score, whereas AHEI score generally showed an inverse association with mortality within each of the quarters of ultra-processed food consumption.

Fig 1

Joint analysis for mortality according to quarters of ultra-processed food (UPF) consumption and quarters of Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI) score. Alcohol was removed from calculation of AHEI score. Each participant was categorized according to their quarter of UPF intake and their quarter of AHEI score, resulting in 16 distinct groups. Using this combined variable as exposure, its association with mortality outcomes was assessed, with reference group being participants in highest quarter of AHEI score (Q4) and lowest quarter of UPF intake (Q1). Results were from multivariable Cox proportional hazards model stratified by age (months), questionnaire cycle (two year interval), and cohort and adjusted for total energy intake, race, marital status, physical activity, body mass index, smoking status and pack years, alcohol consumption, physical examination performed for screening purposes, and family history of diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, or cancer; for women, also menopausal status and hormone use. Markers denote point estimates of hazard ratios and error bars indicate 95% confidence intervals

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We found similar results in men and women (supplementary table E). The results of sensitivity analyses are summarized in supplementary table F. The lagged analysis showed similar results to the primary analysis. The associations were attenuated when we stopped updating the information on ultra-processed food intake at a diagnosis of chronic disease, likely owing to the increased intake of ultra-processed foods over time (supplementary figures D and E). Unsurprisingly, including wholegrain products in ultra-processed foods weakened the associations, whereas including distilled alcohol strengthened the associations. Removing pack years of smoking from the multivariable model led to a much stronger positive association, whereas adjusting for the AHEI score attenuated the association toward null.

In the stratified analysis by major risk factors, the associations between ultra-processed food intake and all cause mortality seemed to be stronger in participants consuming less alcohol (P for interaction=0.005) and not currently smoking (P for interaction<0.001), but we found no interaction by body mass index or physical activity (supplementary table G). We repeated the primary analysis using percentage of energy to measure ultra-processed food intake and observed similar results (supplementary table H).

In two large prospective cohorts with up to 34 years of follow-up, we found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with modestly higher all cause mortality. We found no associations for mortality due to cancer or cardiovascular diseases. The associations varied across subgroups of ultra-processed foods, with meat/poultry/seafood based ready-to-eat products consistently showing associations with higher all cause mortality and cause specific mortality. The associations between ultra-processed food consumption and mortality were attenuated after we accounted for overall dietary quality.

Comparison with other studies and possible explanations

Existing evidence suggests a relation between ultra-processed food consumption and mortality. A meta-analysis of prospective cohorts reported that the highest ultra-processed food consumption was associated with higher all cause mortality compared with the lowest consumption (hazard ratio 1.21, 1.13 to 1.30). 23 Two studies were conducted in the US, 24 25 whereas the other six were conducted in Spain, 26 27 28 France, 29 Italy, 30 and the UK. 31 Unlike our study, which excluded alcohol from ultra-processed foods and carefully controlled for smoking status and pack years, all the above studies included alcohol in ultra-processed foods and adjusted for smoking status (never, former, and current) only. As noted in our sensitivity analysis, pack years of smoking strongly confounded the association—additionally adjusting for smoking pack years remarkably attenuated the hazard ratios toward the null. That may partly explain why the associations found in our study were weaker than those in previous studies. Another possible reason could be tighter control for socioeconomic status because our participants were all health professionals and had similar levels of education.

The evidence on mortality due to cancer is relatively sparse. Consistently, the Moli-sani Study did not observe a statistically significant association but reported a positive association with other mortality. 30 An analysis of three cohorts including the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO), NHANES (1999-2018), and UK Biobank reported null findings for mortality due to cancer in the PLCO and NHANES (1999-2018). 32 By contrast, the UK Biobank study found that every 10% increment in ultra-processed food consumption was associated with a 6% higher cancer mortality. 33 Diet was assessed in the UK Biobank through multiple 24 hour recalls between 2009 and 2012, and 40% of the participants had only one 24 hour recall, thus limiting the ability to capture long term dietary intake.

In agreement with our study, the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiology study from 25 high income, middle income, and low income countries in America, Europe, Africa, and Asia observed a null association with mortality due to cardiovascular diseases but a positive association with non-cardiovascular disease mortality. 34 Our findings on the relation between ultra-processed foods and mortality due to cardiovascular diseases are inconsistent with previous evidence from Europe but consistent with the null finding in the US NHANES III (1988-94). 24 25 30 Moreover, a much stronger positive association was reported in the UK Biobank (1.28, 1.13 to 1.45) compared with the two US cohorts (1.12, 1.05 to 1.09; 1.11, 0.92 to 1.34). 32 In addition to the methodological differences mentioned above, different study populations, ultra-processed food compositions, and eating patterns may also contribute. Ultra-processed food intake in our two US cohorts is mainly contributed by “sauces, spreads, and condiments” and “sweet snacks and desserts,” which together accounted for nearly 50% (supplementary figure B), but neither of the two subgroups was associated with increased mortality due to cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, compelling evidence shows that nuts and (dark) chocolate, common constituents of “sweet snacks and desserts,” are inversely associated with cardiovascular diseases. 35 36 We observed that dark chocolate in the subgroup “packaged sweet snacks and desserts” was associated with decreased mortality (supplementary table D). Therefore, the diverse array of constituents contained in ultra-processed foods with heterogeneous health effects may have contributed to the discrepant findings. Our findings suggest that meat/poultry/seafood based ready-to-eat products and sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages are major factors contributing to the harmful influence of ultra-processed foods on mortality, which is in accordance with previous studies. 13 37 38 39

Few studies have investigated the relation with cause specific mortality other than that due to cancer and cardiovascular diseases. We found that ultra-processed food intake was associated with higher neurodegenerative mortality. Increasing evidence suggests that ultra-processed food is linked to higher risk of central nervous system demyelination (a precursor of multiple sclerosis), 40 lower cognitive function, 41 and dementia. 42 Studies have shown that a diet rich in ultra-processed foods may drive neuroinflammation and impairment of the blood-brain barrier, leading to neurodegeneration. 43 44 Of note, among ultra-processed food subgroups, diary based desserts showed the strongest association with neurodegenerative mortality. Earlier finding from the HPFS and NHS cohorts showed that intake of sherbet/frozen yogurt was associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. 45 Furthermore, we found a positive association between ultra-processed food intake measured by percentage of energy and respiratory mortality. Emerging evidence suggests that higher ultra-processed food intake is associated with increased risk of respiratory multimorbidity. 46 The increased respiratory mortality associated with processed red meat may be partly due to heme iron and nitrate/nitrite. 47

An important question not answered by previous studies is whether and how food processing level and nutritional quality jointly influence health. We observed that in the joint analysis, the AHEI score but not ultra-processed food intake showed a consistent association with mortality and that further adjustment for the AHEI score attenuated the association of ultra-processed food intake with mortality. Although including AHEI in the multivariable model for ultra-processed food may represent an overadjustment because common foods are included in both the AHEI and ultra-processed food, our data together suggest that dietary quality has a predominant influence on long term health, whereas the additional effect of food processing is likely to be limited. Furthermore, foods may have dual attributes according to their processing level and nutritional quality, and these two features may have quantitatively and even qualitatively different effects on health. Another added value of our study is the exclusion of wholegrain products that fall in the ultra-processed foods from the primary exposure, based on the well established health benefits associated with whole grains. By taking this approach, we aim to rectify the potential misperception that all ultra-processed food products should be universally restricted and to avoid oversimplification when formulating dietary recommendations.

Besides neglecting overall nutritional quality, the ultra-processed food classification system has other limitations. The Nova classification is based on broad categories that do not capture the full complexity of food processing, 48 leading to potential misclassification. Further work is needed to improve the assessment and categorization of ultra-processed foods. On the other hand, dietary guidelines should provide clear and sound food selections that are available, actionable, attainable, and affordable for the largest proportion of the population. Thus, careful deliberation is necessary when considering incorporation of ultra-processed foods into dietary guidelines. 49 50 Again, on the basis of our data, limiting total ultra-processed food consumption may not have a substantial influence on premature death, whereas reducing consumption of certain ultra-processed food subgroups (for example, processed meat) can be beneficial.

We note that mortality is a more complicated endpoint than disease incidence and is also influenced by several factors including early detection, treatment, and individuals’ overall health status. The findings for mortality should not be regarded as synonymous with those pertaining to disease incidence but rather considered as more comprehensive assessment of the health impact of risk factors.

Strengths and limitations of study

The strengths of the study include the prospective study design, large sample size, long follow-up, and detailed, validated, and repeated measurements. In addition, we rigorously controlled for confounding, did thorough sensitivity analyses, explored major specific causes of mortality, and examined individual ultra-processed food subgroups. Several limitations should also be noted. Firstly, we cannot rule out unmeasured and residual confounding due to the nature of the observational study. Secondly, our participants are health professionals and predominantly non-Hispanic white, limiting the generalizability of our findings. Thirdly, as the food frequency questionnaires collected intake of only a limited number of pre-defined items representing the primary source of energy and nutrients in the US population and were not designed to classify foods by processing level, they may not capture the full spectrum of ultra-processed foods. Although the food frequency questionnaires used in our cohorts have been validated for foods and nutrients, they were not specifically validated for ultra-processed foods. Moreover, we classified ultra-processed foods by using the same algorithm throughout follow-up that did not account for changes in the grade of food processing over time. These factors may have introduced non-differential misclassification, likely biasing our results toward the null.

Conclusions

Higher ultra-processed food intake was associated with slightly increased all cause mortality. The mortality associations for ultra-processed food consumption were more modest than those for dietary quality and varied across ultra-processed food subgroups, with meat/poultry/seafood based ready-to-eat products generally showing the strongest and most consistent associations with mortality. The findings provide support for limiting consumption of certain types of ultra-processed food for long term health. Future studies are warranted to improve the classification of ultra-processed foods and confirm our findings in other populations.

What is already known on this topic

Ultra-processed foods have been suggested to have adverse health effects

Evidence is limited on the influence of ultra-processed food consumption on mortality outcomes in large cohorts with long term follow-up and repeated dietary assessment

What this study adds

A higher intake of ultra-processed foods was associated with slightly higher all cause mortality, driven by causes other than cancer and cardiovascular diseases

The positive associations were mainly driven by meat/poultry/seafood based ready-to-eat products, sugar and artificially sweetened beverages, dairy based desserts, and ultra-processed breakfast foods

Dietary quality was observed to have a more predominant influence on mortality outcomes than ultra-processed food consumption

Ethics statements

Ethical approval.

The Nurses’ Health Study I and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study were approved by the Institutional Review Board at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (IRB protocol number: 1999-P-011114 and 10162). The completion of the self-administered questionnaire was considered to imply informed consent.

Data availability statement

Data can be shared through mechanisms detailed at https://www.nurseshealthstudy.org and https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hpfs/ .

Acknowledgments

We thank the participants of the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the staff of the Channing Division of Network Medicine for their valuable contributions. We acknowledge the contribution to this study from central cancer registries supported through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) and/or the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. Central registries may also be supported by state agencies, universities, and cancer centers. Participating central cancer registries include the following: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Seattle SEER Registry, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The authors assume full responsibility for analyses and interpretation of these data.

Contributors: ZF did the statistical analysis and drafted the manuscript. SLR and NK made a substantial contribution to the concept of the article. DH, WK, CHL, WCW, and ELG were involved in the acquisition and interpretation of data. MS was responsible for the study design. All authors critically assessed, edited, and approved the final manuscript. The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted. MS is the guarantor.

Funding: This work was supported by the US National Institutes of Health grants (UM1 CA186107; P01 CA87969; U01 CA167552; U01 CA261961; R01 CA263776; and K99 CA283146). The funders had no role in considering the study design or in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; the writing of the report; or the decision to submit the article for publication.

Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at https://www.icmje.org/disclosure-of-interest/ and declare: support from the National Institutes of Health for the submitted work; NK received a consulting fee from the Pan American Health Organization for three months on the topic of nutrition disclosure initiatives and nutrient profiling models; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

Transparency: The manuscript’s guarantor affirms that the manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as planned (and, if relevant, registered) have been explained.

Dissemination to participants and related patient and public communities: The research findings are disseminated to participants through periodic newsletters and study websites at https://www.nurseshealthstudy.org and https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hpfs/ . The manuscript will be disseminated to the general public through press releases.

Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ .

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Study Suggests Genetics as a Cause, Not Just a Risk, for Some Alzheimer’s

People with two copies of the gene variant APOE4 are almost certain to get Alzheimer’s, say researchers, who proposed a framework under which such patients could be diagnosed years before symptoms.

A colorized C.T. scan showing a cross-section of a person's brain with Alzheimer's disease. The colors are red, green and yellow.

By Pam Belluck

Scientists are proposing a new way of understanding the genetics of Alzheimer’s that would mean that up to a fifth of patients would be considered to have a genetically caused form of the disease.

Currently, the vast majority of Alzheimer’s cases do not have a clearly identified cause. The new designation, proposed in a study published Monday, could broaden the scope of efforts to develop treatments, including gene therapy, and affect the design of clinical trials.

It could also mean that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States alone could, if they chose, receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s before developing any symptoms of cognitive decline, although there currently are no treatments for people at that stage.

The new classification would make this type of Alzheimer’s one of the most common genetic disorders in the world, medical experts said.

“This reconceptualization that we’re proposing affects not a small minority of people,” said Dr. Juan Fortea, an author of the study and the director of the Sant Pau Memory Unit in Barcelona, Spain. “Sometimes we say that we don’t know the cause of Alzheimer’s disease,” but, he said, this would mean that about 15 to 20 percent of cases “can be tracked back to a cause, and the cause is in the genes.”

The idea involves a gene variant called APOE4. Scientists have long known that inheriting one copy of the variant increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and that people with two copies, inherited from each parent, have vastly increased risk.

The new study , published in the journal Nature Medicine, analyzed data from over 500 people with two copies of APOE4, a significantly larger pool than in previous studies. The researchers found that almost all of those patients developed the biological pathology of Alzheimer’s, and the authors say that two copies of APOE4 should now be considered a cause of Alzheimer’s — not simply a risk factor.

The patients also developed Alzheimer’s pathology relatively young, the study found. By age 55, over 95 percent had biological markers associated with the disease. By 65, almost all had abnormal levels of a protein called amyloid that forms plaques in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. And many started developing symptoms of cognitive decline at age 65, younger than most people without the APOE4 variant.

“The critical thing is that these individuals are often symptomatic 10 years earlier than other forms of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Reisa Sperling, a neurologist at Mass General Brigham in Boston and an author of the study.

She added, “By the time they are picked up and clinically diagnosed, because they’re often younger, they have more pathology.”

People with two copies, known as APOE4 homozygotes, make up 2 to 3 percent of the general population, but are an estimated 15 to 20 percent of people with Alzheimer’s dementia, experts said. People with one copy make up about 15 to 25 percent of the general population, and about 50 percent of Alzheimer’s dementia patients.

The most common variant is called APOE3, which seems to have a neutral effect on Alzheimer’s risk. About 75 percent of the general population has one copy of APOE3, and more than half of the general population has two copies.

Alzheimer’s experts not involved in the study said classifying the two-copy condition as genetically determined Alzheimer’s could have significant implications, including encouraging drug development beyond the field’s recent major focus on treatments that target and reduce amyloid.

Dr. Samuel Gandy, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Mount Sinai in New York, who was not involved in the study, said that patients with two copies of APOE4 faced much higher safety risks from anti-amyloid drugs.

When the Food and Drug Administration approved the anti-amyloid drug Leqembi last year, it required a black-box warning on the label saying that the medication can cause “serious and life-threatening events” such as swelling and bleeding in the brain, especially for people with two copies of APOE4. Some treatment centers decided not to offer Leqembi, an intravenous infusion, to such patients.

Dr. Gandy and other experts said that classifying these patients as having a distinct genetic form of Alzheimer’s would galvanize interest in developing drugs that are safe and effective for them and add urgency to current efforts to prevent cognitive decline in people who do not yet have symptoms.

“Rather than say we have nothing for you, let’s look for a trial,” Dr. Gandy said, adding that such patients should be included in trials at younger ages, given how early their pathology starts.

Besides trying to develop drugs, some researchers are exploring gene editing to transform APOE4 into a variant called APOE2, which appears to protect against Alzheimer’s. Another gene-therapy approach being studied involves injecting APOE2 into patients’ brains.

The new study had some limitations, including a lack of diversity that might make the findings less generalizable. Most patients in the study had European ancestry. While two copies of APOE4 also greatly increase Alzheimer’s risk in other ethnicities, the risk levels differ, said Dr. Michael Greicius, a neurologist at Stanford University School of Medicine who was not involved in the research.

“One important argument against their interpretation is that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in APOE4 homozygotes varies substantially across different genetic ancestries,” said Dr. Greicius, who cowrote a study that found that white people with two copies of APOE4 had 13 times the risk of white people with two copies of APOE3, while Black people with two copies of APOE4 had 6.5 times the risk of Black people with two copies of APOE3.

“This has critical implications when counseling patients about their ancestry-informed genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” he said, “and it also speaks to some yet-to-be-discovered genetics and biology that presumably drive this massive difference in risk.”

Under the current genetic understanding of Alzheimer’s, less than 2 percent of cases are considered genetically caused. Some of those patients inherited a mutation in one of three genes and can develop symptoms as early as their 30s or 40s. Others are people with Down syndrome, who have three copies of a chromosome containing a protein that often leads to what is called Down syndrome-associated Alzheimer’s disease .

Dr. Sperling said the genetic alterations in those cases are believed to fuel buildup of amyloid, while APOE4 is believed to interfere with clearing amyloid buildup.

Under the researchers’ proposal, having one copy of APOE4 would continue to be considered a risk factor, not enough to cause Alzheimer’s, Dr. Fortea said. It is unusual for diseases to follow that genetic pattern, called “semidominance,” with two copies of a variant causing the disease, but one copy only increasing risk, experts said.

The new recommendation will prompt questions about whether people should get tested to determine if they have the APOE4 variant.

Dr. Greicius said that until there were treatments for people with two copies of APOE4 or trials of therapies to prevent them from developing dementia, “My recommendation is if you don’t have symptoms, you should definitely not figure out your APOE status.”

He added, “It will only cause grief at this point.”

Finding ways to help these patients cannot come soon enough, Dr. Sperling said, adding, “These individuals are desperate, they’ve seen it in both of their parents often and really need therapies.”

Pam Belluck is a health and science reporter, covering a range of subjects, including reproductive health, long Covid, brain science, neurological disorders, mental health and genetics. More about Pam Belluck

The Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, but much remains unknown about this daunting disease..

How is Alzheimer’s diagnosed? What causes Alzheimer’s? We answered some common questions .

A study suggests that genetics can be a cause of Alzheimer’s , not just a risk, raising the prospect of diagnosis years before symptoms appear.

Determining whether someone has Alzheimer’s usually requires an extended diagnostic process . But new criteria could lead to a diagnosis on the basis of a simple blood test .

The F.D.A. has given full approval to the Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi. Here is what to know about i t.

Alzheimer’s can make communicating difficult. We asked experts for tips on how to talk to someone with the disease .

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Published on 9.5.2024 in Vol 26 (2024)

This is a member publication of Institute of Public Health Sabac

Serbian Version of the eHealth Literacy Questionnaire (eHLQ): Translation, Cultural Adaptation, and Validation Study Among Primary Health Care Users

Authors of this article:

Author Orcid Image

Original Paper

  • Branko Vujkovic 1 * , MD, MHM   ; 
  • Voin Brkovic 2 * , MD, ASS   ; 
  • Ana Pajičić 1 * , MD   ; 
  • Vedrana Pavlovic 2 * , MD, PhD   ; 
  • Dejana Stanisavljevic 2 * , Prof Dr Med   ; 
  • Dušanka Krajnović 3 * , Prof Dr   ; 
  • Aleksandra Jovic Vranes 2 * , Prof Dr Med  

1 Institute of Public Health of Sabac, Sabac

2 Medical Faculty, University of Belgrade, Belgrade

3 Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Belgrade, Belgrade

*all authors contributed equally

Corresponding Author:

Branko Vujkovic, MD, MHM

Institute of Public Health of Sabac

1 Jovana Cvijica

Sabac, 15000

Phone: 381 648623647

Fax:381 15343606

Email: [email protected]

Background: As digital health services are increasingly developing and becoming more interactive in Serbia, a comprehensive instrument for measuring eHealth literacy (EHL) is needed.

Objective: This study aimed to translate, culturally adapt, and investigate the psychometric properties of the Serbian version of the eHealth Literacy Questionnaire (eHLQ); to evaluate EHL in the population of primary health care (PHC) users in Serbia; and to explore factors associated with their EHL.

Methods: The validation study was conducted in 8 PHC centers in the territory of the Mačva district in Western Serbia. A stratified sampling method was used to obtain a representative sample. The Translation Integrity Procedure was followed to adapt the questionnaire to the Serbian language. The psychometric properties of the Serbian version of the eHLQ were analyzed through the examination of factorial structure, internal consistency, and test-retest reliability. Descriptive statistics were calculated to determine participant characteristics. Differences between groups were tested by the 2-tailed Students t test and ANOVA. Univariable and multivariable linear regression analyses were used to determine factors related to EHL.

Results: A total of 475 PHC users were enrolled. The mean age was 51.0 (SD 17.3; range 19-94) years, and most participants were female (328/475, 69.1%). Confirmatory factor analysis validated the 7-factor structure of the questionnaire. Values for incremental fit index (0.96) and comparative fit index (0.95) were above the cutoff of ≥0.95. The root mean square error of approximation value of 0.05 was below the suggested value of ≤0.06. Cronbach α of the entire scale was 0.95, indicating excellent scale reliability, with Cronbach α ranging from 0.81 to 0.90 for domains. The intraclass correlation coefficient ranged from 0.63 to 0.82, indicating moderate to good test-retest reliability. The highest EHL mean scores were obtained for the understanding of health concepts and language (mean 2.86, SD 0.32) and feel safe and in control (mean 2.89, SD 0.33) domains. Statistically significant differences (all P <.05) for all 7 eHLQ scores were observed for age, education, perceived material status, perceived health status, searching for health information on the internet, and occupation (except domain 4). In multivariable regression models, searching for health information on the internet and being aged younger than 65 years were associated with higher values of all domain scores except the domain feel safe and in control for variable age.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that the Serbian version of the eHLQ can be a useful tool in the measurement of EHL and in the planning of digital health interventions at the population and individual level due to its strong psychometric properties in the Serbian context.

Introduction

The increasing digitization of the health system requires the users of health services to have sufficient competence in the use of digital health (DH) technologies. The use of DH technologies for health, also called eHealth, has brought a revolution in the way we diagnose and treat patients and take care of health. eHealth is also defined as “the use of information and communication technologies in support of health and health-related fields” [ 1 ].

eHealth is often presented as a possible solution for numerous challenges in the health system, including a lack of health personnel, an aging population, and the comorbidities of several chronic diseases [ 2 ].

Digital technologies can strengthen health systems, improve health financing and public health, and also increase the availability of health services to vulnerable groups. eHealth and the data obtained in this way are particularly useful for the prevention and control of chronic noncommunicable diseases and care for the young, as well as for older adults and for preparing a better response to future emergencies and health risks caused by climate change [ 3 ]. Digital technologies can provide a new tool for educating patients and improving their health literacy [ 4 ]. Instead of being a passive participant in health care, eHealth solutions allow individuals to be active participants [ 5 ].

It is estimated that about half of all patients search for information about their health problems on the internet before seeking professional advice [ 6 ]. It is believed that 6 out of 10 Europeans use the internet to solve health concerns, and 9 out of 10 trust the information they find [ 7 ]. This information can be wrong or incomplete, and if not critically evaluated, can lead to the adoption of behaviors that can potentially harm our health [ 8 ].

Today, digital spaces have become a central environment for communication and engagement, learning, and work, as well as for disease prevention and health promotion. This has led to the development of a new dimension of health literacy: the emergence of eHealth literacy (EHL). For the adequate implementation of eHealth services, the users of these services must be eHealth literate [ 9 ].

EHL can be defined as “the ability to search, find, understand, and evaluate health information from electronic sources and apply the acquired knowledge to approaching or solving health problems” [ 10 ]. Good EHL is directly related to improving health outcomes, reducing health care costs, increasing users’ motivation to seek health information, having better knowledge about chronic diseases, adopting preventive health behaviors, and having better self-perception and care for one’s health [ 6 - 8 ].

As a superdeterminant of health, EHL has added significant complexity to the way users of health system services, health workers, and digital technologies interact. Health portals and telehealth systems have enabled service users to communicate remotely with service providers; cloud-based electronic health records have enabled patients to manage diagnostic data with clinicians; and wearable devices and apps have enabled users to self-manage their conditions. The increased complexity of interacting in the digital world requires additional skills and competencies from people using eHealth. However, with the increased complexity of the DH landscape, scholars have called for a more comprehensive view and have included elements related to users’ cognitive skills, communication elements, social and cultural context, or system-level attributes [ 11 - 13 ]. Some researchers talk about DH literacy as an evolved concept of EHL and its impact on health, but if we take into account the existence of analog computing, EHL is definitely a more correct term, and as a relatively new area, it needs further research [ 14 ].

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how important it is to have access to digital platforms. Digital technologies, such as mobile phones, have made it possible to quickly trace contacts, check symptoms, seek advice, obtain necessary information, and engage in public communication and education. Access to digital spaces is particularly important when mobility is limited or when people live in rural or remote areas. Compared to traditional communication strategies, digital spaces support “accessibility and expansion of access to health information to diverse population groups, regardless of age, education, race or ethnicity, and location” and may encourage further development of health literacy [ 15 , 16 ]. On the other hand, a meta-analysis by Estrela et al [ 17 ] showed that EHL is significantly related to sociodemographic, economic, and cultural factors.

The rapid transition to online health services and digital communication with health professionals due to the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the level of digital exclusion in certain population groups, such as those with low levels of electronic literacy or insufficient access to digital devices [ 18 ].

The benefits of digitization in health care may be unused due to unequal opportunities to use digital resources [ 19 ]. Recent studies have shown that EHL interventions have a positive effect on the health and health care of older adults, and therefore it is important to provide support and guidance to older adults to narrow the aging technology gap [ 20 , 21 ].

Previous Work

Regardless of the population of interest, the need for reliable internet navigation is particularly important for health issues where the consequences of using poor quality, misleading, or false information are high [ 22 ]. By providing tools and resources to evaluate online health information and critically evaluate eHealth resources, we offer an opportunity to protect consumers from harm while empowering them [ 12 , 13 ]. To provide relevant tools to help users navigate eHealth, an understanding of what health care users have at the outset, or their EHL, is required.

EHL is generally lower among older adults with chronic noncommunicable diseases and is characterized by reluctance to change their usual health care routines and concerns that mobile health apps will replace doctors’ visits. On the other hand, a study by Kouri et al [ 22 ] showed that mobile health innovations have the potential to help the older adult population manage chronic diseases more effectively.

In the era of digitization of health systems, EHL is a significant predictor of an individual’s health condition. As a determinant of health, EHL is important in the analysis of the health system of each country. Previous research has shown that a satisfactory level of EHL is needed for citizens to actively participate in making correct health decisions and participating in health care [ 23 ].

Study in the field of EHL has attracted the attention of a significant number of researchers, both in the field of health care and in other areas of public life. A low level of EHL exposes both the individual and an entire society to loss (health, economic, and social loss). Strategies to strengthen EHL should be developed as part of lifelong learning skills, and health care professionals should embrace improving EHL as part of regular patient care activities [ 24 ].

To develop and implement strategies to strengthen EHL, an adequate instrument for measuring EHL is needed, which also allows evaluation of the effects of implementing those strategies on increasing EHL at the individual and population levels [ 25 ]. The Serbian government prioritizes promoting health care and citizen health through digitization of services, as stated in the “digitalization program in the health care system of the Republic of Serbia” [ 26 ]. This includes connecting facilities with advanced software for secure data exchange and enabling consumers to use information and communication technologies for health support, but it is also necessary to empower users of health services to “use information and communication technologies in support of health and health-related fields” [ 1 , 26 ]. As eHealth services are increasingly developing and becoming more interactive in Serbia, and everywhere in the world, a comprehensive instrument for measuring EHL is necessary [ 27 ].

The eHealth Literacy Questionnaire (eHLQ) is currently licensed for use in more than 12 countries, and its ongoing translations and cultural adaptations indicate that the instrument is robust across various contexts [ 28 ]. However, the instrument has not yet been translated into Serbian.

Goal of This Study

This study aimed to translate, culturally adapt, and investigate the psychometric properties of a Serbian version of the eHLQ; to evaluate EHL in the population of primary health care (PHC) users in Serbia; and to explore factors associated with EHL.

Study Design

This was a cross-sectional study conducted from April 1 to April 30, 2023, in 8 state-owned PHC centers in the territory of the Mačva district in Western Serbia. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used in this study.

Data Collection

The participants of this study were PHC consumers who were recruited from PHC centers waiting rooms in 8 local municipalities of the Mačva administrative district in Western Serbia, were aged older than 19 years, and had adequate cognitive abilities to fill out the questionnaire independently. We used a stratified sampling method. In the first step, the variable for stratification was the type of settlement. By dividing into urban and rural settlements, 2 strata were obtained. In the second step, the variable for stratification was the age of the respondents, and by dividing them into young, middle-aged, and older respondents, 6 strata were obtained. The selection of respondents was carried out proportionally to the size of the stratum. The required number of respondents to examine the psychometric properties of the EHL eHLQ was 475, as defined by the questionnaire’s creator [ 28 ]. The criteria for exclusion from the research were respondents aged younger than 19 years, a health condition that prevented a respondent from filling out the questionnaire, if the Serbian language was not a respondent’s first language, illiterate persons, and refusal of participation by a respondent.

Further, 3 trained examiners delivered paper-based questionnaires to all consumers of PHC who met the criteria for inclusion in this study at the PHC centers’ waiting rooms. Participants had to fill out the questionnaire at the PHC center. Since the topic of our study included digital use and literacy competencies, we chose to consistently administer paper-based questionnaires.

The data collection consisted of administering the Serbian eHLQ along with asking general questions about owning a digital device and seeking health information on the internet.

We also collected demographic data on participants’ age, sex, education, work situation, and health status.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical approval was granted by the Ethical Review Board at the Medical Faculty, University of Belgrade (17/IX-5) and the Ethics Committees of PHC institutions. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. All participants gave informed consent to participate in this study, and all data were anonymized. No compensation was offered to the respondents. All steps were managed according to the ethical principles described in the Helsinki Declaration [ 29 ].

The eHLQ contains 35 items on 7 scales representing the EHL framework domains: using technology to process health information, understanding health concepts and language, ability to actively engage with digital services, feeling safe and in control, being motivated to engage with digital services, access to digital services that work, and digital services that suit individual needs. Each scale consists of 4 to 6 items on a 4-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” Scale scores range from 1 to 4, calculated on an index by averaging item scores within each scale with equal weighting. Each scale is presented separately, and no overall eHLQ score is calculated. Higher scores indicate higher abilities [ 28 ].

Translation, Cultural Adaptation, and Pretesting

The license to translate the English version of the eHLQ to Serbian (TE2203IG) was obtained from Swinburne University, Australia. As required by the eHLQ developers, we used the Translation Integrity Procedure (TIP) to maintain equivalence between the original (English) and translated (Serbian) versions of the instrument while ensuring the linguistic and cultural appropriateness of the Serbian version. The process was further facilitated by using clear “item intent” descriptions [ 30 , 31 ].

One of the eHLQ’s developers (Lars Kayser) chaired the TIP process. The translation and adaptation team included 2 native Serbian forward translators (AM and RJ), 1 native English back translator (DZ), a cognitive interviewer team, and academic professionals (BV, VB, AJV, and AP), all fluent in Serbian and English. All 3 translators had excellent English and Serbian language skills. The translation and cultural adaptation process involved 3 steps (the first 2 steps were forward translation and item intent description, and the third was back translation). (1) The original English eHLQ questionnaire was translated independently into Serbian by the 2 forward translators. (2) The translators then used the item intent descriptions, which thoroughly explained the intent of each item and scale, as a guide when synthesizing their translations. During the following team discussion, the best statements for each item were chosen and combined to form the first version of the Serbian eHLQ. (3) The first version of the Serbian eHLQ was back-translated by a native English-speaking translator who had never seen the original version of the instrument. The Serbian-to-English back-translation was then compared with the English version of the eHLQ, and the items were discussed by the team to achieve consensus on the preferred version of the Serbian eHLQ. The preferred Serbian eHLQ was then tested using cognitive interviews.

Cognitive interviewing is valuable for ensuring accurate interpretations of items when translating and validating a questionnaire in another language and culture. The process of cognitive interviewing allows researchers to discover and correct items that are not interpreted as intended, thereby avoiding the future collection of inaccurate data. Cognitive interviewing does not require a large sample size, but the sample should represent demographic variety [ 31 , 32 ].

Cognitive interviews were conducted with 20 adults (12 female individuals) aged 27 to 63 (median 50, IQR 37-59) years, with varying educational backgrounds. The respondents were given a printed version of the questionnaire and were carefully observed while answering the items. The interviewer (BV or AP) then went through each item with the individual respondents, focusing on items the respondents appeared to find difficult. The main questions were as follows: “what were you thinking about when you were answering that item?” and “can you tell me why you selected that answer?” Participants were encouraged to elaborate on their interpretations of the items. A protocol was used for making notes during the interviews, which were also recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using a text summary [ 31 ].

Results from the cognitive interviews revealed that although most items were understood as intended, minor revisions were needed to clarify a few items and instructions. The following corrections were made throughout the Serbian eHLQ:

  • The Serbian term “organizujem informacije o svom zdravlju” (organize my health information) was replaced by “upravljam informacijama o svom zdravlju” (manage information about my health) in item 25.
  • The Serbian term “u sisteme zdravstvenih tehnologija” (into health technology systems) was replaced by “u digitalne zdravstvene sisteme” (into eHealth systems) in item 8.

When we reached an agreement on all formulations, the final version of the Serbian eHLQ was considered ready to be psychometrically tested.

Statistical Analysis

Descriptive statistics were calculated to determine participant characteristics. The psychometric properties of the Serbian version of the eHLQ were analyzed through the examination of factorial structure and internal consistency (reliability). Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was performed to confirm the original 7D structure of the eHLQ. The absolute goodness-of-fit of the 7D model was evaluated using the χ 2 test ( P values that are <.05 signify that a model may be a bad fit for the data, whereas values >.05 may render the model a good fit) and 3 additional fit measures: the comparative fit index (CFI), the incremental fit index (IFI), and the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA). Values of CFI and IFI above 0.95 were considered adequate, whereas the RMSEA value of 0.05 was below the suggested value of ≤0.06 indicating an acceptable model fit. The CFA was conducted using Amos 21 (IBM SPSS Inc). To measure reliability, we assessed internal consistency and test-retest reliability. The internal consistency of the eHLQ was evaluated using the Cronbach α coefficient (ranges from 0 to 1, with the latter meaning perfect reliability). Test-retest reliability was evaluated using the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC). Differences between groups were tested by the 2-tailed Students t test and ANOVA. Univariable and multivariable linear regression analyses were used to determine factors related to EHL. The results were expressed as linear regression coefficients (β) and their 95% CIs. All tests were 2-tailed. P <.05 was considered statistically significant. The IBM SPSS (version 21) package was used for these analyses.

Demographic Characteristics of Participants

The Serbian version of the eHLQ questionnaire was completed by 475 PHC users. The mean age of the participants was 51.0 (SD 17.3; range 19-94) years, and most participants were female (328/475, 69.1%). The majority of the participants were married (339/475, 71.4%) and had completed secondary education or higher (409/475, 86.1%). More than half of the participants (278/474, 58.6%) were employees, and 57.1% (266/466) of the sample did not have any longstanding illnesses. The perceived material status was bad in 10.5% (49/466), regular in 50.4% (235/466), and good in 39.1% (182/466). One-half (235/466, 50.4%) of the participants perceived their health as good to excellent, 35.2% (164/466) as regular, and 14.4% (67/466) as bad. A high percentage of participants owned digital devices (431/475, 90.7%), but 28.5% (133/466) did not search for any web-based health information. The participants’ demographics are summarized in Table 1 .

Descriptive statistics of eHLQ domain scores are presented in Table 2 .

The highest EHL mean scores were obtained for the understanding of health concepts and language (mean 2.86, SD 0.32) and feel safe and in control (mean 2.89, SD 0.33) domains, while the lowest values were for using technology to process health information (mean 2.51, SD 0.33), digital services that suit individual needs (mean 2.55, SD 0.27), and access to digital services that work (mean 2.57, SD 0.45) domains.

a eHLQ: eHealth Literacy Questionnaire.

b ICC: intraclass correlation coefficient.

Psychometric Properties

The 7-factor structure of the eHLQ has been validated with maximum likelihood confirmatory analysis, and the results demonstrated a good fit of the data to the hypothesized 7-factor model. The χ 2 test rejected the 7D model ( χ 2 =1001.9, P <.001), as we expected, due to the large sample size. Values for IFI (0.96) and CFI (0.95) were above the cutoff of ≥0.95. The RMSEA value of 0.05 was below the suggested value of ≤0.06. All standardized factor loadings were statistically significant (all P <.05) and ranged from 0.43 to 0.86 (see Figure 1 ).

Analysis of the internal consistency of the Serbian version of the eHLQ showed that the Cronbach α of the entire scale (items 1-35) was 0.95, indicating excellent scale reliability. The α coefficients of the 7 domains were estimated to be 0.90 for domain 1, estimated to be 0.81 for domain 2, estimated to be 0.90 for domain 3, estimated to be 0.82 for domain 4, estimated to be 0.85 for domain 5, estimated to be 0.83 for domain 6, and estimated to be 0.89 for domain 7. For the test-retest, 30 participants completed the retest, and the ICC ranged from 0.63 to 0.82, indicating moderate to good test-retest reliability. Test-retest reliability showed moderate agreement for 2 domains (ICC 0.63 and 0.65) and good agreement for 5 domains (ICC from 0.73 to 0.82; Table 2 ).

Statistically significant differences (all P <.05) for all 7 eHLQ scores were observed for age, education, perceived material status, perceived health status, searching for health information on the internet, and occupation (except domain 4). Participants aged younger than 65 years scored higher in every eHLQ domain when compared with those aged older than 65 years. Female participants had higher scores than male participants in using technology to process health information and the ability to actively engage with digital service domains. No significant difference was obtained concerning marital status (all P >.05). Participants with completed secondary education or higher showed a higher level of EHL compared to those with incomplete secondary education. Employed participants scored higher in every eHLQ domain when compared with the unemployed, except for domain 4. Participants with better-perceived material and health status showed a higher level of EHL (see Table 3 ).

In multivariable regression models, searching for health information on the internet and aged younger than 65 years were associated with higher values of all domain scores except the domain feel safe and in control for variable age ( Table 4 ). Secondary education or higher was positively associated with the domains of understanding of health concepts and language and the ability to actively engage with digital services. Domains of ability to actively engage with digital services, motivation to engage with digital services, access to digital services that work , and digital services that suit individual needs were all negatively affected by chronic disease. Having a material status that was considered to be good or very good was associated with higher values of domains of understanding of health concepts and language, feeling safe and in control, access to digital services that work, and digital services that suit individual needs. Place of living and marital status were found to be negatively correlated to the feel safe and in control domain.

example of objective of the study in research paper

b Significant P values are italicized.

Principal Findings

One of the primary goals of the digitalization program in the Republic of Serbia’s health care system is to establish and support the development of a health system that places the patient at the center (also known as a “patient-centered approach”). More than 80 patient associations, organizations, and associations were contacted during the preparation of this document; they acknowledged the benefits of digitization, but they also identified several needs and difficult aspects, such as the low levels of the EHL of their members, as well as all patients in Serbia [ 26 ].

In this study, we used a well-defined translation and cultural adaptation process to reproduce the original instrument’s concepts and meanings. We evaluated the psychometric properties of the Serbian version of the eHLQ in the population of PHC users and explored factors associated with EHL. Our data from a sample of PHC users from urban and rural municipalities demonstrated that the Serbian eHLQ has strong psychometric properties and is in line with the psychometric outcomes of the versions in English and other languages [ 1 , 27 , 33 , 34 ].

Based on previous recommendations for examining the validity of a translated instrument, this study used qualitative and quantitative approaches. During the first phase, we adopted the TIP, which includes a multistep translation and review process and detailed item intent descriptions [ 30 , 31 ]. The results of the cognitive interviews and several review board meetings resulted in our revising a few words that were considered problematic in a Serbian context; however, most items on the Serbian eHLQ were understood as intended, and their equivalence to the original and translated versions was maintained [ 28 ].

The overall findings of this study provide evidence for the good validity and reliability of the Serbian eHLQ. CFA validated the 7-factor structure of the questionnaire. According to the preestablished CFI, IFI, and RMSEA thresholds, the original 7D model can be considered acceptable. Only the χ 2 test revealed a bad fit for the 7D model analyzed due to the large sample size. All standardized factor loadings were statistically significant and ranged from 0.43 to 0.86. These findings are per previous validation studies conducted in other populations that confirmed the 7-factor structure of the questionnaire [ 1 , 27 , 28 , 34 ].

Analysis of the internal consistency of the Serbian version of the eHLQ showed that the Cronbach α of the entire scale was 0.95, indicating excellent scale reliability. All scales demonstrated good internal consistency, with a Cronbach α of >0.80, and ICC ranged from 0.63 to 0.82, indicating moderate to good test-retest reliability. The lowest value was for domain 2 , understanding of health concepts and language [ 27 , 28 , 33 ], which was consistent with Danish, Australian, Taiwanese, and Swedish eHLQ validation studies.

The majority of the participants in our study were married (339/475, 71.4%) and had completed secondary education or higher (409/475, 86.1%). More than half of the participants were employed (278/474, 58.6%) and did not have any longstanding illnesses (266/466, 57.1%). Every 10th PHC user (49/466, 10.5%) in our sample had a bad perceived material status, while half (235/466, 50.4%) of the participants considered their health to be good to excellent. A high percentage (431/475, 90.7%) of participants owned digital devices, but more than a quarter (133/466, 28.5%) of the sample did not search for any web-based health information, showing that patients with limited use of eHealth were well represented in this study’s sample.

The highest EHL mean scores were obtained for domain 2, understanding of health concepts and language, and domain 4, feel safe and in control , while the lowest values were for domain 1, using technology to process health information; domain 7, digital services that suit individual needs; and domain 6, access to digital services that work . The lowest scores were obtained for domains that depend mostly on interaction with DH services and the accessibility of technology. This finding concurred with the results of a study by García-García et al [ 8 ].

Previous studies have already shown that EHL significantly depends on sociodemographic factors [ 7 , 8 , 17 ]. In our study, statistically significant differences for all 7 eHLQ scores were observed for age, education, perceived material status, perceived health status, searching for health information on the internet, and occupation (except domain 4, feel safe and in control ). Female participants had higher scores than male participants in domain 1, using technology to process health information , and domain 3, ability to actively engage with digital services. Literature data on sex influencing EHL was inconclusive because some studies have positioned female sex as a protective factor while other studies have reported higher scores in male participants [ 8 ]. Based on previous research on EHL in Serbia, the female sex has been consistently associated with better EHL across age-specific populations, and female individuals tend to use more primary and specialized care compared to men [ 35 ].

Participants aged younger than 65 years scored higher in every eHLQ domain when compared with those aged older than 65 years. Age-specific results are similar in other studies, which have stated that older age is associated with decreased adoption and use of health care technologies and holds the most prejudice against them [ 1 , 8 , 36 ].

Participants with completed secondary education or higher showed a higher level of EHL compared to those with incomplete secondary education, as in other studies [ 1 , 7 , 33 , 36 ]. The population with completed secondary education or higher in our study had statistically significantly higher eHLQ scores, except for domain 4, feel safe and in control ; domain 5, motivated to engage with digital services ; and domain 6, access to digital services that work . People with lower education used eHealth less often [ 1 , 34 , 36 ]. However, having more education did not mean that the patients felt safer or had better access to eHealth. These results are consistent with some literature data, but the higher score could also be a result of a difference in interpretation between these 2 groups [ 1 , 8 , 33 ]. The Serbian version of the eHLQ could be a promising tool for understanding digital access at different educational levels, as in other contexts [ 34 ].

No significant difference was obtained concerning marital status despite the study of García-García et al [ 8 ], where those who were single, separated, or widowed scored significantly lower for domain 1, using technology to process health information ; domain 4, feel safe and in control ; domain 5, motivated to engage with digital services ; and domain 6, access to digital services that work , indicating that people who are “alone” might face challenges in these areas.

Employed participants scored higher in every eHLQ domain when compared with the unemployed, except for domain 4. The majority of jobs in contemporary society require good digital skills [ 34 ].

In our study, searching for health information on the internet and those aged younger than 65 years were associated with higher values of all domain scores except domain 4, feel safe and in control , for variable age. Participants with better-perceived material and health status were found to have a positive association with better EHL, except for domain 4, feel safe and in control . Domain 3 , ability to actively engage with digital services ; domain 5 , motivated to engage with digital services ; domain 6, access to digital services that work ; and domain 7, digital services that suit individual needs were all negatively affected by chronic disease. In line with the data from the literature, health status is one of the crucial determinants of health care technology adoption [ 8 ].

Although previous instruments, such as the Serbian version of the eHealth Literacy Scale, have focused on individuals’ competencies, the eHLQ has the added perspective of interaction between the individual and the eHealth systems in Serbia [ 27 , 35 ].

Limitations

Considering that this was a cross-sectional study, it is impossible to determine causality. Only associations can be interpreted from this data. Collected data may also be subject to errors due to subjective reporting or the selective memory of respondents. This study included only PHC patients from the Mačva district of Western Serbia. Future testing of the Serbian eHLQ in different contexts in Serbia may strengthen the validity of the instrument.

Conclusions

This study provided evidence for the appropriate metric properties of the Serbian version of eHLQ. Searching for health information on the internet and age were factors influencing almost all scale domains. This study demonstrates that the Serbian version of the eHLQ can be a useful instrument in measuring EHL and in planning eHealth interventions at the population and individual levels. It is a useful tool for understanding the socioeconomic determinants of digital access inequity. The Serbian eHLQ can represent a basis for further research, and its results could establish complex connections with the way users of health system services, health workers, and digital technologies interact, which will help policymakers evaluate and implement new eHealth interventions.

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank all PHC patients and health care workers in the Mačva district who participated. The authors also thank Ana Milanko, Romina Jovanovic, and Djordje Zegarac for their work on the translation team, and Lars Kayser for chairing the research group meetings and providing key guidelines in the process of translation and cultural adaptation of the Serbian version of the eHealth Literacy Questionnaire (eHLQ). This study was financed by the Institute of Public Health of Sabac and supported by the Faculty of Medicine, Belgrade University (451-03-66/2024-03/200110).

Data Availability

About the Questionnaire Licence Agreement, Swinburne University of Technology is the owner of the license for use of the Serbian version of the eHealth Literacy Questionnaire (eHLQ), and if you would like to access this tool, please contact Ms Kerrie Paulger at [email protected]. All other data sets generated or analyzed during this study are not publicly available due to the Institute of Public Health of Sabac’s policy but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Conflicts of Interest

None declared.

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Abbreviations

Edited by G Eysenbach, S Ma; submitted 01.03.24; peer-reviewed by A Hosny, E Hernandez-Encuentra; comments to author 23.03.24; revised version received 03.04.24; accepted 09.04.24; published 09.05.24.

©Branko Vujkovic, Voin Brkovic, Ana Pajičić, Vedrana Pavlovic, Dejana Stanisavljevic, Dušanka Krajnović, Aleksandra Jovic Vranes. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (https://www.jmir.org), 09.05.2024.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on https://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

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Unconventional Wisdom: Research Shakes Up Assumptions About Sex Trafficking Clues in Online Escort Ads

Many investigators fall back on conventional wisdom when searching for indicators of sex trafficking in online escort ads. But recent research supported by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) reveals that many assumptions are likely unwarranted.

A study by the Justice Information Resource Network [1] (JIRN) found many long-held beliefs regarding sex trafficking indicators were not valid. See Table 1 for four key examples.

The researchers identified seven additional types of language often believed to be likely indicators of sex trafficking that did not correlate with trafficking. [2]

A focus group of practitioners convened as part of the study expressed surprise that factors often considered “red flags” were not substantiated by the study data as evidence of trafficking in the study data. This focus group included 11 law enforcement and prosecutor participants and two victim advocates. The group usually interpreted these indicators as signs of trafficking.

Not All Beliefs Are Wrong

The study affirmed that four key indicators are strongly predictive of sex trafficking (Table 2). The indicators of provider trustworthiness and obscured phone number surprised the practitioner and survivor focus groups, while advertising the provider’s ethnicity and language suggesting youth confirmed their prior beliefs.

The researchers found that the statistically significant predictors were the four identified in the table immediately above, rather than others that have been shared widely and anecdotally over the years but that are not significantly associated with trafficking.

Investigators have long used escort ads as evidence to identify potential trafficking victims. The important implication of that finding is that law enforcement can use ads much more effectively to generate leads or support investigations on trafficking while reducing false positive identifications.

Study Objectives and Design

The primary goal of the research was to help investigators and prosecutors better focus their limited resources on cases that involve trafficking rather than consensual sex work. This research adds to knowledge about how traffickers construct and use ads when they advertise a trafficking victim, as opposed to ads for non-trafficking sex work.

It had two objectives:

  • Examine whether there are indicators that can differentiate escort ads related to sex trafficking from ads for consensual, non-trafficking sex work.
  • Determine which indicators are most likely to predict whether the ad represents a trafficking case.

There were three main research activities:

  • Analyze ads from closed cases across U.S. jurisdictions, supplemented by ads from web scraper archives.
  • Interview investigators and crime analysts to learn how they use ads in trafficking investigations.
  • Sex trafficking survivors.
  • Non-trafficked sex workers.
  • Criminal justice and victim advocate professionals.

The researchers searched for evidence of sex trafficking in case narratives in cases investigated for trafficking or related activity, rather than relying on charging decisions, recognizing that prosecutors often pursue lesser charges to obtain a conviction, because of the high burden of proof in trafficking cases, or they may drop a trafficking charge altogether. Relatedly, police may make an arrest for prostitution only to realize later that the individual had a trafficker.

They flagged, or “coded,” the content in the police report and prosecution case file narratives that supported all elements of the federal definition of trafficking. Using the same process, they then coded ads for both trafficking cases and the cases determined not to be trafficking. The study team tested 27 potential indicators of trafficking in ads derived from their research and the literature. The final dataset included over 1,600 ads from commercial sex and massage cases in seven states, with the ads covering 35 states and one province in Canada.

Trafficking Enforcement Challenges Since 2018

In 2018, Congress enacted two laws primarily aimed at curbing online sex trafficking. The statutes, together known as FOSTA-SESTA, are the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. However, the research team reported limited progress since the reforms.

Although better understanding of ad trafficking indicators can help enforcement, the report also noted new challenges that have emerged since 2018, including:

The shutdown, by federal law, of the commercial website Backpage – Escort services and sex workers often used Backpage to sell their services. The law’s intent was to crack down on illicit commercial sex. But law enforcement officials told researchers that it was much easier to identify trafficking cases through Backpage than it is today. Shifts in commercial website advertising have also made trafficking victim identification much more difficult.

Moreover, Backpage and Craigslist regularly cooperated with subpoenas, but few of the remaining websites did. This results in fewer prosecutions, according to study focus groups.

Despite the fanfare after its passage, there has been “extraordinarily little” enforcement of FOSTA-SESTA, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Higher levels of street-based sex work – According to the focus groups’ practitioners and sex workers, much commercial sex solicitation moved to the street after Backpage shut down. Online advertising activity, however, has rebounded somewhat among more diverse, smaller sites.

Fewer prosecutions – Law enforcement has also received less cooperation for subpoenas, especially from websites hosted outside the jurisdiction of the United States due to the passage of FOSTA-SESTA. This has resulted in fewer trafficking prosecutions, according to focus group discussions.

Implications and Recommendations

By themselves, sex ads and indicators in ads are not sufficient evidence to determine if trafficking is occurring. Research on indicators can help increase lead generation, but law enforcement must investigate and find corroborating evidence to establish trafficking.

The researchers concluded that, while this study represents foundational work in the study of ad indicators in escort ads, these results require replication. They recommended that future research utilize a larger dataset to confirm these results.

Researchers suggested that incorporating the study findings in law enforcement activities might uncover more victims.

About This Article

The research described in this article was funded by NIJ award 2017-MU-CX-0005 , awarded to the Justice Research and Statistics Association (now known as the Justice Information Resource Network). This article is based on the grantee report “ Indicators of Sex Trafficking on Online Escort Ads ” (2022), by Kristina Lugo-Graulich, Leah Meyer, Karen Souza; Susannah Tapp, Bailey Maryfield, and Lindsay Bostwick (2022).

Sidebar: Little Trafficking Behind Ads with Young-Looking Subjects

Law enforcement often searches for trafficking operations when a suspiciously young-looking person appears on a web ad for escort services; however, sting operations that target activity tied to young-looking escort ad images are often unproductive, the study report noted. Researcher analysis of escort ads found that photos of suspiciously young-looking persons are three to four times more likely to be in a non-trafficking ad, or an ad of unknown origin, than in an ad for a trafficking operation.

Return to text .

[note 1] The research found that sex ads or indicators in ads are not sufficient evidence to make a determination of trafficking. Investigating such indicators can help increase lead generation, but law enforcement must find corroborating evidence to establish trafficking.

[note 2] Researchers found seven additional factors were the subject of unwarranted assumptions about indicators of sex trafficking in ads:

  • Controlled movement language: Restrictions on movement (for example, ad specification that the buyer comes to the provider or vice versa) were not a reliable predictor of trafficking.
  • Client ethnicity preferences or restrictions: Indicators of client ethnicity were not predictive of trafficking.
  • Payment language: Inclusion of pricing was not a significant predictor of trafficking.
  • Multiple providers: Advertising multiple service providers was not a significant predictor of trafficking.
  • Availability 24/7: Language advertising a provider as available at all hours indicated that the ad was 10% less likely to represent a trafficking case than non-trafficked sex work.
  • Emojis: The presence of emojis was found not to be useful as a predictor of trafficking.
  • Other photo indicators: Most photo indicators tested (obscured face, visible tattoo, hotel room, third party photo, professional photo) were not significant correlates of trafficking.

Cite this Article

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