Difference between thesis objectives and research questions

By Chaitanya Shinkhede and Priya Chetty on November 8, 2021

Thesis objectives and research questions are an integral part of thesis research. Although these two terms seem similar, they are not but are correlated. After choosing an area of interest, it is essential to formulate an original and appropriate research design to conduct the investigation. Defining the thesis objectives and the research questions is the first step in this process. However, it is important to know the difference between these two terms. This article explains the difference between thesis objectives and research questions.

Understanding thesis objectives

Moreover, the purpose of thesis objectives is to decide the target and intention. Without objectives, the thesis is incomplete and lacks direction. The researcher is required to progress in the right direction, which is decided by the thesis objectives. The thesis objectives also help to confine the research and prevent the researcher from getting saturated. They draw a fence to the research to make it accurate and concise.

How to frame the thesis objectives?

The objectives of a thesis develop an understanding and opinion of the thesis. The thesis objectives should be framed accurately in relevance to the topic.

  1. The researcher should form an explicit idea of the topic of the thesis.
  2. The focus of study should be clear before forming the objectives.
  3. The objectives should be measurable, rational, under a specific time frame, and logical.
  4. They should represent questions such as what, why, when, where, and how.
  5. The objectives should begin from action verbs such as to examine, to study, to understand, to assess. The use of non-action verbs should avoid.
  6. The objectives should reflect in the conclusion part of the thesis. Hence, frame the achievable objectives.

Understanding research questions

Research questions are more specific than the thesis objectives. They are based on the research problem of the thesis. Research questions are framed by narrowing down the objectives. According to Wimmer and Dominick (2014), research questions highlight a relationship between two or more variables while providing a tentative generalization. The thesis research questions are core inquiry and investigation of the investigation. After forming the research questions, the researcher sets out to find its answers. This helps to prevent vague and ambiguous research.

The purpose of research questions is to develop a concise, clear, pertinent, and logical inquiry to the research. The researcher can link the Research questions directly to the conclusion to simplify it. Hulley et.al. (2007) have proposed a FINER (F=Feasible, I=Interesting, N=Novel, E=Ethical, R=Relevant) model of research questions. The application of this model increases the chances of developing a productive research thesis. According to Farrugia et.al. (2009), a good research question specifies the population of interest that is relevant and has potential for further research and adds knowledge to the contemporary field of study.

Figure 1: How to frame the research questions in a thesis
Figure 1: How to frame the research questions in a thesis

How to frame the research questions?

The generation of the hypothesis is followed by refining the research questions. It is essential to understand the scope and complexity of the thesis topic while surveying the research resources. It is also imperative to understand the previous work conducted by the scholars on a specific topic. Considering all these parameters, one can proceed to formulate research questions. The following points will help to frame research questions:

  • Before framing research questions, the research problem should be analyzed properly by examining existing research and render questionable statements.
  • Frame research questions in a manageable format. Construct the boundaries and limitations of the research and then write research questions.
  • Specific and logical language is a must to frame research questions.
  • Phrasing needs to be clear and concise.  
  • It should be directly related to, but not exactly same as the thesis objectives.

Summarising the differences between thesis objectives and research questions

ParametersThesis objectivesResearch questions
MeaningThesis objectives help to form an idea of the thesis as well as facilitate the process of deciding the vision of the research.Research questions are a specific and narrowed inquiry into the research problem seeking to improve knowledge of a particular domain.
PurposeThe purpose is to construct variables and hypotheses and generate the processes of data collection, sampling, data analysis, findings and conclusion. By defining research questions, the rest of the steps in research are clearly defined. It also conveys what exactly the researcher is trying to find out.
MethodBy analyzing the topic of the study and studying relevant material, a research gap is discovered. Based on that, the generalized objectives are formed.The systematic breakdown of objectives gives birth to research questions. These questions are a detailed inquiry into the statement of the problem.

An example of thesis objectives and research questions

Thesis topic: Changing style of media consumption post Covid-19 pandemic with special reference to OTT platforms and its impacts.

Thesis objectives

The main aim of this study is to examine how Covid-19 has changed the media consumption style of people with special reference to OTT platforms.

The thesis objectives are as follows:

  • To examine the media consumption style of the audience amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • To identify the reasons for growing consumption of OTT platforms today.
  • To observe the mental and physical consequences of media consumption post-covid-19 pandemic

Research questions

This study aims to answer the following questions:

  • Which OTT platforms are trending and preferred by the audiences?  
  • What are the impacts of changing media consumption style on people, particularly on their physical and mental health?
  • Why has the media consumption style changed amidst the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of OTT media platforms today?

Importance of thesis objectives and research questions

It is essential to define appropriate objectives and research questions. The thesis is built upon these two components. They construct a method of working for the researcher. While researching, it is essential to limit the study area and research methods. By formulating research questions and thesis objectives, the research can be conducted within a constructed framework.

References

  • Wimmer, R.D. Dominic, J.R. (2015). Mass Media Research: An Introduction. 10th Edition, Wadsworth, Cenage Learning, Boston.
  • Hully, Stephen et.al. (2007). Designing Clinical Research. 4th Edition. Williams & Lippincott Wilkins.
  • Farrigia, Patricia. Petrisor, Bradley. Farrokhyar, Forough. Bhandari, Mohit. (2009). Research questions, hypothesis and objectives. Continuing Medical Education, 53-4, pp. 278-282.
  • Hashimi, H. (2015) ‘Types of research questions’, Nursing, 4(3), pp. 23–25.
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