Short steps on how to read a paper: Part 5: Aims and Objectives.
This week I am going to discuss the aims and objectives section of the paper. As usual, I am going to concentrate on a few important points that I look for. A lot of people may feel that these are rather dry and unimportant sections of a paper and are keen to get to the methods. However, if the aims and objectives are not clear it is likely that the paper could be poor.
This is a statement about the primary focus of the paper. They are a statement of intent and outline what the authors hope to achieve at the end of the research project (We all have hopes and dreams). They are usually fairly broad.
So let’s look at a poor example:
“We aim to assess whether magic brackets are better than conventional ones”.
A better aim would be:
“To assess the effects of magic and conventional brackets on the overall duration of orthodontic treatment”.
The objectives are more specific and include the actions required to meet the aims. They are clear statements that define how the aims will be assessed. It is usual to have one or two primary objectives.
A poor example for our study is: “To find out if magic brackets reduce the length of orthodontic treatment”.
A better one is:
“To compare the effect of magic brackets, relative to conventional brackets, on the duration of orthodontic treatment in months and on the number of required visits for orthodontic patients aged between 12 and 16 years at the start of treatment”.
I know that this section is a little heavy and perhaps a bit pedantic. But clear aims and objectives are essential in our reading of a paper.
Next week we will look at the often-ignored mystery of the hypothesis.
Emeritus Professor of Orthodontics, University of Manchester, UK.