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Whether you’re a UX researcher, designer, or product manager—chances are, you know the value of customer feedback and user research. If you’re ready to get started with UX research, it can be tempting to source your participants and get moving, but hold up one sec! Defining your research objectives is a crucial step and skipping it could be really detrimental to the research process.  

Below is everything that you need to know about crafting useful research objectives, plus examples of research aims and objectives to help you create your own.

What Are Research Objectives And Why Are They Important?

Research objectives, in plain language, are clear statements that explain what you want to learn from your research. Each research project that you do will likely have a few different objectives, and they’re important because:

  1. They make certain that you and all of the relevant stakeholders are aligned on what you want to learn
  2. They guide you toward choosing the right research methodology
  3. They help you reduce noise and wasted time throughout the research process

If you don’t take the time to create research objectives, it’s likely that there is only a vague topic informing your research. This means that many stakeholders may have different expectations in terms of what you’ll learn, and when expectations aren’t met, the impact of your research is limited. 

Not only that, but there are a lot of different types of research methodologies that answer different types of questions: usability testing, user interviews, diary studies, surveys, focus groups, and more. Knowing exactly what questions you’d like to answer will guide you in the right direction. For more on different user research methodologies and how to choose the right ones based on your objectives, I recommend this guide

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How Do You Create Good Research Objectives?

The SMART acronym can help you understand whether specific objectives are solid or not. Good research objectives are:

Specific: They aren’t vague—anyone at your organization can read them and understand what you want to learn. They should include action verbs so that what you intend to do is clear.

Measurable: When you’re done with your research, you’ll know whether or not you’ve achieved your research goals

Achievable: Your objectives should be realistic. For example, a question that is aiming to predict future behavior rather than analyze something occurring in the present or past isn’t likely achievable. 

Relevant: Your objectives should relate directly to the work that you do so that your findings will be actionable.

Time-Bound: Decide when your deadline is for having your findings ready, and make sure that your objectives can realistically be answered by then. 

Step 1: Align with all of your relevant stakeholders

Unless you’re planning to be the only person at your company or organization who will make use of your findings, it’s a good idea to begin your research design process, before you write your objectives or any aspect of your research proposal, by aligning with other relevant colleagues

Take a minute to think about who may be interested in what you’re working on and make plans to check in. Give your colleagues a sense of what the direction of your research is and ask them if they have any relevant questions in terms of what they’d like to know about users. This way, you can take it into account as you move forward with crafting your objectives.

Step 2: Decide on a research aim

Research aims are less specific statements that describe the overarching topic of your research. While aims are too broad to function as research questions or objectives, they help you narrow your focus in preparation for writing your objectives.

For example, a research aim may be something like:

Assess the overall experience and value for the users of the community feature on our platform.

This statement is broad—it’s alluding to a feature and users in general—but it doesn’t inform exactly what you want to learn. That comes next!

Step 3: Draft your research objectives!

Once you’ve written your aim, writing your research objectives is generally a pretty simple task. Look over your notes from your conversations with colleagues and check in with yourself about what you’d like to learn. 

Now, it’s time to write! Break down your aim into specific research questions. Going forward with our previous example, we can better understand exactly what I mean.

Research Aim: Assess the overall experience and value for the users of the community feature on our platform.

Research Objective Examples

  • Understand the extent to which our power users feel that the community feature provides value
  • Assess the community feature’s ability to answer the pain points of our power users
  • Learn more about the common use cases of the community feature by our power users
  • Discover any major usability issues within the community feature

When you look at both the research aim and its accompanying objectives, you can see that we’re addressing the general area to be researched with the aim (the community feature) and the objectives mention several specific topics within the realm of the feature. With this information in hand, you’ll be able to decide on your research methodology and get to the fun part—the research itself!

Author's Tip

The objectives that accompany your aim can be quantitative or qualitative in nature, but they have to be specific enough for you to decide on your research methods.

Step 4: Check your work and draft your research proposal

Take a last look at your objective(s) and ask yourself: 

  • Are they SMART objectives? 
  • Do they lead you to logical conclusions about data collection methods and research techniques? 
  • Is each one a clear objective that anyone at your organization could read and understand?
  • Have you used action verbs so that what you’ll learn from your research is clear (for example: assess, understand, etc.)?

Once you’re confident in your research objectives, you can use them to draft your proposal. Your research proposal should include your aim, your objectives, your methodology, your budget, and your timeline. Some of your user research tools may include relevant templates or at least a place to store your draft for colleagues to see.

2 Examples Of Research Aims (Plus 10 Research Objective Examples)

Need some inspiration before getting started? It can be a lot easier to write your own objectives after browsing some examples. Below are two different research aims, each with five sample objectives.

Research Aim Example 1:
Assess the impact and usability of our daily meditation feature in the app.

Objective Examples:
  • Uncover usability issues for new users looking to find a relevant meditation that meets their needs
  • Understand typical usage patterns of our most dedicated daily meditators 
  • Learn more about the factors that influence users to choose which daily meditation to use
  • Quantify what percentage of daily meditators are satisfied with the meditation they choose over the period of a full month
  • Uncover usability issues for existing users when trying to create a playlist of their favorite daily meditations

Research Aim Example 2:
Learn more about the social media video creation process for small business owners

Objective Examples:
  • Create personas that represent different types of small business owners who create their own video content
  • Identify the most challenging parts of the video creation process for each small business owner persona
  • Uncover any usability issues when small business owners use the video templates in our app to create videos for TikTok
  • Assess the ease of use for small business owners creating business content with our app versus our two main competitors
  • Quantify the percentage of our user base who are creating videos specifically for their small businesses

Now that you’ve learned how essential objectives are, gone through the step-by-step process for creating them, and perused some examples—hopefully, you’re feeling confident about writing your own research objectives! With the right research questions at hand, you’re well on your way to your desired outcomes and actionable findings. 

As you move through your user research journey, I highly recommend subscribing to The Product Manager newsletter for regular insights about all things user research. 

Happy researching!

By Cori Widen

Cori Widen currently leads the UX Research team at Lightricks. She worked in the tech industry for 10 years in various product marketing roles before honing in on her passion for understanding the user and transitioning to research.