Turn a Business Problem into a SMART Research Objective
Every business has problems: unsold products, un-met needs, price sensitivity… the list goes on. In setting research objectives, it’s important to look at the big picture issues and drill down to the real problem being researched.
Oftentimes, researchers and managers have very different ideas about the problems that their business faces because of the fundamentally different roles they play. While researchers want to generate information, managers want to make profits. This disconnect can spell trouble for defining a problem and objective when it comes to research.
For objectives to be effective, they should be formulated in such a way that will discover something new or add significant new insight to a previously studied topic.
To get all involved parties on the same page, start by asking 3 questions:
- Who are the decision-makers in the organization? Their involvement is crucial to the discovery and definition of the problem being studied.
- What product / service / process needs to be studied? This decision shapes the way your research is planned and designed, and it defines the questions you need to ask.
- What needs to be learned that isn’t already known? Unique needs create unique research studies. To garner the singular insights needed to stand out when your product goes to market, make sure your research isn’t repetitive.
The answers to these questions will help discover and understand the research problem at hand, and they’ll ensure that the team is all on the same page before moving forward with the process. Now, with the basic information defined, it’s time to utilize the SMART concept to create objectives.
SMART objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. This method of developing objectives works because it increases the significance, reliability, and validity of the research.
Here’s how each piece works:
- Specific objectives reveal exactly what the research will accomplish, and are written so that anyone can understand their purpose, jargon-free.
- Measurable objectives dictate how you will know – without a doubt – when the research is complete.
- Attainable objectives are those that may be challenging, but are possible within the scopes of resources, time, and money.
- Realistic objectives are both achievable and possible. While the objective should be difficult to attain, it shouldn’t be impossible.
- Time-bound objectives have clear cut deadlines. Without a deadline, your objective isn’t achievable or measurable, so make sure the chosen end date is realistic, too.
Precisely defined research objectives spell out what results will be gathered by your study. Though it is one of the more tedious steps of planning a research study, setting SMART objectives can’t be skipped.
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