Q: How do I write research sub-objectives?
Put simply, research is about finding something new, finding solutions to a problem, or filling a gap in knowledge – a gap usually highlighted by a brief review of literature. The objective then becomes solving the identified problem or bridging the identified gap, and sub-objectives, by definition, become the different facets of the solution or the components you need to build that bridge, as it were.
Let us take an example. You have a hardy tree that grows fast, requires little water, can adapt to many different climates, and grows well even in poor soils. The foliage of this tree is relished by cattle. The problem is, it contains a substance that cattle cannot digest, and undigested, it is toxic. The solution? Find some bacteria that can digest the toxic substance so that it is no longer toxic. The objective then becomes finding such bacteria, and the sub-objectives can be developing appropriate methods to:
- Screen many bacteria for their potential.
- Multiply them on a large scale.
- Introduce them into the rumen of cattle.
Consider another example. How do you induce people to leave their cars at home and take a bus? One solution can be to allow only buses to ply on the main roads during peak hours. The sub-objectives would then be:
- Select the main roads.
- Determine the morning and evening peak hours.
- Work out the modalities of implementing the scheme.
As may be clear from these examples, sub-objectives are the steps required to attain the main objective. Also, they need to be concrete and specific, whereas the objective can be somewhat broader. Finally, they should point out the paths that lead to the objective.
You can write sub-objectives only when you have broadly defined the objective, and the clearer that definition, the easier it will be to write them. Think of the main objective as a destination, and the sub-objective as the route that will take you to the destination. Know the terrain well, and you will find the best path to your destination.
Hope that helps. For more information on the various points discuss above, you may refer to the following resources:
- 6 Tips on identifying research gaps
- How to choose a research question
- How to formulate research objectives?
All the best for your research!