Thesis and Purpose Statements

Use the guidelines below to learn the differences between thesis and purpose statements.

In the first stages of writing, thesis or purpose statements are usually rough or ill-formed and are useful primarily as planning tools.

A thesis statement or purpose statement will emerge as you think and write about a topic. The statement can be restricted or clarified and eventually worked into an introduction.

As you revise your paper, try to phrase your thesis or purpose statement in a precise way so that it matches the content and organization of your paper.

Thesis statements

A thesis statement is a sentence that makes an assertion about a topic and predicts how the topic will be developed. It does not simply announce a topic: it says something about the topic.

Good: X has made a significant impact on the teenage population due to its . . . Bad: In this paper, I will discuss X.

A thesis statement makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of the paper. It summarizes the conclusions that the writer has reached about the topic.

A thesis statement is generally located near the end of the introduction. Sometimes in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or an entire paragraph.

A thesis statement is focused and specific enough to be proven within the boundaries of the paper. Key words (nouns and verbs) should be specific, accurate, and indicative of the range of research, thrust of the argument or analysis, and the organization of supporting information.

Purpose statements

A purpose statement announces the purpose, scope, and direction of the paper. It tells the reader what to expect in a paper and what the specific focus will be.

Common beginnings include:

“This paper examines . . .,” “The aim of this paper is to . . .,” and “The purpose of this essay is to . . .”

A purpose statement makes a promise to the reader about the development of the argument but does not preview the particular conclusions that the writer has drawn.

A purpose statement usually appears toward the end of the introduction. The purpose statement may be expressed in several sentences or even an entire paragraph.

A purpose statement is specific enough to satisfy the requirements of the assignment. Purpose statements are common in research papers in some academic disciplines, while in other disciplines they are considered too blunt or direct. If you are unsure about using a purpose statement, ask your instructor.

This paper will examine the ecological destruction of the Sahel preceding the drought and the causes of this disintegration of the land. The focus will be on the economic, political, and social relationships which brought about the environmental problems in the Sahel.

Sample purpose and thesis statements

The following example combines a purpose statement and a thesis statement (bold).

The goal of this paper is to examine the effects of Chile’s agrarian reform on the lives of rural peasants. The nature of the topic dictates the use of both a chronological and a comparative analysis of peasant lives at various points during the reform period. . . The Chilean reform example provides evidence that land distribution is an essential component of both the improvement of peasant conditions and the development of a democratic society. More extensive and enduring reforms would likely have allowed Chile the opportunity to further expand these horizons.

For more tips about writing thesis statements, take a look at our new handout on Developing a Thesis Statement.

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Writing Process and Structure

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Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Developing a Thesis Statement

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper



Developing Strategic Transitions


Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

Writing the Specific Purpose Statement for a Dissertation

Published by steve tippins on august 17, 2021 august 17, 2021.

Last Updated on: 29th August 2022, 08:17 am

One of the most important sentences in your dissertation is the Specific Purpose Statement. It’s not just a sentence – it’s a statement that captures everything your study is about. Together with the Problem Statement and Research Questions, it guides the entirety of your research. It may be a small section (usually less than a page), but it is an important one.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Specific Purpose Statement. Let’s begin with an example.

Specific Purpose Statement Example

The Specific Purpose Statement is part of a bigger picture called alignment, where you make sure that all parts of your study are essentially going in the same direction. Every study has to have an implicit or explicit problem as the focus, which is described in your Problem Statement. The Specific Purpose Statement basically says that your purpose is to address the problem.

For example, let’s say your Problem Statement is this: “The problem to be explored in this study is the lack of understanding of teacher perceptions on student discipline.” The purpose statement might go like this: “The purpose of this study is to explore teacher perceptions on student discipline”.

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However, a lot of schools will have you add the broad type of methodology and the specific methodology that will be used to address the problem. So, the actual Specific Purpose Statement would read something like this: 

“The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study is to explore teacher perceptions on student discipline.”

These statements have to be aligned with your research question(s). So for this qualitative, phenomenological study, the research question might be “What are the lived experiences of teachers regarding student discipline?” or “How do teachers report their lived experiences regarding student discipline?” 

Common Mistakes With the Specific Purpose Statement

We tend not to write our dissertations in one sitting, and that can create problems. The problem and purpose statement tend to be on different pages in the document, for example, so it’s easy to stray from your problem statement and have a purpose statement that’s slightly different. 

One reason for this is the time and distance between creating the two. The other, which is totally understandable, is that it’s easy to feel like you’re repeating yourself when writing a dissertation. A lot. The answer is, “Yes you are, and keep doing it.”

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Anyone who’s ever done creative writing will cringe at this, but it’s important to keep the wording exactly the same throughout the sections of your paper. Introducing minor variations in the phrasing of your problem and purpose alters the meaning, and consistency is key in a dissertation.  

Committee members often like to parse words and want to see everything aligned. If you start using different words, your paper may get out of alignment . That’s why a Specific Purpose Statement that follows the Problem Statement is much more likely to be approved than one that uses different terminology to try to capture interest.

Another issue that can arise (and which I often see in my students’ papers) is trying to do too much with one study. “The purpose is a, and b, and c, and d.” You want to make your project doable – that is, able to be completed within a reasonable time period. The more purposes you have, the longer it will take to complete the study and the more expensive it will be. Most successful dissertations have one very specific purpose.

How Long is the Specific Purpose Statement?

The Specific Purpose Statement section of your document does not have to be many pages. Tell us what your purpose is – that’s it. It’s usually two or three paragraphs at most. I’ve seen as little as one paragraph be accepted. You’ll get many chances throughout the document to say other things, but the Specific Purpose Statement section is not the right place to expound.

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Be Explicit

You don’t want your committee members to have to wander around your paper looking for your purpose statement. You don’t want them to have to guess or make assumptions about your study. Start your Specific Purpose Statement with the phrase, “The purpose of this study is…” That way, you’ll get a lot fewer questions about what you’re planning to do. The more explicitly you state things, the easier it is for your committee to find them. 

Some committee members won’t actually read all the material, but they’ll look for key terms. They’ll get to the Purpose Statement section and ask, “Where does she state the purpose?” Make it as easy as possible for the reader, and it will get easier for you. The journey is hard enough and long enough as it is.

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The Key: Staying In Alignment

One technique that I’ve found very helpful for staying in alignment is to open up a brand-new document and cut and paste your title, problem statement, purpose statement, and research question(s). Print it out, and read it. See if you’re saying the same thing everywhere. Does your purpose statement line up with your title, your problem, your research questions?

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If everything lines up, then you have crossed the threshold into alignment. Congratulations! Many universities have rubrics with a list of what they require in dissertations, and alignment is usually a key piece. Just by making this simple one-page document, you can be as sure as you can be (without input by someone who’s done it before) that you’re in alignment. 

Once you get the concept of alignment, it seems simple – but if you’ve never written a dissertation before , there’s no reason to believe that it will come easily to you. If you need help with alignment, reach out to your Chair or another competent advisor and ask for assistance. Once people get it, there’s an “aha” moment. Getting alignment right early in the process can save a lot of time and frustration; it will also keep you focused as you design your study.

You Need a Clear Problem Statement

In order to have a successful purpose statement, it’s important to have a strong and succinct problem statement , which your purpose then addresses. If your problem statement is, “Not everybody likes each other,” the purpose is “To find out why everybody doesn’t like each other.” That’s a laudable goal, but in the confines of a dissertation, your Chair would very quickly say, “Nice idea, not doable.” 

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Another common problem is beginning with a too-broad problem statement.  Ask yourself, “Do I have 47 years to do this research?” If the answer is “no” (which it should be), you’ll realize you need to look at a narrow enough slice of a problem that you can address with your purpose.  Using the above broad problem, “Not everybody likes each other,” this could be narrowed to “The impact of Servant Leadership on conflicts between middle and upper-level managers is not known.”

The Specific Purpose Statement relates to a problem that’s well-bounded and doable. You can always tackle the huge problems later. I often tell students, “Do something that’s doable for your dissertation, and then save the world later, when someone else is paying you.” Dissertations are meant to be practice, with the training wheels of your committee, for a career of doing research. Use this time to learn the process thoroughly.  After you’ve done that, you can take on the bigger questions and the tougher methodologies.

“The purpose of this study is to explore whether this specific intervention improves team functionality.” 

In research, we answer small questions that get added to a pile of knowledge so that ultimately, enough evidence is developed over time that we get a good idea that something is (or isn’t) the case. Academics were never meant to work in isolation. Study builds upon study, giving us a “body of evidence,” so none of us has to solve the problem or answer the question all on our own.

Final Thoughts

As a student, the problem is that you need to finish your dissertation . Your specific purpose is to finish your dissertation. Don’t try to do too much, keep it short and explicit, and make sure it’s in alignment with the rest of your paper. If you follow these simple rules, you’ll breeze through your proposal and be collecting data before you know it.

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  • Research Objectives | Definition & Examples

Research Objectives | Definition & Examples

Published on July 12, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Research objectives describe what your research is trying to achieve and explain why you are pursuing it. They summarize the approach and purpose of your project and help to focus your research.

Your objectives should appear in the introduction of your research paper , at the end of your problem statement . They should:

  • Establish the scope and depth of your project
  • Contribute to your research design
  • Indicate how your project will contribute to existing knowledge

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What is a research objective, why are research objectives important, how to write research aims and objectives, smart research objectives, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research objectives.

Research objectives describe what your research project intends to accomplish. They should guide every step of the research process , including how you collect data , build your argument , and develop your conclusions .

Your research objectives may evolve slightly as your research progresses, but they should always line up with the research carried out and the actual content of your paper.

Research aims

A distinction is often made between research objectives and research aims.

A research aim typically refers to a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear at the end of your problem statement, before your research objectives.

Your research objectives are more specific than your research aim and indicate the particular focus and approach of your project. Though you will only have one research aim, you will likely have several research objectives.

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Research objectives are important because they:

  • Establish the scope and depth of your project: This helps you avoid unnecessary research. It also means that your research methods and conclusions can easily be evaluated .
  • Contribute to your research design: When you know what your objectives are, you have a clearer idea of what methods are most appropriate for your research.
  • Indicate how your project will contribute to extant research: They allow you to display your knowledge of up-to-date research, employ or build on current research methods, and attempt to contribute to recent debates.

Once you’ve established a research problem you want to address, you need to decide how you will address it. This is where your research aim and objectives come in.

Step 1: Decide on a general aim

Your research aim should reflect your research problem and should be relatively broad.

Step 2: Decide on specific objectives

Break down your aim into a limited number of steps that will help you resolve your research problem. What specific aspects of the problem do you want to examine or understand?

Step 3: Formulate your aims and objectives

Once you’ve established your research aim and objectives, you need to explain them clearly and concisely to the reader.

You’ll lay out your aims and objectives at the end of your problem statement, which appears in your introduction. Frame them as clear declarative statements, and use appropriate verbs to accurately characterize the work that you will carry out.

The acronym “SMART” is commonly used in relation to research objectives. It states that your objectives should be:

  • Specific: Make sure your objectives aren’t overly vague. Your research needs to be clearly defined in order to get useful results.
  • Measurable: Know how you’ll measure whether your objectives have been achieved.
  • Achievable: Your objectives may be challenging, but they should be feasible. Make sure that relevant groundwork has been done on your topic or that relevant primary or secondary sources exist. Also ensure that you have access to relevant research facilities (labs, library resources , research databases , etc.).
  • Relevant: Make sure that they directly address the research problem you want to work on and that they contribute to the current state of research in your field.
  • Time-based: Set clear deadlines for objectives to ensure that the project stays on track.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.


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Research objectives describe what you intend your research project to accomplish.

They summarize the approach and purpose of the project and help to focus your research.

Your objectives should appear in the introduction of your research paper , at the end of your problem statement .

Your research objectives indicate how you’ll try to address your research problem and should be specific:

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

Scope of research is determined at the beginning of your research process , prior to the data collection stage. Sometimes called “scope of study,” your scope delineates what will and will not be covered in your project. It helps you focus your work and your time, ensuring that you’ll be able to achieve your goals and outcomes.

Defining a scope can be very useful in any research project, from a research proposal to a thesis or dissertation . A scope is needed for all types of research: quantitative , qualitative , and mixed methods .

To define your scope of research, consider the following:

  • Budget constraints or any specifics of grant funding
  • Your proposed timeline and duration
  • Specifics about your population of study, your proposed sample size , and the research methodology you’ll pursue
  • Any inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Any anticipated control , extraneous , or confounding variables that could bias your research if not accounted for properly.

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The Purpose of the Study should b e a clear and accurate statement of the scientific purpose/objectives of the research.  

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Purpose of the Study

The Purpose of the Study statement helps the subject assess the importance of the study relative to individual values.   The statement should include not only the immediate purpose of the study, but also any larger, eventual purpose.     

The Purpose of the Study portion of the Consent Form should not reflect a potential benefit to the subject or be directed toward the subject in any way.   For example, “the purpose of this study is to compare the effectiveness of exercise A to exercise B as a method that can be used to increase quadriceps muscle” is acceptable.   However, a statement, “the purpose of this study is to compare the effectiveness of exercise A to exercise B as a method that can be used to increase your quadriceps muscle” is unacceptable.  

If the study involves deception or the withholding of information as a necessary and justifiable research strategy, the Purpose of the Study statement should be written in such a way whereby the least possible deception and/or withholding of information occurs.    

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Purpose of the Study: Common Errors in Writing Your Purpose Statement

The Purpose of the Study is perhaps the single most important sentence in your dissertation. In conjunction with the Problem Statement, it guides the focus of your research. Your research questions, methodology, and data analysis are all guided by the purpose of the study.

The “Purpose of the Study” section consists of a few short paragraphs describing, aptly, the purpose of your study. Within this section is the “Purpose Statement,” which is a single sentence.

It’s the distillation of your study’s purpose, and that particular sentence will show up again and again in your paper. It generally includes (a) the research paradigm, (b) the intent of the study (such as describe, develop, explore, etc.), and (c) the phenomenon of interest.

It’s also a sentence that many students struggle with, and find themselves revising multiple times before it’s finally accepted. My goal here is to give you all the information you need to create a stellar purpose statement the first time around.

Purpose of the Study in a Single Sentence

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Your purpose statement distills the purpose of your study into a single sentence. It indicates the study’s method and overarching goal. This sentence is contained in the “Purpose of the Study” section. It should be a logical, explicit research response to the stated problem (more on that later). 

Elements of the Purpose Statement: 

Include the following elements in your purpose statement:

  • Identify the research method (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-method. Usually this is as simple as saying, “the purpose of this qualitative study is…”).
  • The stated purpose reflects the research questions (make sure to identify variables/constructs and the central phenomenon/concept/idea).
  • Clearly state the research design.
  • Ensure the purpose (as well as the method/design) is aligned with the problem statement.  
  • Identify participants or other data sources. 
  • Identify the geographic location of study (when relevant).

Purpose of the Study Template

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For Qualitative Studies

The purpose of this quantitative study is to ___[describe, compare, explore, or develop] ____ [describe the study goal that directly reflects and encompasses the research questions] in [describe the population or data source and geographic location]. [Brief overview of how, with what instruments/data, with whom, and where]

For Quantitative Studies:

The purpose of this quantitative study is to ___[describe, compare, correlate, explore, or develop] ____ [describe the study goal that directly reflects and encompasses the research questions] in [describe the population or data source and geographic location]. [State the independent, dependent, and covariate variables]. [Brief overview of how, with what instruments/data, with whom, and where]

How Long Should the Purpose of the Study Section Be?

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Speaking with a Dissertation Chair about the Purpose of the Study section, he said simply, “Don’t make it too long. State the purpose and go onto something else.” That’s good advice. 

Treat dissertation sections like testifying in court (anything you say can and will be used against you by your committee). If you’re asked, “Do you know what time it is?” the correct answer is “yes” or “no,” not “Oh yes, it’s 11:30 and I have a meeting with Charlie in half an hour.” 

Similarly, in the Statement of the Purpose section, just give the purpose, whatever is required by your university’s template, and not much else. This can be accomplished within a few pages at most.

Aligning the Purpose of the Study With the Rest of Your Paper

Keeping your paper in alignment is an extraordinarily important part of writing your dissertation. What this means is that your Problem Statement, Purpose Statement, and Research Questions all say essentially the same thing (just with different wording).

Aligning the Purpose Statement with the Problem Statement

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Your problem statement should have two parts–a General Problem and a Specific Problem. The general problem is an overarching view of the problem you’re looking to address–this is what you would tell a curious person asking what you’re studying. The Specific Problem is always a gap in research. “The specific problem is that ___ is not known.”

The language that you use to fill in the blank is the same language you should use for the purpose statement. 

Problem : “The problem is that x isn’t known”

Purpose : “The purpose is to find x out”

  • The problem is that we don’t know what factors influence parent involvement in schools.
  • The purpose is to determine the factors that determine parent involvement in schools.
  • The problem is that we don’t know the impact of Covid-19 unemployment on stock prices.
  • The purpose is to determine the impact of Covid-19 unemployment on stock prices.

The professor I interviewed said, “Your committee wants to see you being consistent. ‘My problem is x. My purpose is to explore the problem.’ Period. Don’t have more than one purpose, and don’t stray from your problem statement.”

Aligning the Purpose Statement with the Research Questions

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The research questions should arise directly from the purpose statement. For example:

What factors do parents report impact their involvement in schools?

To what degree is there a significant relationship between Covid-19 unemployment and stock prices?

There could be additional research questions for each of these studies, but you get the idea: ensure that your research question arises from the purpose statement and the purpose statement arises from the problem statement.  These steps create the foundation of your study, and doing it this way will ensure there is alignment.

Mistakes People Make When Writing Their Purpose Statement

  • Writing the purpose statement apart from their problem statement, so the purpose doesn’t directly relate to the problem.
  • Trying to take on too much in one study — too big a problem to study while you’re paying tuition. (Save those larger studies for when you’re being paid.)
  • Trying to be creative with wording and thereby veering away from the problem statement.
  • Creating multiple purpose statements. 

In short, you’re trying to find information that will help your field better understand a problem that’s important to you. Your job in your dissertation is to address the problem, and your purpose statement will tell us that.

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Nicholas Tippins is the Founder & Executive Director of My Dissertation Editor. He has edited more dissertations than he can count. When not managing his business, he can be found playing the guitar or wandering around in the woods.

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    For example,. Mallick's (1982) study included the following research. Page 2. problem: "Unsupervised dieting occurs partly because promulgation of diets and

  11. Research Objectives

    Example: Explaining your research aim and objectives The aim of this research is to assess the safety features and response times of self-

  12. Purpose of the Study

    The statement should include not only the immediate purpose of the study, but also any larger, eventual purpose. The Purpose of the Study portion of the Consent

  13. Purpose of the Study: Common Errors in Writing Your Purpose

    Elements of the Purpose Statement: · Identify the research method (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-method. · The stated purpose reflects the

  14. How To Write A Research Purpose Statement

    This contains guidance on development of a research purpose statement with examples. I address how to state the research method and design