In childhood, we all want to be someone; a doctor, astronaut, teacher, footballer, and so on. We set the aims and objectives to achieve in our lifetime. But what is the difference between aims and objectives? The word 'aim' is sometimes confused with the concept of an objective. They are often used interchangeably. Both are the expected result of the work conducted by a person, but they convey different ideas. So, let's take a closer look at the difference between these concepts in various areas of knowledge.
A question of what the aims and objectives are and how they differ may arise in different situations. For example, you may be writing an introductory thesis chapter or a business plan. No surprise that you cannot figure out the difference between these two concepts as they are quite close. So, let's try to answer a question which way these words differ.
What is the difference between aims and objectives?
Dictionaries quite obscurely describe the difference between the aims and objectives. For example, an aim is “something intended or desired to be obtained by one’s efforts”. An objective is more about action, and it is dealing with achieving the aim. The difference between these concepts is indeed related to a general idea and action respectively. Aim refers to hope, ambition while the objective is related to physical action, target. The aim is concerned with the what and the objective is concerned with the how.
Definition of aim
An aim is a general statement, an overall purpose, the desired outcome. It is a broader term than objective. It explains what is intended to achieve by an individual or entity. An aim is a primary direction while carrying out a business project, conducting research.
Definition of objective
No matter how small or big the aim is, it has to be chunked into various goals which help in efficiently achieving the aim. Once the organisation or individual set the intention, they can formulate the objective. Objectives are more narrows goals, concrete targets that need to be fulfilled within a specific time frame and with limited resources. An objective is a set of steps to take or tasks to accomplish to achieve the long-term goal, that is, the aim.
When comparing the concepts of aim and objective, one could list the following points to delineate these concepts:
- An aim should reflect the long-term outcomes and objective indicates the short-term targets. The objectives are often considered as project milestones, so they should look like a bullet list.
- Aim outlines the general direction of the individual or company while objective designates the specific goal.
- Aim needs to be concerned with the general goals; the objective has to be practical, measurable and achievable.
- When talking about the business’s mission, aim refers to the purpose while an objective is concerned with the achievements of the company.
- The aim should answer the question of what is expected to be achieved? Unlike objective should answer the question of how the aim will be achieved?
- The aim is never time bound while one always has to achieve the objective within a precise time frame.
- One more difference is concerned with the measurability, for example, the objective can be measured whereas aim always lacks measurability.
When using words aim and objective in the text, make sure you use them with the following verbs. An aim is often accompanied with the verbs like to theorise, to map, to generate, to develop, to build, to design, to track, and so on. On the other hand, a word objective can be followed by verbs like critically interrogate, to define, to catalogue, to synthesise, to determine, to challenge and so on.
It may be helpful to know what can be wrong with the aim and objectives. One could define some of the most common problems to avoid when planning a project. They may be the following:
- Too many aims. Most of the time, 1, 2 or 3 goals is enough. Three goals can be distinguished for large or long-term projects.
- The aims and objectives seem confusing to the reader who doesn’t understand what is intended and what is planned to be done. They may be not differentiated, be the same ideas but expressed in different words. So, aims and objectives have to be brief, concise, and precisely expressed.
- The aims and objectives don’t match. Sometimes aims and objectives seem to belong to different projects. The targets designed for a particular aim will not bring the expected results.
What is the difference between aims and objectives in business?
When starting a business, small business owners need to know which business goals they would like to achieve. It is not always easy to understand what you want your business to grow into, especially, at the beginning. Aims and objectives are the means that might help you. So what is the difference between aims and objectives in business? Let's find out.
In business, an aim is an ultimate goal a businessman individual strives to achieve. It implies long-term outcomes. It is a general direction that gives a quick result. The aim always has a purpose. It shows “What a person would like to achieve in the future?” It doesn’t have a time limit. Business aims are big goals you would like to achieve by applying specific techniques and strategies. The aims may include gaining a majority of market share, reaching a higher productivity rate and so on. The business aims usually take more time to achieve but will lead a business to maintain the growth and profitability of the enterprise.
On the other side, small business strategic objectives are smaller steps to achieve your aims. The aims create a basis for reaching your large aims. While the aim is a long-term goal, an objective is something a person wants to achieve by planning and chasing it. An objective has short-term outcomes. It is much more specific than an aim. An objective implies achievement. It shows “how an aim is to be achieved?” The objective is always limited in time.
While an aim is a broad goal, an objective is a specific milestone. When you start the business planning process, you will need to set a milestone to reach on the way to achieving your goal. When setting objectives, you need to know what are your strategic aims. Start planning with imagining that your business has achieved the aim. Continue with imagining the steps before the reached goal. This list will become your list of strategic objectives.
For instance, if your goal is to have a majority of market share, your business objectives will possibly be the following: to reduce prices, offer discounts, advertise the benefits of the product. If you achieve the strategic objectives, you will be closer to your aims, whether it is capturing a majority of market share or any other strategic goal.
If you would like to measure your progress, you need to assign dates to your strategic objectives. Choose a date when you need to achieve each goal. It will help to evaluate whether you need time or move in a timely manner.
Business objectives give a clear understanding of what should be the best targets on the way to achieving aims. Without understanding the business goals, there can be no business planning as business objectives have to be as specific as possible. To get motivated and measure the progress, the businessmen can use well-known in the theory of business SMART criteria of business objectives:
- S – Specific – business objectives have to be as specific as possible, for example, you want to increase your profits to buy a car.
- M - Measurable – the business achievements should be measured, for example, you want to get $10,000 in sales every month.
- A - Agreed by all the concerned parties and partners.
- R - Realistic – you need to plan the use of your resources so that the objective could be achieved with no harm to the business.
- T- Time specific – every object you should be limited in time, for example, by the end of the month.
Every business changes its objectives and even aims from time to time. It might occur due to the following reasons:
- The company has already achieved a particular target and has to move onto another one;
- The competitive environment has changed, for example, there particular launched new products and services by competitors;
- Technological development has caused changes in product designs so that sales and production objectives have changed.
Some of the main objectives of business might include survival (for small companies and startups or those in the crisis), profit maximisation (efforts to make the highest possible profits), profit satisficing (trying to make earnings enough to keep the business afloat and businesses owners comfortable, sales growth (trying to make as many sales as possible).
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Difference between aims and objectives in teaching
You might be wondering about a difference between aims and objectives in teaching. While these concepts might seem to be quite similar in teaching and learning, there is a fine line defining the difference between them. It is concerned with the specification of what a teacher intends to teach and what learner is supposed to learn.
Stating educational aims and objectives is beneficial to the learning process. It helps teachers to create the course so that it could be effective to the student in terms of content, the methods, and the assessment.
When talking about aims and objectives in teaching, these terms are essential for teachers as they determine all the educational purposes. When creating a course or program, the teachers have to focus not only on what teacher will do but what students will have learnt, that is, on the results of a learning experience as well as the ways of achieving the educational aims and objectives).
While earlier objectives were based on the teacher's activity, now they are dealing more with learning outcomes. Comparing the concepts of educational aim and objective, one should say that an aim is a short-term goal setting out the intention in providing the overall learning outcomes and an objective is some statement that set out what results the student will achieve.
If you would like to ask are the aim and objective considered the same level concepts, the answer is no. Similar to other fields of knowledge, an aim is a broader term while an objective is a much narrow concept related to the practice.
There are many types of educational objectives. According to the most recent documentation from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (1997/1998), they can be classified in the following way:
- Acquisition of knowledge;
- Conceptual understanding of the subjects ;
- Acquisition of general intellectual abilities;
- Obtaining subject-related knowledge, generic and personal transferable skills;
- Acquisition of values, motivation, and attitudes.
All these categories put together can lead to an appropriate educational outcome. It is important that educational objectives could be properly stated with consideration of what students will learn rather than what a teacher wants to teach. If the educational objectives are not framed plainly and precisely with consideration of the nature of the course or program, the students will not be able to achieve the expected outcomes. The point is that the students need to start with the simple steps in acquiring skill or knowledge and move on to more complicated tasks. Also, an objective should be clearly stated, for example, an objective for a Medicine course stated as "Understand how sounds are heard" is probably not the best one. It should be more specific, for example:
- Explain the structure of the human ear;
- Describe how sound wave is transmitted to the brain ;
- Tell the difference between conductive and sensorineural deafness and so on.
There may arise difficulties in defining educational objectives when students conduct their investigations. In this case, it is important to specify the knowledge students will obtain. To define an educational objective, the teachers have to take into account the overall educational purposes of the students’ activity. These purposes should be based on the nature of the subject as well as on the conceptual or transferable skills that are intended to be developed.
What is the difference between aims and objectives in research?
One needs to understand the concepts of aims and objective in writing research, thesis, coursework and other kinds of paper. The overall purpose of the study should be clearly and concisely determined in terms of aims and objectives. When talking about the research aims, they are the broad statements of expected outcomes. They refer to the overall intentions of the study, describe the aspirations and expectations of the research project, emphasise what will be achieved, address the long-term research outcomes, etc.
First, establishing the aims is followed by formulating the objectives. In general, a research project should have 2 or 3 goals. However, a number of objectives are not limited and depends on the number of broad goals.
Similar to other areas of knowledge, in the research, objectives are subsidiary to aims. Research objectives are specific tasks one needs to conduct to achieve the goals of the research project. Research objectives are focused on the ways to accomplish the research aims. The research objectives must be precise, targeted and feasible, address the immediate research project outcomes.
Both research aims and objectives should be precisely described, brief, and concise. While the general goals are about what you would like to achieve, the research objective is more about the practical ways of reaching these aims through accomplishing specific tasks. Also, research aims and objectives have to be realistic, especially, concerning the time frames and other commitments. When talking about what research aims and objectives should not be, they don't have to repeat each other, contradict the research methods, be ambitious, broad in scope, and so on.
When concluding your research project, remember that you need to define whether you have met your objectives or not. You also need to specify why the research objectives have not been met. The thing is the research aims may not always match. It may occur in the case when your research reveals that your questions appeared to be inappropriate or there arose the research challenges. In either case, the conclusion has to describe how successfully the study has been conducted and how the objectives have contributed to addressing the aim(s).
Research objectives are statements of the actions intended. They are not always easy to establish. When setting the research objectives, use actions (verbs) like to establish, to discover, to identify, to determine, to access, to analyse, to compare, to evaluate and so on. While in some universities research objectives are not necessary to be stated, most universities require to establish the research aims.
If you are wondering how to write aims and objectives in research, they have to be written in the form of bullet points. Begin with stating the general purpose of the study, reveal the reasons why you are carrying out the research project. Then, emphasise what is to be achieved (the research aim). The research aim is expected to provide direction to the rest of your project. Explain how this aim is to be achieved by writing down the main tasks that are required to complete the overall purpose. The stated objectives form the research objectives. They should be as simple, realistic, reasonable as possible. The research objectives should be measurable to be completed within a specified period. They may include the following points:
- Review the literature;
- Collect the data;
- Investigate perceptions and attitudes;
- Compare statistics.
Researchers developing the aims and objectives usually experience difficulties. They often struggle with the overwhelming amounts of published literature sources trying to find the most relevant sources. However, determining the research aims and objectives depends on the research topic. To conduct successful research, one should develop clear aims and objectives.
There often arises a confusion between the terms aim and objective. When it comes to specification, an aim is a much more general concept whereas objective is much more specific. These two concepts are often confused. Given the fact that aims and objectives are used in many areas of knowledge including business teaching research, it is essential to distinguish them. When writing a business plan, an introductory research chapter, one has to understand that the scope of aim is broader than objective. The aims are what you would like to achieve and objectives are the measures you need to undertake to achieve the aims. The aim is an abstract concept and an objective is specific. The aim should not necessarily be mentioned in the paper you write while objectives are the key elements in every research, plan or program.
There is a connection between these concepts; however, there also is a fine line describing the difference between them. Both ideas are related to the purposes of the project, but the aim is an overall, long-term goal which determines a general direction of the project, research or activity. An objective is a more specific target, a way how the aim is going to be achieved. An objective needs to be realistic, measurable, accurate and completed within a limited time frame.
While these words are often considered interchangeable and synonymous, they should not be confused. To sum it up, the difference between aims and objectives is that an aim is a general goal set and an objective is a measurement which needs to be undertaken to achieve the aim.
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