The purpose statement builds on the knowledge gap in the problem statement. Describe what new knowledge the study will produce. This is not the specific content or answer but rather the type of knowledge that will be produced. The purpose should directly address the knowledge gap in the problem statement. Then describe what will someone be able to do better once they have the findings from this study?
The generic purpose of a research study is to produce new credible empirical knowledge and insights. The question here is what is the specific deliverable or contribution to the body of knowledge that this study is expected to produce? The purpose or desired deliverable will drive the research questions and design decisions. The purpose statement addresses and aligns several issues including the problem statement; the goal of the study; the variables, relationships, and population to be studied; and the type of knowledge to be generated. This information will help you determine the feasibility of the study considering: the level of effort and money required; your actual and potential expertise and that needed from others; the availability of subjects and resources; and the ethical implications.
Note: If you are working on a Ph.D. dissertation, the contribution to knowledge must include a contribution to theory in your particular field.
There are four key components to a purpose statement including dissatisfaction with our current knowledge; a vision of what could be improved if we make the contribution to knowledge; the constructs, variables, and relationships included in the study; and the final deliverable.
Dissatisfaction with Our Current Knowledge
There has to be some dissatisfaction with the current level of knowledge of the topic. This is usually accomplished by connecting to the problem statement. This is a fairly easy concept – in basic terms, the purpose of the study is to produce new knowledge that practitioners can use to solving the problem and research can use to further the theories on the topic.
The second component of the purpose statement is to define a reason for or goal of the study. This contribution needs to also be aligned with the problem statement and the first component described above. The vision should be focused on what can be done with the research output. How will it help?
Who and What
The third component of the purpose statement includes the variables (independent, dependent, and moderating), the relationships, and the population that is being studied. These elements should also align with the problem statement and the conceptual framework. The nature of the variables, relationships, and the population along with the research approach will drive other research design decisions including the sampling plan. The first three components of the purpose statement work together to define the study and lead to an output or deliverable – a contribution to the body of knowledge.
The purpose statement also clarifies the type of knowledge to be generated by the study. What specifically will be delivered in what form. This is simply a description of the output of the study and identification of the overall approach (e.g., multiple case study). The deliverable hopefully includes a contribution to theory AND practice. As a scholar-practitioner, my research agenda is focused on building bridges between theory and practice.
The components of the purpose statement need to be stated objectively and they need to be aligned and internally consistent and congruent. In short, the four components need to present a consistent and logical case for the study.
So, why have a purpose statement at all? There are several reasons to develop a clear purpose statement including (a) it will help you decide if the study is feasible from a time and financial cost perspective; (b) is it within your capabilities and expertise and help identify expertise and resources that you will need to acquire; and (c) it helps to identify ethical issues that will need to be addressed. The first reason is to determine the feasibility of the project. This is a very important consideration. Most graduate students have a timeline that they are working toward. This timeline is an important parameter to consider when scoping the project. The second consideration is the expertise needed to accomplish the study. How much of the required expertise do you have and how much will you have to acquire? What resources will be required? Finally, some studies have few ethical dilemmas and others have many. There are situations that make conducting studies that “do no harm” difficult. And, of course, there are studies that are conducted with a protected population such as children, prisoners, and so forth that require special attention. So, there are several practical reasons to develop clear and consistent purpose statements early in the process.
Chad McAllister [Prospectus Version] – The purpose of the study is to examine factors that contribute to users and developers misunderstanding requirements of software products. To limit the scope of the study, software products are confined to information systems created in-house by an organization to be used within the organization. The findings of the study will lay a theoretical foundation for future research, allowing for the creation of more effective and efficient techniques for understanding requirements. By studying what influences developers and users’ misunderstanding requirements, software project managers can begin seeking ways to minimize these influences, therefore minimizing misunderstandings. The result is expected to ultimately enable the creation of software that better solves the intended problem, meets the expectations of its users, decreases development costs, and provides better schedule control.
- Link to and expand on the knowledge gap in the problem statement.
- Describe the new knowledge and insights the study will produce that will help fill the knowledge gap identified in the problem statement.
- Briefly clarify who and what will be included in the study.
- Describe the output of the study or the final “deliverable.”
- Support your discussion with solid peer-reviewed references.
Align and Integrate
- The purpose statement links directly to the research questions. The research questions should be crafted so that the answers to the questions will produce the new knowledge and insights that will help fulfill the purpose.
- The purpose statement should identify the new knowledge that will be produced that will help resolve the problem.
- As with all the components of the research methodology, the purpose should be consistent with the variables, relationships, context, and so forth identified in the conceptual framework.