Write the purpose statement

Now that every move in your life should base on a purpose, your research should be no exception. How to write your purpose statement? How to adapt whether you are employing the qualitative or quantitative methodologies?


Write the purpose statement

What is a purpose statement?

The purpose statement is a statement that evolves the overall direction or focus for the study. Researchers define the purpose of a study in one or more concisely formed sentences. Purpose statements are developed for both quantitative and qualitative studies.

What is the difference between the purpose statement and the research objectives?

While the purpose statement provides the general direction of the study, research objectives defines specific goals to be accomplished.

Accordingly, a research objective can be defined as a statement of intent used in quantitative research that states goals that the researcher plans to achieve in a study. Investigators often subdivide objectives into major and minor objectives. They appear normally in survey or questionnaire studies or in evaluation research in which investigators have clearly identified objectives.

How to write a qualitative purpose statement?

  • Develop your statement as a separate sentence or paragraph.
  • Use words such as “purpose,” “intent,” or “objective” to draw attention to this statement as the principal controlling idea in a study.
  • Focus on one idea/phenomenon to be explored or understood. This focus means that a purpose does not carry “relating” two or more variables or “comparing” two or more groups, as is typically established in quantitative research.
  • Use action verbs to convey how learning will take place, e.g., “understand”, “develop,” “examine’’, “discover”, etc.
  • Use neutral words and phrases, such as exploring the “experiences of individuals” rather than the “successful/positive experiences of individual”.
  • Include words reflecting the strategy of inquiry to be used in data collection, analysis, and the process of research, i.e., whether the study will employ an ethnographic, grounded theory, case study, phenomenological, or narrative approach.
  • Refer to the participants in the study, such as whether they are individuals, a group of people, or an entire organization.
  • Identify the sites for the research, whether they are homes, classrooms, organizations, programs, or events.
  • Provide general working definition of the central phenomenon/idea.

The “script” for a qualitative purpose statement is the following:

The purpose of this _________________(strategy of inquiry, such as ethnography, case study, or other type) study is to ____________ (understand? Describe? Develop? Discover?) the ____________(central phenomenon being studied) for __________ (the participants, such as the individual, groups, organization) at ____________(research site). At this stage in the research, the ____________(central phenomenon being studied) will be generally defined as ____________ (provide a general definition).

Example 1 – A Purpose Statement in a case Study

The purpose of this study was to explore affective, social, and educational factors that may have contributed to the development of reading disabilities in four adolescents. The study also sought explanation as to why students’ reading disabilities persisted despite years of instruction. This was not an intervention study and, although some students may have improved their reading, reading improvement was not the focus of the study. (Kos, 1991, pp.876-877).

Example 2 – A Purpose statement in a Grounded theory study

The present article describes a qualitative study of the career development of 18 prominent, highly achieving African-American Black and white women in the United States across eight occupational fields. Our overall aim in the study was to explore critical influences on the career development of these women, particularly those related to their attainment of professional success. (Richle etal., 1997, p. 133).

How to write a quantitative purpose statement?

While qualitative purpose statements focus on one idea/phenomenon, quantitative purpose statements focus on relating or comparing variables or constructs. A variable refers to a characteristic or attribute of an individual, group, or an organization that can be: (1) measured or observed and that (2) varies among the people or organization being studied. It is important to understand the types of variables before writing the purpose statement. The main types can be defined as:

  • Independent variables are variables that (probably) cause, influence, or affect outcomes. They are also called treatment, manipulated, antecedent, or predictor variables.
  • Dependent variables are variables that depend on the independent variables; they are the outcomes or results of the influence of the independent variables. Other names for dependent variable are criterion and outcome variables.
  • Intervening or mediating variables are variables that “stand between” the independent and dependent variable, and exercise an influence on the dependent variable apart from the independent variable. Intervening variables transmit (or mediate) the effects of the independent variable on the dependent variable.
  • Control variables are variables that play an active role in quantities studies. These variables are a special type of independent variable that are measured in a study because they potentially influence the dependent variable.
  • Moderating variables are special types of independent variables that (probably) affect the strength of the relationship between a dependent and independent variable.

After determining the types of your variables, write your quantitative purpose statement considering the followings:

  • Using words that highlight the major intent of the study such as “purpose”, “intent”, or “objective”. Start with “The purpose (or objective or intent) of this study is (will be) . . .”
  • Identification of the theory, model, or conceptual framework to test in the proposal or study.
  • Identification of the independent and dependent variables, as well as any mediating or control variables used in the study.
  • Using words/phrases that connect the variables such as “the relationship between” two or more variables or a “comparison of” two or more groups.
  • Mentioning the specific type of strategy of inquiry used in the study.
  • Referring to the participant (or the unit of analysis) in the study.
  • Mentioning the research site for the study.

Based on these points, a quantitative purpose statement “script” can include these ideas:

The purpose of this ______________________ (experiment? Survey?) study is (was? Will be?) to test the theory of _______________ that __________ (compares? Relates?) the _______________ (independent variable) to ___________ (dependent variable), controlling for _________________ (control variable) for ____________ (participants) at _____________ (the research site). The independent variable (s) _______________ will be generally defined as _________________________ (provide a general definition), and he control and intervening variable (s), _______________________, (identify the control and intervening variables) will be statistically controlled in the study.

Example 1 – A Purpose Statement in a Published Survey Study

This study is an attempt to elaborate on and clarify the link between women’s sex role attitudes and experiences with sexual victimization. I used two years of data from 54 college women to answer these question: (1) Do women’s attitudes influence vulnerability to sexual coercion over a two-year period? (2) Are attitudes changed after experiences with sexual victimization? (3) Does prior victimization reduce or increase the risk of later victimization? (Kalor, 2000, p,48).

Example 2 – A Purpose Statement in a dissertation Survey Study

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between personal characteristics and the job motivation of certified educators who taught in selected state adult correction all isntitutions in the United States personal characteristic were divided into background information about the respondent (i.e., institutional information, education level, prior training, etc.) and information about the respondents’ thought of changing jobs. The examination of background information was important to this study because it was hoped it would be possible to identify characterizes and factors contributing to significant difference in mobility and motivation. The second apart of the study asked the respondents to identify those motivational factors of concern to them. Job motivation was defined by six general factors identified in the educational work components study (EWCS) questionnaire (Miske and Heller, 1973). These six factors are: potential for personal challenge and development; competitiveness; desirability and reward of success; tolerance for woke pressures; conservative security; and willingness to seek reward in site of uncertainty vs. avoidance. (DeGraw, 1984, pp.4,5).


Creswell, J.W. (2012). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research, 4th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Creswell, J.W. (2003). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

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