All research proposals – grants, dissertations, internal funding – must ace the description of aims.  Many scientific questions are interesting.  Not all are useful.  You must persuade your readers that the proposed aims/hypotheses to be tested and the related analysis will fill gaps in scientific knowledge.

Together with a thoughtful synthesis of the literature, this worksheet will help you determine if you can justify excitement about your aims for observational studies (cohorts, case-control, etc).  Interrogation of your aims will force you to clearly identify the claims you can make for exactly how you will be advancing the science if allowed to do the proposed research.

Be brutally honest with yourself in this evaluation. Your readers and reviewers are certain to be.  If you can’t defend at least one strong “Yes, I am using a superior approach to get this answer” per aim, re-think the aim. You may be lost in the land of incremental contributions and not distinctive progress.

Once you have a grid documenting powerful aims, this approach will help you tell others, in an organized way, why doing the proposed research is important, has significance in your field, and will bring innovative contributions into play. They’ll see you are on the path to discovery.


Katherine Hartmann, MD, PhD

Twitter: @Hartmann_KE  and @EdgeforScholars

LinkedIn: Katherine Hartmann


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