Aim vs goal

Discussion in 'English Only' started by calau, May 9, 2008.

  1. calau Senior Member

    naples - madrid
    italy italian
    Can you, please, tell me the difference between Aim and Goal? :confused:
    For instance which is the correct one:
    Aims of the research
    Goals of the research
    Objectives of the research?
  2. TimLA

    TimLA Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English - US
    Ooooohhhh...what a great question!

    In terms of research, as you describe here, they are generally synonymous, if you are writing about the "end points" of your research.
    But there may be subtleties.

    For example, in terms of NIH grants, the phrase "Specific Aims" is used routinely.

    In general writing about the "end points" of a research project, I would choose "goals" or "objectives" more commonly,
    and choose the word based on the rest of the sentence or paragraph.

    Let's see what others might say...

    PS - I note that many of my non-native European friends use "aims" more often that a native AE speaker might...
    thus the reason why I think this is a great question!
  3. calau Senior Member

    naples - madrid
    italy italian
    In this case it is the title of the paragraph, and Im still puzzled
  4. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    Are you translating a paragraph title from Italian? If it's in English, which word is being used (aim/goal/objective)? And what is the country of origin of the written piece? :)

  5. calau Senior Member

    naples - madrid
    italy italian
    Obviously I'm translating from It. into En. That's why I'm confused.
  6. baldpate

    baldpate Senior Member

    UK, English
    I see it as a matter of the general versus the specific.

    • An aim is something general, fairly vague, non specific, long-term. It may not even have a time-scale. An aim is strategic.
    • An objective is a definite target, something concrete, perhaps to be acheived in a relatively short timescale (a very relative concept :)). An objective is tactical.
    • A goal, to me, is somewhere between an aim (vague) and an objective (very specific), but probably nearer to an objective.
    The aim of this research is, ultimately, the mapping of the whole human genome.
    Our first objective is to develop a reliable method of high-speed DNA sequencing.
    Within two years, our goal is to sequence the entire X-chromosome.

    A rather subjective view, I know, but I hope it helps.
  7. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    It would have been obvious if you had provided the Italian equivalent, but you did not. ;)

    Since you are trying to encapsulate the essence of a paragraph, some information about what that paragraph says could be helpful, too. But as baldpate says, these are largely subjective judgments. Many dictionaries characterize them as synonyms. I agree, however, that aim sounds more general, while goal/objective sounds more specific.

  8. calau Senior Member

    naples - madrid
    italy italian
    thanks to everyone, especially baldpate
  9. udoh Member

    German - Germany
    There is also the word "purpose", which seems to be related. How is it used in contrast to the others?

    Which would one use to describe the "end points" of a research project in general? Which for example for describing those of a particular article?

    For example:

    "The purpose of the present paper is twofold."

    Is "purpose" here the preferred instead of aim, goal or objective if one want to describe quite precisely the "end points"?
  10. TimLA

    TimLA Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English - US

    To me, "purpose" "aim" "goal" and "objective" are 'general' words to describe, ultimately, what you research project was about:
    The purpose of the present paper is to demonstrate that Hawking was right in terms of black hole information loss.
    The goal................
    The objective.........
    The aim...(less used)
    The choice of any of these would be personal.

    But to be more specific, more detailed I might use more specific terms:
    The specific aim of this study is to show that X-ray frequencies from...
    The specific goal....
    The primary objective...

    There is a lot of overlap, and the use of most of them are personal.
    A minor note, my European friends, in my opinion tend to overuse "aim" - and I'm still trying to figure out why - I'm sure it has something to do with their "Italian/German-English dictionaries".:D

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