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University of Wyoming

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Understanding Objectives Vs. Tasks

Draft proposals that we review frequently confuse the concept of "objectives" or "aims" on the one hand, and work plan "tasks" on the other. This usually results in a proposal that lacks a high level of coherence, and does not present a logical and convincing story. Clarity about the concepts of "objectives" and "tasks" is key to preparing a high quality proposal.

Objectives are the end points envisioned for the proposed project. These objectives might be, for example, development of a specified measurement capability that meets a prescribed accuracy, data rate, instrument packaging characteristics (size, weight, etc.), and other possible requirements. Objectives are desired end points for the proposed project. Analogies would be the goal line in a football game, and the mountain peak a climber plans to ascend.

Objectives are achieved, or they are not. They are not performed or carried out. They do not yield results or data. These descriptions apply to the domain of "tasks" in a work plan.

Tasks in a work (or research) plan are steps taken to achieve the stated objectives for the project. They are, for example, a sequence of experiments, analyses, field trials, etc., that together lead to attainment of the project "objectives." In the football game analogy, the tasks are a sequence of plays that culminate in getting the ball over the goal ("objective") line. To the mountain climber, the tasks are a series of actions (hiking up trails, crossing streams, climbing rocks, etc.) that bring the climber to the targeted mountain peak.

Understand clearly the distinction between objectives and tasks, and prepare the proposal accordingly. Doing so will help prepare a more convincing and compelling proposal story!!!