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- How to Write Discussions and Conclusions
The discussion section contains the results and outcomes of a study. An effective discussion informs readers what can be learned from your experiment and provides context for the results.
What makes an effective discussion?
When you’re ready to write your discussion, you’ve already introduced the purpose of your study and provided an in-depth description of the methodology. The discussion informs readers about the larger implications of your study based on the results. Highlighting these implications while not overstating the findings can be challenging, especially when you’re submitting to a journal that selects articles based on novelty or potential impact. Regardless of what journal you are submitting to, the discussion section always serves the same purpose: concluding what your study results actually mean.
A successful discussion section puts your findings in context. It should include:
- the results of your research,
- a discussion of related research, and
- a comparison between your results and initial hypothesis.
Tip: Not all journals share the same naming conventions.
You can apply the advice in this article to the conclusion, results or discussion sections of your manuscript.
Our Early Career Researcher community tells us that the conclusion is often considered the most difficult aspect of a manuscript to write. To help, this guide provides questions to ask yourself, a basic structure to model your discussion off of and examples from published manuscripts.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Was my hypothesis correct?
- If my hypothesis is partially correct or entirely different, what can be learned from the results?
- How do the conclusions reshape or add onto the existing knowledge in the field? What does previous research say about the topic?
- Why are the results important or relevant to your audience? Do they add further evidence to a scientific consensus or disprove prior studies?
- How can future research build on these observations? What are the key experiments that must be done?
- What is the “take-home” message you want your reader to leave with?
How to structure a discussion
Trying to fit a complete discussion into a single paragraph can add unnecessary stress to the writing process. If possible, you’ll want to give yourself two or three paragraphs to give the reader a comprehensive understanding of your study as a whole. Here’s one way to structure an effective discussion:
While the above sections can help you brainstorm and structure your discussion, there are many common mistakes that writers revert to when having difficulties with their paper. Writing a discussion can be a delicate balance between summarizing your results, providing proper context for your research and avoiding introducing new information. Remember that your paper should be both confident and honest about the results!
- Read the journal’s guidelines on the discussion and conclusion sections. If possible, learn about the guidelines before writing the discussion to ensure you’re writing to meet their expectations.
- Begin with a clear statement of the principal findings. This will reinforce the main take-away for the reader and set up the rest of the discussion.
- Explain why the outcomes of your study are important to the reader. Discuss the implications of your findings realistically based on previous literature, highlighting both the strengths and limitations of the research.
- State whether the results prove or disprove your hypothesis. If your hypothesis was disproved, what might be the reasons?
- Introduce new or expanded ways to think about the research question. Indicate what next steps can be taken to further pursue any unresolved questions.
- If dealing with a contemporary or ongoing problem, such as climate change, discuss possible consequences if the problem is avoided.
- Be concise. Adding unnecessary detail can distract from the main findings.
- Rewrite your abstract. Statements with “we investigated” or “we studied” generally do not belong in the discussion.
- Include new arguments or evidence not previously discussed. Necessary information and evidence should be introduced in the main body of the paper.
- Apologize. Even if your research contains significant limitations, don’t undermine your authority by including statements that doubt your methodology or execution.
- Shy away from speaking on limitations or negative results. Including limitations and negative results will give readers a complete understanding of the presented research. Potential limitations include sources of potential bias, threats to internal or external validity, barriers to implementing an intervention and other issues inherent to the study design.
- Overstate the importance of your findings. Making grand statements about how a study will fully resolve large questions can lead readers to doubt the success of the research.
Snippets of Effective Discussions:
Consumer-based actions to reduce plastic pollution in rivers: A multi-criteria decision analysis approach
Identifying reliable indicators of fitness in polar bears
- How to Write a Great Title
- How to Write an Abstract
- How to Write Your Methods
- How to Report Statistics
- How to Edit Your Work
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Writing a scientific paper.
- Writing a lab report
Writing a "good" discussion section
"discussion and conclusions checklist" from: how to write a good scientific paper. chris a. mack. spie. 2018., peer review.
- LITERATURE CITED
- Bibliography of guides to scientific writing and presenting
- Lab Report Writing Guides on the Web
This is is usually the hardest section to write. You are trying to bring out the true meaning of your data without being too long. Do not use words to conceal your facts or reasoning. Also do not repeat your results, this is a discussion.
- Present principles, relationships and generalizations shown by the results
- Point out exceptions or lack of correlations. Define why you think this is so.
- Show how your results agree or disagree with previously published works
- Discuss the theoretical implications of your work as well as practical applications
- State your conclusions clearly. Summarize your evidence for each conclusion.
- Discuss the significance of the results
- Evidence does not explain itself; the results must be presented and then explained.
- Typical stages in the discussion: summarizing the results, discussing whether results are expected or unexpected, comparing these results to previous work, interpreting and explaining the results (often by comparison to a theory or model), and hypothesizing about their generality.
- Discuss any problems or shortcomings encountered during the course of the work.
- Discuss possible alternate explanations for the results.
- Avoid: presenting results that are never discussed; presenting discussion that does not relate to any of the results; presenting results and discussion in chronological order rather than logical order; ignoring results that do not support the conclusions; drawing conclusions from results without logical arguments to back them up.
- Provide a very brief summary of the Results and Discussion.
- Emphasize the implications of the findings, explaining how the work is significant and providing the key message(s) the author wishes to convey.
- Provide the most general claims that can be supported by the evidence.
- Provide a future perspective on the work.
- Avoid: repeating the abstract; repeating background information from the Introduction; introducing new evidence or new arguments not found in the Results and Discussion; repeating the arguments made in the Results and Discussion; failing to address all of the research questions set out in the Introduction.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I COMPLETE MY PAPER?
The peer review process is the quality control step in the publication of ideas. Papers that are submitted to a journal for publication are sent out to several scientists (peers) who look carefully at the paper to see if it is "good science". These reviewers then recommend to the editor of a journal whether or not a paper should be published. Most journals have publication guidelines. Ask for them and follow them exactly. Peer reviewers examine the soundness of the materials and methods section. Are the materials and methods used written clearly enough for another scientist to reproduce the experiment? Other areas they look at are: originality of research, significance of research question studied, soundness of the discussion and interpretation, correct spelling and use of technical terms, and length of the article.
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How to Write a Discussion Section for a Research Paper
We’ve talked about several useful writing tips that authors should consider while drafting or editing their research papers. In particular, we’ve focused on figures and legends , as well as the Introduction , Methods , and Results . Now that we’ve addressed the more technical portions of your journal manuscript, let’s turn to the analytical segments of your research article. In this article, we’ll provide tips on how to write a strong Discussion section that best portrays the significance of your research contributions.
What is the Discussion section of a research paper?
In a nutshell, your Discussion fulfills the promise you made to readers in your Introduction . At the beginning of your paper, you tell us why we should care about your research. You then guide us through a series of intricate images and graphs that capture all the relevant data you collected during your research. We may be dazzled and impressed at first, but none of that matters if you deliver an anti-climactic conclusion in the Discussion section!
Are you feeling pressured? Don’t worry. To be honest, you will edit the Discussion section of your manuscript numerous times. After all, in as little as one to two paragraphs ( Nature ‘s suggestion based on their 3,000-word main body text limit), you have to explain how your research moves us from point A (issues you raise in the Introduction) to point B (our new understanding of these matters). You must also recommend how we might get to point C (i.e., identify what you think is the next direction for research in this field). That’s a lot to say in two paragraphs!
So, how do you do that? Let’s take a closer look.
What should I include in the Discussion section?
As we stated above, the goal of your Discussion section is to answer the questions you raise in your Introduction by using the results you collected during your research . The content you include in the Discussions segment should include the following information:
- Remind us why we should be interested in this research project.
- Describe the nature of the knowledge gap you were trying to fill using the results of your study.
- Don’t repeat your Introduction. Instead, focus on why this particular study was needed to fill the gap you noticed and why that gap needed filling in the first place.
- Mainly, you want to remind us of how your research will increase our knowledge base and inspire others to conduct further research.
- Clearly tell us what that piece of missing knowledge was.
- Answer each of the questions you asked in your Introduction and explain how your results support those conclusions.
- Make sure to factor in all results relevant to the questions (even if those results were not statistically significant).
- Focus on the significance of the most noteworthy results.
- If conflicting inferences can be drawn from your results, evaluate the merits of all of them.
- Don’t rehash what you said earlier in the Results section. Rather, discuss your findings in the context of answering your hypothesis. Instead of making statements like “[The first result] was this…,” say, “[The first result] suggests [conclusion].”
- Do your conclusions line up with existing literature?
- Discuss whether your findings agree with current knowledge and expectations.
- Keep in mind good persuasive argument skills, such as explaining the strengths of your arguments and highlighting the weaknesses of contrary opinions.
- If you discovered something unexpected, offer reasons. If your conclusions aren’t aligned with current literature, explain.
- Address any limitations of your study and how relevant they are to interpreting your results and validating your findings.
- Make sure to acknowledge any weaknesses in your conclusions and suggest room for further research concerning that aspect of your analysis.
- Make sure your suggestions aren’t ones that should have been conducted during your research! Doing so might raise questions about your initial research design and protocols.
- Similarly, maintain a critical but unapologetic tone. You want to instill confidence in your readers that you have thoroughly examined your results and have objectively assessed them in a way that would benefit the scientific community’s desire to expand our knowledge base.
- Recommend next steps.
- Your suggestions should inspire other researchers to conduct follow-up studies to build upon the knowledge you have shared with them.
- Keep the list short (no more than two).
How to Write the Discussion Section
The above list of what to include in the Discussion section gives an overall idea of what you need to focus on throughout the section. Below are some tips and general suggestions about the technical aspects of writing and organization that you might find useful as you draft or revise the contents we’ve outlined above.
Technical writing elements
- Embrace active voice because it eliminates the awkward phrasing and wordiness that accompanies passive voice.
- Use the present tense, which should also be employed in the Introduction.
- Sprinkle with first person pronouns if needed, but generally, avoid it. We want to focus on your findings.
- Maintain an objective and analytical tone.
Discussion section organization
- Keep the same flow across the Results, Methods, and Discussion sections.
- We develop a rhythm as we read and parallel structures facilitate our comprehension. When you organize information the same way in each of these related parts of your journal manuscript, we can quickly see how a certain result was interpreted and quickly verify the particular methods used to produce that result.
- Notice how using parallel structure will eliminate extra narration in the Discussion part since we can anticipate the flow of your ideas based on what we read in the Results segment. Reducing wordiness is important when you only have a few paragraphs to devote to the Discussion section!
- Within each subpart of a Discussion, the information should flow as follows: (A) conclusion first, (B) relevant results and how they relate to that conclusion and (C) relevant literature.
- End with a concise summary explaining the big-picture impact of your study on our understanding of the subject matter. At the beginning of your Discussion section, you stated why this particular study was needed to fill the gap you noticed and why that gap needed filling in the first place. Now, it is time to end with “how your research filled that gap.”
Discussion Part 1: Summarizing Key Findings
Begin the Discussion section by restating your statement of the problem and briefly summarizing the major results. Do not simply repeat your findings. Rather, try to create a concise statement of the main results that directly answer the central research question that you stated in the Introduction section . This content should not be longer than one paragraph in length.
Many researchers struggle with understanding the precise differences between a Discussion section and a Results section . The most important thing to remember here is that your Discussion section should subjectively evaluate the findings presented in the Results section, and in relatively the same order. Keep these sections distinct by making sure that you do not repeat the findings without providing an interpretation.
Phrase examples: Summarizing the results
- The findings indicate that …
- These results suggest a correlation between A and B …
- The data present here suggest that …
- An interpretation of the findings reveals a connection between…
Discussion Part 2: Interpreting the Findings
What do the results mean? It may seem obvious to you, but simply looking at the figures in the Results section will not necessarily convey to readers the importance of the findings in answering your research questions.
The exact structure of interpretations depends on the type of research being conducted. Here are some common approaches to interpreting data:
- Identifying correlations and relationships in the findings
- Explaining whether the results confirm or undermine your research hypothesis
- Giving the findings context within the history of similar research studies
- Discussing unexpected results and analyzing their significance to your study or general research
- Offering alternative explanations and arguing for your position
Organize the Discussion section around key arguments, themes, hypotheses, or research questions or problems. Again, make sure to follow the same order as you did in the Results section.
Discussion Part 3: Discussing the Implications
In addition to providing your own interpretations, show how your results fit into the wider scholarly literature you surveyed in the literature review section. This section is called the implications of the study . Show where and how these results fit into existing knowledge, what additional insights they contribute, and any possible consequences that might arise from this knowledge, both in the specific research topic and in the wider scientific domain.
Questions to ask yourself when dealing with potential implications:
- Do your findings fall in line with existing theories, or do they challenge these theories or findings? What new information do they contribute to the literature, if any? How exactly do these findings impact or conflict with existing theories or models?
- What are the practical implications on actual subjects or demographics?
- What are the methodological implications for similar studies conducted either in the past or future?
Your purpose in giving the implications is to spell out exactly what your study has contributed and why researchers and other readers should be interested.
Phrase examples: Discussing the implications of the research
- These results confirm the existing evidence in X studies…
- The results are not in line with the foregoing theory that…
- This experiment provides new insights into the connection between…
- These findings present a more nuanced understanding of…
- While previous studies have focused on X, these results demonstrate that Y.
Step 4: Acknowledging the limitations
All research has study limitations of one sort or another. Acknowledging limitations in methodology or approach helps strengthen your credibility as a researcher. Study limitations are not simply a list of mistakes made in the study. Rather, limitations help provide a more detailed picture of what can or cannot be concluded from your findings. In essence, they help temper and qualify the study implications you listed previously.
Study limitations can relate to research design, specific methodological or material choices, or unexpected issues that emerged while you conducted the research. Mention only those limitations directly relate to your research questions, and explain what impact these limitations had on how your study was conducted and the validity of any interpretations.
Possible types of study limitations:
- Insufficient sample size for statistical measurements
- Lack of previous research studies on the topic
- Methods/instruments/techniques used to collect the data
- Limited access to data
- Time constraints in properly preparing and executing the study
After discussing the study limitations, you can also stress that your results are still valid. Give some specific reasons why the limitations do not necessarily handicap your study or narrow its scope.
Phrase examples: Limitations sentence beginners
- “There may be some possible limitations in this study.”
- “The findings of this study have to be seen in light of some limitations.”
- “The first limitation is the…The second limitation concerns the…”
- “The empirical results reported herein should be considered in the light of some limitations.”
- “This research, however, is subject to several limitations.”
- “The primary limitation to the generalization of these results is…”
- “Nonetheless, these results must be interpreted with caution and a number of limitations should be borne in mind.”
Discussion Part 5: Giving Recommendations for Further Research
Based on your interpretation and discussion of the findings, your recommendations can include practical changes to the study or specific further research to be conducted to clarify the research questions. Recommendations are often listed in a separate Conclusion section , but often this is just the final paragraph of the Discussion section.
Suggestions for further research often stem directly from the limitations outlined. Rather than simply stating that “further research should be conducted,” provide concrete specifics for how future can help answer questions that your research could not.
Phrase examples: Recommendation sentence beginners
- Further research is needed to establish …
- There is abundant space for further progress in analyzing…
- A further study with more focus on X should be done to investigate…
- Further studies of X that account for these variables must be undertaken.
Consider Receiving Professional Language Editing
As you edit or draft your research manuscript, we hope that you implement these guidelines to produce a more effective Discussion section. And after completing your draft, don’t forget to submit your work to a professional proofreading and English editing service like Wordvice, including our manuscript editing service for paper editing , cover letter editing , SOP editing , and personal statement proofreading services. Language editors not only proofread and correct errors in grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and formatting but also improve terms and revise phrases so they read more naturally. Wordvice is an industry leader in providing high-quality revision for all types of academic documents.
For additional information about how to write a strong research paper, make sure to check out our full research writing series !
Wordvice Writing Resources
- How to Write a Research Paper Introduction
- Which Verb Tenses to Use in a Research Paper
- How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper
- How to Write a Research Paper Title
- Useful Phrases for Academic Writing
- Common Transition Terms in Academic Papers
- Active and Passive Voice in Research Papers
- 100+ Verbs That Will Make Your Research Writing Amazing
- Tips for Paraphrasing in Research Papers
Additional Academic Resources
- Guide for Authors. (Elsevier)
- How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper. (Bates College)
- Structure of a Research Paper. (University of Minnesota Biomedical Library)
- How to Choose a Target Journal (Springer)
- How to Write Figures and Tables (UNC Writing Center)
Organizing Academic Research Papers: 8. The Discussion
- Purpose of Guide
- Design Flaws to Avoid
- Glossary of Research Terms
- Narrowing a Topic Idea
- Broadening a Topic Idea
- Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
- Academic Writing Style
- Choosing a Title
- Making an Outline
- Paragraph Development
- Executive Summary
- Background Information
- The Research Problem/Question
- Theoretical Framework
- Citation Tracking
- Content Alert Services
- Evaluating Sources
- Primary Sources
- Secondary Sources
- Tertiary Sources
- What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
- Qualitative Methods
- Quantitative Methods
- Using Non-Textual Elements
- Limitations of the Study
- Common Grammar Mistakes
- Avoiding Plagiarism
- Footnotes or Endnotes?
- Further Readings
- Annotated Bibliography
- Dealing with Nervousness
- Using Visual Aids
- Grading Someone Else's Paper
- How to Manage Group Projects
- Multiple Book Review Essay
- Reviewing Collected Essays
- About Informed Consent
- Writing Field Notes
- Writing a Policy Memo
- Writing a Research Proposal
The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and describe the significance of your findings in light of what was already known about the research problem being investigated, and to explain any new understanding or fresh insights about the problem after you've taken the findings into consideration. The discussion will always connect to the introduction by way of the research questions or hypotheses you posed and the literature you reviewed, but it does not simply repeat or rearrange the introduction; the discussion should always explain how your study has moved the reader's understanding of the research problem forward from where you left them at the end of the introduction.
Importance of a Good Discussion
This section is often considered the most important part of a research paper because it most effectively demonstrates your ability as a researcher to think critically about an issue, to develop creative solutions to problems based on the findings, and to formulate a deeper, more profound understanding of the research problem you are studying.
The discussion section is where you explore the underlying meaning of your research , its possible implications in other areas of study, and the possible improvements that can be made in order to further develop the concerns of your research.
This is the section where you need to present the importance of your study and how it may be able to contribute to and/or fill existing gaps in the field. If appropriate, the discussion section is also where you state how the findings from your study revealed new gaps in the literature that had not been previously exposed or adequately described.
This part of the paper is not strictly governed by objective reporting of information but, rather, it is where you can engage in creative thinking about issues through evidence-based interpretation of findings. This is where you infuse your results with meaning.
Kretchmer, Paul. Fourteen Steps to Writing to Writing an Effective Discussion Section . San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008.
Structure and Writing Style
I. General Rules
These are the general rules you should adopt when composing your discussion of the results :
- Do not be verbose or repetitive.
- Be concise and make your points clearly.
- Avoid using jargon.
- Follow a logical stream of thought.
- Use the present verb tense, especially for established facts; however, refer to specific works and references in the past tense.
- If needed, use subheadings to help organize your presentation or to group your interpretations into themes.
II. The Content
The content of the discussion section of your paper most often includes :
- Explanation of results : comment on whether or not the results were expected and present explanations for the results; go into greater depth when explaining findings that were unexpected or especially profound. If appropriate, note any unusual or unanticipated patterns or trends that emerged from your results and explain their meaning.
- References to previous research : compare your results with the findings from other studies, or use the studies to support a claim. This can include re-visiting key sources already cited in your literature review section, or, save them to cite later in the discussion section if they are more important to compare with your results than being part of the general research you cited to provide context and background information.
- Deduction : a claim for how the results can be applied more generally. For example, describing lessons learned, proposing recommendations that can help improve a situation, or recommending best practices.
- Hypothesis : a more general claim or possible conclusion arising from the results [which may be proved or disproved in subsequent research].
III. Organization and Structure
Keep the following sequential points in mind as you organize and write the discussion section of your paper:
- Think of your discussion as an inverted pyramid. Organize the discussion from the general to the specific, linking your findings to the literature, then to theory, then to practice [if appropriate].
- Use the same key terms, mode of narration, and verb tense [present] that you used when when describing the research problem in the introduction.
- Begin by briefly re-stating the research problem you were investigating and answer all of the research questions underpinning the problem that you posed in the introduction.
- Describe the patterns, principles, and relationships shown by each major findings and place them in proper perspective. The sequencing of providing this information is important; first state the answer, then the relevant results, then cite the work of others. If appropriate, refer the reader to a figure or table to help enhance the interpretation of the data. The order of interpreting each major finding should be in the same order as they were described in your results section.
- A good discussion section includes analysis of any unexpected findings. This paragraph should begin with a description of the unexpected finding, followed by a brief interpretation as to why you believe it appeared and, if necessary, its possible significance in relation to the overall study. If more than one unexpected finding emerged during the study, describe each them in the order they appeared as you gathered the data.
- Before concluding the discussion, identify potential limitations and weaknesses. Comment on their relative importance in relation to your overall interpretation of the results and, if necessary, note how they may affect the validity of the findings. Avoid using an apologetic tone; however, be honest and self-critical.
- The discussion section should end with a concise summary of the principal implications of the findings regardless of statistical significance. Give a brief explanation about why you believe the findings and conclusions of your study are important and how they support broader knowledge or understanding of the research problem. This can be followed by any recommendations for further research. However, do not offer recommendations which could have been easily addressed within the study. This demonstrates to the reader you have inadequately examined and interpreted the data.
IV. Overall Objectives
The objectives of your discussion section should include the following: I. Reiterate the Research Problem/State the Major Findings
Briefly reiterate for your readers the research problem or problems you are investigating and the methods you used to investigate them, then move quickly to describe the major findings of the study. You should write a direct, declarative, and succinct proclamation of the study results.
II. Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why They are Important
No one has thought as long and hard about your study as you have. Systematically explain the meaning of the findings and why you believe they are important. After reading the discussion section, you want the reader to think about the results [“why hadn’t I thought of that?”]. You don’t want to force the reader to go through the paper multiple times to figure out what it all means. Begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most important finding first.
III. Relate the Findings to Similar Studies
No study is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to other previously published research. The discussion section should relate your study findings to those of other studies, particularly if questions raised by previous studies served as the motivation for your study, the findings of other studies support your findings [which strengthens the importance of your study results], and/or they point out how your study differs from other similar studies. IV. Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings
It is important to remember that the purpose of research is to discover and not to prove . When writing the discussion section, you should carefully consider all possible explanations for the study results, rather than just those that fit your prior assumptions or biases.
V. Acknowledge the Study’s Limitations
It is far better for you to identify and acknowledge your study’s limitations than to have them pointed out by your professor! Describe the generalizability of your results to other situations, if applicable to the method chosen, then describe in detail problems you encountered in the method(s) you used to gather information. Note any unanswered questions or issues your study did not address, and.... VI. Make Suggestions for Further Research
Although your study may offer important insights about the research problem, other questions related to the problem likely remain unanswered. Moreover, some unanswered questions may have become more focused because of your study. You should make suggestions for further research in the discussion section.
NOTE: Besides the literature review section, the preponderance of references to sources in your research paper are usually found in the discussion section . A few historical references may be helpful for perspective but most of the references should be relatively recent and included to aid in the interpretation of your results and/or linked to similar studies. If a study that you cited disagrees with your findings, don't ignore it--clearly explain why the study's findings differ from yours.
V. Problems to Avoid
- Do not waste entire sentences restating your results . Should you need to remind the reader of the finding to be discussed, use "bridge sentences" that relate the result to the interpretation. An example would be: “The lack of available housing to single women with children in rural areas of Texas suggests that...[then move to the interpretation of this finding].”
- Recommendations for further research can be included in either the discussion or conclusion of your paper but do not repeat your recommendations in the both sections.
- Do not introduce new results in the discussion. Be wary of mistaking the reiteration of a specific finding for an interpretation.
- Use of the first person is acceptable, but too much use of the first person may actually distract the reader from the main points.
Analyzing vs. Summarizing. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University; Discussion . The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Hess, Dean R. How to Write an Effective Discussion. Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004); Kretchmer, Paul. Fourteen Steps to Writing to Writing an Effective Discussion Section . San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008; The Lab Report . University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Summary: Using it Wisely . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Schafer, Mickey S. Writing the Discussion . Writing in Psychology course syllabus. University of Florida; Yellin, Linda L. A Sociology Writer's Guide. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2009.
Don’t Overinterpret the Results!
Interpretation is a subjective exercise. Therefore, be careful that you do not read more into the findings than can be supported by the evidence you've gathered. Remember that the data are the data: nothing more, nothing less.
Another Writing Tip
Don't Write Two Results Sections!
One of the most common mistakes that you can make when discussing the results of your study is to present a superficial interpretation of the findings that more or less re-states the results section of your paper. Obviously, you must refer to your results when discussing them, but focus on the interpretion of those results, not just the data itself.
Azar, Beth. Discussing Your Findings. American Psychological Association gradPSYCH Magazine (January 2006)
Yet Another Writing Tip
Avoid Unwarranted Speculation!
The discussion section should remain focused on the findings of your study. For example, if you studied the impact of foreign aid on increasing levels of education among the poor in Bangladesh, it's generally not appropriate to speculate about how your findings might apply to populations in other countries without drawing from existing studies to support your claim. If you feel compelled to speculate, be certain that you clearly identify your comments as speculation or as a suggestion for where further research is needed. Sometimes your professor will encourage you to expand the discussion in this way, while others don’t care what your opinion is beyond your efforts to interpret the data.
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How to Write a Discussion Section: Writing Guide
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The discussion section of a research paper is where the author analyzes and explains the importance of the study's results. It presents the conclusions drawn from the study, compares them to previous research, and addresses any potential limitations or weaknesses. The discussion section should also suggest areas for future research.
Everything is not that complicated if you know where to find the required information. We’ll tell you everything there is to know about writing your discussion. Our easy guide covers all important bits, including research questions and your research results. Do you know how all enumerated events are connected? Well, you will after reading this guide we’ve prepared for you!
What Is in the Discussion Section of a Research Paper
The discussion section of a research paper can be viewed as something similar to the conclusion of your paper. But not literal, of course. It’s an ultimate section where you can talk about the findings of your study. Think about these questions when writing:
- Did you answer all of the promised research questions?
- Did you mention why your work matters?
- What are your findings, and why should anyone even care?
- Does your study have a literature review?
So, answer your questions, provide proof, and don’t forget about your promises from the introduction.
How to Write a Discussion Section in 5 Steps
How to write the discussion section of a research paper is something everyone googles eventually. It's just life. But why not make everything easier? In brief, this section we’re talking about must include all following parts:
- Answers for research questions
- Literature review
- Results of the work
- Limitations of one’s study
- Overall conclusion
Indeed, all those parts may confuse anyone. So by looking at our guide, you'll save yourself some hassle. P.S. All our steps are easy and explained in detail! But if you are looking for the most efficient solution, consider using professional help. Leave your “ write my research paper for me ” order at StudyCrumb and get a customized study tailored to your requirements.
Step 1. Start Strong: Discussion Section of a Research Paper
First and foremost, how to start the discussion section of a research paper? Here’s what you should definitely consider before settling down to start writing:
- All essays or papers must begin strong. All readers will not wait for any writer to get to the point. We advise summarizing the paper's main findings.
- Moreover, you should relate both discussion and literature review to what you have discovered. Mentioning that would be a plus too.
- Make sure that an introduction or start per se is clear and concise. Word count might be needed for school. But any paper should be understandable and not too diluted.
Step 2. Answer the Questions in Your Discussion Section of a Research Paper
Writing the discussion section of a research paper also involves mentioning your questions. Remember that in your introduction, you have promised your readers to answer certain questions. Well, now it’s a perfect time to finally give the awaited answer. You need to explain all possible correlations between your findings, research questions, and literature proposed. You already had hypotheses. So were they correct, or maybe you want to propose certain corrections? Section’s main goal is to avoid open ends. It’s not a story or a fairytale with an intriguing ending. If you have several questions, you must answer them. As simple as that.
Step 3. Relate Your Results in a Discussion Section
Writing a discussion section of a research paper also requires any writer to explain their results. You will undoubtedly include an impactful literature review. However, your readers should not just try and struggle with understanding what are some specific relationships behind previous studies and your results. Your results should sound something like: “This guy in their paper discovered that apples are green. Nevertheless, I have proven via experimentation and research that apples are actually red.” Please, don’t take these results directly. It’s just an initial hypothesis. But what you should definitely remember is any practical implications of your study. Why does it matter and how can anyone use it? That’s the most crucial question.
Step 4. Describe the Limitations in Your Discussion Section
Discussion section of a research paper isn’t limitless. What does that mean? Essentially, it means that you also have to discuss any limitations of your study. Maybe you had some methodological inconsistencies. Possibly, there are no particular theories or not enough information for you to be entirely confident in one’s conclusions. You might say that an available source of literature you have studied does not focus on one’s issue. That’s why one’s main limitation is theoretical. However, keep in mind that your limitations must possess a certain degree of relevancy. You can just say that you haven’t found enough books. Your information must be truthful to research.
Step 5. Conclude Your Discussion Section With Recommendations
Your last step when you write a discussion section in a paper is its conclusion, like in any other academic work. Writer’s conclusion must be as strong as their starting point of the overall work. Check out our brief list of things to know about the conclusion in research paper :
- It must present its scientific relevance and importance of your work.
- It should include different implications of your research.
- It should not, however, discuss anything new or things that you have not mentioned before.
- Leave no open questions and carefully complete the work without them.
Discussion Section of a Research Paper Example
All the best example discussion sections of a research paper will be written according to our brief guide. Don’t forget that you need to state your findings and underline the importance of your work. An undoubtedly big part of one’s discussion will definitely be answering and explaining the research questions. In other words, you’ll already have all the knowledge you have so carefully gathered. Our last step for you is to recollect and wrap up your paper. But we’re sure you’ll succeed!
How to Write a Discussion Section: Final Thoughts
Today we have covered how to write a discussion section. That was quite a brief journey, wasn’t it? Just to remind you to focus on these things:
- Importance of your study.
- Summary of the information you have gathered.
- Main findings and conclusions.
- Answers to all research questions without an open end.
- Correlation between literature review and your results.
But, wait, this guide is not the only thing we can do. Looking for how to write an abstract for a research paper for example? We have such a blog and much more on our platform.
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Discussion Section of a Research Paper: Frequently Asked Questions
1. how long should the discussion section of a research paper be.
Our discussion section of a research paper should not be longer than other sections. So try to keep it short but as informative as possible. It usually contains around 6-7 paragraphs in length. It is enough to briefly summarize all the important data and not to drag it.
2. What's the difference between the discussion and the results?
The difference between discussion and results is very simple and easy to understand. The results only report your main findings. You stated what you have found and how you have done that. In contrast, one’s discussion mentions your findings and explains how they relate to other literature, research questions, and one’s hypothesis. Therefore, it is not only a report but an efficient as well as proper explanation.
3. What's the difference between a discussion and a conclusion?
The difference between discussion and conclusion is also quite easy. Conclusion is a brief summary of all the findings and results. Still, our favorite discussion section interprets and explains your main results. It is an important but more lengthy and wordy part. Besides, it uses extra literature for references.
4. What is the purpose of the discussion section?
The primary purpose of a discussion section is to interpret and describe all your interesting findings. Therefore, you should state what you have learned, whether your hypothesis was correct and how your results can be explained using other sources. If this section is clear to readers, our congratulations as you have succeeded.
Joe Eckel is an expert on Dissertations writing. He makes sure that each student gets precious insights on composing A-grade academic writing.