The discussion interprets and describes the significance of your findings in light of what was already known about the research problem being investigated, and explains any new understanding or fresh insights about the problem after you’ve taken the findings into consideration. This section often reflects the most important part of your research paper because this is where you:

  • To develop creative solutions to problems based upon a logical synthesis of the findings, and to formulate a deeper, more profound understanding of the research problem under investigation.
  • Present the underlying meaning of your research.
  • Highlight the importance of your study.
  • Engage the reader in an evidence-based interpretation of findings.

The objectives of your discussion section should include the following

  • Reiterate the Research Problem/State the Major Findings
  • Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why They are Important
  • Relate the Findings to Similar Studies
  • Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings
  • Acknowledge the Study’s Limitations
  • Make Suggestions for Further Research

In an ideal world, you could simply reject your null or alternative hypotheses according to the significance levels found by the statistics. That is the main point of your discussion section, but the process is usually a lot more complex than that. It is rarely clear-cut, and you will need to interpret your findings. For example, one of your graphs may show a distinct trend, but not enough to reach an acceptable significance level. Remember that no significance is not the same as no difference, and you can begin to explain this in your discussion section. Whilst your results may not be enough to reject the null hypothesis, they may show a trend that later researchers may wish to explore, perhaps by refining the experiment.

There are some 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 or prior studies in the past tense.
  • If needed, use subheadings to help organize your discussion or to group your interpretations into themes
  • Try to present the principles, relationships, and generalizations shown by the results. Discuss, and do not recapitulate the results.
  • Point out any exceptions or any lack of correction, and define unsettled points.
  • Show how your results and interpretations agree (or construct) with previously published works.
  • Discuss both theoretical implications, as well as practical applications.
  • Recommendations for further research can be included in either the discussion or conclusion of your paper but do not repeat your recommendations in 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.

The results and discussion sections cannot be combined. They have two very different purposes. The results section is for a fact. The discussion section is for interpretation. Often, one will get so wound up in one’s discussion that it’s hard to tell when one is talking about the results of this study and when one is talking about the results of other studies. Don’t let one get away with that kind of ambiguity- whose study is being discussed is vital information. Often one leaves out critical information from the discussion section.

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