How to Write a Discussion Section of a Research Paper

How to Write a Discussion Section of a Research Paper

The main goal of a discussion section of a research paper is to introduce and analyze your study’s results. Our guide will help you to create a well-organized paper according to the main requirements. In the discussion part, you have to put detailed results of your study. You may use tablets and graphs to show results if necessary. Present all results logically and clearly to be understood by readers. In this section, you also need to make a discussion about why you got these results and why this happened to analyze your results. Readers should feel a connection between the main question of your work and results.

Provide Your Key Findings

In the discussion section of your research paper, you have to restate the research problem and summarize your results shortly. But you mustn’t repeat the information you have already got. Just give a short statement of the result that answers the main question of your research. Be informed you shouldn’t write more than just 1 paragraph. 

Here are good examples to start your statement:

  • The results demonstrate that…
  • My study indicates that…
  • The received data suggests that…
  • My analysis confirms that...

Provide Your Interpretations 

Of course, the results of your research may seem obvious for you, but you have to explain their importance to your audience and show to readers how the results answer the main question of your entire research.

Of course, it depends on your research type but here are some common approaches you can use to interpret the data you’ve received:

  • Identify relationship, patterns, and correlations among the received data
  • Discuss if the results you’ve got support the hypotheses and met your expectations or not
  • Support your results with previous theories and research
  • Explain why you’ve got some unexpected data and define their importance
  • Make some alternative theories and create an argument for every position

It’s easy to organize the discussion if you follow the same structure as the section with results. You can start by describing the most unexpected or important results of your work.

Here are good examples of how to start:

Provide Your Implications 

It’s quite important to provide your interpretations but you should relate your results with the work you mentioned in the literature review. In the discussion paragraph, you need to show to readers the connection between your results and existing knowledge. Analyze what insights they bring and how it impacts theory and practice. 

Here are good questions to ask yourself before writing:

  • Do the results match with previous studies? If not, what can they add?
  • Are your results different from other research? If yes, what’s the reason?
  • Do your results challenge or confirm the existing theories?
  • What is a practical importance?

Remember that your goal here is to show your audience the main contributions of your study.

Feel free to use examples below to write this section properly:

  • My results build on the evidence…
  • The findings don’t fit with the…
  • The results give an insight into…
  • The data confirm the theory…
  • The received data demonstrates that...

Acknowledge the Limitations and Recommendations

Every research has limitations, and you have to acknowledge them to demonstrate the credibility of your study. Remember that it doesn’t mean that you list your errors with limitations. You need them to provide a clear picture of what can be concluded from your research. 

Limitations can appear due to specific methodology, research design, or any other obstacles. Keep in mind you have to list limitations that are relevant to your research. Do not forget to mention how they impact on your research goals.

Here is an example: if your research was provided to a small or specific group of people, you should write it limits your study’s generalizability. If some problems occurred with analyzing and gathering information, explain how it influenced the data you’ve got.

After you’ve written the limitations, you can restate why your results cannot answer all the questions of the research. Use the samples below:

  • The results of my research cannot confirm…
  • The methodology was limited
  • This study cannot prove that…
  • The data was impacted by…

You can also create recommendations for further study. These suggestions can be defined from the limitations. But don’t just confirm that more research can be completed but list new ideas on how future research can be built. Follow these examples:

  • Further studies can be provided to confirm…
  • Future research should take into consideration…

Things to Exclude From the Discussion

When you’re making a discussion section of your study, please avoid the next mistakes:

  • Do not include any new results here. You have only to introduce and discuss the data you’ve already mentioned in the previous chapter of your paper.
  • Do not make any claims without support. Make sure your data supports every claim you make in the paper.
  • Do not undermine your study. The main goal of the discussion section is to show your credibility but not demonstrate your failures, mistakes, and weaknesses.

Common Mistakes to Avoid when Writing a Discussion

The purpose of the discussion is to review the study findings in light of the published literature and draw conclusions from the data. In addition, the discussion should be used to support the implications of the authors’ findings and convincingly showcase the novelty of the study.  While rarely is one manuscript affected by all of these errors, the following are the most common areas in need of improvement.

  1. Restating the results - by far the most common error made in the discussion is restating the results. While the main findings should be summarized in the discussion, the results (including statistics and main figures) should be presented only in the results section. Often, authors will present some of the figures in the results and the remaining data in the discussion. Care should be taken that the findings are summarized in the context of the published literature and not simply a reiteration of the results section.
  2. Incorrect length - the length of the discussion should fit with the type of article and maximum word count permitted for the journal. For example, the discussion of a case report will be much shorter than that of an original article which describes six figures. However, the discussion should not be an in-depth review of the literature, but rather a discussion of the findings as they relate to published studies. A good rule of thumb is to aim for approximately 1500 words. When a discussion is too long, the reader often loses sight of the main message of the study. Therefore, to keep the reader engaged and provide a convincing argument, an attempt should be made to be as concise as possible.
  3. Citation quality - is important because it is used to support the results presented in the manuscript. When information is not cited, or unreliable/dated sources are referenced, the authors’ conclusions from the data become less convincing. The authors should ensure that the citations are from the most recently published literature, and not reports from over 20 years prior. Attention should also be paid to the journal requirements, as some journals will require that a certain percentage of the references must be published within the past 5 to 10 years. Authors should also ensure that the references are from top tier journals to adequately support the findings of the present study. 
  4. The study limitations are not discussed - one of the most frequently neglected aspects of a discussion is the mention of the study limitations. While it is understandable that the flaws in the experimental design and data are not factors that most authors wish to highlight, this section is required by most journals and should be stated. A recommended strategy is to discuss the limitations in such a way that provides justification for why they are acceptable. For example, if the study included only a small number of participants, you may wish to describe this limitation in the context of why so few subjects were available. 


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