Discussion section of a research paper

The purpose of the interview is to interpret and describe the significance of your findings in the light of what is already known about the problem of research and to explain any new findings and insights that have emerged as a result of your research into the problem. The discussion will always be linked to an introduction based on the research questions or hypotheses you asked and the literature you reviewed, but the discussion is not limited to repeating or reorganizing the first parts of your work; the discussion clearly explains how your research developed the reader's understanding of the research problem from where it ended at the end of your previous research review.

Discussion section of research paper - importance of a good discussion

The discussion section of research paper is often considered the most important part of your research work because you are sitting here:

  1. To demonstrate in the most effective way your ability as a researcher to think critically about a topic, to develop a creative problem solving based on a logical synthesis of results and to formulate a deeper and more complete understanding of the research problem under study.
  2. Present the basic meaning of your research, note the possible implications for other areas of study and consider possible improvements that can be made to further develop your research concerns.
  3. Highlight the importance of your study and how it can contribute to the understanding of the research issue in the area of study.
  4. Indicate the extent to which the results of your study have identified gaps in the literature and helped to fill those gaps that were not adequately identified or described above.
  5. Encourage the reader to reflect critically on the problems based on an evidence-based interpretation of the results; there is no strict requirement to present objective information.

Discussion in research paper - structure and writing style

I. General Rules

These are the general rules to be followed in compiling the discussion in research paper of the results:

  • Do not be verbose or repetitive
  • Be concise and precise in your arguments
  • Avoid the use of jargon or undefined technical language
  • Follow logical reasoning; in general, interpret and discuss the meaning of your results in the same order you described them in the results section [a notable exception is to start by highlighting an unexpected result or discovery to attract the reader's attention]
  • Use the present, especially for established facts, but refer to specific works or studies from the past
  • If necessary, use subtitles to organize your discussion or to organize your interpretations into themes

II. Content

The content of the discussion section of your document generally includes

  1. Explanation of results: Indicate whether or not results were expected for each set of results; investigate further to explain unexpected or particularly profound results. If yes, note any unusual or unexpected patterns or trends that emerged from your findings and explain their significance for the research problem.
  2. References to previous research: You can compare your findings with those of other studies or use these studies to support a statement. This may involve reviewing important sources already mentioned in the literature review section, or recording them for later citation in the discussion section, if they are more important for comparison with your findings than the part of the general literature review used to provide context and background information. Note that you can make this decision to highlight specific studies after you start writing the discussion section.
  3. Inference: a statement on how the results can be applied more widely For example, describing the lessons learned, suggesting recommendations that could help improve a situation, or highlighting best practice.
  4. Hypothesis: a more general statement or possible conclusion from the results [which can be tested or refuted in further research]. These questions can be formulated as new research questions arising from their analysis.

III Organisation and structure

Keep the following points in mind when organizing and writing the discussion section of your work:

  1. Think of your argument as an inverted pyramid. Organize the discussion from general to specific by linking your findings to literature, then to theory, then to practice [if applicable].
  2. Use the same keywords, narrative style, and verb form [in the present] that you used to describe the research problem in your introduction.
  3. Start with a brief overview of the research problem you have investigated and answer the research questions that underlie the problem you raised in your introduction.
  4. Describe the patterns, principles and relationships that emerge from each of the main findings and put them into perspective. The order of this information is important; first give the answer, then the relevant conclusions, and then quote the work of others. Where appropriate, refer the reader to an illustration or table to help interpret the data [in the text or appendix].
  5. Wherever it is mentioned, a good discussion section includes analysis of any unexpected results. This part of the discussion should begin with a description of the unexpected outcome, followed by a brief interpretation of why it is believed to have occurred and, if necessary, its possible significance in relation to the study as a whole. If more than one unexpected outcome occurs during the course of the study, describe each in the order in which they occurred during data collection or analysis. As mentioned above, the exception to discussing the results in the order in which they were described in the "Results" section is to first highlight the consequences of a particularly unexpected or significant outcome of the study, and then discuss the other results.
  6. Before concluding the discussion, identify the limitations and weaknesses, if you do not intend to do so at the end of the document. Discuss their relative importance in relation to your overall interpretation of the results and indicate, if appropriate, how they may affect the validity of your conclusions. Avoid the tone of apologies, but be honest and self-critical [for example, if you had included a particular question in a survey tool, additional data might have been revealed].
  7. The discussion section should end with a brief summary of the main implications of the conclusions, regardless of their significance. Explain briefly why you think the results and conclusions of your study are important and how they support a broader knowledge or understanding of the research problem. This may be followed by recommendations for future research. However, no recommendations were made that could easily have been taken into account in the study. This would indicate to the reader that he or she did not sufficiently study and interpret the data.