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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • 8. The Discussion
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • 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
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

The purpose of the discussion section is to interpret and describe the significance of your findings in relation to what was already known about the research problem being investigated and to explain any new understanding or insights that emerged as a result of your research. The discussion will always connect to the introduction by way of the research questions or hypotheses you posed and the literature you reviewed, but the discussion does not simply repeat or rearrange the first parts of your paper; the discussion clearly explains how your study advanced the reader's understanding of the research problem from where you left them at the end of your review of prior research.

Annesley, Thomas M. “The Discussion Section: Your Closing Argument.” Clinical Chemistry 56 (November 2010): 1671-1674; Peacock, Matthew. “Communicative Moves in the Discussion Section of Research Articles.” System 30 (December 2002): 479-497.

Importance of a Good Discussion

The discussion section is often considered the most important part of your 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 upon a logical synthesis of the findings, and to formulate a deeper, more profound understanding of the research problem under investigation;
  • Presents the underlying meaning of your research, notes possible implications in other areas of study, and explores possible improvements that can be made in order to further develop the concerns of your research;
  • Highlights the importance of your study and how it can contribute to understanding the research problem within the field of study;
  • Presents how the findings from your study revealed and helped fill gaps in the literature that had not been previously exposed or adequately described; and,
  • Engages the reader in thinking critically about issues based on an evidence-based interpretation of findings; it is not governed strictly by objective reporting of information.

Annesley Thomas M. “The Discussion Section: Your Closing Argument.” Clinical Chemistry 56 (November 2010): 1671-1674; Bitchener, John and Helen Basturkmen. “Perceptions of the Difficulties of Postgraduate L2 Thesis Students Writing the Discussion Section.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes 5 (January 2006): 4-18; Kretchmer, Paul. Fourteen Steps 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 the use of jargon or undefined technical language
  • Follow a logical stream of thought; in general, interpret and discuss the significance of your findings in the same sequence you described them in your results section [a notable exception is to begin by highlighting an unexpected result or a finding that can grab the reader's attention]
  • 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 categorize 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 for each set of findings; go into greater depth to explain 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 in relation to the research problem.
  • References to previous research : Either 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 instead of being a part of the general literature review of prior research used to provide context and background information. Note that you can make this decision to highlight specific studies after you have begun writing the discussion section.
  • 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 highlighting best practices.
  • Hypothesis : A more general claim or possible conclusion arising from the results [which may be proved or disproved in subsequent research]. This can be framed as new research questions that emerged as a consequence of your analysis.

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, narrative style, and verb tense [present] that you used when describing the research problem in your 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 sequence of 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 [either within the text or as an appendix].
  • Regardless of where it's mentioned, a good discussion section includes analysis of any unexpected findings. This part of the discussion should begin with a description of the unanticipated 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 of them in the order they appeared as you gathered or analyzed the data. As noted, the exception to discussing findings in the same order you described them in the results section would be to begin by highlighting the implications of a particularly unexpected or significant finding that emerged from the study, followed by a discussion of the remaining findings.
  • Before concluding the discussion, identify potential limitations and weaknesses if you do not plan to do so in the conclusion of the paper. 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 your findings. Avoid using an apologetic tone; however, be honest and self-critical [e.g., in retrospect, had you included a particular question in a survey instrument, additional data could have been revealed].
  • The discussion section should end with a concise summary of the principal implications of the findings regardless of their 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 would demonstrate to the reader that 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 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, usually in one paragraph.

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 underlying meaning of your findings and state why you believe they are significant. After reading the discussion section, you want the reader to think critically about the results and why they are important. You don’t want to force the reader to go through the paper multiple times to figure out what it all means. If applicable, begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most significant or unanticipated finding first, then systematically review each finding. Otherwise, follow the general order you reported the findings presented in the results section.

III.  Relate the Findings to Similar Studies

No study in the social sciences is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to previously published research. The discussion section should relate your results to those found in other studies, particularly if questions raised from prior studies served as the motivation for your research. This is important because comparing and contrasting the findings of other studies helps to support the overall importance of your results and it highlights how and in what ways your study differs from other research about the topic. Note that any significant or unanticipated finding is often because there was no prior research to indicate the finding could occur. If there is prior research to indicate this, you need to explain why it was significant or unanticipated. IV.  Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings

It is important to remember that the purpose of research in the social sciences 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 hypothesis or prior assumptions and biases. This is especially important when describing the discovery of significant or unanticipated findings.

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! Note any unanswered questions or issues your study could not address and describe the generalizability of your results to other situations. If a limitation is applicable to the method chosen to gather information, then describe in detail the problems you encountered and why. VI.  Make Suggestions for Further Research

You may choose to conclude the discussion section by making suggestions for further research [as opposed to offering suggestions in the conclusion of your paper]. Although your study can offer important insights about the research problem, this is where you can address other questions related to the problem that remain unanswered or highlight hidden issues that were revealed as a result of conducting your research. You should frame your suggestions by linking the need for further research to the limitations of your study [e.g., in future studies, the survey instrument should include more questions that ask..."] or linking to critical issues revealed from the data that were not considered initially in your research.

NOTE: Besides the literature review section, the preponderance of references to sources is 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, to support the significance of a finding, and/or to place a finding within a particular context. If a study that you cited does not support your findings, don't ignore it--clearly explain why your research findings differ from theirs.

V.  Problems to Avoid

  • Do not waste time restating your results . Should you need to remind the reader of a finding to be discussed, use "bridge sentences" that relate the result to the interpretation. An example would be: “In the case of determining available housing to single women with children in rural areas of Texas, the findings suggest that access to good schools is important...," then move on to further explaining this finding and its implications.
  • As noted, 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. Think about the overall narrative flow of your paper to determine where best to locate this information. However, if your findings raise a lot of new questions or issues, consider including suggestions for further research in the discussion section.
  • Do not introduce new results in the discussion section. Be wary of mistaking the reiteration of a specific finding for an interpretation because it may confuse the reader. The description of findings [results section] and the interpretation of their significance [discussion section] should be distinct parts of your paper. If you choose to combine the results section and the discussion section into a single narrative, you must be clear in how you report the information discovered and your own interpretation of each finding. This approach is not recommended if you lack experience writing college-level research papers.
  • Use of the first person pronoun is generally acceptable. Using first person singular pronouns can help emphasize a point or illustrate a contrasting finding. However, keep in mind that too much use of the first person can actually distract the reader from the main points [i.e., I know you're telling me this--just tell me!].

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; Sauaia, A. et al. "The Anatomy of an Article: The Discussion Section: "How Does the Article I Read Today Change What I Will Recommend to my Patients Tomorrow?” The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 74 (June 2013): 1599-1602; Research Limitations & Future Research . Lund Research Ltd., 2012; 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.

Writing Tip

Don’t Over-Interpret the Results!

Interpretation is a subjective exercise. As such, you should always approach the selection and interpretation of your findings introspectively and to think critically about the possibility of judgmental biases unintentionally entering into discussions about the significance of your work. With this in mind, be careful that you do not read more into the findings than can be supported by the evidence you have gathered. Remember that the data are the data: nothing more, nothing less.

MacCoun, Robert J. "Biases in the Interpretation and Use of Research Results." Annual Review of Psychology 49 (February 1998): 259-287; Ward, Paulet al, editors. The Oxford Handbook of Expertise . Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2018.

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 interpretation of those results and their significance in relation to the research problem, not 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 the purpose of your research was to measure the impact of foreign aid on increasing access to education among disadvantaged children in Bangladesh, it would not be appropriate to speculate about how your findings might apply to populations in other countries without drawing from existing studies to support your claim or if analysis of other countries was not a part of your original research design. If you feel compelled to speculate, do so in the form of describing possible implications or explaining possible impacts. 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 your discussion of the results in this way, while others don’t care what your opinion is beyond your effort to interpret the data in relation to the research problem.

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  • How to Write Discussions and Conclusions

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. 

what is the purpose of the discussion section in a research paper

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:

what is the purpose of the discussion section in a research paper

Writing Tips

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! 

What to do

  • 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. 

What not to do

Don’t

  • 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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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
  • Acknowledgements

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.

Writing Tip

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.

  • << Previous: Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Next: Limitations of the Study >>
  • Last Updated: Jul 18, 2023 11:58 AM
  • URL: https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803
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General research paper guidelines: discussion, discussion section.

The overall purpose of a research paper’s discussion section is to evaluate and interpret results, while explaining both the implications and limitations of your findings. Per APA (2020) guidelines, this section requires you to “examine, interpret, and qualify the results and draw inferences and conclusions from them” (p. 89). Discussion sections also require you to detail any new insights, think through areas for future research, highlight the work that still needs to be done to further your topic, and provide a clear conclusion to your research paper. In a good discussion section, you should do the following:

  • Clearly connect the discussion of your results to your introduction, including your central argument, thesis, or problem statement.
  • Provide readers with a critical thinking through of your results, answering the “so what?” question about each of your findings. In other words, why is this finding important?
  • Detail how your research findings might address critical gaps or problems in your field
  • Compare your results to similar studies’ findings
  • Provide the possibility of alternative interpretations, as your goal as a researcher is to “discover” and “examine” and not to “prove” or “disprove.” Instead of trying to fit your results into your hypothesis, critically engage with alternative interpretations to your results.

For more specific details on your Discussion section, be sure to review Sections 3.8 (pp. 89-90) and 3.16 (pp. 103-104) of your 7 th edition APA manual

*Box content adapted from:

University of Southern California (n.d.). Organizing your social sciences research paper: 8 the discussion . https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/discussion

Limitations

Limitations of generalizability or utility of findings, often over which the researcher has no control, should be detailed in your Discussion section. Including limitations for your reader allows you to demonstrate you have thought critically about your given topic, understood relevant literature addressing your topic, and chosen the methodology most appropriate for your research. It also allows you an opportunity to suggest avenues for future research on your topic. An effective limitations section will include the following:

  • Detail (a) sources of potential bias, (b) possible imprecision of measures, (c) other limitations or weaknesses of the study, including any methodological or researcher limitations.
  • Sample size: In quantitative research, if a sample size is too small, it is more difficult to generalize results.
  • Lack of available/reliable data : In some cases, data might not be available or reliable, which will ultimately affect the overall scope of your research. Use this as an opportunity to explain areas for future study.
  • Lack of prior research on your study topic: In some cases, you might find that there is very little or no similar research on your study topic, which hinders the credibility and scope of your own research. If this is the case, use this limitation as an opportunity to call for future research. However, make sure you have done a thorough search of the available literature before making this claim.
  • Flaws in measurement of data: Hindsight is 20/20, and you might realize after you have completed your research that the data tool you used actually limited the scope or results of your study in some way. Again, acknowledge the weakness and use it as an opportunity to highlight areas for future study.
  • Limits of self-reported data: In your research, you are assuming that any participants will be honest and forthcoming with responses or information they provide to you. Simply acknowledging this assumption as a possible limitation is important in your research.
  • Access: Most research requires that you have access to people, documents, organizations, etc.. However, for various reasons, access is sometimes limited or denied altogether. If this is the case, you will want to acknowledge access as a limitation to your research.
  • Time: Choosing a research focus that is narrow enough in scope to finish in a given time period is important. If such limitations of time prevent you from certain forms of research, access, or study designs, acknowledging this time restraint is important. Acknowledging such limitations is important, as they can point other researchers to areas that require future study.
  • Potential Bias: All researchers have some biases, so when reading and revising your draft, pay special attention to the possibilities for bias in your own work. Such bias could be in the form you organized people, places, participants, or events. They might also exist in the method you selected or the interpretation of your results. Acknowledging such bias is an important part of the research process.
  • Language Fluency: On occasion, researchers or research participants might have language fluency issues, which could potentially hinder results or how effectively you interpret results. If this is an issue in your research, make sure to acknowledge it in your limitations section.

University of Southern California (n.d.). Organizing your social sciences research paper: Limitations of the study . https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/limitations

In many research papers, the conclusion, like the limitations section, is folded into the larger discussion section. If you are unsure whether to include the conclusion as part of your discussion or as a separate section, be sure to defer to the assignment instructions or ask your instructor.

The conclusion is important, as it is specifically designed to highlight your research’s larger importance outside of the specific results of your study. Your conclusion section allows you to reiterate the main findings of your study, highlight their importance, and point out areas for future research. Based on the scope of your paper, your conclusion could be anywhere from one to three paragraphs long. An effective conclusion section should include the following:

  • Describe the possibilities for continued research on your topic, including what might be improved, adapted, or added to ensure useful and informed future research.
  • Provide a detailed account of the importance of your findings
  • Reiterate why your problem is important, detail how your interpretation of results impacts the subfield of study, and what larger issues both within and outside of your field might be affected from such results

University of Southern California (n.d.). Organizing your social sciences research paper: 9. the conclusion . https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/conclusion

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How to write a discussion section?

Writing manuscripts to describe study outcomes, although not easy, is the main task of an academician. The aim of the present review is to outline the main aspects of writing the discussion section of a manuscript. Additionally, we address various issues regarding manuscripts in general. It is advisable to work on a manuscript regularly to avoid losing familiarity with the article. On principle, simple, clear and effective language should be used throughout the text. In addition, a pre-peer review process is recommended to obtain feedback on the manuscript. The discussion section can be written in 3 parts: an introductory paragraph, intermediate paragraphs and a conclusion paragraph. For intermediate paragraphs, a “divide and conquer” approach, meaning a full paragraph describing each of the study endpoints, can be used. In conclusion, academic writing is similar to other skills, and practice makes perfect.

Introduction

Sharing knowledge produced during academic life is achieved through writing manuscripts. However writing manuscripts is a challenging endeavour in that we physicians have a heavy workload, and English which is common language used for the dissemination of scientific knowledge is not our mother tongue.

The objective of this review is to summarize the method of writing ‘Discussion’ section which is the most important, but probably at the same time the most unlikable part of a manuscript, and demonstrate the easy ways we applied in our practice, and finally share the frequently made relevant mistakes. During this procedure, inevitably some issues which concerns general concept of manuscript writing process are dealt with. Therefore in this review we will deal with topics related to the general aspects of manuscript writing process, and specifically issues concerning only the ‘Discussion’ section.

A) Approaches to general aspects of manuscript writing process:

1. what should be the strategy of sparing time for manuscript writing be.

Two different approaches can be formulated on this issue? One of them is to allocate at least 30 minutes a day for writing a manuscript which amounts to 3.5 hours a week. This period of time is adequate for completion of a manuscript within a few weeks which can be generally considered as a long time interval. Fundamental advantage of this approach is to gain a habit of making academic researches if one complies with the designated time schedule, and to keep the manuscript writing motivation at persistently high levels. Another approach concerning this issue is to accomplish manuscript writing process within a week. With the latter approach, the target is rapidly attained. However longer time periods spent in order to concentrate on the subject matter can be boring, and lead to loss of motivation. Daily working requirements unrelated to the manuscript writing might intervene, and prolong manuscript writing process. Alienation periods can cause loss of time because of need for recurrent literature reviews. The most optimal approach to manuscript writing process is daily writing strategy where higher levels of motivation are persistently maintained.

Especially before writing the manuscript, the most important step at the start is to construct a draft, and completion of the manuscript on a theoretical basis. Therefore, during construction of a draft, attention distracting environment should be avoided, and this step should be completed within 1–2 hours. On the other hand, manuscript writing process should begin before the completion of the study (even the during project stage). The justification of this approach is to see the missing aspects of the study and the manuscript writing methodology, and try to solve the relevant problems before completion of the study. Generally, after completion of the study, it is very difficult to solve the problems which might be discerned during the writing process. Herein, at least drafts of the ‘Introduction’, and ‘Material and Methods’ can be written, and even tables containing numerical data can be constructed. These tables can be written down in the ‘Results’ section. [ 1 ]

2. How should the manuscript be written?

The most important principle to be remembered on this issue is to obey the criteria of simplicity, clarity, and effectiveness. [ 2 ] Herein, do not forget that, the objective should be to share our findings with the readers in an easily comprehensible format. Our approach on this subject is to write all structured parts of the manuscript at the same time, and start writing the manuscript while reading the first literature. Thus newly arisen connotations, and self-brain gyms will be promptly written down. However during this process your outcomes should be revealed fully, and roughly the message of the manuscript which be delivered. Thus with this so-called ‘hunter’s approach’ the target can be achieved directly, and rapidly. Another approach is ‘collectioner’s approach. [ 3 ] In this approach, firstly, potential data, and literature studies are gathered, read, and then selected ones are used. Since this approach suits with surgical point of view, probably ‘hunter’s approach’ serves our purposes more appropriately. However, in parallel with academic development, our novice colleague ‘manuscripters’ can prefer ‘collectioner’s approach.’

On the other hand, we think that research team consisting of different age groups has some advantages. Indeed young colleagues have the enthusiasm, and energy required for the conduction of the study, while middle-aged researchers have the knowledge to manage the research, and manuscript writing. Experienced researchers make guiding contributions to the manuscript. However working together in harmony requires assignment of a chief researcher, and periodically organizing advancement meetings. Besides, talents, skills, and experiences of the researchers in different fields (ie. research methods, contact with patients, preparation of a project, fund-raising, statistical analysis etc.) will determine task sharing, and make a favourable contribution to the perfection of the manuscript. Achievement of the shared duties within a predetermined time frame will sustain the motivation of the researchers, and prevent wearing out of updated data.

According to our point of view, ‘Abstract’ section of the manuscript should be written after completion of the manuscript. The reason for this is that during writing process of the main text, the significant study outcomes might become insignificant or vice versa. However, generally, before onset of the writing process of the manuscript, its abstract might be already presented in various congresses. During writing process, this abstract might be a useful guide which prevents deviation from the main objective of the manuscript.

On the other hand references should be promptly put in place while writing the manuscript, Sorting, and placement of the references should not be left to the last moment. Indeed, it might be very difficult to remember relevant references to be placed in the ‘Discussion’ section. For the placement of references use of software programs detailed in other sections is a rational approach.

3. Which target journal should be selected?

In essence, the methodology to be followed in writing the ‘Discussion’ section is directly related to the selection of the target journal. Indeed, in compliance with the writing rules of the target journal, limitations made on the number of words after onset of the writing process, effects mostly the ‘Discussion’ section. Proper matching of the manuscript with the appropriate journal requires clear, and complete comprehension of the available data from scientific point of view. Previously, similar articles might have been published, however innovative messages, and new perspectives on the relevant subject will facilitate acceptance of the article for publication. Nowadays, articles questioning available information, rather than confirmatory ones attract attention. However during this process, classical information should not be questioned except for special circumstances. For example manuscripts which lead to the conclusions as “laparoscopic surgery is more painful than open surgery” or “laparoscopic surgery can be performed without prior training” will not be accepted or they will be returned by the editor of the target journal to the authors with the request of critical review. Besides the target journal to be selected should be ready to accept articles with similar concept. In fact editors of the journal will not reserve the limited space in their journal for articles yielding similar conclusions.

The title of the manuscript is as important as the structured sections * of the manuscript. The title can be the most striking or the newest outcome among results obtained.

Before writing down the manuscript, determination of 2–3 titles increases the motivation of the authors towards the manuscript. During writing process of the manuscript one of these can be selected based on the intensity of the discussion. However the suitability of the title to the agenda of the target journal should be investigated beforehand. For example an article bearing the title “Use of barbed sutures in laparoscopic partial nephrectomy shortens warm ischemia time” should not be sent to “Original Investigations and Seminars in Urologic Oncology” Indeed the topic of the manuscript is out of the agenda of this journal.

4. Do we have to get a pre-peer review about the written manuscript?

Before submission of the manuscript to the target journal the opinions of internal, and external referees should be taken. [ 1 ] Internal referees can be considered in 2 categories as “General internal referees” and “expert internal referees” General internal referees (ie. our colleagues from other medical disciplines) are not directly concerned with your subject matter but as mentioned above they critically review the manuscript as for simplicity, clarity, and effectiveness of its writing style. Expert internal reviewers have a profound knowledge about the subject, and they can provide guidance about the writing process of the manuscript (ie. our senior colleagues more experienced than us). External referees are our colleagues who did not contribute to data collection of our study in any way, but we can request their opinions about the subject matter of the manuscript. Since they are unrelated both to the author(s), and subject matter of the manuscript, these referees can review our manuscript more objectively. Before sending the manuscript to internal, and external referees, we should contact with them, and ask them if they have time to review our manuscript. We should also give information about our subject matter. Otherwise pre-peer review process can delay publication of the manuscript, and decrease motivation of the authors. In conclusion, whoever the preferred referee will be, these internal, and external referees should respond the following questions objectively. 1) Does the manuscript contribute to the literature?; 2) Does it persuasive? 3) Is it suitable for the publication in the selected journal? 4) Has a simple, clear, and effective language been used throughout the manuscript? In line with the opinions of the referees, the manuscript can be critically reviewed, and perfected. [ 1 ]**

Following receival of the opinions of internal, and external referees, one should concentrate priorly on indicated problems, and their solutions. Comments coming from the reviewers should be criticized, but a defensive attitude should not be assumed during this evaluation process. During this “incubation” period where the comments of the internal, and external referees are awaited, literature should be reviewed once more. Indeed during this time interval a new article which you should consider in the ‘Discussion’ section can be cited in the literature.

5. What are the common mistakes made related to the writing process of a manuscript?

Probably the most important mistakes made related to the writing process of a manuscript include lack of a clear message of the manuscript , inclusion of more than one main idea in the same text or provision of numerous unrelated results at the same time so as to reinforce the assertions of the manuscript. This approach can be termed roughly as “loss of the focus of the study” In conclusion, the author(s) should ask themselves the following question at every stage of the writing process:. “What is the objective of the study? If you always get clear-cut answers whenever you ask this question, then the study is proceeding towards the right direction. Besides application of a template which contains the intended clear-cut messages to be followed will contribute to the communication of net messages.

One of the important mistakes is refraining from critical review of the manuscript as a whole after completion of the writing process. Therefore, the authors should go over the manuscript for at least three times after finalization of the manuscript based on joint decision. The first control should concentrate on the evaluation of the appropriateness of the logic of the manuscript, and its organization, and whether desired messages have been delivered or not. Secondly, syutax, and grammar of the manuscript should be controlled. It is appropriate to review the manuscript for the third time 1 or 2 weeks after completion of its writing process. Thus, evaluation of the “cooled” manuscript will be made from a more objective perspective, and assessment process of its integrity will be facilitated.

Other erroneous issues consist of superfluousness of the manuscript with unnecessary repetitions, undue, and recurrent references to the problems adressed in the manuscript or their solution methods, overcriticizing or overpraising other studies, and use of a pompous literary language overlooking the main objective of sharing information. [ 4 ]

B) Approaches to the writing process of the ‘Discussion’ section:

1. how should the main points of ‘discussion’ section be constructed.

Generally the length of the ‘Discussion ‘ section should not exceed the sum of other sections (ıntroduction, material and methods, and results), and it should be completed within 6–7 paragraphs.. Each paragraph should not contain more than 200 words, and hence words should be counted repeteadly. The ‘Discussion’ section can be generally divided into 3 separate paragraphs as. 1) Introductory paragraph, 2) Intermediate paragraphs, 3) Concluding paragraph.

The introductory paragraph contains the main idea of performing the study in question. Without repeating ‘Introduction’ section of the manuscript, the problem to be addressed, and its updateness are analysed. The introductory paragraph starts with an undebatable sentence, and proceeds with a part addressing the following questions as 1) On what issue we have to concentrate, discuss or elaborate? 2) What solutions can be recommended to solve this problem? 3) What will be the new, different, and innovative issue? 4) How will our study contribute to the solution of this problem An introductory paragraph in this format is helpful to accomodate reader to the rest of the Discussion section. However summarizing the basic findings of the experimental studies in the first paragraph is generally recommended by the editors of the journal. [ 5 ]

In the last paragraph of the Discussion section “strong points” of the study should be mentioned using “constrained”, and “not too strongly assertive” statements. Indicating limitations of the study will reflect objectivity of the authors, and provide answers to the questions which will be directed by the reviewers of the journal. On the other hand in the last paragraph, future directions or potential clinical applications may be emphasized.

2. How should the intermediate paragraphs of the Discussion section be formulated?

The reader passes through a test of boredom while reading paragraphs of the Discussion section apart from the introductory, and the last paragraphs. Herein your findings rather than those of the other researchers are discussed. The previous studies can be an explanation or reinforcement of your findings. Each paragraph should contain opinions in favour or against the topic discussed, critical evaluations, and learning points.

Our management approach for intermediate paragraphs is “divide and conquer” tactics. Accordingly, the findings of the study are determined in order of their importance, and a paragraph is constructed for each finding ( Figure 1 ). Each paragraph begins with an “indisputable” introductory sentence about the topic to be discussed. This sentence basically can be the answer to the question “What have we found?” Then a sentence associated with the subject matter to be discussed is written. Subsequently, in the light of the current literature this finding is discussed, new ideas on this subject are revealed, and the paragraph ends with a concluding remark.

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Divide and Conquer tactics

In this paragraph, main topic should be emphasized without going into much detail. Its place, and importance among other studies should be indicated. However during this procedure studies should be presented in a logical sequence (ie. from past to present, from a few to many cases), and aspects of the study contradictory to other studies should be underlined. Results without any supportive evidence or equivocal results should not be written. Besides numerical values presented in the Results section should not be repeated unless required.

Besides, asking the following questions, and searching their answers in the same paragraph will facilitate writing process of the paragraph. [ 1 ] 1) Can the discussed result be false or inadequate? 2) Why is it false? (inadequate blinding, protocol contamination, lost to follow-up, lower statistical power of the study etc.), 3) What meaning does this outcome convey?

3. What are the common mistakes made in writing the Discussion section?:

Probably the most important mistake made while writing the Discussion section is the need for mentioning all literature references. One point to remember is that we are not writing a review article, and only the results related to this paragraph should be discussed. Meanwhile, each word of the paragraphs should be counted, and placed carefully. Each word whose removal will not change the meaning should be taken out from the text.” Writing a saga with “word salads” *** is one of the reasons for prompt rejection. Indeed, if the reviewer thinks that it is difficult to correct the Discussion section, he/she use her/ his vote in the direction of rejection to save time (Uniform requirements for manuscripts: International Comittee of Medical Journal Editors [ http://www.icmje.org/urm_full.pdf ])

The other important mistake is to give too much references, and irrelevancy between the references, and the section with these cited references. [ 3 ] While referring these studies, (excl. introductory sentences linking indisputable sentences or paragraphs) original articles should be cited. Abstracts should not be referred, and review articles should not be cited unless required very much.

4. What points should be paid attention about writing rules, and grammar?

As is the case with the whole article, text of the Discussion section should be written with a simple language, as if we are talking with our colleague. [ 2 ] Each sentence should indicate a single point, and it should not exceed 25–30 words. The priorly mentioned information which linked the previous sentence should be placed at the beginning of the sentence, while the new information should be located at the end of the sentence. During construction of the sentences, avoid unnecessary words, and active voice rather than passive voice should be used.**** Since conventionally passive voice is used in the scientific manuscripts written in the Turkish language, the above statement contradicts our writing habits. However, one should not refrain from beginning the sentences with the word “we”. Indeed, editors of the journal recommend use of active voice so as to increase the intelligibility of the manuscript.

In conclusion, the major point to remember is that the manuscript should be written complying with principles of simplicity, clarity, and effectiveness. In the light of these principles, as is the case in our daily practice, all components of the manuscript (IMRAD) can be written concurrently. In the ‘Discussion’ section ‘divide and conquer’ tactics remarkably facilitates writing process of the discussion. On the other hand, relevant or irrelevant feedbacks received from our colleagues can contribute to the perfection of the manuscript. Do not forget that none of the manuscripts is perfect, and one should not refrain from writing because of language problems, and related lack of experience.

Instead of structured sections of a manuscript (IMRAD): Introduction, Material and Methods, Results, and Discussion

Instead of in the Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine posters to be submitted in congresses are time to time discussed in Wednesday meetings, and opinions of the internal referees are obtained about the weak, and strong points of the study

Instead of a writing style which uses words or sentences with a weak logical meaning that do not lead the reader to any conclusion

Instead of “white color”; “proven”; nstead of “history”; “to”. should be used instead of “white in color”, “definitely proven”, “past history”, and “in order to”, respectively ( ref. 2 )

Instead of “No instances of either postoperative death or major complications occurred during the early post-operative period” use “There were no deaths or major complications occurred during the early post-operative period.

Instead of “Measurements were performed to evaluate the levels of CEA in the serum” use “We measured serum CEA levels”

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how to write a discussion section

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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!

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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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Our academic writing service is just a click away. We are proud to say that our writers are professionals in their fields. Buy a research paper and our experts can provide prompt solutions without compromising the quality.

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.

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Writing a Discussion Section

Writing a discussion section is where you really begin to add your interpretations to the work.

This article is a part of the guide:

  • Outline Examples
  • Example of a Paper
  • Write a Hypothesis
  • Introduction

Browse Full Outline

  • 1 Write a Research Paper
  • 2 Writing a Paper
  • 3.1 Write an Outline
  • 3.2 Outline Examples
  • 4.1 Thesis Statement
  • 4.2 Write a Hypothesis
  • 5.2 Abstract
  • 5.3 Introduction
  • 5.4 Methods
  • 5.5 Results
  • 5.6 Discussion
  • 5.7 Conclusion
  • 5.8 Bibliography
  • 6.1 Table of Contents
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  • 7.1 In Text Citations
  • 7.2 Footnotes
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  • 7.6.1 Citations
  • 7.7.1 Writing Style
  • 7.7.2 Citations
  • 8.1.1 Sham Peer Review
  • 8.1.2 Advantages
  • 8.1.3 Disadvantages
  • 8.2 Publication Bias
  • 8.3.1 Journal Rejection
  • 9.1 Article Writing
  • 9.2 Ideas for Topics

In this critical part of the research paper, you start the process of explaining any links and correlations apparent in your data.

If you left few interesting leads and open questions in the results section , the discussion is simply a matter of building upon those and expanding them.

what is the purpose of the discussion section in a research paper

The Difficulties of Writing a Discussion Section

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 .

what is the purpose of the discussion section in a research paper

Self-Criticism at the Heart of Writing a Discussion Section

For this purpose, you should criticize the experiment, and be honest about whether your design was good enough. If not, suggest any modifications and improvements that could be made to the design.

Maybe the reason that you did not find a significant correlation is because your sampling was not random , or you did not use sensitive enough equipment.

The discussion section is not always about what you found, but what you did not find, and how you deal with that. Stating that the results are inconclusive is the easy way out, and you must always try to pick out something of value.

Using the Discussion Section to Expand Knowledge

You should always put your findings into the context of the previous research that you found during your literature review . Do your results agree or disagree with previous research?

Do the results of the previous research help you to interpret your own findings? If your results are very different, why? Either you have uncovered something new, or you may have made a major flaw with the design of the experiment .

Finally, after saying all of this, you can make a statement about whether the experiment has contributed to knowledge in the field, or not.

Unless you made so many errors that the results are completely unreliable, you will; certainly have learned something. Try not to be too broad in your generalizations to the wider world - it is a small experiment and is unlikely to change the world.

Once writing the discussion section is complete, you can move onto the next stage, wrapping up the paper with a focused conclusion .

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The Process of Writing a Research Paper Guide: The Discussion

  • Types of Research Designs
  • Choosing a Research Topic
  • Preparing to Write
  • The Abstract
  • The Introduction
  • The Literature Review
  • The Methodology
  • The Results
  • The Discussion
  • The Conclusion
  • Proofreading Your Paper
  • Citing Sources
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Giving an Oral Presentation
  • How to Manage Group Projects
  • Writing a Book Review
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Acknowledgements

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 insights that emerged as a result of your study of the problem. The discussion will always connect to the introduction by way of the research questions or hypotheses you posed and the literature you reviewed, but the discussion does not simply repeat or rearrange the first parts of your paper; the discussion clearly explain how your study advanced the reader's understanding of the research problem from where you left them at the end of your review of prior research.

Importance of a Good Discussion

The discussion section is often considered the most important part of your research paper because this is where you:

  • Most effectively demonstrates your ability as a researcher to think critically about an issue, 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, note possible implications in other areas of study, and explore possible improvements that can be made in order to further develop the concerns of your research,
  • Highlight the importance of your study and how it may be able to contribute to and/or help fill existing gaps in the field. If appropriate, the discussion section is also where you state how the findings from your study revealed and helped fill gaps in the literature that had not been previously exposed or adequately described, and
  • Engage the reader in thinking critically about issues based upon an evidence-based interpretation of findings; it is not governed strictly by objective reporting of information.

Annesley Thomas M. “The Discussion Section: Your Closing Argument.”  Clinical Chemistry  56 (November 2010): 1671-1674; Bitchener, John and Helen Basturkmen. “Perceptions of the Difficulties of Postgraduate L2 Thesis Students Writing the Discussion Section.”  Journal of English for Academic Purposes  5 (January 2006): 4-18; Kretchmer, Paul.  Fourteen Steps 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 the use of jargon or undefined technical language
  • Follow a logical stream of thought; in general, interpret and discuss the significance of your findings in the same sequence you described them in your results section [a notable exception is to begin by highlighting an unexpected result or finding]
  • 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 categorize 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 for each set of results; go into greater depth to explain 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 in relation to the research problem.
  • References to previous research : either 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 instead of being a part of the general literature review of research used to provide context and background information. Note that you can make this decision to highlight specific studies after you have begun writing the discussion section.
  • 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 highlighting best practices.
  • Hypothesis : a more general claim or possible conclusion arising from the results [which may be proved or disproved in subsequent research]. This can be framed as new research questions that emerged as a result of your analysis.

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, narrative style, and verb tense [present] that you used when when describing the research problem in your 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 sequence of 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 [either within the text or as an appendix].
  • Regardless of where it's mentioned, a good discussion section includes analysis of any unexpected findings. This part of the discussion should begin with a description of the unanticipated 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 of them in the order they appeared as you gathered or analyzed the data. As noted, the exception to discussing findings in the same order you described them in the results section would be to begin by highlighting the implications of a particularly unexpected or significant finding that emerged from the study, followed by a discussion of the remaining findings.
  • Before concluding the discussion, identify potential  limitations and weaknesses  if you do not plan to do so in the conclusion of the paper. 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 your findings. Avoid using an apologetic tone; however, be honest and self-critical [e.g., had you included a particular question in a survey instrument, additional data could have been revealed].
  • The discussion section should end with a concise summary of the principal implications of the findings regardless of their 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 would demonstrate to the reader that 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 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, usually in one paragraph.

II.   Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why They are Important

Consider the likelihood that no one has thought as long and hard about your study as you have. Systematically explain the underlying meaning of your findings and state why you believe they are significant. After reading the discussion section, you want the reader to think critically about the results [“why didn't I think of that?”]. You don’t want to force the reader to go through the paper multiple times to figure out what it all means. If applicable, begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most significant or unanticipated finding first, then systematically review each finding. Otherwise, follow the general order you reported the findings in the results section.

III.   Relate the Findings to Similar Studies

No study in the social sciences is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to previously published research. The discussion section should relate your results to those found in other studies, particularly if questions raised from prior studies served as the motivation for your research. This is important because comparing and contrasting the findings of other studies helps to support the overall importance of your results and it highlights how and in what ways your study differs from other research about the topic. Note that any significant or unanticipated finding is often because there was no prior research to indicate the finding could occur. If there is prior research to indicate this, you need to explain why it was significant or unanticipated. IV.   Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings

It is important to remember that the purpose of research in the social sciences 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 hypothesis or prior assumptions and biases. This is especially important when describing the discovery of significant or unanticipated findings.

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! Note any unanswered questions or issues your study did not address and describe the generalizability of your results to other situations. If a limitation is applicable to the method chosen to gather information, then describe in detail the problems you encountered and why. VI.   Make Suggestions for Further Research

You may choose to conclude the discussion section by making suggestions for further research [this can be done in the overall conclusion of your paper]. Although your study may offer important insights about the research problem, this is where you can address other questions related to the problem that remain unanswered or highlight previously hidden questions that were revealed as a result of conducting your research. You should frame your suggestions by linking the need for further research to the limitations of your study [e.g., in future studies, the survey instrument should include more questions that ask..."] or linking to critical issues revealed from the data that were not considered initially in your research.

NOTE:  Besides the literature review section, the preponderance of references to sources is 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 or used to link to similar studies. If a study that you cited does not support your findings, don't ignore it--clearly explain why your research findings differ from theirs.

V.  Problems to Avoid

  • Do not waste time restating your results . Should you need to remind the reader of a finding to be discussed, use "bridge sentences" that relate the result to the interpretation. An example would be: “In the case of determining available housing to single women with children in rural areas of Texas, the findings suggest that access to good schools is important," then move on to further explaining this finding and its implications.
  • 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. Think about the overall narrative flow of your paper to determine where best to locate this information. However, if your findings raise a lot of new questions or issues, consider including suggestions for further research in the discussion section.
  • Do not introduce new results in the discussion section.  Be wary of mistaking the reiteration of a specific finding for an interpretation because it may confuse the reader. The description of findings [results] and the interpretation of their significance [discussion] should be distinct sections of your paper. If you choose to combine the results section and the discussion section into a single narrative, you must be clear in how you report the information discovered and your own interpretation of each finding. This approach is not recommended if you lack experience writing college-level research papers.
  • Use of the first person pronoun is generally acceptable.  Using first person singular pronouns can help emphasize a point or illustrate a contrasting finding. However, keep in mind that too much use of the first person can actually distract the reader from the main points [i.e., I know you're telling me this; just tell me!].

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; Sauaia, A. et al. "The Anatomy of an Article: The Discussion Section: "How Does the Article I Read Today Change What I Will Recommend to my Patients Tomorrow?”  The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery  74 (June 2013): 1599-1602;  Research Limitations & Future Research . Lund Research Ltd., 2012;  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.

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How to Write the Discussion?

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Many authors, and editors, think this is the most difficult part of a paper to write well and have described it variously to be the ‘narrating the story of your research’, ‘the movie or the main scientific script’ and the ‘proof of the pudding’. The idea of a discussion is to communicate to the readers the importance of your observations and the results of all your hard work. In this section, you are expected to infer their meaning and explain the importance of your results and finally provide specific suggestions for future research [1, 2]. The discussion places the outcome into a larger context and mentions the implications of the inferences for theoretical and practical purposes [3].

That then is the first draft and you should never think of having fewer than six drafts Stephen Lock, BMJ editor in chief (1929–…)

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Discussion Section

what is the purpose of the discussion section in a research paper

Discussion: The heart of the paper

Arvind Bagga

what is the purpose of the discussion section in a research paper

Chasing a Dream

1 what is the importance of the discussion.

Many authors, and editors, think this is the most difficult part of a paper to write well and have described it variously to be the ‘narrating the story of your research’, ‘the movie or the main scientific script’ and the ‘proof of the pudding’. The idea of a discussion is to communicate to the readers the importance of your observations and the results of all your hard work. In this section, you are expected to infer their meaning and explain the importance of your results and finally provide specific suggestions for future research [ 1 , 2 ]. The discussion places the outcome into a larger context and mentions the implications of the inferences for theoretical and practical purposes [ 3 ].

figure a

2 How Should I Structure the Discussion Section?

There are three major portions for the discussion of a manuscript.

The first paragraph should baldly state the key findings of your research. Use the same key concept you gave in the introduction. It is generally not necessary to repeat the citations which have already been used in the Introduction. According to the ‘serial position effect’, themes mentioned at the beginning and end of a paragraph are more likely to be remembered than those in the middle [ 1 ]. However, one should remember that the discussion should not look like a second introduction, and all the ancillary information which has been previously cited should not be repeated [ 4 ].

For example, in a paper on the ‘Role of sulfasalazine in the Chikungunya arthritis outbreak of 2016’, the review may start with, ‘Our key findings suggest that chikungunya arthralgia is a self-limiting disorder. Persistent arthritis was recorded in only 10% of the affected population and in those who received sulfasalazine, clinical improvement both in tender and swollen joints, was recorded in 95% of the subjects’.

The middle portion should consist of the body of the discussion. This section interprets the important results, discusses their implications and explains how your data is similar to or different from those that have been published previously.

Discuss in fair detail studies supporting your findings and group them together, against those offering a different perspective (e.g., Western experience, smaller numbers, non-randomized studies, etc.). An explanation should be offered on how your work is similar to others or how it is different from the others. This should be followed by a review of the core research papers. The results should now be divided thematically and analyzed. The discussion should also contain why the study is new, why it is true, and why it is important for future clinical practice [ 4 , 5 , 6 ].

For the above research mention the clinical features, patterns of joint involvement, how long arthritis persisted, and any role of disease-modifying agents. Have any other researchers found different findings under the same circumstances.

The final paragraph should include a ‘take home message’ (about one or two) and point to future directions for investigation that have resulted from this study.

The discussion can be concluded in two ways:

By again mentioning the response to the research question [ 5 , 7 ]

By indicating the significance of the study [ 2 , 4 ]

You can use both methods to end this section. Most importantly you should remember that the last paragraph of the discussion should be ‘strong, clear, and crisp’ and focus on the main research question addressed in the manuscript. This should be strengthened by the data which clearly states whether or not your findings support your initial hypothesis [ 1 , 5 , 8 , 9 , 10 ].

3 What Are the General Considerations for Writing a Discussion? [ 3 , 10 , 11 ]

Start the discussion with the ‘specific’ problems and move to the ‘general’ implications (Fig. 21.1 ).

The discussion should not look like a mass of unrelated information. Rather, it should be easy to understand and compare data from different studies.

Include only recent publications on the topic, preferably from the last 10 years.

Make certain that all the sources of information are cited and correctly referenced.

Check to make sure that you have not plagiarized by using words quoted directly from a source.

The written text written should be easily understood, crisp, and brief. Long descriptive and informal language should be avoided.

The sentences should flow smoothly and logically.

You need not refer to all the available literature in the field, discuss only the most relevant papers.

figure 1

How a discussion should look. First arrow—Mention your key results/findings; Second arrow—Discuss your results with their explanations\step by step; Third Arrow—Enumerate your studies limitations and strengths; Last arrow—Suggest future directions for investigation

4 Discussion Is Not a War of Words

figure b

5 How Long Should the Discussion in the Manuscript Be?

Most journals do not mention any limits for discussion as long as it is brief and relevant (Fig. 21.2 ). As a rule, ‘The length of the discussion section should not exceed the sum of other parts-introduction, materials and methods, and results’. [ 3 ] In any good article, the discussion section is 3–4 pages, 6–7 paragraphs, or approximately 10 paragraphs, and 1000–1500 words [ 1 , 5 , 8 , 12 ].

figure 2

Discussion pyramid

6 What Should Be Written in the Conclusion Section?

The conclusion is the last paragraph and has the carry-home message for the reader. It is the powerful and meaningful end piece of the script. It states what change has the paper made to science and it also contains recommendations for future studies.

7 Conclusions

Discussion is not a stand-alone section, it intertwines the objectives of the study with how and what was achieved.

The major results are described and compared with other studies.

The author’s own work is critically analysed in comparison with that of others.

The limitations and strengths of the study are highlighted.

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Nundy, S., Kakar, A., Bhutta, Z.A. (2022). How to Write the Discussion?. In: How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries?. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-5248-6_21

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Home » Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

Table of Contents

Research Paper

Research Paper

Definition:

Research Paper is a written document that presents the author’s original research, analysis, and interpretation of a specific topic or issue.

It is typically based on Empirical Evidence, and may involve qualitative or quantitative research methods, or a combination of both. The purpose of a research paper is to contribute new knowledge or insights to a particular field of study, and to demonstrate the author’s understanding of the existing literature and theories related to the topic.

Structure of Research Paper

The structure of a research paper typically follows a standard format, consisting of several sections that convey specific information about the research study. The following is a detailed explanation of the structure of a research paper:

The title page contains the title of the paper, the name(s) of the author(s), and the affiliation(s) of the author(s). It also includes the date of submission and possibly, the name of the journal or conference where the paper is to be published.

The abstract is a brief summary of the research paper, typically ranging from 100 to 250 words. It should include the research question, the methods used, the key findings, and the implications of the results. The abstract should be written in a concise and clear manner to allow readers to quickly grasp the essence of the research.

Introduction

The introduction section of a research paper provides background information about the research problem, the research question, and the research objectives. It also outlines the significance of the research, the research gap that it aims to fill, and the approach taken to address the research question. Finally, the introduction section ends with a clear statement of the research hypothesis or research question.

Literature Review

The literature review section of a research paper provides an overview of the existing literature on the topic of study. It includes a critical analysis and synthesis of the literature, highlighting the key concepts, themes, and debates. The literature review should also demonstrate the research gap and how the current study seeks to address it.

The methods section of a research paper describes the research design, the sample selection, the data collection and analysis procedures, and the statistical methods used to analyze the data. This section should provide sufficient detail for other researchers to replicate the study.

The results section presents the findings of the research, using tables, graphs, and figures to illustrate the data. The findings should be presented in a clear and concise manner, with reference to the research question and hypothesis.

The discussion section of a research paper interprets the findings and discusses their implications for the research question, the literature review, and the field of study. It should also address the limitations of the study and suggest future research directions.

The conclusion section summarizes the main findings of the study, restates the research question and hypothesis, and provides a final reflection on the significance of the research.

The references section provides a list of all the sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style such as APA, MLA or Chicago.

How to Write Research Paper

You can write Research Paper by the following guide:

  • Choose a Topic: The first step is to select a topic that interests you and is relevant to your field of study. Brainstorm ideas and narrow down to a research question that is specific and researchable.
  • Conduct a Literature Review: The literature review helps you identify the gap in the existing research and provides a basis for your research question. It also helps you to develop a theoretical framework and research hypothesis.
  • Develop a Thesis Statement : The thesis statement is the main argument of your research paper. It should be clear, concise and specific to your research question.
  • Plan your Research: Develop a research plan that outlines the methods, data sources, and data analysis procedures. This will help you to collect and analyze data effectively.
  • Collect and Analyze Data: Collect data using various methods such as surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments. Analyze data using statistical tools or other qualitative methods.
  • Organize your Paper : Organize your paper into sections such as Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion. Ensure that each section is coherent and follows a logical flow.
  • Write your Paper : Start by writing the introduction, followed by the literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and follows the required formatting and citation styles.
  • Edit and Proofread your Paper: Review your paper for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure that it is well-structured and easy to read. Ask someone else to review your paper to get feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • Cite your Sources: Ensure that you properly cite all sources used in your research paper. This is essential for giving credit to the original authors and avoiding plagiarism.

Research Paper Example

Note : The below example research paper is for illustrative purposes only and is not an actual research paper. Actual research papers may have different structures, contents, and formats depending on the field of study, research question, data collection and analysis methods, and other factors. Students should always consult with their professors or supervisors for specific guidelines and expectations for their research papers.

Research Paper Example sample for Students:

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health among Young Adults

Abstract: This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults. A literature review was conducted to examine the existing research on the topic. A survey was then administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Introduction: Social media has become an integral part of modern life, particularly among young adults. While social media has many benefits, including increased communication and social connectivity, it has also been associated with negative outcomes, such as addiction, cyberbullying, and mental health problems. This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults.

Literature Review: The literature review highlights the existing research on the impact of social media use on mental health. The review shows that social media use is associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems. The review also identifies the factors that contribute to the negative impact of social media, including social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Methods : A survey was administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The survey included questions on social media use, mental health status (measured using the DASS-21), and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and regression analysis.

Results : The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Discussion : The study’s findings suggest that social media use has a negative impact on the mental health of young adults. The study highlights the need for interventions that address the factors contributing to the negative impact of social media, such as social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Conclusion : In conclusion, social media use has a significant impact on the mental health of young adults. The study’s findings underscore the need for interventions that promote healthy social media use and address the negative outcomes associated with social media use. Future research can explore the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health. Additionally, longitudinal studies can investigate the long-term effects of social media use on mental health.

Limitations : The study has some limitations, including the use of self-report measures and a cross-sectional design. The use of self-report measures may result in biased responses, and a cross-sectional design limits the ability to establish causality.

Implications: The study’s findings have implications for mental health professionals, educators, and policymakers. Mental health professionals can use the findings to develop interventions that address the negative impact of social media use on mental health. Educators can incorporate social media literacy into their curriculum to promote healthy social media use among young adults. Policymakers can use the findings to develop policies that protect young adults from the negative outcomes associated with social media use.

References :

  • Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2019). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports, 15, 100918.
  • Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., Barrett, E. L., Sidani, J. E., Colditz, J. B., … & James, A. E. (2017). Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among US young adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 1-9.
  • Van der Meer, T. G., & Verhoeven, J. W. (2017). Social media and its impact on academic performance of students. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 16, 383-398.

Appendix : The survey used in this study is provided below.

Social Media and Mental Health Survey

  • How often do you use social media per day?
  • Less than 30 minutes
  • 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • 1 to 2 hours
  • 2 to 4 hours
  • More than 4 hours
  • Which social media platforms do you use?
  • Others (Please specify)
  • How often do you experience the following on social media?
  • Social comparison (comparing yourself to others)
  • Cyberbullying
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
  • Have you ever experienced any of the following mental health problems in the past month?
  • Do you think social media use has a positive or negative impact on your mental health?
  • Very positive
  • Somewhat positive
  • Somewhat negative
  • Very negative
  • In your opinion, which factors contribute to the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Social comparison
  • In your opinion, what interventions could be effective in reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Education on healthy social media use
  • Counseling for mental health problems caused by social media
  • Social media detox programs
  • Regulation of social media use

Thank you for your participation!

Applications of Research Paper

Research papers have several applications in various fields, including:

  • Advancing knowledge: Research papers contribute to the advancement of knowledge by generating new insights, theories, and findings that can inform future research and practice. They help to answer important questions, clarify existing knowledge, and identify areas that require further investigation.
  • Informing policy: Research papers can inform policy decisions by providing evidence-based recommendations for policymakers. They can help to identify gaps in current policies, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and inform the development of new policies and regulations.
  • Improving practice: Research papers can improve practice by providing evidence-based guidance for professionals in various fields, including medicine, education, business, and psychology. They can inform the development of best practices, guidelines, and standards of care that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • Educating students : Research papers are often used as teaching tools in universities and colleges to educate students about research methods, data analysis, and academic writing. They help students to develop critical thinking skills, research skills, and communication skills that are essential for success in many careers.
  • Fostering collaboration: Research papers can foster collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers by providing a platform for sharing knowledge and ideas. They can facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships that can lead to innovative solutions to complex problems.

When to Write Research Paper

Research papers are typically written when a person has completed a research project or when they have conducted a study and have obtained data or findings that they want to share with the academic or professional community. Research papers are usually written in academic settings, such as universities, but they can also be written in professional settings, such as research organizations, government agencies, or private companies.

Here are some common situations where a person might need to write a research paper:

  • For academic purposes: Students in universities and colleges are often required to write research papers as part of their coursework, particularly in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Writing research papers helps students to develop research skills, critical thinking skills, and academic writing skills.
  • For publication: Researchers often write research papers to publish their findings in academic journals or to present their work at academic conferences. Publishing research papers is an important way to disseminate research findings to the academic community and to establish oneself as an expert in a particular field.
  • To inform policy or practice : Researchers may write research papers to inform policy decisions or to improve practice in various fields. Research findings can be used to inform the development of policies, guidelines, and best practices that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • To share new insights or ideas: Researchers may write research papers to share new insights or ideas with the academic or professional community. They may present new theories, propose new research methods, or challenge existing paradigms in their field.

Purpose of Research Paper

The purpose of a research paper is to present the results of a study or investigation in a clear, concise, and structured manner. Research papers are written to communicate new knowledge, ideas, or findings to a specific audience, such as researchers, scholars, practitioners, or policymakers. The primary purposes of a research paper are:

  • To contribute to the body of knowledge : Research papers aim to add new knowledge or insights to a particular field or discipline. They do this by reporting the results of empirical studies, reviewing and synthesizing existing literature, proposing new theories, or providing new perspectives on a topic.
  • To inform or persuade: Research papers are written to inform or persuade the reader about a particular issue, topic, or phenomenon. They present evidence and arguments to support their claims and seek to persuade the reader of the validity of their findings or recommendations.
  • To advance the field: Research papers seek to advance the field or discipline by identifying gaps in knowledge, proposing new research questions or approaches, or challenging existing assumptions or paradigms. They aim to contribute to ongoing debates and discussions within a field and to stimulate further research and inquiry.
  • To demonstrate research skills: Research papers demonstrate the author’s research skills, including their ability to design and conduct a study, collect and analyze data, and interpret and communicate findings. They also demonstrate the author’s ability to critically evaluate existing literature, synthesize information from multiple sources, and write in a clear and structured manner.

Characteristics of Research Paper

Research papers have several characteristics that distinguish them from other forms of academic or professional writing. Here are some common characteristics of research papers:

  • Evidence-based: Research papers are based on empirical evidence, which is collected through rigorous research methods such as experiments, surveys, observations, or interviews. They rely on objective data and facts to support their claims and conclusions.
  • Structured and organized: Research papers have a clear and logical structure, with sections such as introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. They are organized in a way that helps the reader to follow the argument and understand the findings.
  • Formal and objective: Research papers are written in a formal and objective tone, with an emphasis on clarity, precision, and accuracy. They avoid subjective language or personal opinions and instead rely on objective data and analysis to support their arguments.
  • Citations and references: Research papers include citations and references to acknowledge the sources of information and ideas used in the paper. They use a specific citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, to ensure consistency and accuracy.
  • Peer-reviewed: Research papers are often peer-reviewed, which means they are evaluated by other experts in the field before they are published. Peer-review ensures that the research is of high quality, meets ethical standards, and contributes to the advancement of knowledge in the field.
  • Objective and unbiased: Research papers strive to be objective and unbiased in their presentation of the findings. They avoid personal biases or preconceptions and instead rely on the data and analysis to draw conclusions.

Advantages of Research Paper

Research papers have many advantages, both for the individual researcher and for the broader academic and professional community. Here are some advantages of research papers:

  • Contribution to knowledge: Research papers contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field or discipline. They add new information, insights, and perspectives to existing literature and help advance the understanding of a particular phenomenon or issue.
  • Opportunity for intellectual growth: Research papers provide an opportunity for intellectual growth for the researcher. They require critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, which can help develop the researcher’s skills and knowledge.
  • Career advancement: Research papers can help advance the researcher’s career by demonstrating their expertise and contributions to the field. They can also lead to new research opportunities, collaborations, and funding.
  • Academic recognition: Research papers can lead to academic recognition in the form of awards, grants, or invitations to speak at conferences or events. They can also contribute to the researcher’s reputation and standing in the field.
  • Impact on policy and practice: Research papers can have a significant impact on policy and practice. They can inform policy decisions, guide practice, and lead to changes in laws, regulations, or procedures.
  • Advancement of society: Research papers can contribute to the advancement of society by addressing important issues, identifying solutions to problems, and promoting social justice and equality.

Limitations of Research Paper

Research papers also have some limitations that should be considered when interpreting their findings or implications. Here are some common limitations of research papers:

  • Limited generalizability: Research findings may not be generalizable to other populations, settings, or contexts. Studies often use specific samples or conditions that may not reflect the broader population or real-world situations.
  • Potential for bias : Research papers may be biased due to factors such as sample selection, measurement errors, or researcher biases. It is important to evaluate the quality of the research design and methods used to ensure that the findings are valid and reliable.
  • Ethical concerns: Research papers may raise ethical concerns, such as the use of vulnerable populations or invasive procedures. Researchers must adhere to ethical guidelines and obtain informed consent from participants to ensure that the research is conducted in a responsible and respectful manner.
  • Limitations of methodology: Research papers may be limited by the methodology used to collect and analyze data. For example, certain research methods may not capture the complexity or nuance of a particular phenomenon, or may not be appropriate for certain research questions.
  • Publication bias: Research papers may be subject to publication bias, where positive or significant findings are more likely to be published than negative or non-significant findings. This can skew the overall findings of a particular area of research.
  • Time and resource constraints: Research papers may be limited by time and resource constraints, which can affect the quality and scope of the research. Researchers may not have access to certain data or resources, or may be unable to conduct long-term studies due to practical limitations.

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Discussion Section Examples and Writing Tips

Abstract | Introduction | Literature Review | Research question | Materials & Methods | Results | Discussion | Conclusion

In this blog, we look at how to write the discussion section of a research paper. We will go through plenty of discussion examples and understand how to construct a great discussion section for your research paper.

1. What is the purpose of the discussion section?

Discussion example

The discussion section is one of the most important sections of your research paper. This is where you interpret your results, highlight your contributions, and explain the value of your work to your readers.  This is one of the challenging parts to write because the author must clearly explain the significance of their results and tie everything back to the research questions.

2. How should I structure my discussion section?

Generally, the discussion section of a research paper typically contains the following parts.

Research summary It is a good idea to start this section with an overall summary of your work and highlight the main findings of your research.

Interpretation of findings You must interpret your findings clearly to your readers one by one.

Comparison with literature You must talk about how your results fit into existing research in the literature.

Implications of your work You should talk about the implications and possible benefits of your research.

Limitations You should talk about the possible limitations and shortcomings of your research

Future work And finally, you can talk about the possible future directions of your work.

3. Discussion Examples

Let’s look at some examples of the discussion section.  We will be looking at discussion examples from different fields and of different formats. We have split this section into multiple components so that it is easy for you to digest and understand.

3.1. An example of research summary in discussion

It is a good idea to start your discussion section with the summary of your work. The best way to do this will be to restate your research question, and then reminding your readers about your methods, and finally providing an overall summary of your results.

Our aims were to compare the effectiveness and user-friendliness of different storm detection software for storm tracking. On the basis of these aims, we ran multiple experiments with the same conditions using different storm detection software. Our results showed that in both speed and accuracy of data, ‘software A’ performed better than ‘software B’. _  Aims summary  _  Methodology summary  _  Results summary

This discussion example is from an engineering research paper. The authors are restating their aims first, which is to compare different types of storm-tracking software. Then, they are providing a brief summary of the methods. Here, they are testing different storm-tracking software under different conditions to see which performs the best. Then, they are finally providing their main finding which is that they found ‘software A’ better than ‘software B’.  This is a very good example of how to start the discussion section by presenting a summary of your work.

3.2. An example of result interpretation in discussion

The next step is to interpret your results. You have to explain your results clearly to your readers. Here is a discussion example that shows how to interpret your results.

The results of this study indicate significant differences between classical music and pop music in terms of their effects on memory recall and cognition. This implies that as the complexity of the music increases, so does its ability to facilitate cognitive processing. This finding aligns with the well-known “Mozart effect,” which suggests that listening to classical music can enhance cognitive function. _  Result  _  Interpretation  _   Additional evidence

The authors are saying that their results show that there is a significant difference between pop music and classical music in terms of memory recall and cognition. Now they are providing their interpretation of the findings. They think it is because there is a link between the complexity of music and cognitive processing. They are also making a reference to a well-known theory called the ‘Mozart effect’ to back up their findings. It is a nicely written passage and the author’s interpretation sounds very convincing and credible.

3.3. An example of literature comparison in discussion

The next step is to compare your results to the literature. You have to explain clearly how your findings compare with similar findings made by other researchers. Here is a discussion example where authors are providing details of papers in the literature that both support and oppose their findings.

Our analysis predicts that climate change will have a significant impact on wheat yield. This finding undermines one of the central pieces of evidence in some previous simulation studies [1-3] that suggest a negative effect of climate change on wheat yield, but the result is entirely consistent with the predictions of other research [4-5] that suggests the overall change in climate could result in increases in wheat yield. _  Result  _  Comparison with literature

The authors are saying that their results show that climate change will have a significant effect on wheat production. Then, they are saying that there are some papers in the literature that are in agreement with their findings. However, there are also many papers in the literature that disagree with their findings. This is very important. Your discussion should be two-sided, not one-sided. You should not ignore the literature that doesn’t corroborate your findings.

3.4. An example of research implications in discussion

The next step is to explain to your readers how your findings will benefit society and the research community. You have to clearly explain the value of your work to your readers. Here is a discussion example where authors explain the implications of their research.

The results contribute insights with regard to the management of wildfire events using artificial intelligence. One could easily argue that the obvious practical implication of this study is that it proposes utilizing cloud-based machine vision to detect wildfires in real-time, even before the first responders receive emergency calls. _  Your finding  _  Implications of your finding

In this paper, the authors are saying that their findings indicate that Artificial intelligence can be used to effectively manage wildfire events. Then, they are talking about the practical implications of their study. They are saying that their work has proven that machine learning can be used to detect wildfires in real-time. This is a great practical application and can save thousands of lives. As you can see, after reading this passage, you can immediately understand the value and significance of the work.

3.5. An example of limitations in discussion

It is very important that you discuss the limitations of your study. Limitations are flaws and shortcomings of your study. You have to tell your readers how your limitations might influence the outcomes and conclusions of your research. Most studies will have some form of limitation. So be honest and don’t hide your limitations. In reality, your readers and reviewers will be impressed with your paper if you are upfront about your limitations. 

Study design and small sample size are important limitations. This could have led to an overestimation of the effect. Future research should reconfirm these findings by conducting larger-scale studies. _  Limitation  _  How it might affect the results?  _   How to fix the limitation?

Here is a discussion example where the author talks about study limitations. The authors are saying that the main limitations of the study are the small sample size and weak study design. Then they explain how this might have affected their results. They are saying that it is possible that they are overestimating the actual effect they are measuring. Then finally they are telling the readers that more studies with larger sample sizes should be conducted to reconfirm the findings.

As you can see, the authors are clearly explaining three things here:

3.6. An example of future work in discussion

It is important to remember not to end your paper with limitations. Finish your paper on a positive note by telling your readers about the benefits of your research and possible future directions. Here is a discussion example where the author talks about future work.

Our study highlights useful insights about the potential of biomass as a renewable energy source. Future research can extend this research in several ways, including research on how to tackle challenges that hinder the sustainability of renewable energy sources towards climate change mitigation, such as market failures, lack of information and access to raw materials.   _  Benefits of your work  _   Future work

The authors are starting the final paragraph of the discussion section by highlighting the benefit of their work which is the use of biomass as a renewable source of energy. Then they talk about future research. They are saying that future research can focus on how to improve the sustainability of biomass production. This is a very good example of how to finish the discussion section of your paper on a positive note.

4. Frequently Asked Questions

Sometimes you will have negative or unexpected results in your paper. You have to talk about it in your discussion section. A lot of students find it difficult to write this part. The best way to handle this situation is not to look at results as either positive or negative. A result is a result, and you will always have something important and interesting to say about your findings. Just spend some time investigating what might have caused this result and tell your readers about it.

You must talk about the limitations of your work in the discussion section of the paper. One of the important qualities that the scientific community expects from a researcher is honesty and admitting when they have made a mistake. The important trick you have to learn while presenting your limitations is to present them in a constructive way rather than being too negative about them.  You must try to use positive language even when you are talking about major limitations of your work. 

If you have something exciting to say about your results or found something new that nobody else has found before, then, don’t be modest and use flat language when presenting this in the discussion. Use words like ‘break through’, ‘indisputable evidence’, ‘exciting proposition’ to increase the impact of your findings.

Important thing to remember is not to overstate your findings. If you found something really interesting but are not 100% sure, you must not mislead your readers. The best way to do this will be to use words like ‘it appears’ and ‘it seems’. This will tell the readers that there is a slight possibility that you might be wrong.

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How to Write a Discussion Section for a Research Paper

what is the purpose of the discussion section in 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)

IMAGES

  1. A Guide on Writing A Discussion Section Of A Research Paper

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  2. How To Write The Discussion Section Of A Research Paper Apa Ee

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  4. How to structure the discussion of your scientific paper : A Brilliant Mind

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  5. How to Write a Discussion Section

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Discussion Section

    The discussion section is where you delve into the meaning, importance, and relevance of your results.. It should focus on explaining and evaluating what you found, showing how it relates to your literature review and paper or dissertation topic, and making an argument in support of your overall conclusion.It should not be a second results section.. There are different ways to write this ...

  2. 8. The Discussion

    The discussion section is often considered the most important part of your 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 upon a logical synthesis of the findings, and to formulate a deeper, more profound understanding of the research problem under investigation;

  3. How to Write Discussions and Conclusions

    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 ...

  4. How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper

    The discussion section provides an analysis and interpretation of the findings, compares them with previous studies, identifies limitations, and suggests future directions for research. This section combines information from the preceding parts of your paper into a coherent story. By this point, the reader already knows why you did your study ...

  5. PDF Discussion Section for Research Papers

    The discussion section is one of the final parts of a research paper, in which an author describes, analyzes, and interprets their findings. They explain the significance of those results and tie everything back to the research question(s). In this handout, you will find a description of what a discussion section does, explanations of how to ...

  6. Organizing Academic Research Papers: 8. The 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 ...

  7. PDF Discussion and Conclusion Sections for Empirical Research Papers

    In an empirical research paper, the purpose of the Discussion section is to interpret the results and discuss their implications, thereby establishing (and often qualifying) the practical and scholarly significance of the present study. It may be helpful to think of the Discussion section as the inverse of the introduction to an empirical ...

  8. General Research Paper Guidelines: Discussion

    Discussion Section. The overall purpose of a research paper's discussion section is to evaluate and interpret results, while explaining both the implications and limitations of your findings. Per APA (2020) guidelines, this section requires you to "examine, interpret, and qualify the results and draw inferences and conclusions from them ...

  9. Writing a discussion section: how to integrate substantive and

    After a research article has presented the substantive background, the methods and the results, the discussion section assesses the validity of results and draws conclusions by interpreting them. The discussion puts the results into a broader context and reflects their implications for theoretical (e.g. etiological) and practical (e.g ...

  10. How to write a discussion section?

    The discussion section can be written in 3 parts: an introductory paragraph, intermediate paragraphs and a conclusion paragraph. For intermediate paragraphs, a "divide and conquer" approach, meaning a full paragraph describing each of the study endpoints, can be used. In conclusion, academic writing is similar to other skills, and practice ...

  11. A Guide on Writing A Discussion Section Of A Research Paper

    The Purpose of a Discussion Section What To Include In The Discussion Chapter. Some writers often confuse discussion sections and results sections. The results part describes the key results of a study. The discussion chapter differs from the results section of a research paper by interpreting the results for a reader and discussing the results ...

  12. How to Write the Discussion Section in a Research Paper

    The Discussion section might well be the hardest part of a paper to write. Yet, so useful! In a great Discussion section, the authors tie the different findings of the paper together, analyse them in the context of existing literature, offer speculations, suggest further research and highlight the study's significance and possible impact.

  13. How to Write an Effective Discussion in a Research Paper; a Guide to

    Explaining the meaning of the results to the reader is the purpose of the discussion section of a research paper. There are elements of the discussion that should be included and other things that ...

  14. How to Write a Discussion Section

    What not to include in your discussion section. There are a few common mistakes to avoid when writing the discussion section of your paper. Don't introduce new results: You should only discuss the data that you have already reported in your results section. Don't make inflated claims: Avoid overinterpretation and speculation that isn't directly supported by your data.

  15. Discussion Section of a Research Paper: Guide & Example

    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.

  16. PDF How to Write an Effective Discussion

    Explaining the meaning of the results to the reader is the purpose of the discussion section of a research paper. There are elements of the discussion that should be included and other things that should be avoided. Always write the discussion for the reader; remember that the focus should be to help the

  17. How to Write a Discussion Section of a Research Paper

    Step 1. Write down the conclusions you want to make in the discussion section. Review your text again and analyze what conclusions you want to add to the discussion part of research paper. Perhaps you forgot to describe something in the previous paragraphs, and such an analysis will help you find new exciting ideas.

  18. Writing a Discussion Section

    Writing a discussion section is where you really begin to add your interpretations to the work. In this critical part of the research paper, you start the process of explaining any links and correlations apparent in your data. If you left few interesting leads and open questions in the results section, the discussion is simply a matter of ...

  19. The Process of Writing a Research Paper Guide: The Discussion

    The discussion section is often considered the most important part of your research paper because this is where you: Most effectively demonstrates your ability as a researcher to think critically about an issue, 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 ...

  20. How to Write the Discussion?

    In this section, you are expected to infer their meaning and explain the importance of your results and finally provide specific suggestions for future research [1, 2]. The discussion places the outcome into a larger context and mentions the implications of the inferences for theoretical and practical purposes [3].

  21. Research Paper

    The discussion section of a research paper interprets the findings and discusses their implications for the research question, the literature review, and the field of study. ... The purpose of a research paper is to present the results of a study or investigation in a clear, concise, and structured manner. Research papers are written to ...

  22. Discussion Section Examples and Writing Tips

    Let's look at some examples of the discussion section. We will be looking at discussion examples from different fields and of different formats. We have split this section into multiple components so that it is easy for you to digest and understand. 3.1. An example of research summary in discussion. It is a good idea to start your discussion ...

  23. How to Write a Discussion Section for a Research Paper

    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.