How to Write the Discussion Section of Your Research Paper

June 26, 2024

discussion chapter

The discussion section of your research paper explains the meaning, relevance, and significance of your study. It focuses on the detail about your findings, explaining how the results link to your research questions and literature review while arguing your points to support your conclusions.

While there are many ways to write the discussion section, your writing should focus on four main elements:

  • Interpretation of your results
  • Implications of the findings
  • Limitations
  • Recommendations

The discussion and the conclusion parts of a research paper often overlap, and in some dissertations, the two appear in one chapter.

If you are not sure about how to write these two sections, you may want to check sample research papers in your field or even get clarification from your professor.

Writing a Perfect Discussion for Your Research

Writing the discussion section of a research paper doesn’t have to be difficult. You only need to know what to write in this section and do it accordingly.

Here’s a guide to lead you:

1. Summarize the Key findings

Begin the discussions chapter by restating your research problem and providing a concise summary of your findings. Refrain from repeating the data that you already reported. Make your summary clear and directly answer the main research question. All this should not take more than one paragraph.

Examples

  • The research demonstrates…..
  • The data suggest….
  • The results show…
  • The analysis supports the idea that… 

The results meaning might appear obvious to you, but it’s important to explain the significance of the findings t a reader to give them a clear picture on how you answer your research question.

The form your interpretation takes will depend on the type of research paper you write, but you can use the following approaches to interpret data:

  • Putting your findings into the context of the past research and theory
  • Identifying patterns, relationships, and correlations in the data
  • Considering alternative explanations and providing arguments for your position
  • Discussing whether the findings met supported your hypothesis or met your expectations

Organize the discussion around the main themes, research questions, or hypotheses. All the while, make sure you stick to the same structure you used in the results section.

2. Discuss the Results implications

Apart from giving your own interpretations, relate the findings of the study to the academic work you analyzed in the literature review section.

The discussion needs to demonstrate how the results you arrived at relate to the existing knowledge. It should also show new insights, if any, and their practical and theoretical consequences.

Some questions to ask here are:

  • Are your results in tandem with previous research?
  • How different are your findings from other studies?
  • Do the results have any practical implications?
  • Do the findings challenge or support existing theories?

In general, the overall aim of your discussion section is to demonstrate to the reader that your study has contributed something to the body of knowledge. 

Examples

  • These findings add to the existing evidence of….
  • The experiment gives us a fresh insight into….
  • The results contribute a clear understanding of….
  • The findings should be considered when contemplating how to…
  • The results don’t support the much-accepted theory that…. 

3. Acknowledge the Limitations

No research is perfect. If anything, even the best research will have some limitations.

Acknowledging these limitations helps to demonstrate your credibility. But limitations don’t mean that you start enumerating your errors. Rather, it means to provide an exact picture of what can be concluded from your research and what can’t.

Limitations can result from several factors, like specific methodological choices, overall research design, or unforeseen obstacles that arose during the research.

When writing limitations, only talk about challenges that relate to your research objectives. Analyze the impact they had on realizing the research goals. 

For example, a small sample size or one limited to a specific set of people can affect your research findings by limiting its generalizability.

Include the problems you encountered when analyzing or collecting data. Additionally, indicate how these problems influenced the results. In case there were potential confounding variables beyond your control, you should acknowledge them as well as the impacts they had on your findings. 

After acknowledging the limitations, reiterate why the findings are nonetheless important as far as your research question is concerned.

Examples

  • The reliability of these findings is impacted by…..
  • Because of the lack of sufficient data on Y, the results cannot reliably confirm…
  • It’s above the scope of this research….
  • The results generalizability is constrained by….

4. Recommendations

Based on the analysis and discussion of your findings, you can give recommendations for further research or practical implementation.

The limitations you discussed above can be the basis for suggestions for additional research. Do not just write that there is need for further research on the topic. Instead, your recommendations should give concrete ideas on how future studies can build on the sections that your research failed to address.

Examples:

  • Future research should consider….
  • Further studies are needed to establish… 

What Not to Include in the Discussion Section of Your Research Paper

When writing the discussion part of your research paper, there are glaring mistakes that you need to avoid.

They include the following:

  • Refrain from introducing new results. Your only mandate is to discuss the results you already reported in the previous chapter.
  • Resist the temptation to make inflated claims. Stay away from speculation and over interpretation not backed by your findings.
  • Do not undermine the research. The purpose of discussing the study limitations is to lend credibility to your research, not magnify failures or weaknesses. 

Conclusion

The discussion section of your research paper provides insights to the reader about the overall significance of the research based on the findings.

It can be difficult to highlight these implications and not overstate the findings, especially when you want to submit the paper to a journal that publishes researches based on potential impact or novelty.

Irrespective of the journal you want to submit to, there is only one purpose for the discussion section, and this is to conclude the meaning of the results of your study.

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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