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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. 

how to structure a discussion 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:

how to structure a discussion 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

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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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Writing a scientific paper.

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  • INTRODUCTION

Writing a "good" discussion section

"discussion and conclusions checklist" from: how to write a good scientific paper. chris a. mack. spie. 2018., peer review.

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This is is usually the hardest section to write. You are trying to bring out the true meaning of your data without being too long. Do not use words to conceal your facts or reasoning. Also do not repeat your results, this is a discussion.

  • Present principles, relationships and generalizations shown by the results
  • Point out exceptions or lack of correlations. Define why you think this is so.
  • Show how your results agree or disagree with previously published works
  • Discuss the theoretical implications of your work as well as practical applications
  • State your conclusions clearly. Summarize your evidence for each conclusion.
  • Discuss the significance of the results
  •  Evidence does not explain itself; the results must be presented and then explained.
  • Typical stages in the discussion: summarizing the results, discussing whether results are expected or unexpected, comparing these results to previous work, interpreting and explaining the results (often by comparison to a theory or model), and hypothesizing about their generality.
  • Discuss any problems or shortcomings encountered during the course of the work.
  • Discuss possible alternate explanations for the results.
  • Avoid: presenting results that are never discussed; presenting discussion that does not relate to any of the results; presenting results and discussion in chronological order rather than logical order; ignoring results that do not support the conclusions; drawing conclusions from results without logical arguments to back them up. 

CONCLUSIONS

  • Provide a very brief summary of the Results and Discussion.
  • Emphasize the implications of the findings, explaining how the work is significant and providing the key message(s) the author wishes to convey.
  • Provide the most general claims that can be supported by the evidence.
  • Provide a future perspective on the work.
  • Avoid: repeating the abstract; repeating background information from the Introduction; introducing new evidence or new arguments not found in the Results and Discussion; repeating the arguments made in the Results and Discussion; failing to address all of the research questions set out in the Introduction. 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I COMPLETE MY PAPER?

 The peer review process is the quality control step in the publication of ideas.  Papers that are submitted to a journal for publication are sent out to several scientists (peers) who look carefully at the paper to see if it is "good science".  These reviewers then recommend to the editor of a journal whether or not a paper should be published. Most journals have publication guidelines. Ask for them and follow them exactly.    Peer reviewers examine the soundness of the materials and methods section.  Are the materials and methods used written clearly enough for another scientist to reproduce the experiment?  Other areas they look at are: originality of research, significance of research question studied, soundness of the discussion and interpretation, correct spelling and use of technical terms, and length of the article.

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How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper

The discussion section of a research paper analyzes and interprets the findings, provides context, compares them with previous studies, identifies limitations, and suggests future research directions.

Updated on September 15, 2023

researchers writing the discussion section of their research paper

Structure your discussion section right, and you’ll be cited more often while doing a greater service to the scientific community. So, what actually goes into the discussion section? And how do you write it?

The discussion section of your research paper is where you let the reader know how your study is positioned in the literature, what to take away from your paper, and how your work helps them. It can also include your conclusions and suggestions for future studies.

First, we’ll define all the parts of your discussion paper, and then look into how to write a strong, effective discussion section for your paper or manuscript.

Discussion section: what is it, what it does

The discussion section comes later in your paper, following the introduction, methods, and results. The discussion sets up your study’s conclusions. Its main goals are to present, interpret, and provide a context for your results.

What is it?

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 (introduction), how you did it (methods), and what happened (results). In the discussion, you’ll help the reader connect the ideas from these sections.

Why is it necessary?

The discussion provides context and interpretations for the results. It also answers the questions posed in the introduction. While the results section describes your findings, the discussion explains what they say. This is also where you can describe the impact or implications of your research.

Adds context for your results

Most research studies aim to answer a question, replicate a finding, or address limitations in the literature. These goals are first described in the introduction. However, in the discussion section, the author can refer back to them to explain how the study's objective was achieved. 

Shows what your results actually mean and real-world implications

The discussion can also describe the effect of your findings on research or practice. How are your results significant for readers, other researchers, or policymakers?

What to include in your discussion (in the correct order)

A complete and effective discussion section should at least touch on the points described below.

Summary of key findings

The discussion should begin with a brief factual summary of the results. Concisely overview the main results you obtained.

Begin with key findings with supporting evidence

Your results section described a list of findings, but what message do they send when you look at them all together?

Your findings were detailed in the results section, so there’s no need to repeat them here, but do provide at least a few highlights. This will help refresh the reader’s memory and help them focus on the big picture.

Read the first paragraph of the discussion section in this article (PDF) for an example of how to start this part of your paper. Notice how the authors break down their results and follow each description sentence with an explanation of why each finding is relevant. 

State clearly and concisely

Following a clear and direct writing style is especially important in the discussion section. After all, this is where you will make some of the most impactful points in your paper. While the results section often contains technical vocabulary, such as statistical terms, the discussion section lets you describe your findings more clearly. 

Interpretation of results

Once you’ve given your reader an overview of your results, you need to interpret those results. In other words, what do your results mean? Discuss the findings’ implications and significance in relation to your research question or hypothesis.

Analyze and interpret your findings

Look into your findings and explore what’s behind them or what may have caused them. If your introduction cited theories or studies that could explain your findings, use these sources as a basis to discuss your results.

For example, look at the second paragraph in the discussion section of this article on waggling honey bees. Here, the authors explore their results based on information from the literature.

Unexpected or contradictory results

Sometimes, your findings are not what you expect. Here’s where you describe this and try to find a reason for it. Could it be because of the method you used? Does it have something to do with the variables analyzed? Comparing your methods with those of other similar studies can help with this task.

Context and comparison with previous work

Refer to related studies to place your research in a larger context and the literature. Compare and contrast your findings with existing literature, highlighting similarities, differences, and/or contradictions.

How your work compares or contrasts with previous work

Studies with similar findings to yours can be cited to show the strength of your findings. Information from these studies can also be used to help explain your results. Differences between your findings and others in the literature can also be discussed here. 

How to divide this section into subsections

If you have more than one objective in your study or many key findings, you can dedicate a separate section to each of these. Here’s an example of this approach. You can see that the discussion section is divided into topics and even has a separate heading for each of them. 

Limitations

Many journals require you to include the limitations of your study in the discussion. Even if they don’t, there are good reasons to mention these in your paper.

Why limitations don’t have a negative connotation

A study’s limitations are points to be improved upon in future research. While some of these may be flaws in your method, many may be due to factors you couldn’t predict.

Examples include time constraints or small sample sizes. Pointing this out will help future researchers avoid or address these issues. This part of the discussion can also include any attempts you have made to reduce the impact of these limitations, as in this study .

How limitations add to a researcher's credibility

Pointing out the limitations of your study demonstrates transparency. It also shows that you know your methods well and can conduct a critical assessment of them.  

Implications and significance

The final paragraph of the discussion section should contain the take-home messages for your study. It can also cite the “strong points” of your study, to contrast with the limitations section.

Restate your hypothesis

Remind the reader what your hypothesis was before you conducted the study. 

How was it proven or disproven?

Identify your main findings and describe how they relate to your hypothesis.

How your results contribute to the literature

Were you able to answer your research question? Or address a gap in the literature?

Future implications of your research

Describe the impact that your results may have on the topic of study. Your results may show, for instance, that there are still limitations in the literature for future studies to address. There may be a need for studies that extend your findings in a specific way. You also may need additional research to corroborate your findings. 

Sample discussion section

This fictitious example covers all the aspects discussed above. Your actual discussion section will probably be much longer, but you can read this to get an idea of everything your discussion should cover.

Our results showed that the presence of cats in a household is associated with higher levels of perceived happiness by its human occupants. These findings support our hypothesis and demonstrate the association between pet ownership and well-being. 

The present findings align with those of Bao and Schreer (2016) and Hardie et al. (2023), who observed greater life satisfaction in pet owners relative to non-owners. Although the present study did not directly evaluate life satisfaction, this factor may explain the association between happiness and cat ownership observed in our sample.

Our findings must be interpreted in light of some limitations, such as the focus on cat ownership only rather than pets as a whole. This may limit the generalizability of our results.

Nevertheless, this study had several strengths. These include its strict exclusion criteria and use of a standardized assessment instrument to investigate the relationships between pets and owners. These attributes bolster the accuracy of our results and reduce the influence of confounding factors, increasing the strength of our conclusions. Future studies may examine the factors that mediate the association between pet ownership and happiness to better comprehend this phenomenon.

This brief discussion begins with a quick summary of the results and hypothesis. The next paragraph cites previous research and compares its findings to those of this study. Information from previous studies is also used to help interpret the findings. After discussing the results of the study, some limitations are pointed out. The paper also explains why these limitations may influence the interpretation of results. Then, final conclusions are drawn based on the study, and directions for future research are suggested.

How to make your discussion flow naturally

If you find writing in scientific English challenging, the discussion and conclusions are often the hardest parts of the paper to write. That’s because you’re not just listing up studies, methods, and outcomes. You’re actually expressing your thoughts and interpretations in words.

  • How formal should it be?
  • What words should you use, or not use?
  • How do you meet strict word limits, or make it longer and more informative?

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How to Write a Discussion Section for a Research Paper

how to structure a discussion 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)

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Study Skills

Writing a discussion section

In the discussion section, you will draw connections between your findings, existing theory and other research. You will have an opportunity to tell the story arising from your findings. 

This page will help you to: 

understand the purpose of the discussion section 

follow the steps required to plan your discussion section 

structure your discussion  

enhance the depth of your discussion 

use appropriate language to discuss your findings.  

Introduction to the discussion section

When you have reached this stage, you might be thinking “All I have to do now is to sum up what I have done, and then make a few remarks about what I did” (as cited in Swales & Feak, 2012, p.263). However, writing a discussion section is not that simple. Read on to learn more.

reflection icon

  Before you continue, reflect on your earlier writing experiences and the feedback you have received. How would you rate your ability in the following skills? Rate your ability from ‘good’ to ‘needs development’. 

Reflect on your answers. Congratulations if you feel confident about your skills. You may find it helpful to review the materials on this page to confirm your knowledge and possibly learn more. Don't worry if you don't feel confident. Work through these materials to build your skills. 

A discussion critically analyses and interprets the results of a scientific study, placing the results in the context of published literature and explaining how they affect the field . 

In this section, you will relate the specific findings of your research to the wider scientific field. This is the opposite of the introduction section, which starts with the broader context and narrows to focus on your specific research topic.  

The discussion will: 

review the findings  

put the findings into the context of the overall research  

tell readers why the research results are important and where they fit in with the current literature 

acknowledge the limitations of the study 

make recommendations for future research.

study skills task icon

Let's review your understanding of the discussion section by identifying what makes a strong discussion.

Planning for a discussion section

Planning for a discussion section starts with analysing your data. For some kinds of research, the analysis cannot be done until your data has been collected. For others, analysing data can happen early as the data already exists in literary texts, archival documents or similar.  

Before starting to write the discussion section, it is important to:  

analyse your data (usually reported in the Results or Findings section) 

select the key issues that are the substance of your research  

relate the findings to the literature and 

plan for the process of going from your specific findings to the broader scientific field.  

Your analysis of the results will inform the Findings or Results section of your thesis or publication. It is the stage where you organise and visualise your data, and identify trends, patterns and causal relationships in the themes.

As the section discusses the key findings without restating the results, it is important to identify the key issues. For example, you should focus on four or five issues that agree or do not agree with your hypothesis or with previously published work. It is also important to include and discuss any unexpected results.

You refer to previous research in your discussion section for explaining your results, confirming how your results support the theories and previous studies, comparing your results with similar studies, or showing how your results contradict similar studies. 

Therefore, papers that you are likely to refer to in your discussion are those that led to: 

your hypothesis  

your experimental design 

your results.

In writing the discussion section, you will start with your research and then broaden your focus to the field or scientific community. This means you will go from narrowest (your specific findings) to broadest (the wider scientific community). You do this by following the six moves: 

Narrowest      Summarising key results   Critically analysing the key results (significance, trends, relationships)  Relating results to the field (relating to previous work)   Relating results to gaps in the field   Speculating about how the field has changed.   Making recommendations for future research.      Broadest

As you can see, your discussion may follow six moves (stages) which broadens the scope of your discussion section. Watch this video to learn how to apply these moves.

how to structure a discussion in a research paper

Structuring your discussion

This section reviews how a discussion section can be organised.

A discussion section usually includes five parts or steps, which are illustrated in the image below. 

In some disciplines, the researcher's argument determines the structure of the presentation and discussion of findings. In other disciplines, the structure follows established conventions. Therefore, it is important for you to investigate the conventions of your own discipline, by looking at theses in your discipline and articles published in your target journals. The discussion section may be: 

in a combined section called Results and Discussion 

in a combined section called Discussion and Conclusion 

in a separate section. 

Your discussion section may be an independent chapter or it might be combined with the Findings chapter. Common chapter headings include:  

Discussion chapter 

Findings and Discussion chapter  

Discussion, Recommendations and Conclusion chapter

Discussion and Conclusion chapter 

It is important to have a good understanding of the expected content of each chapter.  Below is an example of a chapter in which discussion, recommendations and conclusion are combined.

Click on the hotspots to learn more.

This section focuses on useful language for writing your discussion.

Boosters and hedges should be used to demonstrate your confidence in your interpretation of the results. They help you to distinguish between clear and strong results and those that you feel less confident about or that may be open to different interpretations.

 Boosters       Boosters are used to express certainty and confidence.  Hedges       Hedges are used to express possibility and demonstrate a cautious approach to the literature being reviewed.       Maybe   Perhaps   Likely   Possibly   Seems   Appears   To some extent   Some   Somewhat   Suggest       Example:           Clearly   Obviously   Evidently   Undoubtedly   Importantly   Differently           Example:       It is evident that…   The findings clearly demonstrate that…   There is strong evidence…

 Read both sentences. Which one shows more confidence in the results? 

The Dutch supervisors reported using different types of questions more frequently and deliberately than the Chinese supervisors. This difference may have its roots in the underlying educational philosophies. (Adapted from Hu, Rijst, Veen, & Verloop, 2016)  

The findings clearly demonstrate that psychological capital had considerable influence on the 10 employability skills included in the study, and especially on those related to teamwork, self-knowledge and self-management (Adapted from Harper, Bregta & Rundle, 2021) 

The writers of sentence two are more confident in the interpretation of their results.  

Test your knowledge of hedges and boosters by doing the task below. 

It is important to make it clear in your discussion: 

which research has been done by you 

which research has been done by other people 

how they complement each other.

Image 2: Note that present perfect is also used to refer to other studies when you want to emphasise that an area of research is still current and ongoing. Take a look at the example below which uses present perfect to refer to other studies 

Like other studies (e.g., Larcombe et al., 2021; Naylor, 2020) that have shown a strong connection between course experience and wellbeing, our study shows that a significant portion of international students believe that aspects of their immediate environment could be improved to better support their wellbeing.  

More information on tenses in the Discussion section is presented in Language Tip 4 below.  

Below are some useful discussion phrases that were adapted from Paltridge & Starfield (2020) and the APA Discussion phrases guide (7th edition).

You can download this APA discussion phrase guide here and visit the Academic Phrasebank for further phrases and examples. 

Let's look at these extracts and identify the functions of the paragraphs.  

Past, present and present perfect tenses are commonly used in the discussion section.  

  • Past tense is used to summarise the key findings and to refer to the work of previous researchers  
  • Present perfect is used to refer to the work of previous researchers (usually an area of research that is current and on-going rather than one single study) 
  • Present tense is used to interpret the results or describe the significance of the findings  
  • Future  is used to make recommendations for further research or providing future direction 

Below is an example of some paragraphs in a discussion section in which different tenses are used.

The main objective of this article was to examine the role played by psychological capital and employability skills in explaining how final-year students in Business Administration and Management perceived their own employability. The results of our research supported the findings of previous studies (Cooper et al., 2004; Youssef & Luthans, 2007) which showed that psychological capital was an antecedent variable of employability skills. More specifically, our study showed that psychological capital had cons

Test your knowledge of using the right tenses in the discussion section by doing the task below. 

Use this template to plan your discussion.  

The template is an example of a planning tool that will help you develop an overview of the key content that you are going to include in your section. You can download the draft and save it as a Word document once you have finished. 

You may have more or less than 3 key findings that you would like to discuss in your section.  

If you would like more support, visit the Language and Learning Advisors page. 

Butler, K. (2020, 7 April). Breakdown of an ideal discussion of scientific research paper. Scientific Communications . https://butlerscicomm.com/breakdown-of-ideal-discussion-section-research-paper  

Calvo, J. C. A & García, G. M. (2021). The influence of psychological capital on graduates’ perception of employability: the mediating role of employability skills. Higher Education Research & Development , 40(2), 293-308, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2020.1738350   

Cenamor, J. (2022) To teach or not to teach? Junior academics and the teaching-research relationship. Higher Education Research & Development , 41(5), 1417-1435. DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2021.1933395  

Harper, R.,  Bretag, T & Rundle, K. (2021) Detecting contract cheating: examining the role of assessment type. Higher Education Research & Development, 40(2), 263-278, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2020.1724899   

Hu, Y., Rijst, R. M., Veen, K & N Verloop, N. (2016) The purposes and processes of master's thesis supervision: a comparison of Chinese and Dutch supervisors. Higher Education Research & Development , 35(5), 910-924, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2016.1139550  

Humphrey, P. (2015). English language proficiency in higher education: student conceptualisations and outcomes . [Doctoral dissertation, Griffith University]  

Marangell, S., & Baik, C. (2022). International students’ suggestions for what universities can do to better support their mental wellbeing. Journal of International Students, 12(4), 933-954.  

Merga, M., & Mason, S. (2021) Early career researchers’ perceptions of the benefits and challenges of sharing research with academic and non-academic end-users, Higher Education Research & Development , 40(7), 1482-1496, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2020.1815662  

Paltridge, B., & Starfield, S. (2019). Thesis and Dissertation Writing in a Second Language: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors (2nd ed.). Routledge.  

Rendle-Short, J. (2009). The Address Term Mate in Australian English: Is it Still a Masculine Term?. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 29(2), 245-268, DOI: 10.1080/07268600902823110  

Did you know CDU Language and Learning Advisors offer a range of study support options?

https://www.cdu.edu.au/library/language-and-learning-support

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  • Manuscript Preparation

6 Steps to Write an Excellent Discussion in Your Manuscript

  • 4 minute read

Table of Contents

The discussion section in scientific manuscripts might be the last few paragraphs, but its role goes far beyond wrapping up. It’s the part of an article where scientists talk about what they found and what it means, where raw data turns into meaningful insights. Therefore, discussion is a vital component of the article.  

An excellent discussion is well-organized. We bring to you authors a classic 6-step method for writing discussion sections, with examples to illustrate the functions and specific writing logic of each step. Take a look at how you can impress journal reviewers with a concise and focused discussion section!  

Discussion frame structure   

Conventionally, a discussion section has three parts: an introductory paragraph, a few intermediate paragraphs, and a conclusion¹.  Please follow the steps below:  

Steps to Write an Excellent Discussion in Your Manuscript

1.Introduction—mention gaps in previous research¹⁻ ²

Here, you orient the reader to your study. In the first paragraph, it is advisable to mention the research gap your paper addresses.  

Example: This study investigated the cognitive effects of a meat-only diet on adults. While earlier studies have explored the impact of a carnivorous diet on physical attributes and agility, they have not explicitly addressed its influence on cognitively intense tasks involving memory and reasoning.  

2. Summarizing key findings—let your data speak ¹⁻ ²

After you have laid out the context for your study, recapitulate some of its key findings. Also, highlight key data and evidence supporting these findings.  

Example: We found that risk-taking behavior among teenagers correlates with their tendency to invest in cryptocurrencies. Risk takers in this study, as measured by the Cambridge Gambling Task, tended to have an inordinately higher proportion of their savings invested as crypto coins.  

3. Interpreting results—compare with other papers¹⁻²    

Here, you must analyze and interpret any results concerning the research question or hypothesis. How do the key findings of your study help verify or disprove the hypothesis? What practical relevance does your discovery have?  

Example: Our study suggests that higher daily caffeine intake is not associated with poor performance in major sporting events. Athletes may benefit from the cardiovascular benefits of daily caffeine intake without adversely impacting performance.    

Remember, unlike the results section, the discussion ideally focuses on locating your findings in the larger body of existing research. Hence, compare your results with those of other peer-reviewed papers.  

Example: Although Miller et al. (2020) found evidence of such political bias in a multicultural population, our findings suggest that the bias is weak or virtually non-existent among politically active citizens.  

4. Addressing limitations—their potential impact on the results¹⁻²    

Discuss the potential impact of limitations on the results. Most studies have limitations, and it is crucial to acknowledge them in the intermediary paragraphs of the discussion section. Limitations may include low sample size, suspected interference or noise in data, low effect size, etc.  

Example: This study explored a comprehensive list of adverse effects associated with the novel drug ‘X’. However, long-term studies may be needed to confirm its safety, especially regarding major cardiac events.  

5. Implications for future research—how to explore further¹⁻²    

Locate areas of your research where more investigation is needed. Concluding paragraphs of the discussion can explain what research will likely confirm your results or identify knowledge gaps your study left unaddressed.  

Example: Our study demonstrates that roads paved with the plastic-infused compound ‘Y’ are more resilient than asphalt. Future studies may explore economically feasible ways of producing compound Y in bulk.  

6. Conclusion—summarize content¹⁻²    

A good way to wind up the discussion section is by revisiting the research question mentioned in your introduction. Sign off by expressing the main findings of your study.  

Example: Recent observations suggest that the fish ‘Z’ is moving upriver in many parts of the Amazon basin. Our findings provide conclusive evidence that this phenomenon is associated with rising sea levels and climate change, not due to elevated numbers of invasive predators.  

A rigorous and concise discussion section is one of the keys to achieving an excellent paper. It serves as a critical platform for researchers to interpret and connect their findings with the broader scientific context. By detailing the results, carefully comparing them with existing research, and explaining the limitations of this study, you can effectively help reviewers and readers understand the entire research article more comprehensively and deeply¹⁻² , thereby helping your manuscript to be successfully published and gain wider dissemination.  

In addition to keeping this writing guide, you can also use Elsevier Language Services to improve the quality of your paper more deeply and comprehensively. We have a professional editing team covering multiple disciplines. With our profound disciplinary background and rich polishing experience, we can significantly optimize all paper modules including the discussion, effectively improve the fluency and rigor of your articles, and make your scientific research results consistent, with its value reflected more clearly. We are always committed to ensuring the quality of papers according to the standards of top journals, improving the publishing efficiency of scientific researchers, and helping you on the road to academic success. Check us out here !  

Type in wordcount for Standard Total: USD EUR JPY Follow this link if your manuscript is longer than 12,000 words. Upload  

References:   

  • Masic, I. (2018). How to write an efficient discussion? Medical Archives , 72(3), 306. https://doi.org/10.5455/medarh.2018.72.306-307  
  • Şanlı, Ö., Erdem, S., & Tefik, T. (2014). How to write a discussion section? Urology Research & Practice , 39(1), 20–24. https://doi.org/10.5152/tud.2013.049  

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Changing Lines: Sentence Patterns in Academic Writing

Manuscript Writing Patterns and Structure

Path to An Impactful Paper: Common Manuscript Writing Patterns and Structure

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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
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  • Multiple Book Review Essay
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  • 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.

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  • Last Updated: Jul 18, 2023 11:58 AM
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how to structure a discussion in a research paper

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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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Object name is TJU-39-Supp-20-g01.jpg

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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  • CAREER BRIEF
  • 08 May 2019

Toolkit: How to write a great paper

A clear format will ensure that your research paper is understood by your readers. Follow:

1. Context — your introduction

2. Content — your results

3. Conclusion — your discussion

Plan your paper carefully and decide where each point will sit within the framework before you begin writing.

how to structure a discussion in a research paper

Collection: Careers toolkit

Straightforward writing

Scientific writing should always aim to be A, B and C: Accurate, Brief, and Clear. Never choose a long word when a short one will do. Use simple language to communicate your results. Always aim to distill your message down into the simplest sentence possible.

Choose a title

A carefully conceived title will communicate the single core message of your research paper. It should be D, E, F: Declarative, Engaging and Focused.

Conclusions

Add a sentence or two at the end of your concluding statement that sets out your plans for further research. What is next for you or others working in your field?

Find out more

See additional information .

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-01362-9

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How To Write The Discussion Chapter

A Simple Explainer With Examples + Free Template

By: Jenna Crossley (PhD) | Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | August 2021

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve reached the discussion chapter of your thesis or dissertation and are looking for a bit of guidance. Well, you’ve come to the right place ! In this post, we’ll unpack and demystify the typical discussion chapter in straightforward, easy to understand language, with loads of examples .

Overview: The Discussion Chapter

  • What  the discussion chapter is
  • What to include in your discussion
  • How to write up your discussion
  • A few tips and tricks to help you along the way
  • Free discussion template

What (exactly) is the discussion chapter?

The discussion chapter is where you interpret and explain your results within your thesis or dissertation. This contrasts with the results chapter, where you merely present and describe the analysis findings (whether qualitative or quantitative ). In the discussion chapter, you elaborate on and evaluate your research findings, and discuss the significance and implications of your results .

In this chapter, you’ll situate your research findings in terms of your research questions or hypotheses and tie them back to previous studies and literature (which you would have covered in your literature review chapter). You’ll also have a look at how relevant and/or significant your findings are to your field of research, and you’ll argue for the conclusions that you draw from your analysis. Simply put, the discussion chapter is there for you to interact with and explain your research findings in a thorough and coherent manner.

Free template for discussion or thesis discussion section

What should I include in the discussion chapter?

First things first: in some studies, the results and discussion chapter are combined into one chapter .  This depends on the type of study you conducted (i.e., the nature of the study and methodology adopted), as well as the standards set by the university.  So, check in with your university regarding their norms and expectations before getting started. In this post, we’ll treat the two chapters as separate, as this is most common.

Basically, your discussion chapter should analyse , explore the meaning and identify the importance of the data you presented in your results chapter. In the discussion chapter, you’ll give your results some form of meaning by evaluating and interpreting them. This will help answer your research questions, achieve your research aims and support your overall conclusion (s). Therefore, you discussion chapter should focus on findings that are directly connected to your research aims and questions. Don’t waste precious time and word count on findings that are not central to the purpose of your research project.

As this chapter is a reflection of your results chapter, it’s vital that you don’t report any new findings . In other words, you can’t present claims here if you didn’t present the relevant data in the results chapter first.  So, make sure that for every discussion point you raise in this chapter, you’ve covered the respective data analysis in the results chapter. If you haven’t, you’ll need to go back and adjust your results chapter accordingly.

If you’re struggling to get started, try writing down a bullet point list everything you found in your results chapter. From this, you can make a list of everything you need to cover in your discussion chapter. Also, make sure you revisit your research questions or hypotheses and incorporate the relevant discussion to address these.  This will also help you to see how you can structure your chapter logically.

Need a helping hand?

how to structure a discussion in a research paper

How to write the discussion chapter

Now that you’ve got a clear idea of what the discussion chapter is and what it needs to include, let’s look at how you can go about structuring this critically important chapter. Broadly speaking, there are six core components that need to be included, and these can be treated as steps in the chapter writing process.

Step 1: Restate your research problem and research questions

The first step in writing up your discussion chapter is to remind your reader of your research problem , as well as your research aim(s) and research questions . If you have hypotheses, you can also briefly mention these. This “reminder” is very important because, after reading dozens of pages, the reader may have forgotten the original point of your research or been swayed in another direction. It’s also likely that some readers skip straight to your discussion chapter from the introduction chapter , so make sure that your research aims and research questions are clear.

Step 2: Summarise your key findings

Next, you’ll want to summarise your key findings from your results chapter. This may look different for qualitative and quantitative research , where qualitative research may report on themes and relationships, whereas quantitative research may touch on correlations and causal relationships. Regardless of the methodology, in this section you need to highlight the overall key findings in relation to your research questions.

Typically, this section only requires one or two paragraphs , depending on how many research questions you have. Aim to be concise here, as you will unpack these findings in more detail later in the chapter. For now, a few lines that directly address your research questions are all that you need.

Some examples of the kind of language you’d use here include:

  • The data suggest that…
  • The data support/oppose the theory that…
  • The analysis identifies…

These are purely examples. What you present here will be completely dependent on your original research questions, so make sure that you are led by them .

It depends

Step 3: Interpret your results

Once you’ve restated your research problem and research question(s) and briefly presented your key findings, you can unpack your findings by interpreting your results. Remember: only include what you reported in your results section – don’t introduce new information.

From a structural perspective, it can be a wise approach to follow a similar structure in this chapter as you did in your results chapter. This would help improve readability and make it easier for your reader to follow your arguments. For example, if you structured you results discussion by qualitative themes, it may make sense to do the same here.

Alternatively, you may structure this chapter by research questions, or based on an overarching theoretical framework that your study revolved around. Every study is different, so you’ll need to assess what structure works best for you.

When interpreting your results, you’ll want to assess how your findings compare to those of the existing research (from your literature review chapter). Even if your findings contrast with the existing research, you need to include these in your discussion. In fact, those contrasts are often the most interesting findings . In this case, you’d want to think about why you didn’t find what you were expecting in your data and what the significance of this contrast is.

Here are a few questions to help guide your discussion:

  • How do your results relate with those of previous studies ?
  • If you get results that differ from those of previous studies, why may this be the case?
  • What do your results contribute to your field of research?
  • What other explanations could there be for your findings?

When interpreting your findings, be careful not to draw conclusions that aren’t substantiated . Every claim you make needs to be backed up with evidence or findings from the data (and that data needs to be presented in the previous chapter – results). This can look different for different studies; qualitative data may require quotes as evidence, whereas quantitative data would use statistical methods and tests. Whatever the case, every claim you make needs to be strongly backed up.

Step 4: Acknowledge the limitations of your study

The fourth step in writing up your discussion chapter is to acknowledge the limitations of the study. These limitations can cover any part of your study , from the scope or theoretical basis to the analysis method(s) or sample. For example, you may find that you collected data from a very small sample with unique characteristics, which would mean that you are unable to generalise your results to the broader population.

For some students, discussing the limitations of their work can feel a little bit self-defeating . This is a misconception, as a core indicator of high-quality research is its ability to accurately identify its weaknesses. In other words, accurately stating the limitations of your work is a strength, not a weakness . All that said, be careful not to undermine your own research. Tell the reader what limitations exist and what improvements could be made, but also remind them of the value of your study despite its limitations.

Step 5: Make recommendations for implementation and future research

Now that you’ve unpacked your findings and acknowledge the limitations thereof, the next thing you’ll need to do is reflect on your study in terms of two factors:

  • The practical application of your findings
  • Suggestions for future research

The first thing to discuss is how your findings can be used in the real world – in other words, what contribution can they make to the field or industry? Where are these contributions applicable, how and why? For example, if your research is on communication in health settings, in what ways can your findings be applied to the context of a hospital or medical clinic? Make sure that you spell this out for your reader in practical terms, but also be realistic and make sure that any applications are feasible.

The next discussion point is the opportunity for future research . In other words, how can other studies build on what you’ve found and also improve the findings by overcoming some of the limitations in your study (which you discussed a little earlier). In doing this, you’ll want to investigate whether your results fit in with findings of previous research, and if not, why this may be the case. For example, are there any factors that you didn’t consider in your study? What future research can be done to remedy this? When you write up your suggestions, make sure that you don’t just say that more research is needed on the topic, also comment on how the research can build on your study.

Step 6: Provide a concluding summary

Finally, you’ve reached your final stretch. In this section, you’ll want to provide a brief recap of the key findings – in other words, the findings that directly address your research questions . Basically, your conclusion should tell the reader what your study has found, and what they need to take away from reading your report.

When writing up your concluding summary, bear in mind that some readers may skip straight to this section from the beginning of the chapter.  So, make sure that this section flows well from and has a strong connection to the opening section of the chapter.

Tips and tricks for an A-grade discussion chapter

Now that you know what the discussion chapter is , what to include and exclude , and how to structure it , here are some tips and suggestions to help you craft a quality discussion chapter.

  • When you write up your discussion chapter, make sure that you keep it consistent with your introduction chapter , as some readers will skip from the introduction chapter directly to the discussion chapter. Your discussion should use the same tense as your introduction, and it should also make use of the same key terms.
  • Don’t make assumptions about your readers. As a writer, you have hands-on experience with the data and so it can be easy to present it in an over-simplified manner. Make sure that you spell out your findings and interpretations for the intelligent layman.
  • Have a look at other theses and dissertations from your institution, especially the discussion sections. This will help you to understand the standards and conventions of your university, and you’ll also get a good idea of how others have structured their discussion chapters. You can also check out our chapter template .
  • Avoid using absolute terms such as “These results prove that…”, rather make use of terms such as “suggest” or “indicate”, where you could say, “These results suggest that…” or “These results indicate…”. It is highly unlikely that a dissertation or thesis will scientifically prove something (due to a variety of resource constraints), so be humble in your language.
  • Use well-structured and consistently formatted headings to ensure that your reader can easily navigate between sections, and so that your chapter flows logically and coherently.

If you have any questions or thoughts regarding this post, feel free to leave a comment below. Also, if you’re looking for one-on-one help with your discussion chapter (or thesis in general), consider booking a free consultation with one of our highly experienced Grad Coaches to discuss how we can help you.

how to structure a discussion in a research paper

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36 Comments

Abbie

Thank you this is helpful!

Sai AKO

This is very helpful to me… Thanks a lot for sharing this with us 😊

Nts'eoane Sepanya-Molefi

This has been very helpful indeed. Thank you.

Cheryl

This is actually really helpful, I just stumbled upon it. Very happy that I found it, thank you.

Solomon

Me too! I was kinda lost on how to approach my discussion chapter. How helpful! Thanks a lot!

Wongibe Dieudonne

This is really good and explicit. Thanks

Robin MooreZaid

Thank you, this blog has been such a help.

John Amaka

Thank you. This is very helpful.

Syed Firoz Ahmad

Dear sir/madame

Thanks a lot for this helpful blog. Really, it supported me in writing my discussion chapter while I was totally unaware about its structure and method of writing.

With regards

Syed Firoz Ahmad PhD, Research Scholar

Kwasi Tonge

I agree so much. This blog was god sent. It assisted me so much while I was totally clueless about the context and the know-how. Now I am fully aware of what I am to do and how I am to do it.

Albert Mitugo

Thanks! This is helpful!

Abduljabbar Alsoudani

thanks alot for this informative website

Sudesh Chinthaka

Dear Sir/Madam,

Truly, your article was much benefited when i structured my discussion chapter.

Thank you very much!!!

Nann Yin Yin Moe

This is helpful for me in writing my research discussion component. I have to copy this text on Microsoft word cause of my weakness that I cannot be able to read the text on screen a long time. So many thanks for this articles.

Eunice Mulenga

This was helpful

Leo Simango

Thanks Jenna, well explained.

Poornima

Thank you! This is super helpful.

William M. Kapambwe

Thanks very much. I have appreciated the six steps on writing the Discussion chapter which are (i) Restating the research problem and questions (ii) Summarising the key findings (iii) Interpreting the results linked to relating to previous results in positive and negative ways; explaining whay different or same and contribution to field of research and expalnation of findings (iv) Acknowledgeing limitations (v) Recommendations for implementation and future resaerch and finally (vi) Providing a conscluding summary

My two questions are: 1. On step 1 and 2 can it be the overall or you restate and sumamrise on each findings based on the reaerch question? 2. On 4 and 5 do you do the acknowlledgement , recommendations on each research finding or overall. This is not clear from your expalanattion.

Please respond.

Ahmed

This post is very useful. I’m wondering whether practical implications must be introduced in the Discussion section or in the Conclusion section?

Lisha

Sigh, I never knew a 20 min video could have literally save my life like this. I found this at the right time!!!! Everything I need to know in one video thanks a mil ! OMGG and that 6 step!!!!!! was the cherry on top the cake!!!!!!!!!

Colbey mwenda

Thanks alot.., I have gained much

Obinna NJOKU

This piece is very helpful on how to go about my discussion section. I can always recommend GradCoach research guides for colleagues.

Mary Kulabako

Many thanks for this resource. It has been very helpful to me. I was finding it hard to even write the first sentence. Much appreciated.

vera

Thanks so much. Very helpful to know what is included in the discussion section

ahmad yassine

this was a very helpful and useful information

Md Moniruzzaman

This is very helpful. Very very helpful. Thanks for sharing this online!

Salma

it is very helpfull article, and i will recommend it to my fellow students. Thank you.

Mohammed Kwarah Tal

Superlative! More grease to your elbows.

Majani

Powerful, thank you for sharing.

Uno

Wow! Just wow! God bless the day I stumbled upon you guys’ YouTube videos! It’s been truly life changing and anxiety about my report that is due in less than a month has subsided significantly!

Joseph Nkitseng

Simplified explanation. Well done.

LE Sibeko

The presentation is enlightening. Thank you very much.

Angela

Thanks for the support and guidance

Beena

This has been a great help to me and thank you do much

Yiting W.

I second that “it is highly unlikely that a dissertation or thesis will scientifically prove something”; although, could you enlighten us on that comment and elaborate more please?

Derek Jansen

Sure, no problem.

Scientific proof is generally considered a very strong assertion that something is definitively and universally true. In most scientific disciplines, especially within the realms of natural and social sciences, absolute proof is very rare. Instead, researchers aim to provide evidence that supports or rejects hypotheses. This evidence increases or decreases the likelihood that a particular theory is correct, but it rarely proves something in the absolute sense.

Dissertations and theses, as substantial as they are, typically focus on exploring a specific question or problem within a larger field of study. They contribute to a broader conversation and body of knowledge. The aim is often to provide detailed insight, extend understanding, and suggest directions for further research rather than to offer definitive proof. These academic works are part of a cumulative process of knowledge building where each piece of research connects with others to gradually enhance our understanding of complex phenomena.

Furthermore, the rigorous nature of scientific inquiry involves continuous testing, validation, and potential refutation of ideas. What might be considered a “proof” at one point can later be challenged by new evidence or alternative interpretations. Therefore, the language of “proof” is cautiously used in academic circles to maintain scientific integrity and humility.

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Research Method

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!

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Impact of China’s carbon emissions trading scheme on urban air quality: a time-varying DID model

  • Research Article
  • Published: 11 September 2023
  • Volume 30 , pages 103862–103876, ( 2023 )

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how to structure a discussion in a research paper

  • Haibo Sun   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-6368-357X 1 &

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Using panel data for 277 Chinese cities, this paper applies a time-varying difference-in-differences (DID) model to empirically test the impact of China’s carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS) on urban air quality, and further explores its heterogeneity and the mechanisms involved. The results show that ETS can improve urban air quality. This conclusion remains robust through a series of robustness tests, including PSM-DID estimation, varying window periods, exclusion of significant events, lag phase, and placebo tests. The dynamic effect test indicates that ETS has a continuous and effective effect on improving urban air quality. Mechanism analysis reveals that the degree of marketization can enhance the improvement effect that ETS has on urban air quality. Meanwhile, industrial structure upgrading and green technology innovation are important mechanisms by which pilot ETS policy improves urban air quality. Regional heterogeneity analysis finds that ETS only improves urban air quality in eastern and central regions.

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Data availability.

The datasets used, generated, and analyzed during the current study are available in the China City Statistical Yearbook, Statistical Yearbook of each province in China, China National Intellectual Property Database, and EPS China Data.

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This research is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71903114; Grant No. 72004122) and Youth Innovation Team Program of Shandong Higher Education Institution (Grant No. 2022RW049).

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by Di Cao. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Haibo Sun and Di Cao.

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Sun, H., Cao, D. Impact of China’s carbon emissions trading scheme on urban air quality: a time-varying DID model. Environ Sci Pollut Res 30 , 103862–103876 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-023-29465-x

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Received : 28 February 2023

Accepted : 18 August 2023

Published : 11 September 2023

Issue Date : October 2023

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-023-29465-x

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