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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. 

discussion paper format example

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:

discussion paper format example

Writing Tips

While the above sections can help you brainstorm and structure your discussion, there are many common mistakes that writers revert to when having difficulties with their paper. Writing a discussion can be a delicate balance between summarizing your results, providing proper context for your research and avoiding introducing new information. Remember that your paper should be both confident and honest about the results! 

What to do

  • Read the journal’s guidelines on the discussion and conclusion sections. If possible, learn about the guidelines before writing the discussion to ensure you’re writing to meet their expectations. 
  • Begin with a clear statement of the principal findings. This will reinforce the main take-away for the reader and set up the rest of the discussion. 
  • Explain why the outcomes of your study are important to the reader. Discuss the implications of your findings realistically based on previous literature, highlighting both the strengths and limitations of the research. 
  • State whether the results prove or disprove your hypothesis. If your hypothesis was disproved, what might be the reasons? 
  • Introduce new or expanded ways to think about the research question. Indicate what next steps can be taken to further pursue any unresolved questions. 
  • If dealing with a contemporary or ongoing problem, such as climate change, discuss possible consequences if the problem is avoided. 
  • Be concise. Adding unnecessary detail can distract from the main findings. 

What not to do

Don’t

  • Rewrite your abstract. Statements with “we investigated” or “we studied” generally do not belong in the discussion. 
  • Include new arguments or evidence not previously discussed. Necessary information and evidence should be introduced in the main body of the paper. 
  • Apologize. Even if your research contains significant limitations, don’t undermine your authority by including statements that doubt your methodology or execution. 
  • Shy away from speaking on limitations or negative results. Including limitations and negative results will give readers a complete understanding of the presented research. Potential limitations include sources of potential bias, threats to internal or external validity, barriers to implementing an intervention and other issues inherent to the study design. 
  • Overstate the importance of your findings. Making grand statements about how a study will fully resolve large questions can lead readers to doubt the success of the research. 

Snippets of Effective Discussions:

Consumer-based actions to reduce plastic pollution in rivers: A multi-criteria decision analysis approach

Identifying reliable indicators of fitness in polar bears

  • How to Write a Great Title
  • How to Write an Abstract
  • How to Write Your Methods
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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?

Always give it your best, but sometimes a helping hand can, well, help. Getting a professional edit can help clarify your work’s importance while improving the English used to explain it. When readers know the value of your work, they’ll cite it. We’ll assign your study to an expert editor knowledgeable in your area of research. Their work will clarify your discussion, helping it to tell your story. Find out more about AJE Editing.

Adam Goulston, Science Marketing Consultant, PsyD, Human and Organizational Behavior, Scize

Adam Goulston, PsyD, MS, MBA, MISD, ELS

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Discussion Section Examples and Writing Tips

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

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

1. What is the purpose of the discussion section?

Discussion example

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

2. How should I structure my discussion section?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Discussion Examples

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

3.1. An example of research summary in discussion

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

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

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

3.2. An example of result interpretation in discussion

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

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

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

3.3. An example of literature comparison in discussion

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

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

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

3.4. An example of research implications in discussion

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

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

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

3.5. An example of limitations in discussion

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

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

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

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

3.6. An example of future work in discussion

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

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

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

4. Frequently Asked Questions

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

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

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

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

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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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  • Last Updated: Apr 19, 2024 11:16 AM
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discussion paper format example

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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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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.

discussion paper format example

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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How to Write a Discussion Section for a Research Paper

discussion paper format example

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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Discussion Paper: Write It Perfectly

  • May 21, 2020
  • Posted by: admin
  • Category: Blog ,

discussion paper format example

In most cases, students believe that writing a discussion paper is easier than writing college paper of any other kind. They are right to some extent. A discussion paper gives you a unique opportunity to discuss an opinion, doesn’t matter how common it is.

However, there is a danger in the belief that a discussion paper should be easy-to-understand. Many students don’t take it in a serious manner, and as a result, they fail. Other students take it in a too serious way, and this is not the right approach, as well.

discussion paper format example

What Is a Discussion Paper — Definition and Purpose

So, what is a discussion paper? A discussion paper is actually a discussion about some topic. Are you surprised? Yes, this is the definition, however, if you don’t have good writing skills, it is not so easy to write it. But don’t worry, that’s why we collected here some tips that will definitely help you.

First of all, never select a topic that doesn’t touch you. Even if you like the topic, you might find it complicated to write about it. If you want to write a nice discussion paper, you should express different ideas and opinions on the given topic and provide a discussion based on those ideas and opinions. So, it is always better to select something that you really like. Now, let us move to more detailed instructions and tips.

How to Write a Discussion Paper Step-by-Step

Don`t hurry to start writing. First, check properly all the sources and select materials that you might need to use. Are there new opinions on the topic? Which of them do you support? Which of them do you consider to be not okay? How can you arrange them in a way to build a nice meaningful discussion paper?

Select those materials that are reliable enough. Rainbow press, for example, could be good just for a very limited number of topics. But in most cases, you should rely on expert opinions. Select those that you might want to use to substantiate your ideas that you want to discuss. Arrange them in a logical order. Usually, you might want to arrange them in order, appropriate for the discussion logics. Make a plan.

Many students don’t write a plan at all, and this is a huge mistake. When you are working on your essay plan, you are not only arranging your thoughts, but you create the structure for your paper. It is easier to remake a frame rather than the entire construction. So, if there is something that needs to be changed, you better change it at the planning stage rather than when the paper is written.

An Intriguing Introduction Is a Key to Success

Now, you have a plan and can move to your introduction. But how to start a discussion paper? Consider what you want to write. Why is the topic interesting? May your reader find it useful? Can you add some funny or intriguing story to introduce the topic or at least some opinions? If yes, add it. Personal stories always make a better effect than generalizations.

Move to the Main Part

After having hooked your reader, move to the main part. Your task here is to introduce the topic, the main ideas, and expert opinions, as well as your views, and to provide a discussion of those ideas and opinions that you have mentioned. You have several ways to discuss:

  • You can discuss everything idea by idea, providing its advantages and disadvantages;
  • You might want to give your personal idea and base the discussion on it, and you may use other ideas to prove your opinion.
  • You can group all ideas based on some features and discuss the ideas groups.
  • Or you can invent your own unique method of organizing your discussion paper.

However, doesn’t matter what way you select, there are some rules that apply to any kind of paper. Whatever you are writing, you should follow these rules, because those are the basics of good writing:

  • Be consistent, because jumping from one idea to another is confusing and doesn’t make your paper logical.
  • Discuss all those ideas mentioned by you, don’t leave any idea or opinion unattended.
  • Write in an easy-to-read manner — you are writing an essay, not a scientific work.
  • Structure your work logically — the reader should not look for information too long.
  • Make an excellent introduction and a nice conclusion for your discussion paper.

By the way, now, we came to the point when we need to speak more about a conclusion. So, how to end a discussion paper in a nice way? How not to spoil all impression from your essay with a poorly written conclusion?

Well, if you have managed to move so far, then, a proper conclusion should not cause any difficulties. Just sum up everything. What was the topic? Why was it relevant? What are the ideas about the issue and how do they support your idea or contradict it? Which conclusion have you made? And that’s it, you have written a high-quality, unique paper.

Discussion Paper Format and Its Details

So, you have already noticed, that the discussion paper format isn’t much different from a usual paper format. The only thing, which differs here, is the discussion presence. You give different, sometimes contrasting ideas, as well, you discuss them from different points of view in a search for a solution.

Is the Paper Ready for Submitting?

However, don’t hurry to submit your paper. You have just read how to write a good discussion paper, but you haven’t made one crucial step yet. You forgot about proofreading! Read everything once more, pay attention to each word and phrase. After you complete proofreading, you can submit your paper with peace in mind.

If you get a discussion paper as an assignment, don’t panic. Follow the simple tips from our experts who work at custom essay writing services , and just make sure you do your best. Don’t forget as well to include any citations if they are required. Now, when your paper is ready, check it once more for the compliance with the requirements, and submit it.

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Research Paper Writing Guides

Research Paper Discussion Section

Last updated on: Mar 27, 2024

A Detailed Guide: How to Write a Discussion for a Research Paper

By: Jared P.

11 min read

Reviewed By:

Published on: Mar 6, 2024

how to write a discussion for a research paper

Writing a research paper discussion isn’t something everyone is good at. You have to portray the significance of your research in the best possible way. If you’re having a hard time writing a convincing discussion, don’t worry!

In this guide, we’ll discuss how to write a research paper discussion. From understanding its importance, elements, writing steps, and some examples, we have it covered. 

Continue reading, and you’ll be more than able to discuss your research paper effectively.

how to write a discussion for a research paper

On this Page

What is a Research Paper Discussion?

A research paper discussion informs the reader about the learning outcomes of the research study. Here, the author provides context for the results by explaining how they relate to existing literature, theories, and the overall body of knowledge in the field. 

The discussion answers the questions you raised in the introduction by utilizing the results and findings gathered in the study.

Where to Place the Discussion Section? 

The optimal place for the discussion is to write it after the research paper introduction and before the conclusion for a research paper. It is not a hard and fast rule to sum up your discussion in a single paragraph. You can utilize 2 or at max 3 paragraphs or a convincing discussion.

Understanding the Importance of a Good Discussion Section

Here’s why the discussion is one of the most significant sections of your research paper. 

  • Connects the Dots: The discussion links back to the questions raised in the introduction, showing how your study answers them.
  • Engages with Experts: It places your study in a conversation with what smart people have said about the research paper topic, creating a connection to existing research.
  • Guides the Reader: Think of it as a roadmap, pointing the way to the next stop in research and leaving readers at the start of new possibilities.
  • Adds Meaning: It's not just a conclusion; it's the key to unlocking the meaning behind your findings, helping readers understand why your study is important.
  • Highlights Significance: Demonstrates the significance of your study by explaining its impact on the reader's understanding of the research paper problem statement .
  • Encourages Thinking: The discussion makes readers speculate more about why your study matters, helping them see the bigger picture.
  • Keeps the Conversation Going: It suggests new questions or areas to explore, so the study isn't just an endpoint but a starting point for more research.

Read on to see what key elements make up a great discussion.

Key Components of a Research Paper Discussion

There are multiple ways to write the discussion section, but usually, it revolves around the following key elements.

  • Interpretation of Results

Explains the meaning of your findings and how they address the research questions or the research paper hypotheses .

  • Comparison With Previous Studies 

Discusses how your study and research findings align with or differ from previous studies in the field.

  • Theoretical Implications 

Explores the theoretical significance of your findings and their contribution to existing theories.

  • Practical implications 

Discusses the real-world applications or implications of your research.

  • Limitations

Acknowledges any limitations in your study that may affect the interpretation of results.

  • Suggestions for Future Research 

Proposes directions for future research and highlights areas that need further exploration.

  • Integration of Your Research Findings 

Summarizes the key points discussed in the discussion section and restate the main conclusions drawn from the study.

After understanding the essential elements that make up the discussion section, you need to know how to combine them for a stellar discussion. 

So, let’s move on to the writing steps.

How to Write a Discussion for a Research Paper in 6 Easy Steps

Follow these steps for writing a good research paper discussion section. 

  • Summarize Findings: Begin with a concise summary of your main results.
  • Interpret Results: Interpret and explain the meaning of your findings.
  • Compare with Literature: Compare your results to existing literature.
  • Discuss Implications: Explore theoretical and practical implications.
  • Acknowledge Limitations: Clearly state and discuss the limitations of your study.
  • Propose Future Research: Suggest directions for future research.

Here is a detailed breakdown of each writing step.

Step 1. Summarize Your Findings

Begin this section by summarizing the key discoveries in your study. In a nutshell, tell your readers what you found, avoiding a repetition of raw data. Aim for clarity, condensing the main results into a brief paragraph.

You can start your summary with the following sentences:

  • In this study, the key findings indicate...
  • To distill the results, it is evident that...
  • Summarizing our main discoveries, we observe...

Example: 

Step 2. Interpret Results and Your Findings 

Move on to interpreting what your findings truly mean. Don't assume your readers will automatically understand the significance. Provide your insights and explanations, considering how the results align with your research question or research paper hypothesis.

You can start interpreting your results with the following sentences:

  • Interpreting these results, it becomes clear that...
  • These findings imply that...
  • Exploring the meaning behind the data, we can infer that...

Step 3. Compare With Existing Literature

Connect your results to existing knowledge and previous research by comparing them with what other researchers have discovered. Show where your study fits into the broader context of the literature, and highlight any differences or similarities.

You can compare your research with existing literature by incorporating the following sentences:

  • Aligning our results with existing literature, we find...
  • Comparing our study to prior research, a parallel emerges...
  • In relation to the broader scholarly conversation, our results resonate with...

Step 4. Discuss Implications of Your Research

Explore both the theoretical and practical implications of your research. Explain how your findings contribute to existing theories and discuss any real-world applications. Clarify why your study matters in a larger context.

You can start discussing your implication with the following sentences:

  • Considering the implications of our study, it becomes apparent that...
  • Beyond the theoretical implications, our findings hold practical significance by...
  • Exploring the broader impact, our research suggests...

Step 5. Acknowledge the Limitations 

Be transparent about the shortcomings of your study. Discuss any constraints in your research design, research paper methods , or unexpected challenges. This not only showcases your honesty but also helps readers understand the scope of your study.

Here are some limitation sentence starters: 

  • While our study contributes valuable insights, it's essential to acknowledge...
  • Recognizing the constraints of our research, one limitation is...
  • Despite the valuable findings, it's important to note the limitations, including...

Step 6. Propose Future Research 

Wrap up by proposing directions for future research. Point out areas that need further exploration or refinement based on the gaps identified in your study. Provide a launchpad for future researchers to build upon your work.

Here are some future research sentence starters:

  • This study sets the stage for future research by...
  • To build upon this groundwork, future studies could...
  • Exploring uncharted territory, future research might investigate...

In only 6 steps, you can craft research paper discussions that can convince readers that your study stands out from the rest and that it contributes to the specific field of research effectively. 

Having said that, it is important to keep note of some common mistakes that you might make in the writing process. Let’s see what you should avoid in your research paper discussion.

Avoiding Common Mistakes in Research Discussion Writing

For a balanced research paper discussion, read the following guidelines:

Don't Introduce Alternate Explanations Without Support: 

Avoid presenting alternate explanations in the discussion without solid evidence from the results section or relevant literature. Speculation without a clear basis can weaken the effectiveness of your discussion.

Don't Overextend Into Similar Studies Without Context:

Refrain from discussing similar studies without providing proper context. While it's essential to relate your findings to existing literature, discussing similar studies should be done thoughtfully within the boundaries of your research scope.

Don't Replicate the Results Section:

Don't repeat your results over and over again during the discussion. The discussion should focus on interpretation and analysis rather than duplicating information from the results section.

Avoid Overemphasizing Conclusions:

Avoid placing too much emphasis on conclusions in the discussion section. Save comprehensive conclusions for the dedicated conclusion section of research paper . Keep the focus on interpreting your results and engaging in an effective discussion.

Don't Ignore Suggestions for Further Research: 

Don't neglect to include suggestions for further research in your discussion. If you have ideas for what to do next, acknowledge them and include them in your discussion. However, avoid overloading the discussion with excessive recommendations.

Don't Disregard the Literature Review:

Avoid disregarding the research paper literature review in the discussion. Connect your findings back to the existing literature, ensuring a coherent narrative that contextualizes your results within the broader scholarly conversation.

Avoid Apologizing or Undermining: 

Don't apologize or make statements that make your research seem less credible. Instead of doubting your methodology or execution, focus on addressing limitations transparently without reducing the overall impact of your study.

Don't Overstate Importance Without Support:

Refrain from overstating the importance of your findings without sufficient support. Make sure that your discussion maintains a realistic and measured tone. Always avoid grand statements that may lead readers to question the validity of your research.

Don't Neglect Transition Sentences:

Don't overlook the use of bridge sentences when reminding readers of your findings in the discussion. These sentences help smoothly transition between the results section and the interpretation, contributing to an effective and cohesive discussion.

Get Help From Some Practical Tips

Here are some tips for you to polish your discussion section to perfection.

  • Keep your discussion concise and directly related to your main findings
  • Address potential counterarguments to strengthen your discussion
  • Try to engage readers with thought-provoking questions 
  • It is always a good idea to get input from peers to enhance the credibility of your discussion
  • Share brief personal insights or reflections on the research process
  • Always stick to the specific journal guidelines for the discussion section
  • Maintain an objective and analytical tone throughout the discussion

Discussion for a Research Paper - Examples

Looking at examples is a great idea if you want to know how to write a research paper discussion. 

Example of Discussion in Research Paper PDF

Discussion for a Medical Research Paper

Example of Result and Discussion in Research Paper PDF

Example of Discussion Findings in Research

Discussion Paper Sample PDF

How to Start a Discussion in a Report

To conclude, understanding the significance of crafting a powerful research paper discussion is vital. This guide has provided valuable insights and steps for creating an impactful discussion section. 

By following our steps, we’re sure that you’ll be able to write the perfect discussion section for your research paper. However, it is still easier said than done. 

If you seek expert assistance or want to secure perfection in your research paper writing tasks, such as discussion, introduction, body, etc., turn to SharkPapers.com.

Professionals in our diverse pool of writers specialize in research paper writing and can skillfully handle every aspect. Our paper writing service online enhances your research paper with a precisely written discussion. 

Connect with our experts today for an academic boost. Your perfectly crafted discussion section awaits a simple click away!

Frequently Asked Questions

How should one initiate the discussion section in a research paper.

To start the discussion section in a research paper, start by summarizing the key findings. Provide a concise overview of your main results, avoiding raw data repetition. This sets the stage for an in-depth analysis.

What is an example of a discussion?

An example of a discussion in the context of a research paper is when researchers analyze their study's findings, interpret the results, compare them with existing literature, and explore the implications. It involves a thoughtful conversation within the paper, similar to how individuals engage in dialogue to reconcile differing opinions.

What are the guidelines for writing a discussion in a research paper following the APA format?

When writing a discussion in a research paper following APA format, adhere to these guidelines:

  • Structure: Place the discussion after the introduction and before the conclusion.
  • Tense: Use past tense when discussing results.
  • Tone: Maintain an objective tone, avoiding overly speculative language.
  • Citations: Reference relevant literature using APA citation style.
  • Conciseness: Keep the discussion concise, focusing on interpretation rather than repeating results.

Jared P.

Jared P., a celebrated writer and writing service provider with over a decade and a half of experience, has helped countless students reach their academic goals by providing professional writing assistance. His Ph.D. in English Literature solidifies his expertise in the field and enables him to produce critical and thorough papers every time!

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Research Paper Guide

Research Paper Discussion Section

Barbara P

How To Write A Discussion For A Research Paper | Examples & Tips

how to write a discussion for a research paper

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How to Write a Research Methodology for a Research Paper

Ever find yourself stuck when trying to write the discussion part of your research paper? Don't worry, it happens to a lot of people. 

The discussion section is super important in your research paper . It's where you explain what your results mean. But turning all that data into a clear and meaningful story? That's not easy.

Guess what? MyPerfectWords.com has come up with a solution. 

This blog is your guide to writing an outstanding discussion section. We'll guide you step by step with useful tips to make sure your research stands out.

So, let’s get started!

Arrow Down

  • 1. What Exactly is a Discussion Section in the Research Paper?
  • 2. How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper?
  • 3. Examples of Good Discussion for a Research Paper
  • 4. Mistakes to Avoid in Your Research Paper's Discussion 

What Exactly is a Discussion Section in the Research Paper?

In a research paper, the discussion section is where you explain what your results really mean. It's like answering the questions, "So what?" and "What's the big picture?" 

The discussion section is your chance to help your readers understand why your findings are important and how they fit into the larger context. It's more than just summarizing; it's about making your research understandable and meaningful to others.

Importance of the Discussion Section

The discussion section isn't just a formality; it's the heart of your research paper. This is where your findings transform from data into knowledge. 

Let's break down why it's so crucial:

  • Interpretation of Results : The discussion is where you get to tell readers what your results really mean. You go into the details, helping them understand the story behind the numbers or findings.
  • Connecting the Dots : You connect different parts of your research, showing how they relate. This helps your readers see the bigger picture.
  • Relevance to the Big Picture : You get to highlight why your research matters. How does it contribute to the broader understanding of the topic? This is your time to make your research significant.
  • Addressing Limitations : In the discussion, you can acknowledge any limitations in your study and discuss how they might impact your results.
  • Suggestions for Further Research : The discussion is where you suggest areas for future exploration. It's like passing the baton to the next researcher, indicating where more work could be done.

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How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper?

The Discussion section in a research paper plays a vital role in interpreting findings and formulating a conclusion . Given below are the main components of the discussion section:

  • Quick Summary: A brief recap of your main findings.
  • Interpretation: Significance and meaning of your results in relation to your research question.
  • Literature Review : Connecting your findings with previous research or similar studies.
  • Limitations: Discussing any study limitations, addressing potential concerns.
  • Implications: Broader implications of your findings, considering practical and theoretical aspects.
  • Alternative Explanations: Evaluating alternative interpretations, demonstrating a comprehensive analysis.
  • Connecting to Hypotheses : Summarizing how your result section aligns or diverges from your initial hypotheses.

Now let’s explore the steps to write an effective discussion section that will effectively communicate the significance of your research:

Step 1: Get Started with a Quick Summary

Start by quickly telling your readers the main things you found in your research. Don't explain them in detail just yet; just give a simple overview. 

This helps your readers get the big picture before diving into the details.

Step 2: Interpret Your Results

In the next step, talk about what your findings really mean. Share why the information you gathered is important. Connect each result to the questions you were trying to answer and the goals you set for your research.

Step 3: Relate to Existing Literature

In this step, link up your discoveries with what other researchers have already figured out. 

Share if your results are similar to or different from what's been found before. This helps give more background to your study and shows you know what other scientists have been up to.

Step 4: Address Limitations Honestly

Every study has its limitations. Acknowledge them openly in your discussion. This not only shows transparency but also helps readers interpret your results more accurately.

Step 5: Discuss the Implications

Explore the implications of your findings. How do they contribute to the field? What real-world applications or changes might they suggest?

Dig into why your discoveries are important. How do they help the subject you studied? 

This step is like looking at the bigger picture and asking, "So, what can we do with this information?"

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Step 6: Consider Alternative Explanations

After discussing the implications, challenge yourself by exploring alternative explanations for your results. 

Discuss different perspectives and show that you've considered multiple angles.

Step 7: Connect to Your Hypotheses or Research Questions

For the last step, revisit your initial hypotheses or research questions. Explain whether your results support what you thought might happen or if they surprised you. 

Examples of Good Discussion for a Research Paper

Learning from well-crafted discussions can significantly enhance your own writing. Given below are some examples to help you understand how to write your own.

Discussion for a Research Paper Example Pdf

Discussion for a Medical Research Paper

Discussion Section for a Qualitative Research Paper

Mistakes to Avoid in Your Research Paper's Discussion 

Writing the discussion section of your research paper can be tricky. To make sure you're on the right track, be mindful of these common mistakes:

  • Overstating or Overinterpreting Results

Avoid making your findings sound more groundbreaking than they are. Stick to what your data actually shows, and don't exaggerate.

  • Neglecting Alternative Explanations 

Failing to consider other possible explanations for your results can weaken your discussion. Always explore alternative perspectives to present a well-rounded view.

  • Ignoring Limitations 

Don't sweep limitations under the rug. Acknowledge them openly and discuss how they might affect the validity or generalizability of your results.

  • Being Overly Technical or Jargon-laden

Remember that your audience may not be experts in your specific field. Avoid using overly technical language or excessive jargon that could alienate your readers.

  • Disregarding the 'So What' Factor

Always explain the significance of your findings. Don't leave your readers wondering why your research matters or how it contributes to the broader understanding of the subject.

  • Rushing the Conclusion

The conclusion section of your discussion is critical. Don't rush it. Summarize the key points and leave your readers with a strong understanding of the significance of your research.

So, there you have it —writing a discussion and conclusion section isn't easy, but avoiding some common mistakes can make it much smoother. 

Remember to keep it real with your results, think about what else could explain things, and don't forget about any limits in your study.

But if you're feeling stuck, MyPerfectWords.com is here for you. 

Our team of experts knows their way around discussions. Whether you need some guidance or want someone to handle the writing for you, we've got your back.

Don't let discussion writing stress you out. Check out how the best essay writing service can make your academic life easier.

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6 Steps to Write an Excellent Discussion in Your Manuscript

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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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how to write a discussion section

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The discussion section of a research paper is where the author analyzes and explains the importance of the study's results. It presents the conclusions drawn from the study, compares them to previous research, and addresses any potential limitations or weaknesses. The discussion section should also suggest areas for future research.

Everything is not that complicated if you know where to find the required information. We’ll tell you everything there is to know about writing your discussion. Our easy guide covers all important bits, including research questions and your research results. Do you know how all enumerated events are connected? Well, you will after reading this guide we’ve prepared for you!

What Is in the Discussion Section of a Research Paper

The discussion section of a research paper can be viewed as something similar to the conclusion of your paper. But not literal, of course. It’s an ultimate section where you can talk about the findings of your study. Think about these questions when writing:

  • Did you answer all of the promised research questions?
  • Did you mention why your work matters?
  • What are your findings, and why should anyone even care?
  • Does your study have a literature review?

So, answer your questions, provide proof, and don’t forget about your promises from the introduction. 

How to Write a Discussion Section in 5 Steps

How to write the discussion section of a research paper is something everyone googles eventually. It's just life. But why not make everything easier? In brief, this section we’re talking about must include all following parts:

  • Answers for research questions
  • Literature review
  • Results of the work
  • Limitations of one’s study
  • Overall conclusion

Indeed, all those parts may confuse anyone. So by looking at our guide, you'll save yourself some hassle.  P.S. All our steps are easy and explained in detail! But if you are looking for the most efficient solution, consider using professional help. Leave your “ write my research paper for me ” order at StudyCrumb and get a customized study tailored to your requirements.

Step 1. Start Strong: Discussion Section of a Research Paper

First and foremost, how to start the discussion section of a research paper? Here’s what you should definitely consider before settling down to start writing:

  • All essays or papers must begin strong. All readers will not wait for any writer to get to the point. We advise summarizing the paper's main findings.
  • Moreover, you should relate both discussion and literature review to what you have discovered. Mentioning that would be a plus too.
  • Make sure that an introduction or start per se is clear and concise. Word count might be needed for school. But any paper should be understandable and not too diluted.

Step 2. Answer the Questions in Your Discussion Section of a Research Paper

Writing the discussion section of a research paper also involves mentioning your questions. Remember that in your introduction, you have promised your readers to answer certain questions. Well, now it’s a perfect time to finally give the awaited answer. You need to explain all possible correlations between your findings, research questions, and literature proposed. You already had hypotheses. So were they correct, or maybe you want to propose certain corrections? Section’s main goal is to avoid open ends. It’s not a story or a fairytale with an intriguing ending. If you have several questions, you must answer them. As simple as that.

Step 3. Relate Your Results in a Discussion Section

Writing a discussion section of a research paper also requires any writer to explain their results. You will undoubtedly include an impactful literature review. However, your readers should not just try and struggle with understanding what are some specific relationships behind previous studies and your results.  Your results should sound something like: “This guy in their paper discovered that apples are green. Nevertheless, I have proven via experimentation and research that apples are actually red.” Please, don’t take these results directly. It’s just an initial hypothesis. But what you should definitely remember is any practical implications of your study. Why does it matter and how can anyone use it? That’s the most crucial question.

Step 4. Describe the Limitations in Your Discussion Section

Discussion section of a research paper isn’t limitless. What does that mean? Essentially, it means that you also have to discuss any limitations of your study. Maybe you had some methodological inconsistencies. Possibly, there are no particular theories or not enough information for you to be entirely confident in one’s conclusions.  You might say that an available source of literature you have studied does not focus on one’s issue. That’s why one’s main limitation is theoretical. However, keep in mind that your limitations must possess a certain degree of relevancy. You can just say that you haven’t found enough books. Your information must be truthful to research.

Step 5. Conclude Your Discussion Section With Recommendations

Your last step when you write a discussion section in a paper is its conclusion, like in any other academic work. Writer’s conclusion must be as strong as their starting point of the overall work. Check out our brief list of things to know about the conclusion in research paper :

  • It must present its scientific relevance and importance of your work.
  • It should include different implications of your research.
  • It should not, however, discuss anything new or things that you have not mentioned before.
  • Leave no open questions and carefully complete the work without them.

Discussion Section of a Research Paper Example

All the best example discussion sections of a research paper will be written according to our brief guide. Don’t forget that you need to state your findings and underline the importance of your work. An undoubtedly big part of one’s discussion will definitely be answering and explaining the research questions. In other words, you’ll already have all the knowledge you have so carefully gathered. Our last step for you is to recollect and wrap up your paper. But we’re sure you’ll succeed!

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How to Write a Discussion Section: Final Thoughts

Today we have covered how to write a discussion section. That was quite a brief journey, wasn’t it? Just to remind you to focus on these things:

  • Importance of your study.
  • Summary of the information you have gathered.
  • Main findings and conclusions.
  • Answers to all research questions without an open end.
  • Correlation between literature review and your results.

But, wait, this guide is not the only thing we can do. Looking for how to write an abstract for a research paper  for example? We have such a blog and much more on our platform.

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Discussion Section of a Research Paper: Frequently Asked Questions

1. how long should the discussion section of a research paper be.

Our discussion section of a research paper should not be longer than other sections. So try to keep it short but as informative as possible. It usually contains around 6-7 paragraphs in length. It is enough to briefly summarize all the important data and not to drag it.

2. What's the difference between the discussion and the results?

The difference between discussion and results is very simple and easy to understand. The results only report your main findings. You stated what you have found and how you have done that. In contrast, one’s discussion mentions your findings and explains how they relate to other literature, research questions, and one’s hypothesis. Therefore, it is not only a report but an efficient as well as proper explanation.

3. What's the difference between a discussion and a conclusion?

The difference between discussion and conclusion is also quite easy. Conclusion is a brief summary of all the findings and results. Still, our favorite discussion section interprets and explains your main results. It is an important but more lengthy and wordy part. Besides, it uses extra literature for references.

4. What is the purpose of the discussion section?

The primary purpose of a discussion section is to interpret and describe all your interesting findings. Therefore, you should state what you have learned, whether your hypothesis was correct and how your results can be explained using other sources. If this section is clear to readers, our congratulations as you have succeeded.

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  • How to Write a Discussion Section | Tips & Examples

How to Write a Discussion Section | Tips & Examples

Published on 21 August 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 25 October 2022.

Discussion section flow chart

The discussion section is where you delve into the meaning, importance, and relevance of your results .

It should focus on explaining and evaluating what you found, showing how it relates to your literature review , and making an argument in support of your overall conclusion . It should not be a second results section .

There are different ways to write this section, but you can focus your writing around these key elements:

  • Summary: A brief recap of your key results
  • Interpretations: What do your results mean?
  • Implications: Why do your results matter?
  • Limitations: What can’t your results tell us?
  • Recommendations: Avenues for further studies or analyses

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What not to include in your discussion section, step 1: summarise your key findings, step 2: give your interpretations, step 3: discuss the implications, step 4: acknowledge the limitations, step 5: share your recommendations, discussion section example.

There are a few common mistakes to avoid when writing the discussion section of your paper.

  • Don’t introduce new results: You should only discuss the data that you have already reported in your results section .
  • Don’t make inflated claims: Avoid overinterpretation and speculation that isn’t directly supported by your data.
  • Don’t undermine your research: The discussion of limitations should aim to strengthen your credibility, not emphasise weaknesses or failures.

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Start this section by reiterating your research problem  and concisely summarising your major findings. Don’t just repeat all the data you have already reported – aim for a clear statement of the overall result that directly answers your main  research question . This should be no more than one paragraph.

Many students struggle with the differences between a discussion section and a results section . The crux of the matter is that your results sections should present your results, and your discussion section should subjectively evaluate them. Try not to blend elements of these two sections, in order to keep your paper sharp.

  • The results indicate that …
  • The study demonstrates a correlation between …
  • This analysis supports the theory that …
  • The data suggest  that …

The meaning of your results may seem obvious to you, but it’s important to spell out their significance for your reader, showing exactly how they answer your research question.

The form of your interpretations will depend on the type of research, but some typical approaches to interpreting the data include:

  • Identifying correlations , patterns, and relationships among the data
  • Discussing whether the results met your expectations or supported your hypotheses
  • Contextualising your findings within previous research and theory
  • Explaining unexpected results and evaluating their significance
  • Considering possible alternative explanations and making an argument for your position

You can organise your discussion around key themes, hypotheses, or research questions, following the same structure as your results section. Alternatively, you can also begin by highlighting the most significant or unexpected results.

  • In line with the hypothesis …
  • Contrary to the hypothesised association …
  • The results contradict the claims of Smith (2007) that …
  • The results might suggest that x . However, based on the findings of similar studies, a more plausible explanation is x .

As well as giving your own interpretations, make sure to relate your results back to the scholarly work that you surveyed in the literature review . The discussion should show how your findings fit with existing knowledge, what new insights they contribute, and what consequences they have for theory or practice.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do your results support or challenge existing theories? If they support existing theories, what new information do they contribute? If they challenge existing theories, why do you think that is?
  • Are there any practical implications?

Your overall aim is to show the reader exactly what your research has contributed, and why they should care.

  • These results build on existing evidence of …
  • The results do not fit with the theory that …
  • The experiment provides a new insight into the relationship between …
  • These results should be taken into account when considering how to …
  • The data contribute a clearer understanding of …
  • While previous research has focused on  x , these results demonstrate that y .

Even the best research has its limitations. Acknowledging these is important to demonstrate your credibility. Limitations aren’t about listing your errors, but about providing an accurate picture of what can and cannot be concluded from your study.

Limitations might be due to your overall research design, specific methodological choices , or unanticipated obstacles that emerged during your research process.

Here are a few common possibilities:

  • If your sample size was small or limited to a specific group of people, explain how generalisability is limited.
  • If you encountered problems when gathering or analysing data, explain how these influenced the results.
  • If there are potential confounding variables that you were unable to control, acknowledge the effect these may have had.

After noting the limitations, you can reiterate why the results are nonetheless valid for the purpose of answering your research question.

  • The generalisability of the results is limited by …
  • The reliability of these data is impacted by …
  • Due to the lack of data on x , the results cannot confirm …
  • The methodological choices were constrained by …
  • It is beyond the scope of this study to …

Based on the discussion of your results, you can make recommendations for practical implementation or further research. Sometimes, the recommendations are saved for the conclusion .

Suggestions for further research can lead directly from the limitations. Don’t just state that more studies should be done – give concrete ideas for how future work can build on areas that your own research was unable to address.

  • Further research is needed to establish …
  • Future studies should take into account …
  • Avenues for future research include …

Discussion section example

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  1. How to Write a Discussion Section

    Table of contents. What not to include in your discussion section. Step 1: Summarize your key findings. Step 2: Give your interpretations. Step 3: Discuss the implications. Step 4: Acknowledge the limitations. Step 5: Share your recommendations. Discussion section example. Other interesting articles.

  2. PDF Discussion Section for Research Papers

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

  3. How to Write a Good Discussion Paper?

    Use this manual to make it to the A+ in four easy steps. Step 1. How to Get the Discussion Essay Plan. You probably know that your writing should start with a decent essay plan. The thing is the structure of your essay usually depends on your topic, so you can't get any pre-written ready-to-use essay outline.

  4. How to Write Discussions and Conclusions

    Begin with a clear statement of the principal findings. This will reinforce the main take-away for the reader and set up the rest of the discussion. Explain why the outcomes of your study are important to the reader. Discuss the implications of your findings realistically based on previous literature, highlighting both the strengths and ...

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

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

  6. PDF 7th Edition Discussion Phrases Guide

    Papers usually end with a concluding section, often called the "Discussion.". The Discussion is your opportunity to evaluate and interpret the results of your study or paper, draw inferences and conclusions from it, and communicate its contributions to science and/or society. Use the present tense when writing the Discussion section.

  7. Discussion Section Examples and Writing Tips

    An example of research summary in discussion. 3.2. An example of result interpretation in discussion. 3.3. An example of literature comparison in discussion. 3.4. An example of research implications in discussion. 3.5. An example of limitations in discussion.

  8. 8. The Discussion

    The discussion section is often considered the most important part of your research paper because it: Most effectively demonstrates your ability as a researcher to think critically about an issue, to develop creative solutions to problems based upon a logical synthesis of the findings, and to formulate a deeper, more profound understanding of the research problem under investigation;

  9. 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 ...

  10. Writing a discussion section

    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 ...

  11. Sample papers

    These sample papers demonstrate APA Style formatting standards for different student paper types. Students may write the same types of papers as professional authors (e.g., quantitative studies, literature reviews) or other types of papers for course assignments (e.g., reaction or response papers, discussion posts), dissertations, and theses.

  12. (PDF) How to Write an Effective Discussion

    Acknowledge the Study's Limitations. Make Suggestions for Further Research. Give the "Take-Home Message" in the Form of a Conclusion. Things to Avoid When Writing the Discussion ...

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

    Begin the Discussion section by restating your statement of the problem and briefly summarizing the major results. Do not simply repeat your findings. Rather, try to create a concise statement of the main results that directly answer the central research question that you stated in the Introduction section.

  14. Discussion Paper Guide: How to Write in a Professional Manner

    Select those materials that are reliable enough. Rainbow press, for example, could be good just for a very limited number of topics. But in most cases, you should rely on expert opinions. Select those that you might want to use to substantiate your ideas that you want to discuss. Arrange them in a logical order.

  15. PDF Discussion Phrases Quick Guide, APA Style 7th Edition

    to format each level of heading, Figure 2.4 demonstrates the use of headings in the introduction, and Figure 2.5 lists all the headings used in a sample paper in the correct format. In the . Concise Guide to APA Style (7th ed.), this content is found in Table 1.3, Figure 1.3, and Figure 1.4, respectively. Level 5 Heading.

  16. How to Write a Discussion for a Research Paper: Expert Guide

    Follow these steps for writing a good research paper discussion section. Summarize Findings: Begin with a concise summary of your main results. Interpret Results: Interpret and explain the meaning of your findings. Compare with Literature: Compare your results to existing literature.

  17. How To Write A Discussion For A Research Paper

    Step 2: Interpret Your Results. In the next step, talk about what your findings really mean. Share why the information you gathered is important. Connect each result to the questions you were trying to answer and the goals you set for your research.

  18. 6 Steps to Write an Excellent Discussion in Your Manuscript

    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 ...

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

    The discussion section of a research paper is where the author analyzes and explains the importance of the study's results. It presents the conclusions drawn from the study, compares them to previous research, and addresses any potential limitations or weaknesses. The discussion section should also suggest areas for future research.

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

    example reaction papers or essays, discussion section is used to g ain . ... (2003) framework using a set of Mann-Whitney U tests as well as One-Sample t-Tests. Results indicated that there is a ...

  21. How to Write a Discussion Section

    Table of contents. What not to include in your discussion section. Step 1: Summarise your key findings. Step 2: Give your interpretations. Step 3: Discuss the implications. Step 4: Acknowledge the limitations. Step 5: Share your recommendations. Discussion section example.

  22. PDF ORGANIZING A LEGAL DISCUSSION (IRAC, CRAC, ETC.)

    Example: The Court will likely rule that Officer used unconstitutionally excessive force under the Graham test as applied to the facts of this case. Good: state the relevant issue in a neutral fashion. Example: The judge must then decide whether the balancing test in Graham warrants a finding of excessive force.

  23. APA Sample Paper

    Media Files: APA Sample Student Paper , APA Sample Professional Paper This resource is enhanced by Acrobat PDF files. Download the free Acrobat Reader. Note: The APA Publication Manual, 7 th Edition specifies different formatting conventions for student and professional papers (i.e., papers written for credit in a course and papers intended for scholarly publication).