A discussion section is an essential part of any PhD dissertation or thesis. In this chapter, students need to provide a detailed interpretation of the data they have gathered in the process of their investigation and discuss the research results, taking into account all the limitations of their study. Many students face difficulties when working on this part of their dissertation where they need to demonstrate strong analytical and critical thinking skills and to prove that their study has made a contribution to the existing research in their field. In this article, you will find some useful tips on how to write a convincing discussion section that can help you cope with this challenging task. You can also get professional assistance with writing a discussion section if you hire a writer on our website.
Objectives and structure of a discussion section
The aim of writing a discussion section is to interpret and evaluate the results and analyze how they help to answer the research question or prove the hypothesis. Besides, you have to justify your approach and explain how it relates to the literature review. When making argument, you should focus on explaining what the findings mean, why they matter, what they can’t tell us, and what approaches you recommend for further studies and practice.
Keep in mind that a discussion chapter is always connected to the introduction because it relates to the research question or hypothesis you formulated and the literature you reviewed. But you can’t just repeat what you have said in the first chapter of the paper. You must clearly explain how your study contributes to advance the reader’s understanding of the problem from where you left them when you reviewed the existing literature.
There are different ways to write this chapter and the structure of discussion section may vary in different fields of study but typically it includes the following elements:
- summary of the key findings;
- discussion of the findings;
- limitations and weaknesses of the study;
- principal implications for practice;
- recommendations for further investigation;
You can use these elements headings for organizing content in your discussion section.
Summary of the Key Findings
This part must be started by restating the research problem and summarizing your findings briefly. Your task here isn't to repeat the data that was already mentioned but state clear results that provide an answer to the main research question of your work. Remember this part shouldn’t be longer than just one paragraph.
Use the examples below:
- The data demonstrates us that…
- The received results confirm…
- The study shows that…
- The analysis indicates...
Discussion of the Findings and Interpretations
Of course, the received results may be obvious and understandable to you, but your main task in the results section is to explain their importance to your readers and mention how these results help to answer the research question.
Depending on the type of your research, the form of interpretations can be different, but here are some approaches you can use to interpret your data:
- Define patterns, correlations, and relationship in the received data
- Analyze if the received data meets the research expectations and supports your hypotheses
- Show how your findings are connected with previous research on this subject
- Explain any unexpected data and evaluate their importance for your research
- Consider alternative explanations and make an argument for your own position
It’s possible to make a discussion around hypotheses, research questions, and key themes. You can use the same structure as the results section. It’s also possible to start by highlighting the most important or unexpected data you have received.
Limitations of the Study
Any kind of research has its limitations. You need to acknowledge them to demonstrate the credibility of your work. Remember that limitations are not showing your mistakes but providing a clear picture of what your research can and cannot conclude.
Limitations may appear due to your research methodology, design, or other obstacles that occurred during the process of research. Your main goal here is just state limitations relevant to your research and define an impact they had on reaching the goals of your research.
For example, if you experienced some problems when gathering or analyzing your data, you have to describe them and mention their influence on your research results.
When you’ve mentioned your limitations, you have to explain why the received data is still valid and answers your research question completely.
Use these examples:
- Due to the limited generalizability, the results cannot confirm…
- The data reliability is impacted by…
- The choice of research methodology was limited by...
- The research results were limited…
Principal Implications for Practice
In your work, you need not only give your interpretations but also relate your received data back to the previous research you have mentioned in the literature review section. Your discussion must reflect how your results fit with existing data, what new things they bring, and how they impact the current theory. We recommend asking the following questions:
- Do the results fit previous research? What can they add to this research?
- Are the received results different from other research? If yes, what’s the reason for it?
- Do the received data challenge or confirm the theory?
- Does your study have any implications for practice?
Here your main goal is to explain to your readers what your work contributed and why it has importance.
Recommendations for Further Investigation
You can give recommendations for further investigation based on the discussion of your results. Sometimes these recommendations can be given in the conclusion of your research.
We suggest viewing your limitations to make direct recommendations for further research. Don’t just write that it’s possible to make more investigations but give clear and concrete recommendations on how future research can be made on those parts where your work was unable to investigate.
- Future investigations should take into consideration…
- Further research may be provided to investigate...
How to write a discussion section of a dissertation - general rules
- You can only discuss findings that are covered in your results chapter.
- Write this section using the present tense, especially when discussing the established facts.
- Be clear and concise – focus on argument that helps to answer your research question or supports the hypothesis; avoid discussing distracting issues.
- Be logical – explain the significance of your findings, following the sequence you used when describing them in the results chapter.
- Write in simple language; try to avoid overusing jargon and undefined technical language.
- Make sure you cite all sources to avoid plagiarism.
8 Useful tips on writing a strong discussion
- Organize your argument from general to specific. First, you should link your findings to the existing literature, then relate them to a specific theory, and finally, explain their connection to practice, if it’s appropriate. It’s important to be consistent and use the same key terms, definitions, and the style of narration which were used in your introduction.
- Restate your research problem and briefly summarize your major findings which directly answer your research questions. Don’t forget to mention the key methods you used during the investigation.
- Explain your findings and discuss their significance for your field. Integrate them with theoretical background. When interpreting data, you can use such approaches as identifying patterns, correlations, principles, and relationships between major findings; discussing whether your findings support your hypothesis; considering alternative explanations of findings. If there are some unexpected findings, analyze them and try to interpret why you believe they appeared.
- Discuss how your results fit with previous research and existing knowledge. Tell how your results relate to findings found in other studies (compare and contrast them). Your goal is to show readers what new insights your investigation has contributed.
- It’s crucial to acknowledge limitations of your research to be credible. Tell about issues and questions which were not addressed in your study. Comment if they may affect the validity of your study’s findings.
- Speak about implications of your results and explain why you think they are significant for supporting broader knowledge.
- Give recommendations for possible research based on your results. Your suggestions may be also based on certain limitations. You should be highly specific and provide concrete ideas on how future research can address certain issues your investigation was not able to cover.
Problems to avoid
There are some common mistakes you should avoid when writing this dissertation chapter.
- Never introduce and discuss new results – speak about those which were reported previously.
- Avoid speculations and conclusions which are not supported by data.
- Don’t emphasize weaknesses of your study or your failures – discuss limitations to boost credibility.
As you see writing a discussion section of a dissertation is a complex and time-consuming process that requires dedication and a lot of hard work. Not only you must present major results of your research in a convincing manner, but you must also demonstrate that your study has a real value and contributes to theory your field. You should show that your research is original and make an effort to convince the committee to approve your dissertation. You have to provide a strong argument fully supported by lots of credible data and related to existing knowledge in your subject.
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