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How to Write a Dissertation Discussion Chapter: Guide & Examples

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Dissertation discussion section is a chapter that interprets the results obtained from research and offers an in-depth analysis of findings. In this section, students need to analyze the outcomes, evaluate their significance, and compare them to previous research. The discussion section may also explore the limitations of the study and suggest further research perspectives.

If you are stuck with your thesis or dissertation discussion chapter, you are in the right place to complete this section successfully. This article will outline our best solutions and methods on how to write the discussion of a dissertation or thesis. We also will share advanced dissertation discussion examples to help you finalize your PhD work.  Feel like academic writing gives you hassles? Remember that you can always rely on academic experts qualified in your field to get professional dissertation help online .

What Is a Dissertation Discussion?

First and foremost, students need to have a clear understanding of what dissertation discussion is. This is not the same as your results section , where you share data from your research. You are going deeper into the explanation of the existing data in your thesis or dissertation discussion section. In other words, you illustrate practical implications of your research and how the data can be used, researched further, or limited.  What will make your discussion section of a dissertation excellent:

  • clear structure
  • practical implication
  • elaboration on future work on this topic.

This section should go after research methodology and before the dissertation conclusion . It should be directly relevant to questions posed in your introduction.  The biggest mistake you can make is to rewrite your result chapter with other words and add some limitations and recommendation paragraphs. However, this is an entirely different type of writing you need to complete.

Purpose of a Dissertation Discussion Chapter

A dissertation discussion section is critical to explaining students’ findings and the application of data to real-life cases. As we mentioned before, this section will often be read right after the dissertation methods . It evaluates and elaborates on findings and helps to understand the importance of your performed thesis research.  A dissertation discussion opens a new perspective on further research on the same field or topic. It also outlines critical data to consider in subsequent studies. In a nutshell, this is the section where you explain your work to a broad audience.

Structure of a Dissertation Discussion Section

Let’s start your writing journey of this research part with a clear delineation of what it should include and then briefly discuss each component. Here are some basic things you need to consider for an excellent discussion chapter of dissertation :

  • Brief summary It does not mean copying an introduction section. However, the first few paragraphs will make an overview of your findings and topic.
  • Interpretations This is a critical component of your work — elaborate on your results and explain possible ways of using them.
  • Implication Research work is not just 100+ pages of text. Students should explain and illustrate how it could be used for solving practical problems.
  • Constraints This is where you outline your limitations. For instance, your research was done only on students, and it may have different results with elderly people.
  • Recommendations You can also define possible ways of future research on the exact topic when writing a discussion for your thesis or dissertation. Tell readers, for example, that it would be helpful to run similar research in other specific circumstances.

How to Write a Dissertation Discussion Chapter?

One of the most commonly asked questions for our experts is how to write the discussion section of a dissertation or thesis. We understand why it can be complicated to get a clear answer. Students often think that this section is similar to the result chapter and just retells it in other words. But it is not so. Let’s go through all steps to writing a discussion in a dissertation, and share our best examples from academic papers.

1. Remind Your Research Questions & Objectives

Writing the discussion chapter of a dissertation is not a big deal if you understand its aim and each component in a text structure. First of all, you need to evaluate how your results help to answer research questions you defined in the beginning. It is not about repeating the result, you did it in previous paragraphs.  However, dissertation or thesis discussion should underline how your findings help to answer the research problem. Start writing from a brief intro by recalling research questions or hypotheses . Then, show how your results answer them or support a hypothesis in your work.

2. Sum Up Key Findings

Next part of your discussion for dissertation is to provide a short summary of previous data. But do not respite the same summary paragraphs from results or introduction of a dissertation . Here researchers should be more thoughtful and go deeper into the work’s aims.  Try to explain in a few sentences what you get from running research. For instance, starters usually write the statement that “our data proves that…” or “survey results illustrate a clear correlation between a and b that is critical for proving our working hypothesis…”.  A discussion chapter of your dissertation is not just a fixation on results but a more profound summary connected to research goals and purpose. Here is an example: Summary of Findings Example

According to the data, implementing the co-orientation theory was successful and can be used for the same circumstances in the future. As we found, most participants agreed with the importance of those theses on the five fundamental reforms. It means that the results identified a successful government work in choosing the messages to communicate about examined reforms. At the same time, the situation is not so favorable with implementing the principles of two-way symmetrical communications. According to the results, people did not feel that the government had a mutual, open, and equal dialogue with the public about the reforms.

3. Interpret the Results

The most critical part of a discussion section is to explain and enact the results you’ve got. It is the most significant part of any text. Students should be clear about what to include in these paragraphs. Here is some advice to make this elaboration structured:

  • Identify correlations or patterns in the data for dissertation discussion.
  • Underline how results can answer research questions or prove your hypothesis.
  • Emphasize how your findings are connected to the previous topic studies.
  • Point out essential statements you can use in future research.
  • Evaluate the significance of your results and any unexpected data you have.
  • What others can learn from your research and how this work contributes to the field.
  • Consider any possible additional or unique explanation of your findings.
  • Go deeper with options of how results can be applied in practice.

Writing a dissertation discussion chapter can be tough, but here is a great sample to learn from. Example of Interpretations in Disssertation Discussion

Our study underlines the importance of future research on using TikTok for political communication. As discussed above, TikTok is the most commonly used social media platform for many young voters. This means that political discussion will also move to this platform. Our research and typology of political communication content can be used in the future planning of effective political campaigns. For example, we can assume that “play videos” have enormous potential to facilitate complicated topics and provide specific agenda settings. We also identified additional affordances of TikTok used for political communication, such as built-in video editors, playlists for specific topics, a green screen for news explainers, and duets for reflection on news and discussion. It means that these features make TikTok suitable for efficient political communications.

4. Discuss How Your Findings Relate to the Literature

Here we came to the implications of your findings for the dissertation discussion. In other words, this is a few sentences on how your work is connected to other studies on the same research topic or what literature gap you are going to fill with the data and research you launched. Remember to mention how your study address the limitations you have discovered while writing a literature review .  First, outline how your hypothesis relates to theories or previous works in the field. Maybe, you challenged some theories or tried to define your own. Be specific in this section. Second, define a practical implementation of your work. Maybe, it can support recommendations or change legislation.  Discussion chapter of a thesis is a place where you explain your work, make it valuable, and incorporate additional meaning for some specific data.  Example of Implications in Disssertation Discussion

As we pointed out in the literature review, there are few works on using TikTok affordances for political communications, and this topic can be expanded in the future. Government institutions have already understood the importance of this platform for efficient communication with younger audiences, and we will see more political projects on TikTok. That is why expanding research on using TikTok for political communication will be enormous in the following years. Our work is one of the first research on the role of emerging media in war communication and can be used as a practical guide for government's strategic planning in times of emergencies.

5. Mention Possible Limitations

It is pretty tricky to conduct research without limitations. You will always have some, which does not mean that your work is not good. When you write a discussion chapter in a thesis or dissertation, focus on what may influence your results and how changing independent variables can affect your data collection methods and final outcomes.  Here are some points to consider when you structure your dissertation discussion limitation part:

  • If results can change in case you change the reference group?
  • What will happen with data if it changes circumstances?
  • What could influence results?

Critical thinking and analysis can help you to outline possible limitations. It can be the age of the reference group, change of questionnaire in a survey, or specific use of data extraction equipment. Be transparent about what could affect your results.  Example of Complications

Although this study has provided critical first insights into the effects of multimodal disinformation and rebuttals, there are some limitations. First and most importantly, the effects of multimodal disinformation and rebuttals partially depend on the topic of the message. Although fact-checkers reduce credibility of disinformation in both settings, and attitudinal congruence plays a consistent role in conditioning responses to multimodal disinformation, visuals do not have the same impact on affecting the credibility of news on school shootings and refugees.

6. Provide Recommendations for Further Research

Writing a dissertation discussion also makes a connection to possible future research. So, other scientists may complete that. While elaborating on possible implementations of your study, you may also estimate future approaches in topic research.  Here are some points to consider while your discussion in thesis writing:

  • Outline questions related to your topic that you did not answer in defined study or did not outline as research questions. There are other possible gaps to research.
  • Suggest future research based on limitations. For example, if you define surveyed people’s age as a limitation, recommend running another survey for older or younger recipients.

Example of Recommendations

As we mentioned before, our study has some limitations, as the research was conducted based on data from United State citizens. However, for a better understanding of government communication practices, it would be productive to implement the same research in other countries. Some cultural differences can influence the communication strategies the government uses in times of emergency. Another possible way to examine this topic is to conduct research using a specific period of time. For future studies, it will be beneficial to expand the number of survey recipients. 

7. Conclude Your Thesis/ Dissertation Discussion

You are almost done, the last step is to provide a brief summary of a section. It is not the same as a conclusion for whole research. However, you need to briefly outline key points from the dissertation discussion.  To finalize writing the discussion section of a dissertation, go through the text and check if there is no unimportant information. Do not overload the text with relevant data you did not present in the result section. Be specific in your summary paragraphs. It is a holistic view of everything you pointed out. Provide a few sentences to systemize all you outlined in the text. Example of a Concluding Summary in a Dissertation Discussion Section

To summarize, Airbnb has expertise in communicating CSR and CSA campaigns. We defined their communication strategy about the program for Ukrainian refugees as quite successful. They applied all the principles of CSR communication best practices, used dialogic theory to engage with the public on social media, and created clear messaging on applying for the program. Airbnb examples of CSR communication can be used by other businesses to create a communication strategy for unplanned CSR campaigns. Moreover, it can be further researched how Airbnb's CSR campaign influenced the organizational reputation in the future. 

Dissertation Discussion Example

If we need to share one piece of practical advice, it would be to use thesis or dissertation discussion examples when writing your own copy. StudyCrumb provides the best samples from real students' work to help you understand the stylistic and possible structure of this part. It does not mean you need to copy and paste them into your work.  However, you can use a  dissertation discussion example for inspiration and brainstorming ideas for breaking writing blocks. Here’s a doctoral thesis discussion chapter example.

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Dissertation Discussion Writing Tips

Before reading this blog, you should already know how to write a thesis discussion. However, we would share some essential tips you need to have in mind while working on the document. 

  • Be consistent Your dissertation discussion chapter is a part of bigger research, and it should be in line with your whole work.
  • Understand your reader You are writing an academic text that will be analyzed by professionals and experts in the same field. Be sure that you are not trying to simplify your discussion.
  • Be logical Do not jump into a new line of discussion if you did not delineate it as a research question at the beginning.
  • Be clear Do not include any data that was not presented in the result section.
  • Consider word choice Use such terms as “our data indicate…” or “our data suggests…” instead of “the data proves.”
  • Use proper format Follow the formatting rules specified by a specific paper style (e.g., APA style format , MLA format , or Chicago format ) or provided by your instructor.

Bottom Line on Writing a Dissertation Discussion Chapter

At this stage, it should not be a question for you on how to write a discussion chapter in a PhD thesis or dissertation. Let’s make it clear. It is not a result section but still a place to elaborate on data and go deeper with explanations. Dissertation discussion section includes some intro, result interpretations, limitations, and recommendations for future research. Our team encourages you to use examples before starting your own piece of writing. It will help you to realize the purpose and structure of this chapter and inspire better texts! If you have other questions regarding the PhD writing process, check our blog for more insights. From detailed instruction on how to write a dissertation or guide on formatting a dissertation appendix , we’ve got you covered.

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FAQ About Dissertation Discussion Chapter

1. where does a discussion section go in a dissertation.

Dissertation discussion section is used to go right after the result chapter. The logic is simple — you share your data and then go to the elaboration and explanation of it. Check the sample thesis we provide to students for details on structure.

2. How long should a dissertation discussion chapter be?

It is not a surprise that dissertation discussion chapter is extremely significant for the research. Here you will go into the details of your study and interpret results to prove or not your hypothesis. It should take almost 25% of your work. 

3. What tense should I use in a dissertation discussion?

Thesis or dissertation discussion used to have some rules on using tenses. You need to use the present tense when referring to established facts and use the past tense when referring to previous studies. And check your text before submission to ensure that you did not miss something.

4. What not to include in a dissertation discussion section?

The answer is easy. Discussion section of a dissertation should not include any new findings or describe some unsupported claims. Also, do not try to feel all possible gaps with one research. It may be better to outline your ideas for future studies in recommendations.

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Joe Eckel is an expert on Dissertations writing. He makes sure that each student gets precious insights on composing A-grade academic writing.

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How to Write a Dissertation Discussion Chapter – A Quick Guide with Examples

Published by Alvin Nicolas at August 12th, 2021 , Revised On September 20, 2023

Dissertation discussion is the chapter where you explore the relevance, significance, and meanings of your findings  – allowing you to showcase your talents in describing and analyzing the results of your study.

Here, you will be expected to demonstrate how your research findings  answer the  research questions  established or test the  hypothesis .

The arguments you assert in the dissertation analysis and discussions chapter lay the foundations of your conclusion . It is critically important to discuss the results in a precise manner.

To help you understand how to write a dissertation discussion chapter, here is the list of the main elements of this section so you stay on the right track when writing:

  • Summary: Start by providing a summary of your key research findings
  • Interpretations: What is the significance of your findings?
  • Implications: Why are your findings important to academic and scientific communities, and what purpose would they serve?
  • Limitations: When and where will your results have no implications?
  • Future Recommendations : Advice for other researchers and scientists who explore the topic further in future.

The dissertation discussion chapter should be carefully drafted to ensure that the results mentioned in your research align with your research question, aims, and objectives.

Considering the importance of this chapter for all students working on their dissertations, we have comprehensive guidelines on how to write a dissertation discussion chapter.

The discussion and  conclusion  chapters often overlap. Depending on your university, you may be asked to group these two sections in one chapter – Discussion and Conclusion.

In some cases, the results and discussion are put together under the Results and Discussion chapter. Here are some dissertation examples of working out the best structure for your dissertation.

Alternatively, you can look for the required  dissertation structure in your handbook  or consult your supervisor.

Steps of How to Write Dissertation Discussion Chapter

1. provide a summary of your findings.

Start your discussion by summarising the key findings of your research questions. Avoid repeating the information you have already stated in the previous chapters.

You will be expected to clearly express your interpretation of results to answer the research questions established initially in one or two paragraphs.

Here are some  examples of how to present the summary of your findings ;

  • “The data suggests that”,
  • “The results confirm that”,
  • “The analysis indicates that”,
  • “The research shows a relationship between”, etc.

2. Interpretations of Results

Your audience will expect you to provide meanings of the results, although they might seem obvious to you. The results and their interpretations should be linked to the research questions so the reader can understand the value your research has added to the literature.

There are many ways of interpreting the data, but your chosen approach to interpreting the data will depend on the  type of research involved . Some of the most common strategies employed include;

  • Describing how and why you ended up with unexpected findings and explaining their importance in detail
  • Relating your findings with previous studies conducted
  • Explaining your position with logical arguments when/if any alternative explanations are suggested
  • An in-depth discussion around whether or not the findings answered your research questions and successfully tested the hypothesis

Examples of how you can start your interpretation in the Discussion chapter are –

  • “Findings of this study contradict those of Allen et al. (2014) that”,
  • “Contrary to the hypothesized association,” “Confirming the hypothesis…”,
  • “The findings confirm that A is….. even though Allen et al. (2014) and Michael (2012) suggested B was …..”

3. Implications of your Study

What practical and theoretical implications will your study have for other researchers and the scientific community as a whole?

It is vital to relate your results to the knowledge in the existing literature so the readers can establish how your research will contribute to the existing data.

When thinking of the possible consequences of your findings, you should ask yourself these;

  • Are your findings in line with previous studies? What contribution did your research make to them?
  • Why are your results entirely different from other studies on the same topic?
  • Did your findings approve or contradict existing knowledge?
  • What are the practical implications of your study?

Remember that as the researcher, you should aim to let your readers know why your study will contribute to the existing literature. Possible ways of starting this particular section are;

  • “The findings show that A….. whereas Lee (2017) and John (2013) suggested that B”, “The results of this study completely contradict the claims made in theories”,
  • “These results are not in line with the theoretical perspectives”,
  • “The statistical analysis provides a new understanding of the relationship between A and B”,
  • “Future studies should take into consideration the findings of this study because”

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4. Recognise the Limitations of your Research

Almost every academic research has some limitations. Acknowledging them will only add to your credibility as a scientific researcher.

In addition to the possible human errors, it’s important to take into account other factors that might have influenced the results of your study, including but not limited to unexpected research obstacles, specific methodological choices , and the overall research design.

Avoid mentioning any limitations that may not be relevant to your research aim, but clearly state the limitations that may have affected your results.

For example, if you used a sample size that included a tiny population, you may not generalise your results.

Similarly, obstacles faced in collecting data from the participants can influence the findings of your study. Make a note of all such  research limitations , but explain to the reader why your results are still authentic.

  • The small sample size limited the generalisability of the results.
  • The authenticity of the findings may have been influenced by….
  • The obstacles in collecting data resulted in…
  • It is beyond the framework of this research…

5. Provide Recommendations for Future Research

The limitations of your research work directly result in future recommendations. However, it should be noted that your recommendations for future research work should include the areas that your own work could not report so other researchers can build on them.

Sometimes the recommendations are a part of the  conclusion chapter . Some examples;

  • More research is needed to be performed….

Image result for research limitations

The Purpose of Dissertation Discussion Chapter 

Remember that the discussion section of a dissertation is the heart of your research because a) it will indicate your stance on the topic of research, and b) it answers the research questions initially established in the Introduction chapter .

Every piece of information you present here will add value to the existing literature within your field of study. How you structured your findings in the preceding chapter will help you determine the best structure for your dissertation discussion section.

For example, it might be logical to structure your analysis/discussions by theme if you chose the pattern in your findings section.

But generally, discussion based on research questions is the more widely used  structure  in academia because this pattern clearly indicates how you have addressed the aim of your research.

Most UK universities require the supervisor or committee members to comment on the extent to which each research question has been answered. You will be doing them a great favour if you structure your discussion so that each research question is laid out separately.

Irrespective of whether you are  writing an essay, dissertation, or  chapter of a dissertation , all pieces of writing should start with an  introduction .

Once your readers have read through your study results, you might want to highlight the contents of the subsequent discussion as an introduction paragraph (summary of your results – as explained above).

Likewise, the discussion chapter is expected to end with a concluding paragraph – allowing you the opportunity to summarise your interpretations.

The dissertation analysis & discussion chapter is usually very long, so it will make sense to emphasise the critical points in a concluding paragraph so the reader can grasp the essential information. This will also help to make sure the reader understands your analysis.

Also Read:   Research Discussion Of Findings

Useful Tips 

Presentation of graphs, tables, and figures.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, students spent days creating graphs and charts for their  statistical analysis work . Thanks to technology, you can produce even more accurate graphs and figures today in a shorter period.

Using  Microsoft Word, STATA, SPSS, Microsoft Excel  and other statistical analysis software, we can now draw  beautiful-looking figures, tables , and graphs with just a few clicks and make them appear in our document at the desired place. But there are downsides to being too dependent on technology.

Many students make the common mistake of using colours to represent variables when really they have to print their dissertation paper final copy in black and white.

Any colours on graphs and figures will eventually be viewed in the grayscale presentation. Recognizing different shades of grey on the same chart or graph can sometimes be a little confusing.

For example, green and purple appear as pretty much the same shade of grey on a line chat, meaning your chart will become unreadable to the marker.

Another trap you may fall into is the unintentional stuffing   of the dissertation chapter with graphs and figures. Even though it is essential to show numbers and statistics, you don’t want to overwhelm your readers with too many.

It may not be necessary to have a graph/table under each sub-heading. Only you can best judge whether or not you need to have a graph/table under a particular sub-heading as the writer.

Image result for excel graphs and charts

Relating to Previous Chapters  

As a student, it can be challenging to develop your own analysis and discussion of results. One of the excellent discussion chapter requirements is to showcase your ability to relate previous research to your research results.

Avoid repeating the same information over and over. Many students fall into this trap which negatively affects the mark of their overall dissertation paper .

Concise and to-the-point information will help you effectively convey your point to the readers.

Although you must demonstrate how your findings relate to previous research, it is equally important to ensure you are not simply rewriting what has already been said in the introduction  and  literature review  chapters.

The best strategy is to use examples from previous sections to postulate an argument.

Hyperlinks are recommended to take the reader from one section to another. This is especially important for submitting electronic documents as .word or .pdf files. Hyperlinking is tedious and time-consuming, so you should allow for this in your dissertation timeline to avoid rushing in the closing stages.

Also read: How to Write the Abstract for the Dissertation.

Using Subsections and Subheadings

You might want to reflect on the structure of the discussion in your organizstion of the dissertation discussion chapter, and for that, you will need to create sub-sections.

It is essential to keep subsections to the point and as short as possible. Use a layer of subheadings if possible.

For example

Subsection 4.1 of Chapter 4- Discussion can be further divided into sections 4.1.1 and 4.2.2. After three numerical layers (4.1.1, 4.2.2, and 4.2.3), any subheadings need not appear in the contents table.

The titles of all subsections will appear on your table of contents  so choose the wordings carefully. A title too long or too short might confuse the reader. A one or two-word subheading will not give the reader enough information to understand the section.

Likewise, using a research question or long sentences in the subheading is not recommended. It might help to examine how other researchers and writers create these subheadings.

Critical Thinking

Your critical thinking skills are the crux of your dissertation discussion chapter. You will do yourself a great disservice if you fail to put the critical thinking element into the equation.

After all, this exercise aims to showcase clarity in your thoughts and arguments. Markers of the dissertation give more importance to the analysis  and discussion chapter. But you could be marked negatively if this particular chapter lacks critical thinking.

Many students struggle to distinguish between fundamental descriptive analysis and critical thinking with their opinions on the research topic.

Critical thinking is a skill developed over time, and it might be daunting for you to come to terms with the idea of critical thinking and its use in your analysis. But even if you are no expert, you must try your best.

Image result for critical thinking

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Duplication of Content

Another critical error students make reaffirming the point the graph/chart was supposed to make. Writing out the same information as presented in the graph defeats the whole purpose of having them in the first place.

You will be expected to form your opinions and arguments based on the findings (as presented by the graphs), so keep an eye on this mistake. Finally, avoid simply inserting a graph without any explanation whatsoever.

It should be noted that there is no correct or incorrect number of charts/figures one can use in the dissertation findings and discussion chapter. A balance must be struck.

Avoid Over Interpretation

This is a major no-no when writing a dissertation discussion. Do not make an argument that isn’t backed by your collected data.

The results and interpretations that cannot be supported should not be mentioned. Your research will be deemed unauthentic and will also be questioned by your supervisor if you do so. Results should be interpreted without any bias.

How to Write the Findings of a Dissertation.

Do not Speculate

Speculation in the  discussion chapter of your dissertation is discouraged. Your dissertation’s discussion is based on your collected data and how it relates to your research questions. Thus, speculating here will undoubtedly undermine your research’s credibility.

Also, try not to generalise your findings. If your research is based on a specific population, do not state that the same findings might apply in every case. As indicated previously, it is essential to acknowledge the limitations of your research.

On the other hand, if you think your discussion needs to address other populations as well, start your sentence like this ‘We speculate that..’ or ‘It is speculated that..’ This will keep you from getting into any trouble.

What are the elements of the Dissertation Discussion?

The list of the main elements of the discussion chapter are:

  • Implications : Why are your findings important to academic and scientific communities, and what purpose would they serve?
  • Future Recommendations: Advice for other researchers and scientists who explore the topic further in future.

What are the steps of writing a Dissertation Discussion Chapter?

  • Write a summary of the findings
  • Provide a summary of your findings
  • Interpretations of Results
  • Recognise the Limitations of your research
  • Provide Recommendations for Future Research.

Can we use graphs and charts in the Dissertation Discussion Chapter?

Yes, using graphs to aid your statistical results and enhance presentation is essential, but do not overwhelm it with a lot of graphs in multiple colours. 

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Not sure how to start your dissertation and get it right the first time? Here are some tips and guidelines for you to kick start your dissertation project.

Make sure that your selected topic is intriguing, manageable, and relevant. Here are some guidelines to help understand how to find a good dissertation topic.

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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. 

example discussion section of a dissertation

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:

example discussion section of a dissertation

Writing Tips

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

What to do

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

What not to do

Don’t

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

Snippets of Effective Discussions:

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

Identifying reliable indicators of fitness in polar bears

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

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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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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.

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How to Write Your Thesis Discussion Section

example discussion section of a dissertation

The discussion section is the most critical aspect of your thesis. It is written after presenting your data in the results section. This article explains how to structure your thesis discussion section and what content is required.

What is the thesis discussion section?

The thesis discussion includes explanations and interpretations of your results in the context of your thesis question and  literature review , discusses their implications, acknowledges their limitations, and gives recommendations. In doing so, you make an argument to support your conclusion .

What should the thesis discussion section include?

  • A summary of your key findings
This analysis does not support the theory that…
  • The answer to your thesis question
These findings confirm our hypothesis that…
  • An interpretation of your findings
Our findings agree with the theory proposed by Jones (2019)…
  • The implications of your findings
The data provide new evidence of…
  • The limitations of your findings (i.e., what can’t the results tell us)
This study only included individuals living in urban areas, and the results may not be generalizable to populations in rural areas…
  • Suggestions of practical applications of your findings
X should be taken into consideration when…
  • Recommendations for further scientific investigations
Further studies are necessary to…

What should the thesis discussion section not include?

  • A restatement of all your results
  • The introduction of new results . All results in the discussion section must have been presented in the results section.
  • Speculations that can’t be supported by your data
  • Results that do not directly relate to your thesis question or hypothesis
  • Tables and figures (these are usually included in the results section)

How does the discussion overlap with other thesis sections?

The content in the thesis discussion section overlaps with the results section — the results section presents the data, and the discussion section interprets it. The structure of the discussion section differs according to the type of research ( quantitative vs. qualitative ). In qualitative research, such as in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) domain, the discussion and results from sections are often combined. In thesis studies involving quantitative research, such as in the Sciences domain, these sections are usually written separately.

The content in the thesis discussion section also overlaps with the conclusion section — the discussion section presents a detailed analysis and interpretation of the data, and the conclusion section summarizes the main findings of the discussion. The discussion and conclusion sections may also be combined into a single section in some fields of study. If you are unsure of which structure to use, ask your supervisor for guidance and check the requirements of your academic institution.

How to write a thesis discussion

The discussion section of a thesis starts with an interpretation of the results and then places the findings in the general context of the field of study.

The discussion section is the most critical section of your thesis and will probably be the hardest to write. The discussion section of a thesis starts with an interpretation of the results and then places the findings in the general context of the field of study. This section also demonstrates your ability to think critically and develop innovative solutions to problems based on your findings, resulting in a deeper understanding of the research problem.

Because it can be daunting to write the thesis discussion section in one go, first prepare a draft according to the following steps:

  • Prepare an outline that broadly states your argument and how your results support it.
  • Strengthen your argument by mapping out how your results fit into the outline.
  • Place unexpected or controversial results in context and describe what may have caused them.
  • Go back to your literature review to identify any studies that you might want to delve into in greater detail given the findings of your study.
  • Identify study limitations.
  • Briefly summarize the importance and implications of your findings.
  • Recommend any practical applications of your study findings.
  • Suggest future work that could build on your findings or address study limitations.

Once you are happy with your draft, it’s time to finalize the thesis discussion section. Use the steps below as a guideline:

  • First, restate your thesis question and hypothesis that were stated in the introduction.
  • Then, use your findings to support the answer to your thesis question.
  • Defend your answers by discussing other studies with correlating results.
  • Explain how your findings consistently fit in with the current literature and mention how they address knowledge gaps in the field.
  • Mention studies that conflict with your findings, and try to explain possible causes of these contradictions (e.g., population size, inclusion and excision criteria, differences in data collection and analysis methods).
  • Address any unexpected findings. Describe what happened and then discuss the potential causes (e.g., a skewed response rate, sampling bias, or changes in the equipment used). Because they could have been caused by a flawed sampling method or an incorrect choice of methodology, carefully check that you have adequately justified your methodological approach. In extreme cases, you may need to restructure your hypothesis or rewrite your introduction.
  • Research studies are expected to have limitations and weaknesses. Mention all of them and how they may have impacted the interpretation and validity of your findings. Some limitations could highlight areas that require further study.
  • Summarize the practical applications and theoretical implications of your findings.
  • Recommend potential areas for future research.

How do I interpret my results?

The thesis discussion section must concisely interpret the results and assign importance to them. This is achieved by:

  • Identifying relationships, patterns, and correlations in the data
  • Discussing whether the findings support your hypothesis
  • Considering alternative explanations while also justifying your chosen explanation
  • Emphasizing novel results and explaining how they fill knowledge gaps
  • Explaining unexpected results and determining their significance

How do I discuss the implications of my results?

The discussion section of your thesis explains how your findings fit in with and contribute to the existing literature. This refers back to the literature review section of your thesis. The following questions should be addressed:

  • Are your findings supported by other studies, and do they add to the body of knowledge or address a gap?
  • Do your findings disagree with other studies? If so, determine or suggest the reason(s) why.
  • Do your findings challenge or support existing theories?
  • What are the practical implications of your findings?

How do I acknowledge the limitations of my study?

It is expected that all studies will have limitations. When discussing your study limitations, don’t undermine your findings . A good discussion of the limitations will strengthen your study’s credibility.

Examples of study limitations: sample size, differences in methods used for data collection or analysis, study type (e.g., retrospective vs. prospective), inclusion/exclusion criteria of the study population, effects of confounders, researcher bias, and robustness of the data collection method.

How do I make recommendations for future research?

Recommendations should either be included in the discussion or the conclusion section of your thesis, but not in both. This could include:

  • Addressing questions related to your study that remain unanswered
  • Suggesting a logical progression of your research study using concrete ideas
  • Suggesting future work based on the study limitations you have identified
Example: Future studies using a larger sample size from multiple sites are recommended to confirm the generalizability of our findings. Example: We suggest that the participants are re-interviewed after 5 years to determine how their perception of this traumatic experience has changed.

Tips for writing the thesis discussion section

  • Use subheadings to break down the discussion into smaller sections that identify key points.
  • Maintain consistency with the introduction  and  literature review sections. Use the same point of view, tone, and terminology.
  • Be concise .
  • Be logical. Present the discussion in the same sequence as the results unless there is an unexpected or novel finding that should be emphasized first.
  • Do not use jargon, and define all technical terms and abbreviations/acronyms.
  • Cite all sources. The majority of references cited in the thesis discussion section should be recent (i.e., published within the past 10 years).
  • Avoid plagiarism .

A thesis is the most crucial document that you will write during your academic studies. For professional thesis editing and thesis proofreading services , visit Enago Thesis Editing for more information.

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Are your  key findings summarized in the thesis discussion section?

Have you  interpreted your findings in the context of your thesis question?

Have you shown how your findings fit in by  discussing differences and similarities with current literature as well as any gaps in the literature that your findings address?

Have you  explained the significance of your findings?

Have you  contemplated alternative explanations for your findings?

Have you  explained the practical and/or theoretical implications of your findings?

Have you identified and  evaluated the limitations of your study?

Have you  recommended practical actions or areas that require further studies based on your findings?

What tense is used to write the thesis discussion section? +

Use the present tense when referring to established facts. Use the past tense when referring to previous studies.

What is the difference between the discussion and conclusion sections of a thesis? +

The  discussion section is a detailed analysis and interpretation of the study results that place them in context with the associated literature. The  conclusion section is much shorter than the discussion section. It mentions the main points of the discussion section, tells the reader why your research is important, and makes recommendations based on your study findings.

What is the difference between the results and discussion sections of a thesis? +

The results section objectively reports the study findings without speculation. The discussion section interprets the findings, puts them into context, and assigns importance to them.

example discussion section of a dissertation

Research Voyage

Research Tips and Infromation

How to Write a Discussion Section of your Dissertation or Thesis?

PhD Discussion Section

Introduction

Summarize the key findings, interpretation and explanation of findings, compare with existing literature, addressing limitations, exploring unexpected or contradictory findings, discussing implications and significance.

The discussion and analysis section of a PhD or a Post Graduate dissertation plays a crucial role in presenting and interpreting the research findings. It serves as the platform where you delve into the meaning, implications, and significance of your results, ultimately contributing to the advancement of knowledge in your field of study. Let’s explore why this section is of paramount importance.

When conducting research, the primary objective is to generate new insights, contribute to existing knowledge, and address gaps in the field. The discussion and analysis section serves as the space where you make sense of your findings and contextualize them.

Usually the discussion section follows the results section of the dissertation section. If you are not familiar with writing the section , then visit my post on ” Writing results section for your dissertation “

If you are in paucity of time, not confident of your writing skills and in a hurry to complete the writing task then you can think of hiring a research consultant that solves all your problems. Please visit my article on Hiring a Research consultant for your PhD tasks for further details.

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation, it is crucial to provide a concise summary of the main findings that emerged from your research. These findings directly address the research questions or hypotheses you formulated at the beginning of your study. Let’s explore a few examples:

Example 1: Research in Machine Learning

Research Question: How does the use of deep learning algorithms impact the accuracy of image recognition systems?

Key Findings: The study revealed that employing deep learning algorithms significantly improved the accuracy of image recognition systems. The experimental results demonstrated an average increase in accuracy of 15% compared to traditional machine learning approaches. Furthermore, it was observed that the performance improvement was particularly notable in complex and ambiguous image recognition tasks.

Example 2: Research in Natural Language Processing

Research Question: To what extent does sentiment analysis using neural networks capture the nuances of emotions in social media data?

Key Findings: The analysis demonstrated that sentiment analysis models based on neural networks exhibited a higher accuracy in capturing nuanced emotions in social media data compared to traditional rule-based methods. The study found that the neural network model achieved an overall accuracy of 85%, whereas the rule-based approach achieved only 70%. Moreover, the neural network model showcased better performance in identifying subtle emotions such as irony and sarcasm, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of sentiment analysis.

Example 3: Research in Cybersecurity

Research Question: What are the vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors in IoT (Internet of Things) systems?

Key Findings: The investigation identified several vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors in IoT systems. The study revealed that insecure default configurations and weak authentication mechanisms were the most common vulnerabilities exploited by attackers. Furthermore, the research unveiled novel attack vectors targeting IoT devices’ communication protocols, highlighting the need for robust encryption and secure communication channels to mitigate these risks.

Remember to present your key findings in a clear and concise manner, mentioning the specific research questions or hypotheses that your study aimed to address. This allows readers to understand the main outcomes of your research and their relevance to the overarching research goals in your field.

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation, it is essential to interpret and explain the patterns, trends, and relationships that emerged from your data analysis. This involves using supporting evidence, such as statistical analysis or visual representations , to illustrate and strengthen your arguments. Additionally, it’s important to explain the significance and implications of your findings in relation to your research questions or hypotheses. Let’s explore some examples:

Example 1: Research in Data Mining

Findings: The analysis of large-scale customer transaction data revealed a strong association between customer purchasing behavior and their demographic characteristics.

Interpretation and Explanation: Statistical analysis demonstrated a significant correlation (p < 0.01) between customers’ age groups and their preferences for specific product categories. Younger customers showed a higher propensity for purchasing technology-related products, while older customers exhibited a preference for home and lifestyle products. These findings suggest that targeted marketing campaigns tailored to different age groups can enhance customer engagement and improve sales performance.

Example 2: Research in Network Security

Findings: The evaluation of network traffic data indicated a sudden increase in malicious activities during off-peak hours.

Interpretation and Explanation: Visual representations of network traffic patterns illustrated a substantial surge in the volume of suspicious packets and intrusion attempts between midnight and early morning hours. This finding suggests that attackers exploit the lower network traffic during off-peak hours to launch targeted attacks, making them more difficult to detect. To mitigate such risks, network administrators should enhance monitoring and employ automated threat detection systems capable of identifying anomalous behavior patterns.

Example 3: Research in Artificial Intelligence

Findings: The evaluation of various machine learning algorithms demonstrated superior performance of a novel deep reinforcement learning approach in game playing tasks.

Interpretation and Explanation: Comparative analysis using benchmark datasets revealed that the proposed deep reinforcement learning algorithm achieved an average win rate of 90% across different game environments. This outperformed traditional machine learning algorithms, including decision trees and support vector machines, which achieved win rates of 70% and 80%, respectively. These findings indicate that deep reinforcement learning holds great potential for advancing game playing AI systems, enabling them to make more optimal decisions and enhance player experience.

By discussing the patterns, trends, and relationships identified through data analysis and providing supporting evidence, such as statistical analysis or visual representations, you strengthen the validity of your arguments. Furthermore, explaining the significance and implications of your findings in relation to your research questions or hypotheses showcases the practical implications of your research.

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation , it is crucial to compare your findings with previous studies in your field. This involves discussing the similarities, differences, and contradictions between your research and the existing literature. Additionally, you should highlight the contributions and novelty of your research and identify areas where your results align with established theories or challenge existing knowledge. Let’s explore some examples:

Example 1: Research in Natural Language Processing

Findings: The developed natural language processing model achieved a higher accuracy in sentiment analysis compared to previous studies.

Comparison with Existing Literature: Our findings align with Smith et al. (2018) and Johnson et al. (2020), who also demonstrated the effectiveness of machine learning techniques in sentiment analysis. However, our research advances the field by incorporating contextual embeddings and attention mechanisms, resulting in an additional 5% improvement in accuracy. This highlights the contribution of our novel model architecture in enhancing sentiment analysis tasks.

Example 2: Research in Computer Vision

Findings: The proposed object detection algorithm outperformed existing methods in terms of both accuracy and computational efficiency.

Comparison with Existing Literature: Our results are consistent with the findings of Chen et al. (2019) and Wang et al. (2020), who also emphasized the importance of utilizing deep learning frameworks for object detection. However, our research extends the current knowledge by introducing a novel anchor-free approach that eliminates the need for predefined anchor boxes, resulting in a more accurate and efficient object detection system. This novel approach challenges the conventional anchor-based methods and offers potential improvements in real-time object detection applications.

Example 3: Research in Cloud Computing Security

Findings: The proposed encryption technique demonstrated enhanced security and reduced computation overhead in cloud storage systems.

Comparison with Existing Literature: Our research builds upon the encryption schemes proposed by Li et al. (2017) and Zhang et al. (2019). However, our technique introduces a dynamic key management mechanism that strengthens data confidentiality and allows efficient data access. This advancement addresses the limitations of the existing methods and contributes to the field by providing a more secure and scalable solution for protecting sensitive data in cloud storage systems.

By comparing your findings with previous studies, you showcase your understanding of the existing literature and demonstrate how your research adds value to the field of study. Identifying areas of alignment with established theories helps validate your work, while highlighting areas where your results challenge existing knowledge highlights the novelty and potential impact of your research.

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation, it is important to acknowledge the limitations of your study. This includes factors such as sample size, data collection methods, or other constraints that may have influenced your results. Reflecting on these limitations helps provide a transparent assessment of your research. Additionally, suggesting avenues for future research to address these limitations contributes to the advancement of the field. Let’s explore some examples:

Limitation: The study utilized a relatively small dataset consisting of 100 samples from a single organization.

Reflection: The small sample size may have limited the generalizability of the findings. The dataset’s limited diversity and narrow scope could impact the applicability of the results to broader contexts. It is important to recognize that different organizations may exhibit variations in their data patterns and characteristics.

Future Research: To address this limitation, future research could involve collecting data from multiple organizations across different industries. This would enhance the representativeness of the findings and provide a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomena under investigation.

Example 2: Research in Artificial Intelligence

Limitation: The study focused solely on image recognition tasks and did not consider other domains such as natural language processing or speech recognition.

Reflection: While the findings are valuable for image recognition, the limited scope restricts the generalizability of the results to broader AI applications. Different domains may have unique challenges and requirements that need to be considered.

Future Research: To overcome this limitation, future research could explore the application of the proposed algorithm in other domains such as text classification or voice-based applications. This would provide insights into the algorithm’s effectiveness across diverse AI applications and contribute to its broader adoption.

Example 3: Research in Human-Computer Interaction

Limitation: The study relied on self-reported measures to assess user satisfaction and perceived usability.

Reflection: Self-report measures are subject to biases and may not always capture the true user experience accurately. Participants’ responses may be influenced by various factors, such as social desirability or personal expectations.

Future Research: To address this limitation, future research could incorporate objective measures, such as eye-tracking data or physiological responses, alongside self-report measures. Combining multiple assessment methods would provide a more comprehensive understanding of user experience and yield more reliable and valid results.

By acknowledging the limitations of your study, reflecting on their potential impact, and suggesting avenues for future research, you demonstrate a critical and reflective approach to your work.

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation, it is important to address any unexpected or contradictory results that emerged during your research. This involves discussing these findings and offering possible explanations or alternative interpretations based on available evidence. However, it is crucial to be cautious and avoid excessive speculation without supporting evidence. Let’s explore some examples:

Unexpected Finding: The deep learning model exhibited lower accuracy on a specific subset of the dataset, contrary to initial expectations.

Exploration: Upon further analysis, it was discovered that the misclassification predominantly occurred for a particular class of samples with unique characteristics. One possible explanation for this unexpected finding is the class imbalance issue, where the dataset has significantly fewer samples for that particular class. This imbalance may have resulted in insufficient training data, hindering the model’s ability to accurately classify those samples.

Alternative Interpretation: Another alternative explanation could be the presence of inherent noise or ambiguity within the data subset. It is possible that the features extracted from these samples were inherently more challenging to differentiate, leading to lower accuracy. This highlights the need for further investigation and refinement of the model architecture to improve its performance on this specific subset.

Contradictory Finding: The sentiment analysis model performed exceptionally well on a benchmark dataset but showed reduced accuracy on real-world social media data.

Exploration: The contradiction between the model’s performance on benchmark datasets and real-world social media data warrants further investigation. One possible reason for this disparity could be the linguistic complexities and informal language prevalent in social media posts. The model may struggle to accurately interpret slang, sarcasm, or context-specific expressions, leading to decreased accuracy in sentiment analysis.

Alternative Interpretation: Another alternative explanation could be the presence of bias in the training data. The benchmark datasets might not adequately represent the diverse range of language patterns and sentiments found in real-world social media data. This bias could result in a performance gap between controlled datasets and more dynamic and unpredictable real-world data.

In both examples, it is important to acknowledge unexpected or contradictory findings and explore potential explanations based on available evidence. However, it is crucial to exercise caution and avoid excessive speculation without supporting evidence. Further analysis, experimentation, or data collection may be necessary to validate and provide more concrete explanations for unexpected or contradictory findings.

By discussing unexpected or contradictory findings and providing possible explanations or alternative interpretations, you demonstrate a scientific and inquisitive approach to your research. This also allows other researchers to critically evaluate the results and contribute to the ongoing discourse.

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation, it is important to explain the broader implications of your findings for your field of study and beyond. This involves discussing how your research contributes to theory, practice, or policy and highlighting potential practical applications and recommendations that arise from your analysis. Let’s explore some examples:

Example 1: Research in Artificial Intelligence Ethics

Implications: The findings of the study shed light on the ethical considerations and challenges associated with the increasing use of AI technologies in decision-making systems. The research highlights the need for transparent and explainable AI models to ensure accountability and prevent biased outcomes. Furthermore, the study emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration between computer scientists, ethicists, and policymakers to develop guidelines and regulations that promote responsible AI development and deployment.

Contribution: This research contributes to the growing field of AI ethics by providing empirical evidence and insights into the ethical implications of AI technologies. It informs the development of ethical frameworks, guidelines, and policies that address the societal impact of AI and fosters the responsible use of AI in various domains such as healthcare, finance, and criminal justice.

Practical Applications and Recommendations: The findings underscore the importance of implementing explainable AI models in critical decision-making systems, such as loan approvals, hiring processes, and autonomous vehicles. Policymakers and organizations should establish regulatory frameworks that ensure transparency, fairness, and accountability in AI systems. Additionally, interdisciplinary collaboration should be encouraged to foster ongoing dialogue and exchange of knowledge among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the field of AI ethics.

Example 2: Research in Cloud Computing

Implications: The study identifies the potential risks and vulnerabilities in cloud computing systems, emphasizing the need for robust security measures to protect sensitive data. The research findings underscore the significance of ensuring data integrity, confidentiality, and availability in cloud storage and processing environments. Furthermore, the study highlights the importance of continuous monitoring and proactive detection of security breaches to prevent data breaches and unauthorized access.

Contribution: This research contributes to the field of cloud computing security by providing a comprehensive analysis of potential risks and vulnerabilities. It offers insights into the development of improved security measures and protocols for safeguarding data in cloud environments. The findings contribute to the ongoing efforts to enhance the security and reliability of cloud computing systems for individuals, organizations, and governments.

Practical Applications and Recommendations: The research findings have practical implications for cloud service providers, enterprises, and individuals utilizing cloud computing services. The study recommends implementing robust encryption techniques, multi-factor authentication, and intrusion detection systems to strengthen the security posture of cloud systems. Additionally, organizations should establish incident response plans and conduct regular security audits to identify and mitigate potential vulnerabilities in their cloud infrastructure.

By discussing the implications and significance of your findings, you highlight the broader impact of your research in the domain and beyond. Explaining how your research contributes to theory, practice, or policy demonstrates its practical relevance and potential for positive change. Additionally, discussing potential practical applications and offering recommendations based on your analysis provides actionable insights that can inform decision-making and guide future research and implementation efforts.

This blog post has provided an outline for writing the discussion and analysis section of a PhD or Post Graduate dissertation. We have discussed several key points that should be addressed in this section and provided examples from different domains to illustrate their application.

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  • Dissertation

What Is a Dissertation? | Guide, Examples, & Template

Structure of a Dissertation

A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program.

Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you’ve ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating to know where to begin.

Your department likely has guidelines related to how your dissertation should be structured. When in doubt, consult with your supervisor.

You can also download our full dissertation template in the format of your choice below. The template includes a ready-made table of contents with notes on what to include in each chapter, easily adaptable to your department’s requirements.

Download Word template Download Google Docs template

  • In the US, a dissertation generally refers to the collection of research you conducted to obtain a PhD.
  • In other countries (such as the UK), a dissertation often refers to the research you conduct to obtain your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

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Table of contents

Dissertation committee and prospectus process, how to write and structure a dissertation, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your dissertation, free checklist and lecture slides.

When you’ve finished your coursework, as well as any comprehensive exams or other requirements, you advance to “ABD” (All But Dissertation) status. This means you’ve completed everything except your dissertation.

Prior to starting to write, you must form your committee and write your prospectus or proposal . Your committee comprises your adviser and a few other faculty members. They can be from your own department, or, if your work is more interdisciplinary, from other departments. Your committee will guide you through the dissertation process, and ultimately decide whether you pass your dissertation defense and receive your PhD.

Your prospectus is a formal document presented to your committee, usually orally in a defense, outlining your research aims and objectives and showing why your topic is relevant . After passing your prospectus defense, you’re ready to start your research and writing.

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See an example

example discussion section of a dissertation

The structure of your dissertation depends on a variety of factors, such as your discipline, topic, and approach. Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an overall argument to support a central thesis , with chapters organized around different themes or case studies.

However, hard science and social science dissertations typically include a review of existing works, a methodology section, an analysis of your original research, and a presentation of your results , presented in different chapters.

Dissertation examples

We’ve compiled a list of dissertation examples to help you get started.

  • Example dissertation #1: Heat, Wildfire and Energy Demand: An Examination of Residential Buildings and Community Equity (a dissertation by C. A. Antonopoulos about the impact of extreme heat and wildfire on residential buildings and occupant exposure risks).
  • Example dissertation #2: Exploring Income Volatility and Financial Health Among Middle-Income Households (a dissertation by M. Addo about income volatility and declining economic security among middle-income households).
  • Example dissertation #3: The Use of Mindfulness Meditation to Increase the Efficacy of Mirror Visual Feedback for Reducing Phantom Limb Pain in Amputees (a dissertation by N. S. Mills about the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on the relationship between mirror visual feedback and the pain level in amputees with phantom limb pain).

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you. In some cases, your acknowledgements are part of a preface.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150 to 300 words long. Though this may seem very short, it’s one of the most important parts of your dissertation, because it introduces your work to your audience.

Your abstract should:

  • State your main topic and the aims of your research
  • Describe your methods
  • Summarize your main results
  • State your conclusions

Read more about abstracts

The table of contents lists all of your chapters, along with corresponding subheadings and page numbers. This gives your reader an overview of your structure and helps them easily navigate your document.

Remember to include all main parts of your dissertation in your table of contents, even the appendices. It’s easy to generate a table automatically in Word if you used heading styles. Generally speaking, you only include level 2 and level 3 headings, not every subheading you included in your finished work.

Read more about tables of contents

While not usually mandatory, it’s nice to include a list of figures and tables to help guide your reader if you have used a lot of these in your dissertation. It’s easy to generate one of these in Word using the Insert Caption feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

Similarly, if you have used a lot of abbreviations (especially industry-specific ones) in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

In addition to the list of abbreviations, if you find yourself using a lot of highly specialized terms that you worry will not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary. Here, alphabetize the terms and include a brief description or definition.

Read more about glossaries

The introduction serves to set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance. It tells the reader what to expect in the rest of your dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving the background information needed to contextualize your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of your research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your research questions and objectives
  • Outline the flow of the rest of your work

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant. By the end, the reader should understand the what, why, and how of your research.

Read more about introductions

A formative part of your research is your literature review . This helps you gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic.

Literature reviews encompass:

  • Finding relevant sources (e.g., books and journal articles)
  • Assessing the credibility of your sources
  • Critically analyzing and evaluating each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g., themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps) to strengthen your overall point

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing sources. Your literature review should have a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear justification for your own research. It may aim to:

  • Address a gap in the literature or build on existing knowledge
  • Take a new theoretical or methodological approach to your topic
  • Propose a solution to an unresolved problem or advance one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework. Here, you define and analyze the key theories, concepts, and models that frame your research.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to critically assess its credibility. Your methodology section should accurately report what you did, as well as convince your reader that this was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • The overall research approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative ) and research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment )
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Any tools and materials you used (e.g., computer programs, lab equipment)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses , or themes, but avoid including any subjective or speculative interpretation here.

Your results section should:

  • Concisely state each relevant result together with relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Briefly state how the result relates to the question or whether the hypothesis was supported
  • Report all results that are relevant to your research questions , including any that did not meet your expectations.

Additional data (including raw numbers, full questionnaires, or interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix. You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results. Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is your opportunity to explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research question. Here, interpret your results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. Refer back to relevant source material to show how your results fit within existing research in your field.

Some guiding questions include:

  • What do your results mean?
  • Why do your results matter?
  • What limitations do the results have?

If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your dissertation’s conclusion should concisely answer your main research question, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your central argument and emphasizing what your research has contributed to the field.

In some disciplines, the conclusion is just a short section preceding the discussion section, but in other contexts, it is the final chapter of your work. Here, you wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you found, with recommendations for future research and concluding remarks.

It’s important to leave the reader with a clear impression of why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known? Why is your research necessary for the future of your field?

Read more about conclusions

It is crucial to include a reference list or list of works cited with the full details of all the sources that you used, in order to avoid plagiarism. Be sure to choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your dissertation. Each style has strict and specific formatting requirements.

Common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA , but which style you use is often set by your department or your field.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

Your dissertation should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents such as interview transcripts or survey questions can be added as appendices, rather than adding them to the main body.

Read more about appendices

Making sure that all of your sections are in the right place is only the first step to a well-written dissertation. Don’t forget to leave plenty of time for editing and proofreading, as grammar mistakes and sloppy spelling errors can really negatively impact your work.

Dissertations can take up to five years to write, so you will definitely want to make sure that everything is perfect before submitting. You may want to consider using a professional dissertation editing service , AI proofreader or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect prior to submitting.

After your written dissertation is approved, your committee will schedule a defense. Similarly to defending your prospectus, dissertation defenses are oral presentations of your work. You’ll present your dissertation, and your committee will ask you questions. Many departments allow family members, friends, and other people who are interested to join as well.

After your defense, your committee will meet, and then inform you whether you have passed. Keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality; most committees will have resolved any serious issues with your work with you far prior to your defense, giving you ample time to fix any problems.

As you write your dissertation, you can use this simple checklist to make sure you’ve included all the essentials.

Checklist: Dissertation

My title page includes all information required by my university.

I have included acknowledgements thanking those who helped me.

My abstract provides a concise summary of the dissertation, giving the reader a clear idea of my key results or arguments.

I have created a table of contents to help the reader navigate my dissertation. It includes all chapter titles, but excludes the title page, acknowledgements, and abstract.

My introduction leads into my topic in an engaging way and shows the relevance of my research.

My introduction clearly defines the focus of my research, stating my research questions and research objectives .

My introduction includes an overview of the dissertation’s structure (reading guide).

I have conducted a literature review in which I (1) critically engage with sources, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing research, (2) discuss patterns, themes, and debates in the literature, and (3) address a gap or show how my research contributes to existing research.

I have clearly outlined the theoretical framework of my research, explaining the theories and models that support my approach.

I have thoroughly described my methodology , explaining how I collected data and analyzed data.

I have concisely and objectively reported all relevant results .

I have (1) evaluated and interpreted the meaning of the results and (2) acknowledged any important limitations of the results in my discussion .

I have clearly stated the answer to my main research question in the conclusion .

I have clearly explained the implications of my conclusion, emphasizing what new insight my research has contributed.

I have provided relevant recommendations for further research or practice.

If relevant, I have included appendices with supplemental information.

I have included an in-text citation every time I use words, ideas, or information from a source.

I have listed every source in a reference list at the end of my dissertation.

I have consistently followed the rules of my chosen citation style .

I have followed all formatting guidelines provided by my university.

Congratulations!

The end is in sight—your dissertation is nearly ready to submit! Make sure it's perfectly polished with the help of a Scribbr editor.

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  • Example of a dissertation abstract
  • Figure and Table Lists | Word Instructions, Template & Examples
  • How to Write a Discussion Section | Tips & Examples
  • How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal
  • How to Write a Results Section | Tips & Examples
  • How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Conclusion
  • How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction
  • How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples
  • How to Write Recommendations in Research | Examples & Tips
  • List of Abbreviations | Example, Template & Best Practices
  • Operationalization | A Guide with Examples, Pros & Cons
  • Prize-Winning Thesis and Dissertation Examples
  • Purpose and structure of an advisory report
  • Relevance of Your Dissertation Topic | Criteria & Tips
  • Research Paper Appendix | Example & Templates
  • Shorten your abstract or summary
  • Theoretical Framework Example for a Thesis or Dissertation
  • Thesis & Dissertation Acknowledgements | Tips & Examples
  • Thesis & Dissertation Database Examples
  • Thesis & Dissertation Title Page | Free Templates & Examples
  • What is a Dissertation Preface? | Definition & Examples
  • What is a Glossary? | Definition, Templates, & Examples
  • What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips
  • What Is a Theoretical Framework? | Guide to Organizing
  • What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples

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Writing your Dissertation:  Results and Discussion

When writing a dissertation or thesis, the results and discussion sections can be both the most interesting as well as the most challenging sections to write.

You may choose to write these sections separately, or combine them into a single chapter, depending on your university’s guidelines and your own preferences.

There are advantages to both approaches.

Writing the results and discussion as separate sections allows you to focus first on what results you obtained and set out clearly what happened in your experiments and/or investigations without worrying about their implications.This can focus your mind on what the results actually show and help you to sort them in your head.

However, many people find it easier to combine the results with their implications as the two are closely connected.

Check your university’s requirements carefully before combining the results and discussions sections as some specify that they must be kept separate.

Results Section

The Results section should set out your key experimental results, including any statistical analysis and whether or not the results of these are significant.

You should cover any literature supporting your interpretation of significance. It does not have to include everything you did, particularly for a doctorate dissertation. However, for an undergraduate or master's thesis, you will probably find that you need to include most of your work.

You should write your results section in the past tense: you are describing what you have done in the past.

Every result included MUST have a method set out in the methods section. Check back to make sure that you have included all the relevant methods.

Conversely, every method should also have some results given so, if you choose to exclude certain experiments from the results, make sure that you remove mention of the method as well.

If you are unsure whether to include certain results, go back to your research questions and decide whether the results are relevant to them. It doesn’t matter whether they are supportive or not, it’s about relevance. If they are relevant, you should include them.

Having decided what to include, next decide what order to use. You could choose chronological, which should follow the methods, or in order from most to least important in the answering of your research questions, or by research question and/or hypothesis.

You also need to consider how best to present your results: tables, figures, graphs, or text. Try to use a variety of different methods of presentation, and consider your reader: 20 pages of dense tables are hard to understand, as are five pages of graphs, but a single table and well-chosen graph that illustrate your overall findings will make things much clearer.

Make sure that each table and figure has a number and a title. Number tables and figures in separate lists, but consecutively by the order in which you mention them in the text. If you have more than about two or three, it’s often helpful to provide lists of tables and figures alongside the table of contents at the start of your dissertation.

Summarise your results in the text, drawing on the figures and tables to illustrate your points.

The text and figures should be complementary, not repeat the same information. You should refer to every table or figure in the text. Any that you don’t feel the need to refer to can safely be moved to an appendix, or even removed.

Make sure that you including information about the size and direction of any changes, including percentage change if appropriate. Statistical tests should include details of p values or confidence intervals and limits.

While you don’t need to include all your primary evidence in this section, you should as a matter of good practice make it available in an appendix, to which you should refer at the relevant point.

For example:

Details of all the interview participants can be found in Appendix A, with transcripts of each interview in Appendix B.

You will, almost inevitably, find that you need to include some slight discussion of your results during this section. This discussion should evaluate the quality of the results and their reliability, but not stray too far into discussion of how far your results support your hypothesis and/or answer your research questions, as that is for the discussion section.

See our pages: Analysing Qualitative Data and Simple Statistical Analysis for more information on analysing your results.

Discussion Section

This section has four purposes, it should:

  • Interpret and explain your results
  • Answer your research question
  • Justify your approach
  • Critically evaluate your study

The discussion section therefore needs to review your findings in the context of the literature and the existing knowledge about the subject.

You also need to demonstrate that you understand the limitations of your research and the implications of your findings for policy and practice. This section should be written in the present tense.

The Discussion section needs to follow from your results and relate back to your literature review . Make sure that everything you discuss is covered in the results section.

Some universities require a separate section on recommendations for policy and practice and/or for future research, while others allow you to include this in your discussion, so check the guidelines carefully.

Starting the Task

Most people are likely to write this section best by preparing an outline, setting out the broad thrust of the argument, and how your results support it.

You may find techniques like mind mapping are helpful in making a first outline; check out our page: Creative Thinking for some ideas about how to think through your ideas. You should start by referring back to your research questions, discuss your results, then set them into the context of the literature, and then into broader theory.

This is likely to be one of the longest sections of your dissertation, and it’s a good idea to break it down into chunks with sub-headings to help your reader to navigate through the detail.

Fleshing Out the Detail

Once you have your outline in front of you, you can start to map out how your results fit into the outline.

This will help you to see whether your results are over-focused in one area, which is why writing up your research as you go along can be a helpful process. For each theme or area, you should discuss how the results help to answer your research question, and whether the results are consistent with your expectations and the literature.

The Importance of Understanding Differences

If your results are controversial and/or unexpected, you should set them fully in context and explain why you think that you obtained them.

Your explanations may include issues such as a non-representative sample for convenience purposes, a response rate skewed towards those with a particular experience, or your own involvement as a participant for sociological research.

You do not need to be apologetic about these, because you made a choice about them, which you should have justified in the methodology section. However, you do need to evaluate your own results against others’ findings, especially if they are different. A full understanding of the limitations of your research is part of a good discussion section.

At this stage, you may want to revisit your literature review, unless you submitted it as a separate submission earlier, and revise it to draw out those studies which have proven more relevant.

Conclude by summarising the implications of your findings in brief, and explain why they are important for researchers and in practice, and provide some suggestions for further work.

You may also wish to make some recommendations for practice. As before, this may be a separate section, or included in your discussion.

The results and discussion, including conclusion and recommendations, are probably the most substantial sections of your dissertation. Once completed, you can begin to relax slightly: you are on to the last stages of writing!

Continue to: Dissertation: Conclusion and Extras Writing your Methodology

See also: Writing a Literature Review Writing a Research Proposal Academic Referencing What Is the Importance of Using a Plagiarism Checker to Check Your Thesis?

Grad Coach

Dissertation Structure & Layout 101: How to structure your dissertation, thesis or research project.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) Reviewed By: David Phair (PhD) | July 2019

So, you’ve got a decent understanding of what a dissertation is , you’ve chosen your topic and hopefully you’ve received approval for your research proposal . Awesome! Now its time to start the actual dissertation or thesis writing journey.

To craft a high-quality document, the very first thing you need to understand is dissertation structure . In this post, we’ll walk you through the generic dissertation structure and layout, step by step. We’ll start with the big picture, and then zoom into each chapter to briefly discuss the core contents. If you’re just starting out on your research journey, you should start with this post, which covers the big-picture process of how to write a dissertation or thesis .

Dissertation structure and layout - the basics

*The Caveat *

In this post, we’ll be discussing a traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout, which is generally used for social science research across universities, whether in the US, UK, Europe or Australia. However, some universities may have small variations on this structure (extra chapters, merged chapters, slightly different ordering, etc).

So, always check with your university if they have a prescribed structure or layout that they expect you to work with. If not, it’s safe to assume the structure we’ll discuss here is suitable. And even if they do have a prescribed structure, you’ll still get value from this post as we’ll explain the core contents of each section.  

Overview: S tructuring a dissertation or thesis

  • Acknowledgements page
  • Abstract (or executive summary)
  • Table of contents , list of figures and tables
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Literature review
  • Chapter 3: Methodology
  • Chapter 4: Results
  • Chapter 5: Discussion
  • Chapter 6: Conclusion
  • Reference list

As I mentioned, some universities will have slight variations on this structure. For example, they want an additional “personal reflection chapter”, or they might prefer the results and discussion chapter to be merged into one. Regardless, the overarching flow will always be the same, as this flow reflects the research process , which we discussed here – i.e.:

  • The introduction chapter presents the core research question and aims .
  • The literature review chapter assesses what the current research says about this question.
  • The methodology, results and discussion chapters go about undertaking new research about this question.
  • The conclusion chapter (attempts to) answer the core research question .

In other words, the dissertation structure and layout reflect the research process of asking a well-defined question(s), investigating, and then answering the question – see below.

A dissertation's structure reflect the research process

To restate that – the structure and layout of a dissertation reflect the flow of the overall research process . This is essential to understand, as each chapter will make a lot more sense if you “get” this concept. If you’re not familiar with the research process, read this post before going further.

Right. Now that we’ve covered the big picture, let’s dive a little deeper into the details of each section and chapter. Oh and by the way, you can also grab our free dissertation/thesis template here to help speed things up.

The title page of your dissertation is the very first impression the marker will get of your work, so it pays to invest some time thinking about your title. But what makes for a good title? A strong title needs to be 3 things:

  • Succinct (not overly lengthy or verbose)
  • Specific (not vague or ambiguous)
  • Representative of the research you’re undertaking (clearly linked to your research questions)

Typically, a good title includes mention of the following:

  • The broader area of the research (i.e. the overarching topic)
  • The specific focus of your research (i.e. your specific context)
  • Indication of research design (e.g. quantitative , qualitative , or  mixed methods ).

For example:

A quantitative investigation [research design] into the antecedents of organisational trust [broader area] in the UK retail forex trading market [specific context/area of focus].

Again, some universities may have specific requirements regarding the format and structure of the title, so it’s worth double-checking expectations with your institution (if there’s no mention in the brief or study material).

Dissertations stacked up

Acknowledgements

This page provides you with an opportunity to say thank you to those who helped you along your research journey. Generally, it’s optional (and won’t count towards your marks), but it is academic best practice to include this.

So, who do you say thanks to? Well, there’s no prescribed requirements, but it’s common to mention the following people:

  • Your dissertation supervisor or committee.
  • Any professors, lecturers or academics that helped you understand the topic or methodologies.
  • Any tutors, mentors or advisors.
  • Your family and friends, especially spouse (for adult learners studying part-time).

There’s no need for lengthy rambling. Just state who you’re thankful to and for what (e.g. thank you to my supervisor, John Doe, for his endless patience and attentiveness) – be sincere. In terms of length, you should keep this to a page or less.

Abstract or executive summary

The dissertation abstract (or executive summary for some degrees) serves to provide the first-time reader (and marker or moderator) with a big-picture view of your research project. It should give them an understanding of the key insights and findings from the research, without them needing to read the rest of the report – in other words, it should be able to stand alone .

For it to stand alone, your abstract should cover the following key points (at a minimum):

  • Your research questions and aims – what key question(s) did your research aim to answer?
  • Your methodology – how did you go about investigating the topic and finding answers to your research question(s)?
  • Your findings – following your own research, what did do you discover?
  • Your conclusions – based on your findings, what conclusions did you draw? What answers did you find to your research question(s)?

So, in much the same way the dissertation structure mimics the research process, your abstract or executive summary should reflect the research process, from the initial stage of asking the original question to the final stage of answering that question.

In practical terms, it’s a good idea to write this section up last , once all your core chapters are complete. Otherwise, you’ll end up writing and rewriting this section multiple times (just wasting time). For a step by step guide on how to write a strong executive summary, check out this post .

Need a helping hand?

example discussion section of a dissertation

Table of contents

This section is straightforward. You’ll typically present your table of contents (TOC) first, followed by the two lists – figures and tables. I recommend that you use Microsoft Word’s automatic table of contents generator to generate your TOC. If you’re not familiar with this functionality, the video below explains it simply:

If you find that your table of contents is overly lengthy, consider removing one level of depth. Oftentimes, this can be done without detracting from the usefulness of the TOC.

Right, now that the “admin” sections are out of the way, its time to move on to your core chapters. These chapters are the heart of your dissertation and are where you’ll earn the marks. The first chapter is the introduction chapter – as you would expect, this is the time to introduce your research…

It’s important to understand that even though you’ve provided an overview of your research in your abstract, your introduction needs to be written as if the reader has not read that (remember, the abstract is essentially a standalone document). So, your introduction chapter needs to start from the very beginning, and should address the following questions:

  • What will you be investigating (in plain-language, big picture-level)?
  • Why is that worth investigating? How is it important to academia or business? How is it sufficiently original?
  • What are your research aims and research question(s)? Note that the research questions can sometimes be presented at the end of the literature review (next chapter).
  • What is the scope of your study? In other words, what will and won’t you cover ?
  • How will you approach your research? In other words, what methodology will you adopt?
  • How will you structure your dissertation? What are the core chapters and what will you do in each of them?

These are just the bare basic requirements for your intro chapter. Some universities will want additional bells and whistles in the intro chapter, so be sure to carefully read your brief or consult your research supervisor.

If done right, your introduction chapter will set a clear direction for the rest of your dissertation. Specifically, it will make it clear to the reader (and marker) exactly what you’ll be investigating, why that’s important, and how you’ll be going about the investigation. Conversely, if your introduction chapter leaves a first-time reader wondering what exactly you’ll be researching, you’ve still got some work to do.

Now that you’ve set a clear direction with your introduction chapter, the next step is the literature review . In this section, you will analyse the existing research (typically academic journal articles and high-quality industry publications), with a view to understanding the following questions:

  • What does the literature currently say about the topic you’re investigating?
  • Is the literature lacking or well established? Is it divided or in disagreement?
  • How does your research fit into the bigger picture?
  • How does your research contribute something original?
  • How does the methodology of previous studies help you develop your own?

Depending on the nature of your study, you may also present a conceptual framework towards the end of your literature review, which you will then test in your actual research.

Again, some universities will want you to focus on some of these areas more than others, some will have additional or fewer requirements, and so on. Therefore, as always, its important to review your brief and/or discuss with your supervisor, so that you know exactly what’s expected of your literature review chapter.

Dissertation writing

Now that you’ve investigated the current state of knowledge in your literature review chapter and are familiar with the existing key theories, models and frameworks, its time to design your own research. Enter the methodology chapter – the most “science-ey” of the chapters…

In this chapter, you need to address two critical questions:

  • Exactly HOW will you carry out your research (i.e. what is your intended research design)?
  • Exactly WHY have you chosen to do things this way (i.e. how do you justify your design)?

Remember, the dissertation part of your degree is first and foremost about developing and demonstrating research skills . Therefore, the markers want to see that you know which methods to use, can clearly articulate why you’ve chosen then, and know how to deploy them effectively.

Importantly, this chapter requires detail – don’t hold back on the specifics. State exactly what you’ll be doing, with who, when, for how long, etc. Moreover, for every design choice you make, make sure you justify it.

In practice, you will likely end up coming back to this chapter once you’ve undertaken all your data collection and analysis, and revise it based on changes you made during the analysis phase. This is perfectly fine. Its natural for you to add an additional analysis technique, scrap an old one, etc based on where your data lead you. Of course, I’m talking about small changes here – not a fundamental switch from qualitative to quantitative, which will likely send your supervisor in a spin!

You’ve now collected your data and undertaken your analysis, whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. In this chapter, you’ll present the raw results of your analysis . For example, in the case of a quant study, you’ll present the demographic data, descriptive statistics, inferential statistics , etc.

Typically, Chapter 4 is simply a presentation and description of the data, not a discussion of the meaning of the data. In other words, it’s descriptive, rather than analytical – the meaning is discussed in Chapter 5. However, some universities will want you to combine chapters 4 and 5, so that you both present and interpret the meaning of the data at the same time. Check with your institution what their preference is.

Now that you’ve presented the data analysis results, its time to interpret and analyse them. In other words, its time to discuss what they mean, especially in relation to your research question(s).

What you discuss here will depend largely on your chosen methodology. For example, if you’ve gone the quantitative route, you might discuss the relationships between variables . If you’ve gone the qualitative route, you might discuss key themes and the meanings thereof. It all depends on what your research design choices were.

Most importantly, you need to discuss your results in relation to your research questions and aims, as well as the existing literature. What do the results tell you about your research questions? Are they aligned with the existing research or at odds? If so, why might this be? Dig deep into your findings and explain what the findings suggest, in plain English.

The final chapter – you’ve made it! Now that you’ve discussed your interpretation of the results, its time to bring it back to the beginning with the conclusion chapter . In other words, its time to (attempt to) answer your original research question s (from way back in chapter 1). Clearly state what your conclusions are in terms of your research questions. This might feel a bit repetitive, as you would have touched on this in the previous chapter, but its important to bring the discussion full circle and explicitly state your answer(s) to the research question(s).

Dissertation and thesis prep

Next, you’ll typically discuss the implications of your findings? In other words, you’ve answered your research questions – but what does this mean for the real world (or even for academia)? What should now be done differently, given the new insight you’ve generated?

Lastly, you should discuss the limitations of your research, as well as what this means for future research in the area. No study is perfect, especially not a Masters-level. Discuss the shortcomings of your research. Perhaps your methodology was limited, perhaps your sample size was small or not representative, etc, etc. Don’t be afraid to critique your work – the markers want to see that you can identify the limitations of your work. This is a strength, not a weakness. Be brutal!

This marks the end of your core chapters – woohoo! From here on out, it’s pretty smooth sailing.

The reference list is straightforward. It should contain a list of all resources cited in your dissertation, in the required format, e.g. APA , Harvard, etc.

It’s essential that you use reference management software for your dissertation. Do NOT try handle your referencing manually – its far too error prone. On a reference list of multiple pages, you’re going to make mistake. To this end, I suggest considering either Mendeley or Zotero. Both are free and provide a very straightforward interface to ensure that your referencing is 100% on point. I’ve included a simple how-to video for the Mendeley software (my personal favourite) below:

Some universities may ask you to include a bibliography, as opposed to a reference list. These two things are not the same . A bibliography is similar to a reference list, except that it also includes resources which informed your thinking but were not directly cited in your dissertation. So, double-check your brief and make sure you use the right one.

The very last piece of the puzzle is the appendix or set of appendices. This is where you’ll include any supporting data and evidence. Importantly, supporting is the keyword here.

Your appendices should provide additional “nice to know”, depth-adding information, which is not critical to the core analysis. Appendices should not be used as a way to cut down word count (see this post which covers how to reduce word count ). In other words, don’t place content that is critical to the core analysis here, just to save word count. You will not earn marks on any content in the appendices, so don’t try to play the system!

Time to recap…

And there you have it – the traditional dissertation structure and layout, from A-Z. To recap, the core structure for a dissertation or thesis is (typically) as follows:

  • Acknowledgments page

Most importantly, the core chapters should reflect the research process (asking, investigating and answering your research question). Moreover, the research question(s) should form the golden thread throughout your dissertation structure. Everything should revolve around the research questions, and as you’ve seen, they should form both the start point (i.e. introduction chapter) and the endpoint (i.e. conclusion chapter).

I hope this post has provided you with clarity about the traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below, or feel free to get in touch with us. Also, be sure to check out the rest of the  Grad Coach Blog .

example discussion section of a dissertation

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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Dissertation and thesis defense 101

36 Comments

ARUN kumar SHARMA

many thanks i found it very useful

Derek Jansen

Glad to hear that, Arun. Good luck writing your dissertation.

Sue

Such clear practical logical advice. I very much needed to read this to keep me focused in stead of fretting.. Perfect now ready to start my research!

hayder

what about scientific fields like computer or engineering thesis what is the difference in the structure? thank you very much

Tim

Thanks so much this helped me a lot!

Ade Adeniyi

Very helpful and accessible. What I like most is how practical the advice is along with helpful tools/ links.

Thanks Ade!

Aswathi

Thank you so much sir.. It was really helpful..

You’re welcome!

Jp Raimundo

Hi! How many words maximum should contain the abstract?

Karmelia Renatee

Thank you so much 😊 Find this at the right moment

You’re most welcome. Good luck with your dissertation.

moha

best ever benefit i got on right time thank you

Krishnan iyer

Many times Clarity and vision of destination of dissertation is what makes the difference between good ,average and great researchers the same way a great automobile driver is fast with clarity of address and Clear weather conditions .

I guess Great researcher = great ideas + knowledge + great and fast data collection and modeling + great writing + high clarity on all these

You have given immense clarity from start to end.

Alwyn Malan

Morning. Where will I write the definitions of what I’m referring to in my report?

Rose

Thank you so much Derek, I was almost lost! Thanks a tonnnn! Have a great day!

yemi Amos

Thanks ! so concise and valuable

Kgomotso Siwelane

This was very helpful. Clear and concise. I know exactly what to do now.

dauda sesay

Thank you for allowing me to go through briefly. I hope to find time to continue.

Patrick Mwathi

Really useful to me. Thanks a thousand times

Adao Bundi

Very interesting! It will definitely set me and many more for success. highly recommended.

SAIKUMAR NALUMASU

Thank you soo much sir, for the opportunity to express my skills

mwepu Ilunga

Usefull, thanks a lot. Really clear

Rami

Very nice and easy to understand. Thank you .

Chrisogonas Odhiambo

That was incredibly useful. Thanks Grad Coach Crew!

Luke

My stress level just dropped at least 15 points after watching this. Just starting my thesis for my grad program and I feel a lot more capable now! Thanks for such a clear and helpful video, Emma and the GradCoach team!

Judy

Do we need to mention the number of words the dissertation contains in the main document?

It depends on your university’s requirements, so it would be best to check with them 🙂

Christine

Such a helpful post to help me get started with structuring my masters dissertation, thank you!

Simon Le

Great video; I appreciate that helpful information

Brhane Kidane

It is so necessary or avital course

johnson

This blog is very informative for my research. Thank you

avc

Doctoral students are required to fill out the National Research Council’s Survey of Earned Doctorates

Emmanuel Manjolo

wow this is an amazing gain in my life

Paul I Thoronka

This is so good

Tesfay haftu

How can i arrange my specific objectives in my dissertation?

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  • How to Write a Results Section | Tips & Examples

How to Write a Results Section | Tips & Examples

Published on 27 October 2016 by Bas Swaen . Revised on 25 October 2022 by Tegan George.

A results section is where you report the main findings of the data collection and analysis you conducted for your thesis or dissertation . You should report all relevant results concisely and objectively, in a logical order. Don’t include subjective interpretations of why you found these results or what they mean – any evaluation should be saved for the discussion section .

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Table of contents

How to write a results section, reporting quantitative research results, reporting qualitative research results, results vs discussion vs conclusion, checklist: research results, frequently asked questions about results sections.

When conducting research, it’s important to report the results of your study prior to discussing your interpretations of it. This gives your reader a clear idea of exactly what you found and keeps the data itself separate from your subjective analysis.

Here are a few best practices:

  • Your results should always be written in the past tense.
  • While the length of this section depends on how much data you collected and analysed, it should be written as concisely as possible.
  • Only include results that are directly relevant to answering your research questions . Avoid speculative or interpretative words like ‘appears’ or ‘implies’.
  • If you have other results you’d like to include, consider adding them to an appendix or footnotes.
  • Always start out with your broadest results first, and then flow into your more granular (but still relevant) ones. Think of it like a shoe shop: first discuss the shoes as a whole, then the trainers, boots, sandals, etc.

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

If you conducted quantitative research , you’ll likely be working with the results of some sort of statistical analysis .

Your results section should report the results of any statistical tests you used to compare groups or assess relationships between variables . It should also state whether or not each hypothesis was supported.

The most logical way to structure quantitative results is to frame them around your research questions or hypotheses. For each question or hypothesis, share:

  • A reminder of the type of analysis you used (e.g., a two-sample t test or simple linear regression ). A more detailed description of your analysis should go in your methodology section.
  • A concise summary of each relevant result, both positive and negative. This can include any relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., means and standard deviations ) as well as inferential statistics (e.g., t scores, degrees of freedom , and p values ). Remember, these numbers are often placed in parentheses.
  • A brief statement of how each result relates to the question, or whether the hypothesis was supported. You can briefly mention any results that didn’t fit with your expectations and assumptions, but save any speculation on their meaning or consequences for your discussion  and conclusion.

A note on tables and figures

In quantitative research, it’s often helpful to include visual elements such as graphs, charts, and tables , but only if they are directly relevant to your results. Give these elements clear, descriptive titles and labels so that your reader can easily understand what is being shown. If you want to include any other visual elements that are more tangential in nature, consider adding a figure and table list .

As a rule of thumb:

  • Tables are used to communicate exact values, giving a concise overview of various results
  • Graphs and charts are used to visualise trends and relationships, giving an at-a-glance illustration of key findings

Don’t forget to also mention any tables and figures you used within the text of your results section. Summarise or elaborate on specific aspects you think your reader should know about rather than merely restating the same numbers already shown.

Example of using figures in the results section

Figure 1: Intention to donate to environmental organisations based on social distance from impact of environmental damage.

In qualitative research , your results might not all be directly related to specific hypotheses. In this case, you can structure your results section around key themes or topics that emerged from your analysis of the data.

For each theme, start with general observations about what the data showed. You can mention:

  • Recurring points of agreement or disagreement
  • Patterns and trends
  • Particularly significant snippets from individual responses

Next, clarify and support these points with direct quotations. Be sure to report any relevant demographic information about participants. Further information (such as full transcripts , if appropriate) can be included in an appendix .

‘I think that in role-playing games, there’s more attention to character design, to world design, because the whole story is important and more attention is paid to certain game elements […] so that perhaps you do need bigger teams of creative experts than in an average shooter or something.’

Responses suggest that video game consumers consider some types of games to have more artistic potential than others.

Your results section should objectively report your findings, presenting only brief observations in relation to each question, hypothesis, or theme.

It should not  speculate about the meaning of the results or attempt to answer your main research question . Detailed interpretation of your results is more suitable for your discussion section , while synthesis of your results into an overall answer to your main research question is best left for your conclusion .

I have completed my data collection and analyzed the results.

I have included all results that are relevant to my research questions.

I have concisely and objectively reported each result, including relevant descriptive statistics and inferential statistics .

I have stated whether each hypothesis was supported or refuted.

I have used tables and figures to illustrate my results where appropriate.

All tables and figures are correctly labelled and referred to in the text.

There is no subjective interpretation or speculation on the meaning of the results.

You've finished writing up your results! Use the other checklists to further improve your thesis.

The results chapter of a thesis or dissertation presents your research results concisely and objectively.

In quantitative research , for each question or hypothesis , state:

  • The type of analysis used
  • Relevant results in the form of descriptive and inferential statistics
  • Whether or not the alternative hypothesis was supported

In qualitative research , for each question or theme, describe:

  • Recurring patterns
  • Significant or representative individual responses
  • Relevant quotations from the data

Don’t interpret or speculate in the results chapter.

Results are usually written in the past tense , because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.

The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.

In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.

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  1. How to Write a Discussion Section

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    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 ...

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    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.

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