Guide to Writing the Results and Discussion Sections of a Scientific Article

A good research paper has both qualities of good studies and good writing ( Bordage, 2001 ). In addition, a research paper must be clear, short, and effective when presenting the information in an organized structure with a logical manner ( Sandercock, 2013 ).

Guide to writing a science research manuscript e-book download

The results section is a section containing a description about the main findings of a research, whereas the discussion section interprets the results for readers and provides the significance of the findings. This section should not repeat the results section.

Some of the common reasons the results and discussion sections might cause reviewers to reject a manuscript are (Bordage, 2001)

  • confusing tables or figures
  • inconsistent or inaccurate data
  • potential variables that are not reported
  • over interpretation/under interpretation of the results

To avoid these problems, you can use an organized structure, such as outlines, points or subheadings, to write the results and discussion section. For the results, figures and tables must be clear so the readers understand the message (Hofmann, 2013).

In the discussion section, outline your thoughts to defend your research and to emphasize the significance of your research. Use good writing, clear argumentations, and logical explanations in this section to support your conclusion (Hofmann, 2013).

In this article, we provide tips and directions to construct a succinct and deeply informative results and discussion section.

How to Organize the Results Section

Since your results follow your method section, you’ll provide information about what you found from the methods you used, such as your research data. You may also include information about the measurement of your data, variables, treatments, and statistical analyses.

To start, organize your research data based on how important those are in relation to your research questions. This section should focus on showing important results that support or reject your research hypothesis. Include your least important data as supplemental materials when submitting to the journal.

The next step is to prioritize your research data based on importance – focusing heavily on the information that directly relates to your research questions using the subheadings. The organization of the subheadings (subheading organization information below) for the results section usually mirrors the methods section. It should follow a logical and chronological order.

Subheading organization

Subheadings within your results section are primarily going to detail major findings within each important experiment. And the first paragraph of your results section should be dedicated to your major findings (findings that answer your overall research question and lead to your conclusion) (Hofmann, 2013).

In the book “Writing in the Biological Sciences,” author Angelika Hofmann recommends you to structure your results subsection paragraphs as follows:

Each subheading may contain a combination of ( Bahadoran, 2019 ; Hofmann, 2013, pg. 62):

Decide on the best way to present your data — in the form of text, figures or tables (Hofmann, 2013).

Data or Results?

Sometimes we get confused about how to differentiate between data and results . Data are information that you collected from your research (Bahadoran, 2019).

Research data definition

Whereas, results are the texts presenting the meaning of your research data (Bahadoran, 2019).

Result definition

One mistake that some authors often make is to use text to direct the reader to find a specific table or figure without further explanation. This can confuse the readers when they interpret the meaning of the data completely different from what the authors had in mind. So, you should briefly explain your results to make your information clear for the readers.

Common Elements in Figures and Tables

Figures and tables present information about your research data visually. The use of these visual illustrations is necessary so the readers can summarize, compare, and interpret large data at a glance. You can use graphs or figures to compare groups or patterns. Whereas, tables are ideal to present large quantities of data and exact values.

Several elements are needed to create your figures and tables. These elements are important to sort your data based on groups (or treatments). It will be easier for the readers to see the similarities and differences among the groups.

When presenting your research data in the form of figures and tables, organize your data based on the steps of the research leading you into a conclusion.

Common elements of the figures (Bahadoran, 2019):

Figure example

Tables in the result section may contain several elements (Bahadoran, 2019):

Table example

Tips to Write the Result Section

How to Organize the Discussion Section

It’s not enough to use figures and tables in your result section to convince your readers about the importance of your findings. You need to support your result section by providing more explanation in the discussion section about what you found.

The discussion section is probably the most creative section of your paper in terms of telling a story about your research ( Ghasemi, 2019 ; Moore, 2016 ). In this section, based on your findings, you defend the answers to your research questions and create arguments to support your conclusions.

Below is a list of questions to guide you when organizing the structure of your discussion section ( Viera et al ., 2018 ):

Organizing the Discussion Section

The structure of the discussion section may be different from one paper to another, but it commonly has a beginning, middle-, and end- to the section.

Present the contents of your section from narrow context (your study) to broader context (your field of study) (Ghasemi, 2019).

Discussion section

One way to organize the structure of the discussion section is by dividing it into three parts (Ghasemi, 2019):

Another possible way to organize the discussion section is by using this structure (Viera et al ., 2018; Docherty, 1999 ):

Finally, a last option is structuring your discussion this way (Hofmann, 2013, pg. 104):

Remember, at the heart of the discussion section is presenting an interpretation of your major findings.

Tips to Write the Discussion Section

Aggarwal, R., & Sahni, P. (2018). The Results Section. In Reporting and Publishing Research in the Biomedical Sciences (pp. 21-38): Springer.

Bahadoran, Z., Mirmiran, P., Zadeh-Vakili, A., Hosseinpanah, F., & Ghasemi, A. (2019). The principles of biomedical scientific writing: Results. International journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 17(2).

Bordage, G. (2001). Reasons reviewers reject and accept manuscripts: the strengths and weaknesses in medical education reports. Academic medicine, 76(9), 889-896.

Cals, J. W., & Kotz, D. (2013). Effective writing and publishing scientific papers, part VI: discussion. Journal of clinical epidemiology, 66(10), 1064.

Docherty, M., & Smith, R. (1999). The case for structuring the discussion of scientific papers: Much the same as that for structuring abstracts. In: British Medical Journal Publishing Group.

Faber, J. (2017). Writing scientific manuscripts: most common mistakes. Dental press journal of orthodontics, 22(5), 113-117.

Fletcher, R. H., & Fletcher, S. W. (2018). The discussion section. In Reporting and Publishing Research in the Biomedical Sciences (pp. 39-48): Springer.

Ghasemi, A., Bahadoran, Z., Mirmiran, P., Hosseinpanah, F., Shiva, N., & Zadeh-Vakili, A. (2019). The Principles of Biomedical Scientific Writing: Discussion. International journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 17(3).

Hofmann, A. H. (2013). Writing in the biological sciences: a comprehensive resource for scientific communication . New York: Oxford University Press.

Kotz, D., & Cals, J. W. (2013). Effective writing and publishing scientific papers, part V: results. Journal of clinical epidemiology, 66(9), 945.

Mack, C. (2014). How to Write a Good Scientific Paper: Structure and Organization. Journal of Micro/ Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS, 13. doi:10.1117/1.JMM.13.4.040101

Moore, A. (2016). What's in a Discussion section? Exploiting 2‐dimensionality in the online world…. Bioessays, 38(12), 1185-1185.

Peat, J., Elliott, E., Baur, L., & Keena, V. (2013). Scientific writing: easy when you know how: John Wiley & Sons.

Sandercock, P. M. L. (2012). How to write and publish a scientific article. Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal, 45(1), 1-5.

Teo, E. K. (2016). Effective Medical Writing: The Write Way to Get Published. Singapore Medical Journal, 57(9), 523-523. doi:10.11622/smedj.2016156

Van Way III, C. W. (2007). Writing a scientific paper. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 22(6), 636-640.

Vieira, R. F., Lima, R. C. d., & Mizubuti, E. S. G. (2019). How to write the discussion section of a scientific article. Acta Scientiarum. Agronomy, 41.

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Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between results and discussion.

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.

Frequently asked questions: Dissertation

A dissertation prospectus or proposal describes what or who you plan to research for your dissertation. It delves into why, when, where, and how you will do your research, as well as helps you choose a type of research to pursue. You should also determine whether you plan to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.

It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives , ready to be approved by your supervisor or committee.

Note that some departments require a defense component, where you present your prospectus to your committee orally.

A thesis is typically written by students finishing up a bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Some educational institutions, particularly in the liberal arts, have mandatory theses, but they are often not mandatory to graduate from bachelor’s degrees. It is more common for a thesis to be a graduation requirement from a Master’s degree.

Even if not mandatory, you may want to consider writing a thesis if you:

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation should include the following:

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.

For a stronger dissertation conclusion , avoid including:

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

While it may be tempting to present new arguments or evidence in your thesis or disseration conclusion , especially if you have a particularly striking argument you’d like to finish your analysis with, you shouldn’t. Theses and dissertations follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the discussion section and results section .) The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

A theoretical framework can sometimes be integrated into a  literature review chapter , but it can also be included as its own chapter or section in your dissertation . As a rule of thumb, if your research involves dealing with a lot of complex theories, it’s a good idea to include a separate theoretical framework chapter.

A literature review and a theoretical framework are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work, a literature review critically evaluates existing research relating to your topic. You’ll likely need both in your dissertation .

While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work based on existing research, a conceptual framework allows you to draw your own conclusions, mapping out the variables you may use in your study and the interplay between them.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

In most styles, the title page is used purely to provide information and doesn’t include any images. Ask your supervisor if you are allowed to include an image on the title page before doing so. If you do decide to include one, make sure to check whether you need permission from the creator of the image.

Include a note directly beneath the image acknowledging where it comes from, beginning with the word “ Note .” (italicized and followed by a period). Include a citation and copyright attribution . Don’t title, number, or label the image as a figure , since it doesn’t appear in your main text.

Definitional terms often fall into the category of common knowledge , meaning that they don’t necessarily have to be cited. This guidance can apply to your thesis or dissertation glossary as well.

However, if you’d prefer to cite your sources , you can follow guidance for citing dictionary entries in MLA or APA style for your glossary.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, an index is a list of the contents of your work organized by page number.

The title page of your thesis or dissertation goes first, before all other content or lists that you may choose to include.

The title page of your thesis or dissertation should include your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date.

Glossaries are not mandatory, but if you use a lot of technical or field-specific terms, it may improve readability to add one to your thesis or dissertation. Your educational institution may also require them, so be sure to check their specific guidelines.

A glossary or “glossary of terms” is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. Your glossary only needs to include terms that your reader may not be familiar with, and is intended to enhance their understanding of your work.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, dictionaries are more general collections of words.

An abbreviation is a shortened version of an existing word, such as Dr. for Doctor. In contrast, an acronym uses the first letter of each word to create a wholly new word, such as UNESCO (an acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

As a rule of thumb, write the explanation in full the first time you use an acronym or abbreviation. You can then proceed with the shortened version. However, if the abbreviation is very common (like PC, USA, or DNA), then you can use the abbreviated version from the get-go.

Be sure to add each abbreviation in your list of abbreviations !

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation , you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

A list of abbreviations is a list of all the abbreviations that you used in your thesis or dissertation. It should appear at the beginning of your document, with items in alphabetical order, just after your table of contents .

Your list of tables and figures should go directly after your table of contents in your thesis or dissertation.

Lists of figures and tables are often not required, and aren’t particularly common. They specifically aren’t required for APA-Style, though you should be careful to follow their other guidelines for figures and tables .

If you have many figures and tables in your thesis or dissertation, include one may help you stay organized. Your educational institution may require them, so be sure to check their guidelines.

A list of figures and tables compiles all of the figures and tables that you used in your thesis or dissertation and displays them with the page number where they can be found.

The table of contents in a thesis or dissertation always goes between your abstract and your introduction .

You may acknowledge God in your dissertation acknowledgements , but be sure to follow academic convention by also thanking the members of academia, as well as family, colleagues, and friends who helped you.

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

In a thesis or dissertation, the discussion is an in-depth exploration of the results, going into detail about the meaning of your findings and citing relevant sources to put them in context.

The conclusion is more shorter and more general: it concisely answers your main research question and makes recommendations based on your overall findings.

In the discussion , you explore the meaning and relevance of your research results , explaining how they fit with existing research and theory. Discuss:

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

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

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

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

Don’t interpret or speculate in the results chapter.

To automatically insert a table of contents in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:

Make sure to update your table of contents if you move text or change headings. To update, simply right click and select Update Field.

All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents . That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them.

The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list .

Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract in the table of contents.

The abstract appears on its own page in the thesis or dissertation , after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 200–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.

In a thesis or dissertation, the acknowledgements should usually be no longer than one page. There is no minimum length.

The acknowledgements are generally included at the very beginning of your thesis , directly after the title page and before the abstract .

Yes, it’s important to thank your supervisor(s) in the acknowledgements section of your thesis or dissertation .

Even if you feel your supervisor did not contribute greatly to the final product, you must acknowledge them, if only for a very brief thank you. If you do not include your supervisor, it may be seen as a snub.

In the acknowledgements of your thesis or dissertation, you should first thank those who helped you academically or professionally, such as your supervisor, funders, and other academics.

Then you can include personal thanks to friends, family members, or anyone else who supported you during the process.

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Research Skills

Results, discussion, and conclusion, results/findings.

The Results (or Findings) section follows the Methods and precedes the Discussion section. This is where the authors provide the data collected during their study. That data can sometimes be difficult to understand because it is often quite technical. Do not let this intimidate you; you will discover the significance of the results next.

The Discussion section follows the Results and precedes the Conclusions and Recommendations section. It is here that the authors indicate the significance of their results. They answer the question, “Why did we get the results we did?” This section provides logical explanations for the results from the study. Those explanations are often reached by comparing and contrasting the results to prior studies’ findings, so citations to the studies discussed in the Literature Review generally reappear here. This section also usually discusses the limitations of the study and speculates on what the results say about the problem(s) identified in the research question(s). This section is very important because it is finally moving towards an argument. Since the researchers interpret their results according to theoretical underpinnings in this section, there is more room for difference of opinion. The way the authors interpret their results may be quite different from the way you would interpret them or the way another researcher would interpret them.

Note: Some articles collapse the Discussion and Conclusion sections together under a single heading (usually “Conclusion”). If you don’t see a separate Discussion section, don’t worry.  Instead, look in the nearby sections for the types of information described in the paragraph above.

When you first skim an article, it may be useful to go straight to the Conclusion and see if you can figure out what the thesis is since it is usually in this final section. The research gap identified in the introduction indicates what the researchers wanted to look at; what did they claim, ultimately, when they completed their research? What did it show them—and what are they showing us—about the topic? Did they get the results they expected? Why or why not? The thesis is not a sweeping proclamation; rather, it is likely a very reasonable and conditional claim.

Nearly every research article ends by inviting other scholars to continue the work by saying that more research needs to be done on the matter. However, do not mistake this directive for the thesis; it’s a convention. Often, the authors provide specific details about future possible studies that could or should be conducted in order to make more sense of their own study’s conclusions.

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How to write the Results and Discussion

Michael P. Dosch CRNA PhD University of Detroit Mercy - Nurse Anesthesia This site is .

How to write the results and discussion

Michael P. Dosch CRNA PhD May 2022

Be happy! You're getting there. Just a small amount of writing to go from this point. The results and discussion are (relatively) cut and dried. But be sure to run them by all committee members and your chair before publishing or creating the poster, to make sure you haven't overlooked anything. And make sure they are congruent with your research purpose, objectives, hypothesis, and methods.

"Who's in, who's out"

Here's a sample "Table 1":

Table 1 Characteristics of the sample

Why is Table 1 in most studies?

Shows that demographic variables were evenly balanced in the process of random allocation of subjects to experimental and control groups.

Components of Results section

Results should answer main hypothesis or research question(s)

Tables and Graphs


Choosing figure types

Components of the Discussion section

Look forward

Here's a sample Abstract.


Reading list

Sacred Heart University Library

Organizing Academic Research Papers: 8. The Discussion

The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and describe the significance of your findings in light of what was already known about the research problem being investigated, and to explain any new understanding or fresh insights about the problem after you've taken the findings into consideration. The discussion will always connect to the introduction by way of the research questions or hypotheses you posed and the literature you reviewed, but it does not simply repeat or rearrange the introduction; the discussion should always explain how your study has moved the reader's understanding of the research problem forward from where you left them at the end of the introduction.

Importance of a Good Discussion

This section is often considered the most important part of a research paper because it most effectively demonstrates your ability as a researcher to think critically about an issue, to develop creative solutions to problems based on the findings, and to formulate a deeper, more profound understanding of the research problem you are studying.

The discussion section is where you explore the underlying meaning of your research , its possible implications in other areas of study, and the possible improvements that can be made in order to further develop the concerns of your research.

This is the section where you need to present the importance of your study and how it may be able to contribute to and/or fill existing gaps in the field. If appropriate, the discussion section is also where you state how the findings from your study revealed new gaps in the literature that had not been previously exposed or adequately described.

This part of the paper is not strictly governed by objective reporting of information but, rather, it is where you can engage in creative thinking about issues through evidence-based interpretation of findings. This is where you infuse your results with meaning.

Kretchmer, Paul. Fourteen Steps to Writing to Writing an Effective Discussion Section . San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  General Rules

These are the general rules you should adopt when composing your discussion of the results :

II.  The Content

The content of the discussion section of your paper most often includes :

III. Organization and Structure

Keep the following sequential points in mind as you organize and write the discussion section of your paper:

IV.  Overall Objectives

The objectives of your discussion section should include the following: I.  Reiterate the Research Problem/State the Major Findings

Briefly reiterate for your readers the research problem or problems you are investigating and the methods you used to investigate them, then move quickly to describe the major findings of the study. You should write a direct, declarative, and succinct proclamation of the study results.

II.  Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why They are Important

No one has thought as long and hard about your study as you have. Systematically explain the meaning of the findings and why you believe they are important. After reading the discussion section, you want the reader to think about the results [“why hadn’t I thought of that?”]. You don’t want to force the reader to go through the paper multiple times to figure out what it all means. Begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most important finding first.

III.  Relate the Findings to Similar Studies

No study is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to other previously published research. The discussion section should relate your study findings to those of other studies, particularly if questions raised by previous studies served as the motivation for your study, the findings of other studies support your findings [which strengthens the importance of your study results], and/or they point out how your study differs from other similar studies. IV.  Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings

It is important to remember that the purpose of research is to discover and not to prove . When writing the discussion section, you should carefully consider all possible explanations for the study results, rather than just those that fit your prior assumptions or biases.

V.  Acknowledge the Study’s Limitations

It is far better for you to identify and acknowledge your study’s limitations than to have them pointed out by your professor! Describe the generalizability of your results to other situations, if applicable to the method chosen, then describe in detail problems you encountered in the method(s) you used to gather information. Note any unanswered questions or issues your study did not address, and.... VI.  Make Suggestions for Further Research

Although your study may offer important insights about the research problem, other questions related to the problem likely remain unanswered. Moreover, some unanswered questions may have become more focused because of your study. You should make suggestions for further research in the discussion section.

NOTE: Besides the literature review section, the preponderance of references to sources in your research paper are usually found in the discussion section . A few historical references may be helpful for perspective but most of the references should be relatively recent and included to aid in the interpretation of your results and/or linked to similar studies. If a study that you cited disagrees with your findings, don't ignore it--clearly explain why the study's findings differ from yours.

V.  Problems to Avoid

Analyzing vs. Summarizing. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University; Discussion . The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Hess, Dean R. How to Write an Effective Discussion. Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004); Kretchmer, Paul. Fourteen Steps to Writing to Writing an Effective Discussion Section . San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008; The Lab Report . University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Summary: Using it Wisely . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Schafer, Mickey S. Writing the Discussion . Writing in Psychology course syllabus. University of Florida; Yellin, Linda L. A Sociology Writer's Guide. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2009.

Writing Tip

Don’t Overinterpret the Results!

Interpretation is a subjective exercise. Therefore, be careful that you do not read more into the findings than can be supported by the evidence you've gathered. Remember that the data are the data: nothing more, nothing less.

Another Writing Tip

Don't Write Two Results Sections!

One of the most common mistakes that you can make when discussing the results of your study is to present a superficial interpretation of the findings that more or less re-states the results section of your paper. Obviously, you must refer to your results when discussing them, but focus on the interpretion of those results, not just the data itself.

Azar, Beth. Discussing Your Findings.  American Psychological Association gradPSYCH Magazine (January 2006)

Yet Another Writing Tip

Avoid Unwarranted Speculation!

The discussion section should remain focused on the findings of your study. For example, if you studied the impact of foreign aid on increasing levels of education among the poor in Bangladesh, it's generally not appropriate to speculate about how your findings might apply to populations in other countries without drawing from existing studies to support your claim. If you feel compelled to speculate, be certain that you clearly identify your comments as speculation or as a suggestion for where further research is needed. Sometimes your professor will encourage you to expand the discussion in this way, while others don’t care what your opinion is beyond your efforts to interpret the data.

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How to Separate the Results and Discussion Sections of Your Manuscript

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Scientific manuscripts are published to communicate your research work to the scientific community. A manuscript published in a reputed journal also serves as a validation of the work done by you. The body of an original research article is typically divided into the introduction, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. This division allows the authors to present their work in an organized manner. However, guidelines may differ across journals. Some journals may require the results and discussion as one combined section whereas others may require them as separate sections.

Both formats have their own advantages as well as disadvantages. The combined approach discusses results immediately after presenting them, thus saving readers the time they would have otherwise spent on switching between sections. In contrast, when the two sections are separated, there is continuity in the discussion and the reader can view and analyze the complete study in one go as opposed to reading results in between in a combined section. However, the reader would have to go back to the results section to correlate the discussion. Both the methods are acceptable, and there is no right or wrong. Here we discuss the effective separation of the two sections.

Tips to Effectively Separate the Results and Discussion

Keep in mind the following points when you want to separate the results and discussion in your manuscript:

Communicate Your Results Effectively

The results section is the focus of your research paper . This section represents the outcome of your work. A well-written result is essential to generate interest in your findings.

Your results should include:

Do not represent the same data twice. Choose between a table or a figure to represent your data. Avoid using both.

Write an Impactful Discussion Section

Only presenting the results is not sufficient. The author needs to explain the significance of the results. The discussion should narrate a story , include explanations for observed phenomena, with supporting studies to justify/validate the findings.

Keep in mind the following points while writing your discussion:

We hope these tips help you effectively separate your results and discussion sections. Do you have any more tips to contribute to our list? Please add your ideas to our comments section below.

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In the results section of your academic paper, you present what you found when you conducted your analyses, whereas in your discussion section you explain what your results mean and connect them to prior research studies. In other words, the results section is where you describe what you did, and the discussion sections is where you describe what this means for the field.

The results section should include the findings of your study without any interpretations or implications that you can draw from those results. Here, you present the findings using text supported by tables, charts, graphs and other figures. For example, in the following excerpt from article by Tolksdorf, Crawshaw, & Rohlfing, (2021), you can see how directly they report the results of their study.

Contrary to our hypothesis, there was no main effect of time, F(3, ∞) = 0.638, p = 0.166, and no significant interaction between experimental condition and time, F(3, ∞) = 0.427, p = 0.133, indicating that no significant changes in children's social referencing behavior were found in either group over the entire course of the sessions, including all learning and test situations. However, there was a highly significant main effect of condition F(1, 16.99) = 49.08, p < 0.001, demonstrating that children in the human condition displayed social referencing significantly more often than their peers interacting with the robotic partner. (p. 6)

Further in the results section the authors use a table to illustrate their results.

Table 1 presents an overview of the different interactional contexts in which children’s social referencing was situated during the long-term interaction. (p. 6)

Results and discussion section

As you can see, the results section is very direct and reports the outcome from the statistical analyses conducted. Tables and figures can help break up this section, as it can be very technical. In addition, using visuals in this way makes the results more accessible to readers.

The discussion section, which follows the results section, will include an explanation of the results. In this section, you should connect your results to previous research studies, make explicit connections back to your research question(s) and include an explanation about how the results might be generalized. This is where you make an argument that supports your main conclusions. Unlike the results section, the discussion section is where you interpret your results and explain what they mean, draw implications from your results and articulate why they matter, discuss any limitations of your results, and provide recommendations that can be made from these results. The following excerpts from the Tolksdorf, Crawshaw, & Rohlfing, (2021), help to further illustrate the difference between the results and discussions sections.

Contrary to our prior assumption, we could not observe a significant decrease in children’s social referencing in both groups despite the repetition of the interaction and increasing familiarity with the situation. Whereas, there appeared to be a slight decreasing tendency from the second to the third learning situation in each group, this trend may have been slowed down by the subsequent novel situation of the retention task, which again increased children’s reliance on the caregiver despite increasing familiarity with the interaction partner. (p. 8)

The large difference in children’s social referencing behavior between an interaction with the human vs. robotic partner is striking. One explanation for our findings is that a human partner naturally responds to various social cues (Kahle and Argyle, 2014) from the child in ways that social robots are not yet capable of, given their present technological limitations. (p. 8)

Notice how the authors provide a critical analysis of their results and offer explanations for what they found. In the second excerpt, observe how they tie an explanation for their result to prior research conducted in the field. Focusing on the results and discussion sections of different articles, and highlighting language that differentiates these sections from each other, can really help you to write your academic papers effectively.

Although the length and structure of the discussion section across research papers varies, there are some commonalities in the structure and content of these sections. Below is a suggested outline for a discussion section.

Paragraph 1.

In this paragraph provide a broad overview of the importance of your study. This is where you should restate your research topic. Avoid just repeating what you included in the results section. Include the main research findings that answer your primary research question(s).

Paragraph 2–3.

This section should be a critical analysis of your major findings. Here, you should articulate your interpretations of those findings. You should include whether these were the findings you expected and also whether they support any hypothesis you had. Provide explanations for the significance of the results and for any unexpected findings. Link your primary findings back to prior research studies. This section would also include any implications of your results. 

Paragraph 4.

Here you would include a discussion of any secondary findings that are of note. Additionally, you would also include any limitations of your study and how future studies might mitigate these limitations. The excerpt below, from the Tolksdorf, Crawshaw, & Rohlfing, (2021) study, provides an example of this.

We would also like to point to the possibility that the study design and procedure could have impacted our results. Adapting the design of the interaction from the robot experimental setting to be suitably comparable when taking place with a human interaction partner required us to make certain decisions. (p. 9)

Paragraph 5.

This should include the conclusion of the discussion section, and future directions. In this section you could include any new research questions that arose as a result of your study. Implications from your findings for the field should also be discussed in this paragraph.

There are a number of common errors researchers make when writing the results and discussion sections. The following checklist can help you avoid these common mistakes.

 Do not include interpretations or explanations of the findings in your results section. Remember that in the results section you are telling the reader what you found and in the discussion section you are telling them what it means and why it matters.

 Do not exclude negative findings from your results section. Although the temptation is to report only positive findings, negative findings are important to other researchers.

 You should not introduce any findings in your discussion section that were not included in the results section. These two sections should align, and you should discuss and explain only what you have already reported.

 Don’t restate results in the discussion paper without an explanation or critical analysis of what they mean and why they matter.

 Don’t forget to go back and check that these two sections align, and the flow from the results section to the discussion section is smooth and clear.

Tolksdorf NF, Crawshaw CE and Rohlfing KJ (2021) Comparing the Effects of a Different Social Partner (Social Robot vs. Human) on Children's Social Referencing in Interaction. Front. Educ. 5:569615. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2020.569615

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How to Write the Results/Findings Section in Research

results and discussion in a research paper

What is the research paper Results section and what does it do?

The Results section of a scientific research paper represents the core findings of a study derived from the methods applied to gather and analyze information. It presents these findings in a logical sequence without bias or interpretation from the author, setting up the reader for later interpretation and evaluation in the Discussion section. A major purpose of the Results section is to break down the data into sentences that show its significance to the research question(s).

The Results section appears third in the section sequence in most scientific papers. It follows the presentation of the Methods and Materials and is presented before the Discussion section —although the Results and Discussion are presented together in many journals. This section answers the basic question “What did you find in your research?”

What is included in the Results section?

The Results section should include the findings of your study and ONLY the findings of your study. The findings include:

If the scope of the study is broad, or if you studied a variety of variables, or if the methodology used yields a wide range of different results, the author should present only those results that are most relevant to the research question stated in the Introduction section .

As a general rule, any information that does not present the direct findings or outcome of the study should be left out of this section. Unless the journal requests that authors combine the Results and Discussion sections, explanations and interpretations should be omitted from the Results.

How are the results organized?

The best way to organize your Results section is “logically.” One logical and clear method of organizing research results is to provide them alongside the research questions—within each research question, present the type of data that addresses that research question.

Let’s look at an example. Your research question is based on a survey among patients who were treated at a hospital and received postoperative care. Let’s say your first research question is:

results and discussion in a research paper

“What do hospital patients over age 55 think about postoperative care?”

This can actually be represented as a heading within your Results section, though it might be presented as a statement rather than a question:

Attitudes towards postoperative care in patients over the age of 55

Now present the results that address this specific research question first. In this case, perhaps a table illustrating data from a survey. Likert items can be included in this example. Tables can also present standard deviations, probabilities, correlation matrices, etc.

Following this, present a content analysis, in words, of one end of the spectrum of the survey or data table. In our example case, start with the POSITIVE survey responses regarding postoperative care, using descriptive phrases. For example:

“Sixty-five percent of patients over 55 responded positively to the question “ Are you satisfied with your hospital’s postoperative care ?” (Fig. 2)

Include other results such as subcategory analyses. The amount of textual description used will depend on how much interpretation of tables and figures is necessary and how many examples the reader needs in order to understand the significance of your research findings.

Next, present a content analysis of another part of the spectrum of the same research question, perhaps the NEGATIVE or NEUTRAL responses to the survey. For instance:

  “As Figure 1 shows, 15 out of 60 patients in Group A responded negatively to Question 2.”

After you have assessed the data in one figure and explained it sufficiently, move on to your next research question. For example:

  “How does patient satisfaction correspond to in-hospital improvements made to postoperative care?”

results and discussion in a research paper

This kind of data may be presented through a figure or set of figures (for instance, a paired T-test table).

Explain the data you present, here in a table, with a concise content analysis:

“The p-value for the comparison between the before and after groups of patients was .03% (Fig. 2), indicating that the greater the dissatisfaction among patients, the more frequent the improvements that were made to postoperative care.”

Let’s examine another example of a Results section from a study on plant tolerance to heavy metal stress . In the Introduction section, the aims of the study are presented as “determining the physiological and morphological responses of Allium cepa L. towards increased cadmium toxicity” and “evaluating its potential to accumulate the metal and its associated environmental consequences.” The Results section presents data showing how these aims are achieved in tables alongside a content analysis, beginning with an overview of the findings:

“Cadmium caused inhibition of root and leave elongation, with increasing effects at higher exposure doses (Fig. 1a-c).”

The figure containing this data is cited in parentheses. Note that this author has combined three graphs into one single figure. Separating the data into separate graphs focusing on specific aspects makes it easier for the reader to assess the findings, and consolidating this information into one figure saves space and makes it easy to locate the most relevant results.

results and discussion in a research paper

Following this overall summary, the relevant data in the tables is broken down into greater detail in text form in the Results section.

Captioning and Referencing Tables and Figures

Tables and figures are central components of your Results section and you need to carefully think about the most effective way to use graphs and tables to present your findings . Therefore, it is crucial to know how to write strong figure captions and to refer to them within the text of the Results section.

The most important advice one can give here as well as throughout the paper is to check the requirements and standards of the journal to which you are submitting your work. Every journal has its own design and layout standards, which you can find in the author instructions on the target journal’s website. Perusing a journal’s published articles will also give you an idea of the proper number, size, and complexity of your figures.

Regardless of which format you use, the figures should be placed in the order they are referenced in the Results section and be as clear and easy to understand as possible. If there are multiple variables being considered (within one or more research questions), it can be a good idea to split these up into separate figures. Subsequently, these can be referenced and analyzed under separate headings and paragraphs in the text.

To create a caption, consider the research question being asked and change it into a phrase. For instance, if one question is “Which color did participants choose?”, the caption might be “Color choice by participant group.” Or in our last research paper example, where the question was “What is the concentration of cadmium in different parts of the onion after 14 days?” the caption reads:

 “Fig. 1(a-c): Mean concentration of Cd determined in (a) bulbs, (b) leaves, and (c) roots of onions after a 14-day period.”

Steps for Composing the Results Section

Because each study is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to designing a strategy for structuring and writing the section of a research paper where findings are presented. The content and layout of this section will be determined by the specific area of research, the design of the study and its particular methodologies, and the guidelines of the target journal and its editors. However, the following steps can be used to compose the results of most scientific research studies and are essential for researchers who are new to preparing a manuscript for publication or who need a reminder of how to construct the Results section.

Step 1 : Consult the guidelines or instructions that the target journal or publisher provides authors and read research papers it has published, especially those with similar topics, methods, or results to your study.

Step 2 : Consider your research results in relation to the journal’s requirements and catalogue your results.

Step 3 : Design figures and tables to present and illustrate your data.

Step 4 : Draft your Results section using the findings and figures you have organized.

Step 5 : Review your draft; edit and revise until it reports results exactly as you would like to have them reported to your readers.

One excellent option is to use a professional English proofreading and editing service  such as Wordvice, including our paper editing service . With hundreds of qualified editors from dozens of scientific fields, Wordvice has helped thousands of authors revise their manuscripts and get accepted into their target journals. Read more about the  proofreading and editing process  before proceeding with getting academic editing services and manuscript editing services for your manuscript.

As the representation of your study’s data output, the Results section presents the core information in your research paper. By writing with clarity and conciseness and by highlighting and explaining the crucial findings of their study, authors increase the impact and effectiveness of their research manuscripts.

For more articles and videos on writing your research manuscript, visit Wordvice’s  Resources  page.

Wordvice Resources

When you choose to publish with PLOS, your research makes an impact. Make your work accessible to all, without restrictions, and accelerate scientific discovery with options like preprints and published peer review that make your work more Open.

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:

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. 

results and discussion in a research paper

Questions to ask yourself:

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:

results and discussion in a research paper

Writing Tips

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

What to do

What not to do


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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