Discussion

The discussion is arguably the most difficult section to write. The reason for this is that it is predominantly interpretative and discursive. In this section, you will examine your results in relation to your research questions or hypotheses and, more broadly, in relation to existing research. This will enable you to assess the contribution of your research to the field, and to make suggestions for further research where appropriate.

To ensure that you adopt the right approach to the writing of the discussion section, you need to remember that you are constructing an argument. The structure and development of your argument will be driven by the points you wish to make, so it is not possible to provide a template for your argument. However, it is possible to identify certain elements of the discussion section. Please note that this is not an obligatory list: you do not need to include all of these elements and you may present them in a different order.

  • A reminder of the purpose or focus of the study
  • A summary of the results
  • An examination of the results in relation to existing research
  • An indication of the importance of the findings
  • An explanation of the results, particularly those that do not support, or only partially support, your hypotheses
  • Limitations of the study, particularly those that restrict the generalisability of the results
  • Generalisations that can be made from the results
  • Implications or practical applications of the study
  • Recommendations for further research

Examples

A reminder of the purpose or focus of the study
The present study investigates ….
The aim of this dissertation was to ….
This study set out to assess the impact of ….

A summary of the results
This study has shown that …
The main finding of this thesis is that ….
This study demonstrates that ….

An examination of the results in relation to existing research
The results are broadly consistent with ….
These findings concur with other studies that show ….
Our observations that … are not new.
In contrast to some reports in the literature, there were few differences between …

An indication of the importance of the findings
This is the first study, to our knowledge, to examine ….
These results describe for the first time ….
Only one other study, to our knowledge, has examined ….

An explanation of the results, particularly those that do not support, or only partially support, your hypotheses
Unexpectedly, X and Y were shown to be ….
This finding was unexpected and suggests ….
The most likely explanation of the negative finding is ….

Limitations of the study, particularly those that restrict the generalisability of the results
The study has a number of possible limitations.
The significance of this finding is unclear.
The main limitation of this study is that ….
The above analysis does not enable us to determine ….

Generalisations that can be made from the results
Although this study was conducted in one region, the results should be generalisable to other areas.
The findings suggest that this approach would also be beneficial in other sectors.

Implications or practical applications of the study
This study reinforces the recommendation for the introduction of preventative programmes ….
These findings can contribute considerably to the development and evaluation of detection techniques ….
The results are of direct practical relevance.
An implication of these findings is that ….

Recommendations for further research
Future larger studies with statistical analyses … would be of interest.
Several questions remain to be resolved; in particular ….
More research in this area is necessary before ….
Further studies are required to establish ….