Research Discussion – How to Write it

Time to read: 6 Minutes
Research-Discussion-Definition

Research discussion is placed toward the end of the research paper. You should use this chapter to describe, evaluate, and interpret the findings of the study.

Learn how to write the research discussion section in this guide.

Research Discussion – In a Nutshell

  • The research discussion critically analyzes and interprets the results of your study.
  • The interpretation of the results, the implication of the study, and the limitations, and recommendations are the main sections of the research discussion.
  • The research discussion is one of the final parts of your research paper and ties everything back to the research question.

Definition: Research discussion

The research discussion comes just before the conclusion. It informs readers about what they can learn from the experiment or research, and it also offers context for the research results.

In the discussion chapter, you can interpret the data included in the research results section of the study.

Key findings in the research discussion

You should start the research discussion by summarizing the key findings of the study.

Instead of repeating all the data you have reported, you should write a concise statement that answers the main research question.

The summary should only cover one paragraph.

Exemplary Formulations:

  • The data suggests that…
  • The study results indicate that…
  • The study shows a correlation between…
  • The results support the hypothesis that…

Interpretations in the research discussion

After stating your research results, you need to explain to your readers why the results are significant to the study. You should show how they answer the research question.

Here are some methods of interpreting the results of the research:

  • Determine if the data shows relationships like correlations
  • Explain whether the data collected supported your hypothesis
  • Use previous research and theories to put your findings into context
  • Evaluate the unexpected findings
  • Find other explanations for your findings

Exemplary Formulations:

  • Contrary to the hypothesized association…
  • In contrast to the claims by Jacob (1992)….
  • In line with the hypothesis…
  • While the results might suggest x, findings by similar studies suggest that a more realistic explanation is y…

Implications in the research discussion

One of the biggest mistakes people make when writing research discussions is failing to indicate how the research results fill a gap in the field. You should show how the results relate back to the scholarly works that were used in the study.

You can even simply show that the results reinforce the current edge of knowledge. It is worth noting that the research gap needs to also be mentioned in the introduction, as this will make the study logical.

The discussion chapter will help to show readers what the research has contributed to the field.2

To write this section of the research discussion effectively, you can ask the following questions:

  • Are there any practical implications?
  • Do the study results add further evidence to support existing scientific consensus?
  • Do the results further the comprehension of the topic?
  • How do the study results advance knowledge in the field?

Exemplary formulations:

  • The results do not fit with the theory that…
  • The results provide further evidence that…
  • Past studies have mostly focused on x, but our results indicate that y.
  • The results have advanced our knowledge on…
  • This study provides further understanding of the relationship between…
  • The results challenge the scientific consensus that…

Limitations of the research discussion

Next, in the research discussion chapter, you have to point out any limitations in the study.

It is important to avoid apologizing or undermining your study, even if it contains significant limitations. You should simply state the limitations in an objective way so that the reader gets a complete understanding of the study results.1

Some common limitations include bias, threats to internal validity or external validity, and confounding variables that you couldn’t control in the study. You should only mention limitations that are relevant to the research objectives.

At the end of it all, reiterate why the study results are still valid and that they can be used to improve our understanding of the research question.

Exemplary formulations:

  • It is beyond the scope of this study to…
  • The team couldn’t get access to x, so the study couldn’t confirm that…
  • The generalizability of the study was impacted by…
  • The choice of methodology was limited by…
  • The reliability of the research results was limited by…

Recommendations in the research discussion

In this section of the research discussion, you should make recommendations for further research or practical implementations. It is common for researchers to make recommendations based on their limitations.

When giving recommendations, you should state exactly how future researchers can fill in the gaps in your study.

Exemplary formulations:

  • Our research opens up new avenues of research in…
  • Extra research is necessary to prove…
  • The study points out the need for…

Dos: Research discussion

  • Did you describe the research gap you intended to fill in the study?
  • Did you describe how the study is essential?
  • Did you discuss the results in the same sequence as the results section?
  • Did you use the present tense to write the research discussion chapter?
  • Did you explain how the study answers the research question?
  • Did you cover the limitations or weaknesses of your study?
  • Did you conclude with a paragraph that inspires readers to do further research?
  • Did you emphasize the credibility of your study?5

Don’ts: Research discussion

  • Do not undermine your research: State the limitations of your study objectively, and reiterate that your study results are still valid.1
  • Do not rewrite the research results section: You only need to state the most important results in the research discussions section.3
  • Do not add new information: All the data you use in the research discussion should be covered in the results chapter.3
  • Do not ignore the limitations of the study: Explaining the weaknesses of your study will give your readers a complete understanding of the results.1
  • Do not overstate the importance of the research: Readers will not take the study very seriously if you make overinflated claims about the study.1

FAQs

The research discussion covers the actual meaning of your study, as well as its implications in other areas of research.

You can also suggest improvements that can be made to further develop the concerns of your study.4

No, the research discussion interprets the results and answers the research question. On the other hand, the conclusion mostly summarizes the research paper.4

The main sections of the research discussion are:

  1. Interpretation of the results
  2. Implication of the study
  3. Limitations
  4. Recommendations3

No, the results chapter only covers the findings of the study. On the other hand, the research discussion interprets the results and provides recommendations.

Sources

1 PLOS. “How to Write Discussions and Conclusions. ” Accessed January 9, 2023. https://plos.org/resource/how-to-write-conclusions/.

2 Kayciebutler. “The 6 key parts in a powerful discussion section.” Butler SciComm. June 18, 2019. https://butlerscicomm.com/the-6-keys-to-a-powerful-discussion-section/.

3 Dunton, Rowan. “Discussion Section for Research Papers.” San José State University Writing Center.
Fall, 2021. https://www.sjsu.edu/writingcenter/docs/handouts/Discussion%20Section%20for%20Research%20Papers.pdf.

4 Enago Academy. “Discussion Vs. Conclusion: Know the Difference Before Drafting Manuscripts.” October 25, 2021. https://www.enago.com/academy/discussion-conclusion-know-difference-drafting-manuscript/.

5 Wordvice. “How to Write a Discussion Section for a Research Paper.”
October 12, 2022. https://blog.wordvice.com/research-writing-tips-editing-manuscript-discussion/.