purpose of the discussion section of a research paper

How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper

The discussion section of a research paper should tie together your arguments and present your findings to the reader. The goal of this post is to help you write an engaging, professional discussion that will leave readers with something they can take away from your work. This article includes examples and tips for ensuring that your writing in this section is clear, concise, compelling, and polished.

What is a Research Paper?

Research papers are a common type of academic writing assignment that is often given in college. They can be assigned as part of a class, like an English literature course or independent research projects. The goal is to write enough details about the topic without going overboard so that readers have all they need to understand it fully and not feel lost.

It can be used as the foundation for an argumentative essay or to analyze and explore a subject in depth.

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What is the Purpose of the Discussion Section of a Research Paper?

Discussions sections are meant to go into more depth about a topic that can be done in the introduction. It would be best if you used this section to present your argument and make an attempt at convincing readers that it is accurate or valid based on whatever evidence you have provided.

Any discussion aims to provide enough information for someone who did not write it to understand the topic. While it should go beyond simply listing details, you do not need to present a complete picture if your evidence does not allow for broad strokes. It would be best if you convinced readers that your argument holds weight. Therefore, be clear about whether or not you agree with it and provide compelling evidence that supports broader knowledge and your point of view.

Writing the Discussion Section of a Research Paper

Once you interpret and summarize previously published research, use your own words to write the study findings to avoid plagiarism. If your presentation is lengthy, consider using subheadings to clarify the main points, so your target audience understands. The use of active voice and first-person are strongly preferred.

Try to avoid repeating what was said in the introduction or elsewhere in the body of the paper. Instead, discuss topics at length and use details from your results to back up your claims. For example, if you used a particular method, provide specific examples and explain its relevance in more detail than was done previously.

The purpose of a discussion section is to use your study/experiment results to infer conclusions about the topic at hand. It would help if you used this opportunity to examine your findings and extrapolate what it all means critically.

What Are the Parts of a Discussion in a Research Paper?

The discussion section of your paper should include the following:

1. A summary of Your Findings and Results

The summary should be brief, and you should aim at providing a general idea of what your study is all about. Summarize your main findings in a way that makes sense to the reader. It helps them understand why certain conclusions can be drawn from the data.

Tie your key findings into previous studies as well as your argument. Show how your study differs from others and how you were able to perform new experiments.

How do you think the results of your paper contribute to a larger framework? Include figures and tables if necessary, especially if they are integral to helping you make conclusions. Such a discussion aims to provide information that clarifies why your research is essential, what can be learned from it, and how it adds to the existing knowledge on this topic.

Systematically explain how your findings contribute to the existing body of research. Mention a few historical references as a context to your research.

Have a thorough understanding of what you found out and why it matters so that you can detail the crucial points to justify why this research matters.

For example, if you’re looking into how eating food impacts heart rate, you can mention which foods were tested and their respective effects on the body. You can also extrapolate your findings, suggesting that those who want to reduce their heart rates should avoid eating certain types of food.

2. A Discussion of Results/Findings In Relation to Other Studies

Be sure to discuss the study limitations and explain why your findings may or may not be valid. For example, are there some factors that you haven’t considered that might have influenced the outcome? Were your data based on a small sample size with limited demographic diversity? These are just some of the factors that you need to keep in mind when considering your findings. Mention both the strengths and limitations of your research. Limitations are the most frequently neglected aspects of scientific research but must not be omitted.

3. A Review of the Literature

The literature review section is where you provide an overall analysis of the research that has been done on this topic. It means going over existing studies and pointing out what they have in common, as well as what makes them different from each other. This should be more than just a simple summary, but instead an analysis of past research that’s insightful and clear to its readers. Be sure to explain which parts of the research are relevant and why.

The following is an example of one way you could structure this section:

A review of the literature discusses three key points that inform the present study: 1) how other researchers have viewed this issue in the past, 2) how our research adds to what is already known about the topic, and 3) how we can use our results to guide future research efforts.

Example:

Our findings seem to indicate that there is a link between interest-based motivation and academic achievement when compared across grades. It follows that as students get older, interest-based motivation plays a more significant role in academic achievement. Also, the relationship between these two variables is more substantial for students identified by their teachers as gifted or talented.

We conclude with an overview of how our results add to existing research and possible future avenues of study. This section also summarizes our major findings and leaves the reader with a sense of how the present study contributed to existing knowledge in this area.

When writing your research paper, consider using the 5Ws and H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How) as a guide for organizing your thoughts. You can apply these questions to your own research paper outline by considering the following:

What is this study about?

Where and when did it take place?

Who was involved in this study?

How does one explain the findings of the study (i.e., what are possible explanations)?

Why did the researchers perform this study? What was their goal?

4. Interpretation and Implications of Your Discussion

Your interpretation section is where you explain what the results mean. It’s an opportunity to provide a deeper analysis than can be done in the introduction. You should tie together your research with similar topics and include detailed references to previous studies. Discuss theoretical connections, practical implications, and future avenues of research.

5. A Discussion of the Results as Relates to Gap in the Field of Study

This section is an excellent place to explain why there has been no research on the subject. Point out why this topic is important and how it can be used in subsequent research papers. If you are interested in continuing your research, this would be the place to mention it. It shows that you are passionate about the topic and willing to put more time into it. A discussion of gaps in the field also helps explain why you believe your results to be indicative. It can even be used as evidence to support your argument.

6. The Implications of the Findings for Theory and Practice

This section discusses how these study results might affect other published research or the general public, especially if your study is relevant to a widely debated topic.

7. A Discussion of Future Research

Take this opportunity to mention other hypotheses that could be tested by following up on your research and any limitations of the present study that demand further exploration. However, avoid getting too caught up with a desire for more research. You want to convince your readers that you have done an excellent job without sounding desperate for more studies to validate your claims.

If you do not plan on continuing your research, include what other studies could be conducted based on your findings. Include also how they should go about their research to avoid possible flaws in methodology.

8. Conclusions/Interpretations of Findings

Please give your opinion (your personal conclusions) on what the data shows and how it clarifies previous findings in this field. State where your study adds value to existing research and show how it applies to real-life situations.

Remember that this should be more than just an analysis of the findings. It should also serve as an introduction to those who are not well-versed in the subject and why it is essential at large. Conclude with your opinion on whether your hypothesis was supported or rejected. Tie yourself and the reader back to your problem statement. Draw conclusions and present them as assertions or findings. Avoid using absolute terms like ‘never,’ ‘always,’ and so on.

If you have done an excellent job, the reader should be able to walk away with a clear understanding of the implications of your research and how it can be used in future studies.

Format and Writing Style

  • Your discussion section should be written in an engaging, professional manner to keep readers engaged and return for future projects.
  • Include any additional research on the topic if you have found something since completing your initial project that would further support your argument.
  • Use of APA or MLA style formatting is required for publications and many academic journals. They are also frequently requested for in-class writing assignments.
  • Your paper should not exceed the maximum word count permitted
  • Use past tense when discussing your results and present tense when referencing hypotheses
  • Use headings to split up your article into smaller sections to help readers break it down. It’s easier for them to find the information they are looking for. Remember that you still want the flow of your final draft to be seamless.
  • Use a formal tone that is free of errors and written with the appropriate academic voice. It must always be a professional piece, regardless of whether you feel passionate about the subject or not.
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What is the Main Difference Between “Discussion” and “Conclusion” Sections of a Research Paper?

Although the discussion and conclusion sections can often be similar, there is one main difference between them. The conclusion section recaps your experiment and provides a brief overview of what was found.

In contrast, the discussion section expands on your findings by giving a detailed explanation of how they relate to the topic at hand. You also use the discussion section to discuss gaps in your field and how future research can improve upon your findings.

A Sample Discussion Section for a Research Paper

The following is an example discussion section that you can adapt to fit your research paper:

Although this study did not investigate how exactly social media affects young people, it provided some evidence that there may be a strong correlation. Future studies should be conducted that would explore this link more thoroughly and determine a causal relationship between social media use and depression.

The results of this study could also help explain some research done on the topic of suicide, which has been seen to double between the years 1940 and 2009 (Kessler et al., 2010). For example, one study found that young girls who spent more than five hours using social media per day were twice as likely to develop depressive symptoms (Shirangi et al., 2012). Many researchers have attributed the increase in suicide among adolescents in recent years to depression, bullying, and other factors. Still, perhaps one of the biggest causes is a more significant amount of time spent on social media.

Further research could investigate if social media use directly causes feelings of depression or if the relationship is derived from other factors such as peer pressure, low self-esteem, and anxiety. It would also be interesting to see if these findings are typically seen regardless of gender, age or culture.

To answer this question, it might be helpful to have a large sample that is diverse in terms of gender, race, and age range. Moreover, it would be essential to look at specific social media sites like Twitter or Instagram rather than just Facebook.

Additional research should also investigate how different age groups are affected by social media use. For example, some researchers have found that middle school students who spent more than two hours a day on social media were twice as likely to develop depressive symptoms than those who spent less than thirty minutes (Konofagou et al., 2016).

Other studies, however, have found that adolescents between the ages of thirteen and fifteen do not show any similar results (Finkenauer et al., 2010).

Further research could also investigate how social media directly affects the moods of its users. Some have suggested that frequent exposure to various forms of social media can cause narcissistic tendencies and decrease self-esteem (Lasaleta et al., 2017).

Some researchers believe that the amount of time spent on platforms such as Facebook could be a significant predictor of depressive symptoms (Baker, 2013).

Future research could also investigate whether being on social media makes individuals feel more isolated from society. Some have found that even though online interactions are becoming a part of everyday life, they seem to be replacing time spent with in person interactions and doing activities such as watching television.

One study found that more than half of the students who were surveyed spend at least an hour looking at their phones while spending time with friends (Lenhart, Madden, & Hitlin, 2015). This suggests that even when individuals are in a social environment, they choose to be on their phones rather than engage directly with those around them.

As can be seen, there are many possible consequences of social media use that have differed between studies. To better understand the effect these sites might have on their users, it would be interesting to see more research done like in this study, which investigated depression rates among different age groups. Future research should also investigate other factors such as gender, race, and culture when investigating the relationship between social media and depression.

Researchers should investigate how different forms of social media directly affect users. Some have suggested that sites like Facebook can cause narcissistic tendencies among its users, leading to feelings of isolation (Lasaleta et al., 2017). These ideas could also be explored in more detail by observing how various age groups

Identifying Theoretical and Practical Implications

Theoretical implications:

  • The effect of social media use on depression
  • How gender, race, and culture can affect the relationship
  • How different forms of social media affect moods or behavior.

Practical Implications:

  • Social media is used by a growing number of teens, which leads to feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
  • Social media can be used for positive and negative purposes (i.e., cyberbullying vs. connecting with others).
  • Social media doesn’t have long lasting effects on mood or behavior.
  • Focus on the positives of social media rather than negative aspects such as cyberbullying or depression.

What Are Some Key Characteristics of a Discussion Section?

  • Discussion should be clear, easy to follow, and address the research questions posed in the introduction.
  • There may not necessarily be one specific finding that is addressed throughout a discussion section. Instead, there might be several findings or conclusions drawn from your study which relate to what was previously known about the topic.
  • A researcher needs to contextualize their own work. Avoid simply restating what you did in the introduction.
  • Contributions should be clearly stated towards the end of a discussion section. 
  • A discussion section should not be too long. Aim for around three pages, which implies roughly 1500 words (this will vary from discipline to discipline and with different audiences).

What Are Some Common Mistakes Made in a Discussion Section?

  • Discussing too much or too little. If you discuss everything from each past study, you risk losing your readers’ interest and not providing enough detail if you only talk about one past study. At the same time, it is better to have 3-5 solid points than 15-20 weak ones.
  • Not discussing limitations of a study (if you don’t mention it, researchers may assume there are none) and be sure to contextualize your study within the larger research picture that already exists on the topic. Always discuss what was beyond the influence of your research (e.g., what factors could not be tested)?
  • Not checking your work for spelling and grammar mistakes. Even if you are a native English speaker, it is very easy to make these mistakes.
  • Overuse of jargon – make sure that all parts of your discussion are understandable even by non-specialists (this point may be somewhat negated if you have one or more co-authors who are specialists).

Get started now!

1. When writing a discussion section, is it necessary to use jargon? Why or why not?

2. What would be the most critical characteristic of your discussion that you should mention in your post?

3. If you discuss limitations and implications for future research, when should these be mentioned in your post?

4. What are some common mistakes you should avoid when writing a discussion section in your post?

5. If you were to discuss too much or too little, what would be the best amount of information to include in your post (be specific and give examples)?

6. Is it necessary for all discussions sections in a research paper to address limitations and implications for future research?

7. What is the best way to check your work for spelling and grammar mistakes?

8. How long should a discussion section be in a paper (be specific and give examples)?

9. If you were writing about writing good discussion sections, what would be the essential point to make?

10. Is it ever necessary to use jargon when writing a discussion section in your post? Why or why not?

Writing Tips

  • Introduce your discussion section by referencing your research questions and any overarching argument you have made in your introduction. Tie it all together so that readers know why they should be reading this section.
  • The discussion section focuses on your findings and how they support your hypothesis so that you are not distracted by additional research.
  • Use the most recently published literature for your research questions. This will allow you to create a more informed problem statement and hypothesis and give your paper better insight into what has been done in the field up until now.
  • Use figures/charts where necessary, so it is easy for readers to see what you have found. Graphs and charts can be beneficial when performing data analysis as well as strengthening your argument.
  • Be sure to cite any images, quotes, or other media that you use – the number of sources should always match the number of in-text citations. Use parenthetical citations and works cited page at the end of your paper for all sources.

Time to Write!

Now, start using these tips to write a discussion that will be engaging, clear, and concise.

Start by summarizing the previous research on your topic. Make sure to avoid plagiarism if you did not conduct this study yourself and credit any sources accordingly.

Present your own opinions as part of the body of your paper to make an argument for your argument.

Consider using subheadings to break up the main points and make your discussion easier to follow for readers.

Write a strong conclusion, restating your argument. Include any relevant personal opinions on the topic that you have developed since completing your research. Be sure to reference any additional work on the subject that you might do in the future.

Ensure that your writing is engaging and professional, without errors or typos, when formatting your discussion section.

Summary

Writing a research paper can be time-consuming and challenging. However, it can become much easier once you learn how to write different sections of your academic writing. Use these steps as guidelines when you sit down to write your discussion section and start your research paper.

In this blog post, we’ve attempted to outline some of the essential elements of tackling research questions or having a good discussion of your scientific papers. We hope this article was helpful for you. Keep reading our blog for more tips on writing papers.

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