The discussion and conclusion sections are often the most challenging to write for PhD students. What is expected of you?
The discussion is the section that follows the methods and the results. The conclusion comes after the discussion.
In the discussion, you let the reader know what your research means and why it is important. Accordingly, you answer the question, what do my results mean? You make connections to your research question and place your results in the context of the literature discussed in the introduction.
In any case, your discussion will include:
– the most important findings of your research
– the significance of these findings
– how your findings relate to other researchers’ work
– the limitations of your findings
– an explanation for any unexpected, unclear or surprising results
– suggestions for further research
Do not discuss any results or data that has not previously been described. Along the same lines, do not draw conclusions unless they are supported by your data.
Typically, it is recommended to begin with addressing your most important findings and continuing on into the less important ones. The most important finding will most likely be the answer to your research question, a response to whether or not you can prove your hypothesis.
After the findings, elaborate on what the literature says about your subject and indicate whether your findings are in line with the literature or, on the contrary, diverge from it.
If your findings depart from previous findings in the literature, make sure you answer how and why that could have happened? Was it because the methodology was different? Did previous studies have limitations that your study did not have? Was the scope of the investigation different? Or are your findings less clear due to the difficulties you experienced during the study?
It is important that you do not draw new conclusions, but if applicable, it may be important to provide alternative explanations for your results.
For many PhD students, it can be difficult to understand the distinction between a conclusion and a discussion section. A rule of thumb is to say that your conclusion is a summary of everything you’ve written so far. In your conclusion, you remind the reader of what you have previously wrote. However, remember to be very selective, and only include the most important items.
What else should you include in your conclusion?
– Repeat your research question and hypothesis.
– Repeat your most important findings.
– Indicate what your research contributes to existing literature.
– Ensure that your conclusion is consistent with your introduction, in terms of both the content and the language.
– Indicate the limitations of your research. Most studies have limitations in one way or another. When describing those limitations, show that you have thought carefully and in detail about them.
– Indicate the implications of your research. You can ask yourself questions such as:
· How do I want my readers to think differently based on the research results?
· What else can my readers do based on the research results?
· How has your research changed the way you look at previous research?
· What is the next step?
· Which questions have not yet been answered?
· What is the follow-up research that is needed or what research becomes more clear as a result of your research?
Similar to your discussion, you do not introduce new arguments or new data in the conclusion.
As you can see, there are some areas of overlap in the discussion and conclusion. Also, note that some disciplines may have slightly different requirements set. Hence, you should find out what applies to your field.
Looking for tips for the introduction? You can find them here.