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  • How to Write Discussions and Conclusions

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:

  • the results of your research,
  • a discussion of related research, and
  • a comparison between your results and initial hypothesis.

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. 

writing a report discussion

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Was my hypothesis correct?
  • If my hypothesis is partially correct or entirely different, what can be learned from the results? 
  • How do the conclusions reshape or add onto the existing knowledge in the field? What does previous research say about the topic? 
  • Why are the results important or relevant to your audience? Do they add further evidence to a scientific consensus or disprove prior studies? 
  • How can future research build on these observations? What are the key experiments that must be done? 
  • What is the “take-home” message you want your reader to leave with?

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:

writing a report discussion

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

  • Read the journal’s guidelines on the discussion and conclusion sections. If possible, learn about the guidelines before writing the discussion to ensure you’re writing to meet their expectations. 
  • Begin with a clear statement of the principal findings. This will reinforce the main take-away for the reader and set up the rest of the discussion. 
  • Explain why the outcomes of your study are important to the reader. Discuss the implications of your findings realistically based on previous literature, highlighting both the strengths and limitations of the research. 
  • State whether the results prove or disprove your hypothesis. If your hypothesis was disproved, what might be the reasons? 
  • Introduce new or expanded ways to think about the research question. Indicate what next steps can be taken to further pursue any unresolved questions. 
  • If dealing with a contemporary or ongoing problem, such as climate change, discuss possible consequences if the problem is avoided. 
  • Be concise. Adding unnecessary detail can distract from the main findings. 

What not to do

Don’t

  • Rewrite your abstract. Statements with “we investigated” or “we studied” generally do not belong in the discussion. 
  • Include new arguments or evidence not previously discussed. Necessary information and evidence should be introduced in the main body of the paper. 
  • Apologize. Even if your research contains significant limitations, don’t undermine your authority by including statements that doubt your methodology or execution. 
  • Shy away from speaking on limitations or negative results. Including limitations and negative results will give readers a complete understanding of the presented research. Potential limitations include sources of potential bias, threats to internal or external validity, barriers to implementing an intervention and other issues inherent to the study design. 
  • Overstate the importance of your findings. Making grand statements about how a study will fully resolve large questions can lead readers to doubt the success of the research. 

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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Writing Studio

Writing a lab report: introduction and discussion section guide.

In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF:   Writing a Lab Report Return to Writing Studio Handouts

Part 1 (of 2): Introducing a Lab Report

The introduction of a lab report states the objective of the experiment and provides the reader with background information. State the topic of your report clearly and concisely (in one or two sentences). Provide background theory, previous research, or formulas the reader should know. Usually, an instructor does not want you to repeat whatever the lab manual says, but to show your understanding of the problem.

Questions an Effective Lab Report Introduction Should Answer

What is the problem.

Describe the problem investigated. Summarize relevant research to provide context, key terms, and concepts so that your reader can understand the experiment.

Why is it important?

Review relevant research to provide a rationale for the investigation. What conflict, unanswered question, untested population, or untried method in existing research does your experiment address? How will you challenge or extend the findings of other researchers?

What solution (or step toward a solution) do you propose?

Briefly describe your experiment : hypothesis , research question , general experimental design or method , and a justification of your method (if alternatives exist).

Tips on Composing Your Lab Report’s Introduction

  • Move from the general to the specific – from a problem in research literature to the specifics of your experiment.
  • Engage your reader – answer the questions: “What did I do?” “Why should my reader care?”
  • Clarify the links between problem and solution, between question asked and research design, and between prior research and the specifics of your experiment.
  • Be selective, not exhaustive, in choosing studies to cite and the amount of detail to include. In general, the more relevant an article is to your study, the more space it deserves and the later in the introduction it appears.
  • Ask your instructor whether or not you should summarize results and/or conclusions in the Introduction.
  • “The objective of the experiment was …”
  • “The purpose of this report is …”
  • “Bragg’s Law for diffraction is …”
  • “The scanning electron microscope produces micrographs …”

Part 2 (of 2): Writing the “Discussion” Section of a Lab Report

The discussion is the most important part of your lab report, because here you show that you have not merely completed the experiment, but that you also understand its wider implications. The discussion section is reserved for putting experimental results in the context of the larger theory. Ask yourself: “What is the significance or meaning of the results?”

Elements of an Effective Discussion Section

What do the results indicate clearly? Based on your results, explain what you know with certainty and draw conclusions.

Interpretation

What is the significance of your results? What ambiguities exist? What are logical explanations for problems in the data? What questions might you raise about the methods used or the validity of the experiment? What can be logically deduced from your analysis?

Tips on the Discussion Section

1. explain your results in terms of theoretical issues..

How well has the theory been illustrated? What are the theoretical implications and practical applications of your results?

For each major result:

  • Describe the patterns, principles, and relationships that your results show.
  • Explain how your results relate to expectations and to literature cited in your Introduction. Explain any agreements, contradictions, or exceptions.
  • Describe what additional research might resolve contradictions or explain exceptions.

2. Relate results to your experimental objective(s).

If you set out to identify an unknown metal by finding its lattice parameter and its atomic structure, be sure that you have identified the metal and its attributes.

3. Compare expected results with those obtained.

If there were differences, how can you account for them? Were the instruments able to measure precisely? Was the sample contaminated? Did calculated values take account of friction?

4. Analyze experimental error along with the strengths and limitations of the experiment’s design.

Were any errors avoidable? Were they the result of equipment?  If the flaws resulted from the experiment design, explain how the design might be improved. Consider, as well, the precision of the instruments that were used.

5. Compare your results to similar investigations.

In some cases, it is legitimate to compare outcomes with classmates, not in order to change your answer, but in order to look for and to account for or analyze any anomalies between the groups. Also, consider comparing your results to published scientific literature on the topic.

The “Introducing a Lab Report” guide was adapted from the University of Toronto Engineering Communications Centre and University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center.

The “Writing the Discussion Section of a Lab Report” resource was adapted from the University of Toronto Engineering Communications Centre and University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center.

Last revised: 07/2008 | Adapted for web delivery: 02/2021

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Study Skills

Writing a discussion section

In the discussion section, you will draw connections between your findings, existing theory and other research. You will have an opportunity to tell the story arising from your findings. 

This page will help you to: 

understand the purpose of the discussion section 

follow the steps required to plan your discussion section 

structure your discussion  

enhance the depth of your discussion 

use appropriate language to discuss your findings.  

Introduction to the discussion section

When you have reached this stage, you might be thinking “All I have to do now is to sum up what I have done, and then make a few remarks about what I did” (as cited in Swales & Feak, 2012, p.263). However, writing a discussion section is not that simple. Read on to learn more.

reflection icon

  Before you continue, reflect on your earlier writing experiences and the feedback you have received. How would you rate your ability in the following skills? Rate your ability from ‘good’ to ‘needs development’. 

Reflect on your answers. Congratulations if you feel confident about your skills. You may find it helpful to review the materials on this page to confirm your knowledge and possibly learn more. Don't worry if you don't feel confident. Work through these materials to build your skills. 

A discussion critically analyses and interprets the results of a scientific study, placing the results in the context of published literature and explaining how they affect the field . 

In this section, you will relate the specific findings of your research to the wider scientific field. This is the opposite of the introduction section, which starts with the broader context and narrows to focus on your specific research topic.  

The discussion will: 

review the findings  

put the findings into the context of the overall research  

tell readers why the research results are important and where they fit in with the current literature 

acknowledge the limitations of the study 

make recommendations for future research.

study skills task icon

Let's review your understanding of the discussion section by identifying what makes a strong discussion.

Planning for a discussion section

Planning for a discussion section starts with analysing your data. For some kinds of research, the analysis cannot be done until your data has been collected. For others, analysing data can happen early as the data already exists in literary texts, archival documents or similar.  

Before starting to write the discussion section, it is important to:  

analyse your data (usually reported in the Results or Findings section) 

select the key issues that are the substance of your research  

relate the findings to the literature and 

plan for the process of going from your specific findings to the broader scientific field.  

Your analysis of the results will inform the Findings or Results section of your thesis or publication. It is the stage where you organise and visualise your data, and identify trends, patterns and causal relationships in the themes.

As the section discusses the key findings without restating the results, it is important to identify the key issues. For example, you should focus on four or five issues that agree or do not agree with your hypothesis or with previously published work. It is also important to include and discuss any unexpected results.

You refer to previous research in your discussion section for explaining your results, confirming how your results support the theories and previous studies, comparing your results with similar studies, or showing how your results contradict similar studies. 

Therefore, papers that you are likely to refer to in your discussion are those that led to: 

your hypothesis  

your experimental design 

your results.

In writing the discussion section, you will start with your research and then broaden your focus to the field or scientific community. This means you will go from narrowest (your specific findings) to broadest (the wider scientific community). You do this by following the six moves: 

Narrowest      Summarising key results   Critically analysing the key results (significance, trends, relationships)  Relating results to the field (relating to previous work)   Relating results to gaps in the field   Speculating about how the field has changed.   Making recommendations for future research.      Broadest

As you can see, your discussion may follow six moves (stages) which broadens the scope of your discussion section. Watch this video to learn how to apply these moves.

writing a report discussion

Structuring your discussion

This section reviews how a discussion section can be organised.

A discussion section usually includes five parts or steps, which are illustrated in the image below. 

In some disciplines, the researcher's argument determines the structure of the presentation and discussion of findings. In other disciplines, the structure follows established conventions. Therefore, it is important for you to investigate the conventions of your own discipline, by looking at theses in your discipline and articles published in your target journals. The discussion section may be: 

in a combined section called Results and Discussion 

in a combined section called Discussion and Conclusion 

in a separate section. 

Your discussion section may be an independent chapter or it might be combined with the Findings chapter. Common chapter headings include:  

Discussion chapter 

Findings and Discussion chapter  

Discussion, Recommendations and Conclusion chapter

Discussion and Conclusion chapter 

It is important to have a good understanding of the expected content of each chapter.  Below is an example of a chapter in which discussion, recommendations and conclusion are combined.

Click on the hotspots to learn more.

This section focuses on useful language for writing your discussion.

Boosters and hedges should be used to demonstrate your confidence in your interpretation of the results. They help you to distinguish between clear and strong results and those that you feel less confident about or that may be open to different interpretations.

 Boosters       Boosters are used to express certainty and confidence.  Hedges       Hedges are used to express possibility and demonstrate a cautious approach to the literature being reviewed.       Maybe   Perhaps   Likely   Possibly   Seems   Appears   To some extent   Some   Somewhat   Suggest       Example:           Clearly   Obviously   Evidently   Undoubtedly   Importantly   Differently           Example:       It is evident that…   The findings clearly demonstrate that…   There is strong evidence…

 Read both sentences. Which one shows more confidence in the results? 

The Dutch supervisors reported using different types of questions more frequently and deliberately than the Chinese supervisors. This difference may have its roots in the underlying educational philosophies. (Adapted from Hu, Rijst, Veen, & Verloop, 2016)  

The findings clearly demonstrate that psychological capital had considerable influence on the 10 employability skills included in the study, and especially on those related to teamwork, self-knowledge and self-management (Adapted from Harper, Bregta & Rundle, 2021) 

The writers of sentence two are more confident in the interpretation of their results.  

Test your knowledge of hedges and boosters by doing the task below. 

It is important to make it clear in your discussion: 

which research has been done by you 

which research has been done by other people 

how they complement each other.

Image 2: Note that present perfect is also used to refer to other studies when you want to emphasise that an area of research is still current and ongoing. Take a look at the example below which uses present perfect to refer to other studies 

Like other studies (e.g., Larcombe et al., 2021; Naylor, 2020) that have shown a strong connection between course experience and wellbeing, our study shows that a significant portion of international students believe that aspects of their immediate environment could be improved to better support their wellbeing.  

More information on tenses in the Discussion section is presented in Language Tip 4 below.  

Below are some useful discussion phrases that were adapted from Paltridge & Starfield (2020) and the APA Discussion phrases guide (7th edition).

You can download this APA discussion phrase guide here and visit the Academic Phrasebank for further phrases and examples. 

Let's look at these extracts and identify the functions of the paragraphs.  

Past, present and present perfect tenses are commonly used in the discussion section.  

  • Past tense is used to summarise the key findings and to refer to the work of previous researchers  
  • Present perfect is used to refer to the work of previous researchers (usually an area of research that is current and on-going rather than one single study) 
  • Present tense is used to interpret the results or describe the significance of the findings  
  • Future  is used to make recommendations for further research or providing future direction 

Below is an example of some paragraphs in a discussion section in which different tenses are used.

The main objective of this article was to examine the role played by psychological capital and employability skills in explaining how final-year students in Business Administration and Management perceived their own employability. The results of our research supported the findings of previous studies (Cooper et al., 2004; Youssef & Luthans, 2007) which showed that psychological capital was an antecedent variable of employability skills. More specifically, our study showed that psychological capital had cons

Test your knowledge of using the right tenses in the discussion section by doing the task below. 

Use this template to plan your discussion.  

The template is an example of a planning tool that will help you develop an overview of the key content that you are going to include in your section. You can download the draft and save it as a Word document once you have finished. 

You may have more or less than 3 key findings that you would like to discuss in your section.  

If you would like more support, visit the Language and Learning Advisors page. 

Butler, K. (2020, 7 April). Breakdown of an ideal discussion of scientific research paper. Scientific Communications . https://butlerscicomm.com/breakdown-of-ideal-discussion-section-research-paper  

Calvo, J. C. A & García, G. M. (2021). The influence of psychological capital on graduates’ perception of employability: the mediating role of employability skills. Higher Education Research & Development , 40(2), 293-308, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2020.1738350   

Cenamor, J. (2022) To teach or not to teach? Junior academics and the teaching-research relationship. Higher Education Research & Development , 41(5), 1417-1435. DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2021.1933395  

Harper, R.,  Bretag, T & Rundle, K. (2021) Detecting contract cheating: examining the role of assessment type. Higher Education Research & Development, 40(2), 263-278, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2020.1724899   

Hu, Y., Rijst, R. M., Veen, K & N Verloop, N. (2016) The purposes and processes of master's thesis supervision: a comparison of Chinese and Dutch supervisors. Higher Education Research & Development , 35(5), 910-924, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2016.1139550  

Humphrey, P. (2015). English language proficiency in higher education: student conceptualisations and outcomes . [Doctoral dissertation, Griffith University]  

Marangell, S., & Baik, C. (2022). International students’ suggestions for what universities can do to better support their mental wellbeing. Journal of International Students, 12(4), 933-954.  

Merga, M., & Mason, S. (2021) Early career researchers’ perceptions of the benefits and challenges of sharing research with academic and non-academic end-users, Higher Education Research & Development , 40(7), 1482-1496, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2020.1815662  

Paltridge, B., & Starfield, S. (2019). Thesis and Dissertation Writing in a Second Language: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors (2nd ed.). Routledge.  

Rendle-Short, J. (2009). The Address Term Mate in Australian English: Is it Still a Masculine Term?. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 29(2), 245-268, DOI: 10.1080/07268600902823110  

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https://www.cdu.edu.au/library/language-and-learning-support

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The purpose of the discussion section is to interpret and describe the significance of your findings in relation to what was already known about the research problem being investigated and to explain any new understanding or insights that emerged as a result of your research. The discussion will always connect to the introduction by way of the research questions or hypotheses you posed and the literature you reviewed, but the discussion does not simply repeat or rearrange the first parts of your paper; the discussion clearly explains how your study advanced the reader's understanding of the research problem from where you left them at the end of your review of prior research.

Annesley, Thomas M. “The Discussion Section: Your Closing Argument.” Clinical Chemistry 56 (November 2010): 1671-1674.

Importance of a Good Discussion

The discussion section is often considered the most important part of your 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 upon a logical synthesis of the findings, and to formulate a deeper, more profound understanding of the research problem under investigation;
  • Presents the underlying meaning of your research, notes possible implications in other areas of study, and explores possible improvements that can be made in order to further develop the concerns of your research;
  • Highlights the importance of your study and how it can contribute to understanding the research problem within the field of study;
  • Presents how the findings from your study revealed and helped fill gaps in the literature that had not been previously exposed or adequately described; and,
  • Engages the reader in thinking critically about issues based on an evidence-based interpretation of findings; it is not governed strictly by objective reporting of information.

Annesley Thomas M. “The Discussion Section: Your Closing Argument.” Clinical Chemistry 56 (November 2010): 1671-1674; Bitchener, John and Helen Basturkmen. “Perceptions of the Difficulties of Postgraduate L2 Thesis Students Writing the Discussion Section.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes 5 (January 2006): 4-18; Kretchmer, Paul. Fourteen Steps 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 :

  • Do not be verbose or repetitive; be concise and make your points clearly
  • Avoid the use of jargon or undefined technical language
  • Follow a logical stream of thought; in general, interpret and discuss the significance of your findings in the same sequence you described them in your results section [a notable exception is to begin by highlighting an unexpected result or a finding that can grab the reader's attention]
  • Use the present verb tense, especially for established facts; however, refer to specific works or prior studies in the past tense
  • If needed, use subheadings to help organize your discussion or to categorize your interpretations into themes

II.  The Content

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

  • Explanation of results : Comment on whether or not the results were expected for each set of findings; go into greater depth to explain findings that were unexpected or especially profound. If appropriate, note any unusual or unanticipated patterns or trends that emerged from your results and explain their meaning in relation to the research problem.
  • References to previous research : Either compare your results with the findings from other studies or use the studies to support a claim. This can include re-visiting key sources already cited in your literature review section, or, save them to cite later in the discussion section if they are more important to compare with your results instead of being a part of the general literature review of prior research used to provide context and background information. Note that you can make this decision to highlight specific studies after you have begun writing the discussion section.
  • Deduction : A claim for how the results can be applied more generally. For example, describing lessons learned, proposing recommendations that can help improve a situation, or highlighting best practices.
  • Hypothesis : A more general claim or possible conclusion arising from the results [which may be proved or disproved in subsequent research]. This can be framed as new research questions that emerged as a consequence of your analysis.

III.  Organization and Structure

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

  • Think of your discussion as an inverted pyramid. Organize the discussion from the general to the specific, linking your findings to the literature, then to theory, then to practice [if appropriate].
  • Use the same key terms, narrative style, and verb tense [present] that you used when describing the research problem in your introduction.
  • Begin by briefly re-stating the research problem you were investigating and answer all of the research questions underpinning the problem that you posed in the introduction.
  • Describe the patterns, principles, and relationships shown by each major findings and place them in proper perspective. The sequence of this information is important; first state the answer, then the relevant results, then cite the work of others. If appropriate, refer the reader to a figure or table to help enhance the interpretation of the data [either within the text or as an appendix].
  • Regardless of where it's mentioned, a good discussion section includes analysis of any unexpected findings. This part of the discussion should begin with a description of the unanticipated finding, followed by a brief interpretation as to why you believe it appeared and, if necessary, its possible significance in relation to the overall study. If more than one unexpected finding emerged during the study, describe each of them in the order they appeared as you gathered or analyzed the data. As noted, the exception to discussing findings in the same order you described them in the results section would be to begin by highlighting the implications of a particularly unexpected or significant finding that emerged from the study, followed by a discussion of the remaining findings.
  • Before concluding the discussion, identify potential limitations and weaknesses if you do not plan to do so in the conclusion of the paper. Comment on their relative importance in relation to your overall interpretation of the results and, if necessary, note how they may affect the validity of your findings. Avoid using an apologetic tone; however, be honest and self-critical [e.g., in retrospect, had you included a particular question in a survey instrument, additional data could have been revealed].
  • The discussion section should end with a concise summary of the principal implications of the findings regardless of their significance. Give a brief explanation about why you believe the findings and conclusions of your study are important and how they support broader knowledge or understanding of the research problem. This can be followed by any recommendations for further research. However, do not offer recommendations which could have been easily addressed within the study. This would demonstrate to the reader that you have inadequately examined and interpreted the data.

IV.  Overall Objectives

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

Briefly reiterate 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, usually in one paragraph.

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 underlying meaning of your findings and state why you believe they are significant. After reading the discussion section, you want the reader to think critically about the results and why they are important. You don’t want to force the reader to go through the paper multiple times to figure out what it all means. If applicable, begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most significant or unanticipated finding first, then systematically review each finding. Otherwise, follow the general order you reported the findings presented in the results section.

III.  Relate the Findings to Similar Studies

No study in the social sciences is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to previously published research. The discussion section should relate your results to those found in other studies, particularly if questions raised from prior studies served as the motivation for your research. This is important because comparing and contrasting the findings of other studies helps to support the overall importance of your results and it highlights how and in what ways your study differs from other research about the topic. Note that any significant or unanticipated finding is often because there was no prior research to indicate the finding could occur. If there is prior research to indicate this, you need to explain why it was significant or unanticipated. IV.  Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings

It is important to remember that the purpose of research in the social sciences 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 hypothesis or prior assumptions and biases. This is especially important when describing the discovery of significant or unanticipated findings.

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! Note any unanswered questions or issues your study could not address and describe the generalizability of your results to other situations. If a limitation is applicable to the method chosen to gather information, then describe in detail the problems you encountered and why. VI.  Make Suggestions for Further Research

You may choose to conclude the discussion section by making suggestions for further research [as opposed to offering suggestions in the conclusion of your paper]. Although your study can offer important insights about the research problem, this is where you can address other questions related to the problem that remain unanswered or highlight hidden issues that were revealed as a result of conducting your research. You should frame your suggestions by linking the need for further research to the limitations of your study [e.g., in future studies, the survey instrument should include more questions that ask..."] or linking to critical issues revealed from the data that were not considered initially in your research.

NOTE: Besides the literature review section, the preponderance of references to sources is 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, to support the significance of a finding, and/or to place a finding within a particular context. If a study that you cited does not support your findings, don't ignore it--clearly explain why your research findings differ from theirs.

V.  Problems to Avoid

  • Do not waste time restating your results . Should you need to remind the reader of a finding to be discussed, use "bridge sentences" that relate the result to the interpretation. An example would be: “In the case of determining available housing to single women with children in rural areas of Texas, the findings suggest that access to good schools is important...," then move on to further explaining this finding and its implications.
  • As noted, recommendations for further research can be included in either the discussion or conclusion of your paper, but do not repeat your recommendations in the both sections. Think about the overall narrative flow of your paper to determine where best to locate this information. However, if your findings raise a lot of new questions or issues, consider including suggestions for further research in the discussion section.
  • Do not introduce new results in the discussion section. Be wary of mistaking the reiteration of a specific finding for an interpretation because it may confuse the reader. The description of findings [results section] and the interpretation of their significance [discussion section] should be distinct parts of your paper. If you choose to combine the results section and the discussion section into a single narrative, you must be clear in how you report the information discovered and your own interpretation of each finding. This approach is not recommended if you lack experience writing college-level research papers.
  • Use of the first person pronoun is generally acceptable. Using first person singular pronouns can help emphasize a point or illustrate a contrasting finding. However, keep in mind that too much use of the first person can actually distract the reader from the main points [i.e., I know you're telling me this--just tell me!].

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; Sauaia, A. et al. "The Anatomy of an Article: The Discussion Section: "How Does the Article I Read Today Change What I Will Recommend to my Patients Tomorrow?” The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 74 (June 2013): 1599-1602; Research Limitations & Future Research . Lund Research Ltd., 2012; 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 Over-Interpret the Results!

Interpretation is a subjective exercise. As such, you should always approach the selection and interpretation of your findings introspectively and to think critically about the possibility of judgmental biases unintentionally entering into discussions about the significance of your work. With this in mind, be careful that you do not read more into the findings than can be supported by the evidence you have gathered. Remember that the data are the data: nothing more, nothing less.

MacCoun, Robert J. "Biases in the Interpretation and Use of Research Results." Annual Review of Psychology 49 (February 1998): 259-287.

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 interpretation of those results and their significance in relation to the research problem, not 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 the purpose of your research was to measure the impact of foreign aid on increasing access to education among disadvantaged children in Bangladesh, it would not be appropriate to speculate about how your findings might apply to populations in other countries without drawing from existing studies to support your claim or if analysis of other countries was not a part of your original research design. If you feel compelled to speculate, do so in the form of describing possible implications or explaining possible impacts. 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 your discussion of the results in this way, while others don’t care what your opinion is beyond your effort to interpret the data in relation to the research problem.

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How to Write a Discussion Section for a Research Paper

writing a report discussion

We’ve talked about several useful writing tips that authors should consider while drafting or editing their research papers. In particular, we’ve focused on  figures and legends , as well as the Introduction ,  Methods , and  Results . Now that we’ve addressed the more technical portions of your journal manuscript, let’s turn to the analytical segments of your research article. In this article, we’ll provide tips on how to write a strong Discussion section that best portrays the significance of your research contributions.

What is the Discussion section of a research paper?

In a nutshell,  your Discussion fulfills the promise you made to readers in your Introduction . At the beginning of your paper, you tell us why we should care about your research. You then guide us through a series of intricate images and graphs that capture all the relevant data you collected during your research. We may be dazzled and impressed at first, but none of that matters if you deliver an anti-climactic conclusion in the Discussion section!

Are you feeling pressured? Don’t worry. To be honest, you will edit the Discussion section of your manuscript numerous times. After all, in as little as one to two paragraphs ( Nature ‘s suggestion  based on their 3,000-word main body text limit), you have to explain how your research moves us from point A (issues you raise in the Introduction) to point B (our new understanding of these matters). You must also recommend how we might get to point C (i.e., identify what you think is the next direction for research in this field). That’s a lot to say in two paragraphs!

So, how do you do that? Let’s take a closer look.

What should I include in the Discussion section?

As we stated above, the goal of your Discussion section is to  answer the questions you raise in your Introduction by using the results you collected during your research . The content you include in the Discussions segment should include the following information:

  • Remind us why we should be interested in this research project.
  • Describe the nature of the knowledge gap you were trying to fill using the results of your study.
  • Don’t repeat your Introduction. Instead, focus on why  this  particular study was needed to fill the gap you noticed and why that gap needed filling in the first place.
  • Mainly, you want to remind us of how your research will increase our knowledge base and inspire others to conduct further research.
  • Clearly tell us what that piece of missing knowledge was.
  • Answer each of the questions you asked in your Introduction and explain how your results support those conclusions.
  • Make sure to factor in all results relevant to the questions (even if those results were not statistically significant).
  • Focus on the significance of the most noteworthy results.
  • If conflicting inferences can be drawn from your results, evaluate the merits of all of them.
  • Don’t rehash what you said earlier in the Results section. Rather, discuss your findings in the context of answering your hypothesis. Instead of making statements like “[The first result] was this…,” say, “[The first result] suggests [conclusion].”
  • Do your conclusions line up with existing literature?
  • Discuss whether your findings agree with current knowledge and expectations.
  • Keep in mind good persuasive argument skills, such as explaining the strengths of your arguments and highlighting the weaknesses of contrary opinions.
  • If you discovered something unexpected, offer reasons. If your conclusions aren’t aligned with current literature, explain.
  • Address any limitations of your study and how relevant they are to interpreting your results and validating your findings.
  • Make sure to acknowledge any weaknesses in your conclusions and suggest room for further research concerning that aspect of your analysis.
  • Make sure your suggestions aren’t ones that should have been conducted during your research! Doing so might raise questions about your initial research design and protocols.
  • Similarly, maintain a critical but unapologetic tone. You want to instill confidence in your readers that you have thoroughly examined your results and have objectively assessed them in a way that would benefit the scientific community’s desire to expand our knowledge base.
  • Recommend next steps.
  • Your suggestions should inspire other researchers to conduct follow-up studies to build upon the knowledge you have shared with them.
  • Keep the list short (no more than two).

How to Write the Discussion Section

The above list of what to include in the Discussion section gives an overall idea of what you need to focus on throughout the section. Below are some tips and general suggestions about the technical aspects of writing and organization that you might find useful as you draft or revise the contents we’ve outlined above.

Technical writing elements

  • Embrace active voice because it eliminates the awkward phrasing and wordiness that accompanies passive voice.
  • Use the present tense, which should also be employed in the Introduction.
  • Sprinkle with first person pronouns if needed, but generally, avoid it. We want to focus on your findings.
  • Maintain an objective and analytical tone.

Discussion section organization

  • Keep the same flow across the Results, Methods, and Discussion sections.
  • We develop a rhythm as we read and parallel structures facilitate our comprehension. When you organize information the same way in each of these related parts of your journal manuscript, we can quickly see how a certain result was interpreted and quickly verify the particular methods used to produce that result.
  • Notice how using parallel structure will eliminate extra narration in the Discussion part since we can anticipate the flow of your ideas based on what we read in the Results segment. Reducing wordiness is important when you only have a few paragraphs to devote to the Discussion section!
  • Within each subpart of a Discussion, the information should flow as follows: (A) conclusion first, (B) relevant results and how they relate to that conclusion and (C) relevant literature.
  • End with a concise summary explaining the big-picture impact of your study on our understanding of the subject matter. At the beginning of your Discussion section, you stated why  this  particular study was needed to fill the gap you noticed and why that gap needed filling in the first place. Now, it is time to end with “how your research filled that gap.”

Discussion Part 1: Summarizing Key Findings

Begin the Discussion section by restating your  statement of the problem  and briefly summarizing the major results. Do not simply repeat your findings. Rather, try to create a concise statement of the main results that directly answer the central research question that you stated in the Introduction section . This content should not be longer than one paragraph in length.

Many researchers struggle with understanding the precise differences between a Discussion section and a Results section . The most important thing to remember here is that your Discussion section should subjectively evaluate the findings presented in the Results section, and in relatively the same order. Keep these sections distinct by making sure that you do not repeat the findings without providing an interpretation.

Phrase examples: Summarizing the results

  • The findings indicate that …
  • These results suggest a correlation between A and B …
  • The data present here suggest that …
  • An interpretation of the findings reveals a connection between…

Discussion Part 2: Interpreting the Findings

What do the results mean? It may seem obvious to you, but simply looking at the figures in the Results section will not necessarily convey to readers the importance of the findings in answering your research questions.

The exact structure of interpretations depends on the type of research being conducted. Here are some common approaches to interpreting data:

  • Identifying correlations and relationships in the findings
  • Explaining whether the results confirm or undermine your research hypothesis
  • Giving the findings context within the history of similar research studies
  • Discussing unexpected results and analyzing their significance to your study or general research
  • Offering alternative explanations and arguing for your position

Organize the Discussion section around key arguments, themes, hypotheses, or research questions or problems. Again, make sure to follow the same order as you did in the Results section.

Discussion Part 3: Discussing the Implications

In addition to providing your own interpretations, show how your results fit into the wider scholarly literature you surveyed in the  literature review section. This section is called the implications of the study . Show where and how these results fit into existing knowledge, what additional insights they contribute, and any possible consequences that might arise from this knowledge, both in the specific research topic and in the wider scientific domain.

Questions to ask yourself when dealing with potential implications:

  • Do your findings fall in line with existing theories, or do they challenge these theories or findings? What new information do they contribute to the literature, if any? How exactly do these findings impact or conflict with existing theories or models?
  • What are the practical implications on actual subjects or demographics?
  • What are the methodological implications for similar studies conducted either in the past or future?

Your purpose in giving the implications is to spell out exactly what your study has contributed and why researchers and other readers should be interested.

Phrase examples: Discussing the implications of the research

  • These results confirm the existing evidence in X studies…
  • The results are not in line with the foregoing theory that…
  • This experiment provides new insights into the connection between…
  • These findings present a more nuanced understanding of…
  • While previous studies have focused on X, these results demonstrate that Y.

Step 4: Acknowledging the limitations

All research has study limitations of one sort or another. Acknowledging limitations in methodology or approach helps strengthen your credibility as a researcher. Study limitations are not simply a list of mistakes made in the study. Rather, limitations help provide a more detailed picture of what can or cannot be concluded from your findings. In essence, they help temper and qualify the study implications you listed previously.

Study limitations can relate to research design, specific methodological or material choices, or unexpected issues that emerged while you conducted the research. Mention only those limitations directly relate to your research questions, and explain what impact these limitations had on how your study was conducted and the validity of any interpretations.

Possible types of study limitations:

  • Insufficient sample size for statistical measurements
  • Lack of previous research studies on the topic
  • Methods/instruments/techniques used to collect the data
  • Limited access to data
  • Time constraints in properly preparing and executing the study

After discussing the study limitations, you can also stress that your results are still valid. Give some specific reasons why the limitations do not necessarily handicap your study or narrow its scope.

Phrase examples: Limitations sentence beginners

  • “There may be some possible limitations in this study.”
  • “The findings of this study have to be seen in light of some limitations.”
  •  “The first limitation is the…The second limitation concerns the…”
  •  “The empirical results reported herein should be considered in the light of some limitations.”
  • “This research, however, is subject to several limitations.”
  • “The primary limitation to the generalization of these results is…”
  • “Nonetheless, these results must be interpreted with caution and a number of limitations should be borne in mind.”

Discussion Part 5: Giving Recommendations for Further Research

Based on your interpretation and discussion of the findings, your recommendations can include practical changes to the study or specific further research to be conducted to clarify the research questions. Recommendations are often listed in a separate Conclusion section , but often this is just the final paragraph of the Discussion section.

Suggestions for further research often stem directly from the limitations outlined. Rather than simply stating that “further research should be conducted,” provide concrete specifics for how future can help answer questions that your research could not.

Phrase examples: Recommendation sentence beginners

  • Further research is needed to establish …
  • There is abundant space for further progress in analyzing…
  • A further study with more focus on X should be done to investigate…
  • Further studies of X that account for these variables must be undertaken.

Consider Receiving Professional Language Editing

As you edit or draft your research manuscript, we hope that you implement these guidelines to produce a more effective Discussion section. And after completing your draft, don’t forget to submit your work to a professional proofreading and English editing service like Wordvice, including our manuscript editing service for  paper editing , cover letter editing , SOP editing , and personal statement proofreading services. Language editors not only proofread and correct errors in grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and formatting but also improve terms and revise phrases so they read more naturally. Wordvice is an industry leader in providing high-quality revision for all types of academic documents.

For additional information about how to write a strong research paper, make sure to check out our full  research writing series !

Wordvice Writing Resources

  • How to Write a Research Paper Introduction 
  • Which Verb Tenses to Use in a Research Paper
  • How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper
  • How to Write a Research Paper Title
  • Useful Phrases for Academic Writing
  • Common Transition Terms in Academic Papers
  • Active and Passive Voice in Research Papers
  • 100+ Verbs That Will Make Your Research Writing Amazing
  • Tips for Paraphrasing in Research Papers

Additional Academic Resources

  •   Guide for Authors.  (Elsevier)
  •  How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper.  (Bates College)
  •   Structure of a Research Paper.  (University of Minnesota Biomedical Library)
  •   How to Choose a Target Journal  (Springer)
  •   How to Write Figures and Tables  (UNC Writing Center)

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Writing a scientific paper.

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  • INTRODUCTION

Writing a "good" discussion section

"discussion and conclusions checklist" from: how to write a good scientific paper. chris a. mack. spie. 2018., peer review.

  • LITERATURE CITED
  • Bibliography of guides to scientific writing and presenting
  • Presentations
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This is is usually the hardest section to write. You are trying to bring out the true meaning of your data without being too long. Do not use words to conceal your facts or reasoning. Also do not repeat your results, this is a discussion.

  • Present principles, relationships and generalizations shown by the results
  • Point out exceptions or lack of correlations. Define why you think this is so.
  • Show how your results agree or disagree with previously published works
  • Discuss the theoretical implications of your work as well as practical applications
  • State your conclusions clearly. Summarize your evidence for each conclusion.
  • Discuss the significance of the results
  •  Evidence does not explain itself; the results must be presented and then explained.
  • Typical stages in the discussion: summarizing the results, discussing whether results are expected or unexpected, comparing these results to previous work, interpreting and explaining the results (often by comparison to a theory or model), and hypothesizing about their generality.
  • Discuss any problems or shortcomings encountered during the course of the work.
  • Discuss possible alternate explanations for the results.
  • Avoid: presenting results that are never discussed; presenting discussion that does not relate to any of the results; presenting results and discussion in chronological order rather than logical order; ignoring results that do not support the conclusions; drawing conclusions from results without logical arguments to back them up. 

CONCLUSIONS

  • Provide a very brief summary of the Results and Discussion.
  • Emphasize the implications of the findings, explaining how the work is significant and providing the key message(s) the author wishes to convey.
  • Provide the most general claims that can be supported by the evidence.
  • Provide a future perspective on the work.
  • Avoid: repeating the abstract; repeating background information from the Introduction; introducing new evidence or new arguments not found in the Results and Discussion; repeating the arguments made in the Results and Discussion; failing to address all of the research questions set out in the Introduction. 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I COMPLETE MY PAPER?

 The peer review process is the quality control step in the publication of ideas.  Papers that are submitted to a journal for publication are sent out to several scientists (peers) who look carefully at the paper to see if it is "good science".  These reviewers then recommend to the editor of a journal whether or not a paper should be published. Most journals have publication guidelines. Ask for them and follow them exactly.    Peer reviewers examine the soundness of the materials and methods section.  Are the materials and methods used written clearly enough for another scientist to reproduce the experiment?  Other areas they look at are: originality of research, significance of research question studied, soundness of the discussion and interpretation, correct spelling and use of technical terms, and length of the article.

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How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries? pp 225–230 Cite as

How to Write the Discussion?

  • Samiran Nundy 4 ,
  • Atul Kakar 5 &
  • Zulfiqar A. Bhutta 6  
  • Open Access
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1 Citations

Many authors, and editors, think this is the most difficult part of a paper to write well and have described it variously to be the ‘narrating the story of your research’, ‘the movie or the main scientific script’ and the ‘proof of the pudding’. The idea of a discussion is to communicate to the readers the importance of your observations and the results of all your hard work. In this section, you are expected to infer their meaning and explain the importance of your results and finally provide specific suggestions for future research [1, 2]. The discussion places the outcome into a larger context and mentions the implications of the inferences for theoretical and practical purposes [3].

That then is the first draft and you should never think of having fewer than six drafts Stephen Lock, BMJ editor in chief (1929–…)

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1 What Is the Importance of the Discussion?

Many authors, and editors, think this is the most difficult part of a paper to write well and have described it variously to be the ‘narrating the story of your research’, ‘the movie or the main scientific script’ and the ‘proof of the pudding’. The idea of a discussion is to communicate to the readers the importance of your observations and the results of all your hard work. In this section, you are expected to infer their meaning and explain the importance of your results and finally provide specific suggestions for future research [ 1 , 2 ]. The discussion places the outcome into a larger context and mentions the implications of the inferences for theoretical and practical purposes [ 3 ].

figure a

2 How Should I Structure the Discussion Section?

There are three major portions for the discussion of a manuscript.

The first paragraph should baldly state the key findings of your research. Use the same key concept you gave in the introduction. It is generally not necessary to repeat the citations which have already been used in the Introduction. According to the ‘serial position effect’, themes mentioned at the beginning and end of a paragraph are more likely to be remembered than those in the middle [ 1 ]. However, one should remember that the discussion should not look like a second introduction, and all the ancillary information which has been previously cited should not be repeated [ 4 ].

For example, in a paper on the ‘Role of sulfasalazine in the Chikungunya arthritis outbreak of 2016’, the review may start with, ‘Our key findings suggest that chikungunya arthralgia is a self-limiting disorder. Persistent arthritis was recorded in only 10% of the affected population and in those who received sulfasalazine, clinical improvement both in tender and swollen joints, was recorded in 95% of the subjects’.

The middle portion should consist of the body of the discussion. This section interprets the important results, discusses their implications and explains how your data is similar to or different from those that have been published previously.

Discuss in fair detail studies supporting your findings and group them together, against those offering a different perspective (e.g., Western experience, smaller numbers, non-randomized studies, etc.). An explanation should be offered on how your work is similar to others or how it is different from the others. This should be followed by a review of the core research papers. The results should now be divided thematically and analyzed. The discussion should also contain why the study is new, why it is true, and why it is important for future clinical practice [ 4 , 5 , 6 ].

For the above research mention the clinical features, patterns of joint involvement, how long arthritis persisted, and any role of disease-modifying agents. Have any other researchers found different findings under the same circumstances.

The final paragraph should include a ‘take home message’ (about one or two) and point to future directions for investigation that have resulted from this study.

The discussion can be concluded in two ways:

By again mentioning the response to the research question [ 5 , 7 ]

By indicating the significance of the study [ 2 , 4 ]

You can use both methods to end this section. Most importantly you should remember that the last paragraph of the discussion should be ‘strong, clear, and crisp’ and focus on the main research question addressed in the manuscript. This should be strengthened by the data which clearly states whether or not your findings support your initial hypothesis [ 1 , 5 , 8 , 9 , 10 ].

3 What Are the General Considerations for Writing a Discussion? [ 3 , 10 , 11 ]

Start the discussion with the ‘specific’ problems and move to the ‘general’ implications (Fig. 21.1 ).

The discussion should not look like a mass of unrelated information. Rather, it should be easy to understand and compare data from different studies.

Include only recent publications on the topic, preferably from the last 10 years.

Make certain that all the sources of information are cited and correctly referenced.

Check to make sure that you have not plagiarized by using words quoted directly from a source.

The written text written should be easily understood, crisp, and brief. Long descriptive and informal language should be avoided.

The sentences should flow smoothly and logically.

You need not refer to all the available literature in the field, discuss only the most relevant papers.

figure 1

How a discussion should look. First arrow—Mention your key results/findings; Second arrow—Discuss your results with their explanations\step by step; Third Arrow—Enumerate your studies limitations and strengths; Last arrow—Suggest future directions for investigation

4 Discussion Is Not a War of Words

figure b

5 How Long Should the Discussion in the Manuscript Be?

Most journals do not mention any limits for discussion as long as it is brief and relevant (Fig. 21.2 ). As a rule, ‘The length of the discussion section should not exceed the sum of other parts-introduction, materials and methods, and results’. [ 3 ] In any good article, the discussion section is 3–4 pages, 6–7 paragraphs, or approximately 10 paragraphs, and 1000–1500 words [ 1 , 5 , 8 , 12 ].

figure 2

Discussion pyramid

6 What Should Be Written in the Conclusion Section?

The conclusion is the last paragraph and has the carry-home message for the reader. It is the powerful and meaningful end piece of the script. It states what change has the paper made to science and it also contains recommendations for future studies.

7 Conclusions

Discussion is not a stand-alone section, it intertwines the objectives of the study with how and what was achieved.

The major results are described and compared with other studies.

The author’s own work is critically analysed in comparison with that of others.

The limitations and strengths of the study are highlighted.

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Nundy, S., Kakar, A., Bhutta, Z.A. (2022). How to Write the Discussion?. In: How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries?. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-5248-6_21

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  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Essays
  • About Informed Consent
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  • Acknowledgements

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 :

  • Do not be verbose or repetitive.
  • Be concise and make your points clearly.
  • Avoid using jargon.
  • Follow a logical stream of thought.
  • Use the present verb tense, especially for established facts; however, refer to specific works and references in the past tense.
  • If needed, use subheadings to help organize your presentation or to group your interpretations into themes.

II.  The Content

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

  • Explanation of results : comment on whether or not the results were expected and present explanations for the results; go into greater depth when explaining findings that were unexpected or especially profound. If appropriate, note any unusual or unanticipated patterns or trends that emerged from your results and explain their meaning.
  • References to previous research : compare your results with the findings from other studies, or use the studies to support a claim. This can include re-visiting key sources already cited in your literature review section, or, save them to cite later in the discussion section if they are more important to compare with your results than being part of the general research you cited to provide context and background information.
  • Deduction : a claim for how the results can be applied more generally. For example, describing lessons learned, proposing recommendations that can help improve a situation, or recommending best practices.
  • Hypothesis : a more general claim or possible conclusion arising from the results [which may be proved or disproved in subsequent research].

III. Organization and Structure

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

  • Think of your discussion as an inverted pyramid. Organize the discussion from the general to the specific, linking your findings to the literature, then to theory, then to practice [if appropriate].
  • Use the same key terms, mode of narration, and verb tense [present] that you used when when describing the research problem in the introduction.
  • Begin by briefly re-stating the research problem you were investigating and answer all of the research questions underpinning the problem that you posed in the introduction.
  • Describe the patterns, principles, and relationships shown by each major findings and place them in proper perspective. The sequencing of providing this information is important; first state the answer, then the relevant results, then cite the work of others. If appropriate, refer the reader to a figure or table to help enhance the interpretation of the data. The order of interpreting each major finding should be in the same order as they were described in your results section.
  • A good discussion section includes analysis of any unexpected findings. This paragraph should begin with a description of the unexpected finding, followed by a brief interpretation as to why you believe it appeared and, if necessary, its possible significance in relation to the overall study. If more than one unexpected finding emerged during the study, describe each them in the order they appeared as you gathered the data.
  • Before concluding the discussion, identify potential limitations and weaknesses. Comment on their relative importance in relation to your overall interpretation of the results and, if necessary, note how they may affect the validity of the findings. Avoid using an apologetic tone; however, be honest and self-critical.
  • The discussion section should end with a concise summary of the principal implications of the findings regardless of statistical significance. Give a brief explanation about why you believe the findings and conclusions of your study are important and how they support broader knowledge or understanding of the research problem. This can be followed by any recommendations for further research. However, do not offer recommendations which could have been easily addressed within the study. This demonstrates to the reader you have inadequately examined and interpreted the data.

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

  • Do not waste entire sentences restating your results . Should you need to remind the reader of the finding to be discussed, use "bridge sentences" that relate the result to the interpretation. An example would be: “The lack of available housing to single women with children in rural areas of Texas suggests that...[then move to the interpretation of this finding].”
  • Recommendations for further research can be included in either the discussion or conclusion of your paper but do not repeat your recommendations in the both sections.
  • Do not introduce new results in the discussion. Be wary of mistaking the reiteration of a specific finding for an interpretation.
  • Use of the first person is acceptable, but too much use of the first person may actually distract the reader from the main points.

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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  • Academic Writing Skills

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

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

In this article, we will take a closer look at the results and discussion section. Composing each of these carefully with sufficient data and well-constructed arguments can help improve your paper overall.

Guide to writing a science research manuscript e-book download

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

Let’s dive in a little deeper about how to properly, and clearly organize each part.

How to Organize the Results Section

Since your results follow your methods, you’ll want to provide information about what you discovered from the methods you used, such as your research data. In other words, what were the outcomes of the methods you used?

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 major 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 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 main 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 structure your results subsection paragraphs as follows:

  • Experimental purpose
  • Interpretation

Each subheading may contain a combination of ( Bahadoran, 2019 ; Hofmann, 2013, pg. 62-63):

  • Text: to explain about the research data
  • Figures: to display the research data and to show trends or relationships, for examples using graphs or gel pictures.
  • Tables: to represent a large data and exact value

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 (facts or numbers) 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 readers when they interpret data completely different from what the authors had in mind. So, you should briefly explain your data 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 elements is necessary so 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 components 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 number
  • Figure title
  • Figure legend (for example a brief title, experimental/statistical information, or definition of symbols).

Figure example

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

  • Table number
  • Table title
  • Row headings (for example groups)
  • Column headings
  • Row subheadings (for example categories or groups)
  • Column subheadings (for example categories or variables)
  • Footnotes (for example statistical analyses)

Table example

Tips to Write the Results Section

  • Direct the reader to the research data and explain the meaning of the data.
  • Avoid using a repetitive sentence structure to explain a new set of data.
  • Write and highlight important findings in your results.
  • Use the same order as the subheadings of the methods section.
  • Match the results with the research questions from the introduction. Your results should answer your research questions.
  • Be sure to mention the figures and tables in the body of your text.
  • Make sure there is no mismatch between the table number or the figure number in text and in figure/tables.
  • Only present data that support the significance of your study. You can provide additional data in tables and figures as supplementary material.

How to Organize the Discussion Section

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

In the discussion 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 ):

  • What experiments did you conduct and what were the results?
  • What do the results mean?
  • What were the important results from your study?
  • How did the results answer your research questions?
  • Did your results support your hypothesis or reject your hypothesis?
  • What are the variables or factors that might affect your results?
  • What were the strengths and limitations of your study?
  • What other published works support your findings?
  • What other published works contradict your findings?
  • What possible factors might cause your findings different from other findings?
  • What is the significance of your research?
  • What are new research questions to explore based on your findings?

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.

Discussion section

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

  • The beginning: The first sentence of the first paragraph should state the importance and the new findings of your research. The first paragraph may also include answers to your research questions mentioned in your introduction section.
  • The middle: The middle should contain the interpretations of the results to defend your answers, the strength of the study, the limitations of the study, and an update literature review that validates your findings.
  • The end: The end concludes the study and the significance of your research.

Another possible way to organize the discussion section was proposed by Michael Docherty in British Medical Journal: is by using this structure ( Docherty, 1999 ):

  • Discussion of important findings
  • Comparison of your results with other published works
  • Include the strengths and limitations of the study
  • Conclusion and possible implications of your study, including the significance of your study – address why and how is it meaningful
  • Future research questions based on your findings

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

  • First Paragraph: Provide an interpretation based on your key findings. Then support your interpretation with evidence.
  • Secondary results
  • Limitations
  • Unexpected findings
  • Comparisons to previous publications
  • Last Paragraph: The last paragraph should provide a summarization (conclusion) along with detailing the significance, implications and potential next steps.

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

Tips to Write the Discussion Section

  • Highlight the significance of your findings
  • Mention how the study will fill a gap in knowledge.
  • Indicate the implication of your research.
  • Avoid generalizing, misinterpreting your results, drawing a conclusion with no supportive findings from your results.

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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Writing Lab Reports: Discussion

Keys to the discussion .

Purpose : Why do we care? Relative size : 40-45% of total Scope : Narrow to broad: the bottom of the hourglass Verb Tense : Use the past tense to refer to results from your experiment or from other studies (e.g., the results supported my hypothesis that). Use the present to suggest implication of your study (e.g., these results suggest that...). Use the future or conditional to suggest what you will study in the future (e.g., future studies should investigate...)

The discussion offers an analysis of the experiment.

The purpose of the discussion section is to provide a brief summary of your results, relate them to your hypotheses, and put them into context within the field of research. This is the most substantial section of your report, and where you will include your unique interpretations and ideas. The discussion must therefore address the following essential questions: 

  • Did find what you expected to?
  • How do your findings compare to those of previous studies?
  • What are the implications of your findings?
  • What should be studied next?

Remember that this section forms the bottom of the hourglass – it should mirror the introduction by first focusing on your hypotheses and interpretation of results, and then gradually expanding to make comparisons with previous research, to provide implications of your study and to pose questions for future work – and completes the cycle of the scientific method.

Discussion Section Details

Support or reject hypotheses : Begin by stating whether your results supported your hypotheses or not; remember not to say that you proved anything – you can only support or reject hypotheses. You may also briefly summarize your results.

Interpret and compare results : Do your results make sense? Why do you think you found what you did? Compare your results to those of other studies. Do they differ? If so, how and why? Use literature to support your arguments, statements, and generalizations.

Discuss factors influencing results : Were there any anomalies in your data? Discuss any errors, inconsistencies, assumptions, or other factors that may have influenced the outcome of your study. If you were to repeat your study, would you do anything differently?

Discuss implications : How do your results contribute to existing research? Why was your study important?

Propose ideas for future research : Did your research generate questions for future research? What are the next steps in this field of study?

A good discussion section should…

  • Mirror the introduction in structure and scope
  • Support or reject your hypotheses
  • Explain how your results compare with existing research
  • Discuss any issues with your study
  • Propose questions for future research

A good discussion section should NOT…

  • Repeat detailed results
  • Refer to tables, figures, or appendices
  • State that anything was “proven”
  • Extrapolate beyond the scope of the paper

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how to write a discussion section

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The discussion section of a research paper is where the author analyzes and explains the importance of the study's results. It presents the conclusions drawn from the study, compares them to previous research, and addresses any potential limitations or weaknesses. The discussion section should also suggest areas for future research.

Everything is not that complicated if you know where to find the required information. We’ll tell you everything there is to know about writing your discussion. Our easy guide covers all important bits, including research questions and your research results. Do you know how all enumerated events are connected? Well, you will after reading this guide we’ve prepared for you!

What Is in the Discussion Section of a Research Paper

The discussion section of a research paper can be viewed as something similar to the conclusion of your paper. But not literal, of course. It’s an ultimate section where you can talk about the findings of your study. Think about these questions when writing:

  • Did you answer all of the promised research questions?
  • Did you mention why your work matters?
  • What are your findings, and why should anyone even care?
  • Does your study have a literature review?

So, answer your questions, provide proof, and don’t forget about your promises from the introduction. 

How to Write a Discussion Section in 5 Steps

How to write the discussion section of a research paper is something everyone googles eventually. It's just life. But why not make everything easier? In brief, this section we’re talking about must include all following parts:

  • Answers for research questions
  • Literature review
  • Results of the work
  • Limitations of one’s study
  • Overall conclusion

Indeed, all those parts may confuse anyone. So by looking at our guide, you'll save yourself some hassle.  P.S. All our steps are easy and explained in detail! But if you are looking for the most efficient solution, consider using professional help. Leave your “ write my research paper for me ” order at StudyCrumb and get a customized study tailored to your requirements.

Step 1. Start Strong: Discussion Section of a Research Paper

First and foremost, how to start the discussion section of a research paper? Here’s what you should definitely consider before settling down to start writing:

  • All essays or papers must begin strong. All readers will not wait for any writer to get to the point. We advise summarizing the paper's main findings.
  • Moreover, you should relate both discussion and literature review to what you have discovered. Mentioning that would be a plus too.
  • Make sure that an introduction or start per se is clear and concise. Word count might be needed for school. But any paper should be understandable and not too diluted.

Step 2. Answer the Questions in Your Discussion Section of a Research Paper

Writing the discussion section of a research paper also involves mentioning your questions. Remember that in your introduction, you have promised your readers to answer certain questions. Well, now it’s a perfect time to finally give the awaited answer. You need to explain all possible correlations between your findings, research questions, and literature proposed. You already had hypotheses. So were they correct, or maybe you want to propose certain corrections? Section’s main goal is to avoid open ends. It’s not a story or a fairytale with an intriguing ending. If you have several questions, you must answer them. As simple as that.

Step 3. Relate Your Results in a Discussion Section

Writing a discussion section of a research paper also requires any writer to explain their results. You will undoubtedly include an impactful literature review. However, your readers should not just try and struggle with understanding what are some specific relationships behind previous studies and your results.  Your results should sound something like: “This guy in their paper discovered that apples are green. Nevertheless, I have proven via experimentation and research that apples are actually red.” Please, don’t take these results directly. It’s just an initial hypothesis. But what you should definitely remember is any practical implications of your study. Why does it matter and how can anyone use it? That’s the most crucial question.

Step 4. Describe the Limitations in Your Discussion Section

Discussion section of a research paper isn’t limitless. What does that mean? Essentially, it means that you also have to discuss any limitations of your study. Maybe you had some methodological inconsistencies. Possibly, there are no particular theories or not enough information for you to be entirely confident in one’s conclusions.  You might say that an available source of literature you have studied does not focus on one’s issue. That’s why one’s main limitation is theoretical. However, keep in mind that your limitations must possess a certain degree of relevancy. You can just say that you haven’t found enough books. Your information must be truthful to research.

Step 5. Conclude Your Discussion Section With Recommendations

Your last step when you write a discussion section in a paper is its conclusion, like in any other academic work. Writer’s conclusion must be as strong as their starting point of the overall work. Check out our brief list of things to know about the conclusion in research paper :

  • It must present its scientific relevance and importance of your work.
  • It should include different implications of your research.
  • It should not, however, discuss anything new or things that you have not mentioned before.
  • Leave no open questions and carefully complete the work without them.

Discussion Section of a Research Paper Example

All the best example discussion sections of a research paper will be written according to our brief guide. Don’t forget that you need to state your findings and underline the importance of your work. An undoubtedly big part of one’s discussion will definitely be answering and explaining the research questions. In other words, you’ll already have all the knowledge you have so carefully gathered. Our last step for you is to recollect and wrap up your paper. But we’re sure you’ll succeed!

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How to Write a Discussion Section: Final Thoughts

Today we have covered how to write a discussion section. That was quite a brief journey, wasn’t it? Just to remind you to focus on these things:

  • Importance of your study.
  • Summary of the information you have gathered.
  • Main findings and conclusions.
  • Answers to all research questions without an open end.
  • Correlation between literature review and your results.

But, wait, this guide is not the only thing we can do. Looking for how to write an abstract for a research paper  for example? We have such a blog and much more on our platform.

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Discussion Section of a Research Paper: Frequently Asked Questions

1. how long should the discussion section of a research paper be.

Our discussion section of a research paper should not be longer than other sections. So try to keep it short but as informative as possible. It usually contains around 6-7 paragraphs in length. It is enough to briefly summarize all the important data and not to drag it.

2. What's the difference between the discussion and the results?

The difference between discussion and results is very simple and easy to understand. The results only report your main findings. You stated what you have found and how you have done that. In contrast, one’s discussion mentions your findings and explains how they relate to other literature, research questions, and one’s hypothesis. Therefore, it is not only a report but an efficient as well as proper explanation.

3. What's the difference between a discussion and a conclusion?

The difference between discussion and conclusion is also quite easy. Conclusion is a brief summary of all the findings and results. Still, our favorite discussion section interprets and explains your main results. It is an important but more lengthy and wordy part. Besides, it uses extra literature for references.

4. What is the purpose of the discussion section?

The primary purpose of a discussion section is to interpret and describe all your interesting findings. Therefore, you should state what you have learned, whether your hypothesis was correct and how your results can be explained using other sources. If this section is clear to readers, our congratulations as you have succeeded.

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Discussion or Conclusion

Test yourself (discussion).

Once you've discussed the most important findings of your study in the Results section, you will use the Discussion section to interpret those findings and talk about why they are important (some instructors call this the Conclusion section). You might want to talk about how your results agree, or disagree, with the results from similar studies. Here you can also mention areas ways you could have improved your study or further research to be done on the topic. Do not just restate your results - talk about why they are significant and important. Here's a paragraph taken from the Discussion from the bone fracture paper. Notice how the authors relate their results to what is already known about the topic. The numbers in brackets refer to references listed at the end of their paper (not shown here).

The data indicate that avoiding a low level of physical activity substantially reduces the risk of all fractures, particularly hip fractures—the most devastating of osteoporotic fractures—in men. Even changes in physical activity during the follow-up affected hip fracture risk. As expected, those who maintained a high physical activity level had the lowest risk of hip fracture, but there was also a tendency towards a lower risk of fracture for those who increased their level of activity compared with those who reduced their level of activity, or compared with those who reported constant low activity. This observation has previously been made in women [8,16]. There are several possible mechanisms, related to muscle performance and balance as well as to bone architecture and strength, whereby physical activity can reduce the risk of fractures [28,29].

Which of the following is a good example of a sentence you would find in the Discussion section of a lab report?

a. Ten dogs with no previous training were selected for the study. b. Unlike in previous studies on dog training, most of the dogs in this study retained the ability to perform tricks for up to six weeks after the initial training sessions. c. Seven of the ten dogs learned how to "sit" after three training sessions. d. It was hypothesized that the dogs would be able to retain all of the training commands for six weeks after the initial training sessions.

B The Discussion should interpret the findings from the study and relate them to other similar studies. It is not the place to talk about the results, the methods use, or the original hypothesis.

Click on the question, to see the answer.

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  • How to Write a Discussion Section | Tips & Examples

How to Write a Discussion Section | Tips & Examples

Published on 21 August 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 25 October 2022.

Discussion section flow chart

The discussion section is where you delve into the meaning, importance, and relevance of your results .

It should focus on explaining and evaluating what you found, showing how it relates to your literature review , and making an argument in support of your overall conclusion . It should not be a second results section .

There are different ways to write this section, but you can focus your writing around these key elements:

  • Summary: A brief recap of your key results
  • Interpretations: What do your results mean?
  • Implications: Why do your results matter?
  • Limitations: What can’t your results tell us?
  • Recommendations: Avenues for further studies or analyses

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Table of contents

What not to include in your discussion section, step 1: summarise your key findings, step 2: give your interpretations, step 3: discuss the implications, step 4: acknowledge the limitations, step 5: share your recommendations, discussion section example.

There are a few common mistakes to avoid when writing the discussion section of your paper.

  • Don’t introduce new results: You should only discuss the data that you have already reported in your results section .
  • Don’t make inflated claims: Avoid overinterpretation and speculation that isn’t directly supported by your data.
  • Don’t undermine your research: The discussion of limitations should aim to strengthen your credibility, not emphasise weaknesses or failures.

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Start this section by reiterating your research problem  and concisely summarising your major findings. Don’t just repeat all the data you have already reported – aim for a clear statement of the overall result that directly answers your main  research question . This should be no more than one paragraph.

Many students struggle with the differences between a discussion section and a results section . The crux of the matter is that your results sections should present your results, and your discussion section should subjectively evaluate them. Try not to blend elements of these two sections, in order to keep your paper sharp.

  • The results indicate that …
  • The study demonstrates a correlation between …
  • This analysis supports the theory that …
  • The data suggest  that …

The meaning of your results may seem obvious to you, but it’s important to spell out their significance for your reader, showing exactly how they answer your research question.

The form of your interpretations will depend on the type of research, but some typical approaches to interpreting the data include:

  • Identifying correlations , patterns, and relationships among the data
  • Discussing whether the results met your expectations or supported your hypotheses
  • Contextualising your findings within previous research and theory
  • Explaining unexpected results and evaluating their significance
  • Considering possible alternative explanations and making an argument for your position

You can organise your discussion around key themes, hypotheses, or research questions, following the same structure as your results section. Alternatively, you can also begin by highlighting the most significant or unexpected results.

  • In line with the hypothesis …
  • Contrary to the hypothesised association …
  • The results contradict the claims of Smith (2007) that …
  • The results might suggest that x . However, based on the findings of similar studies, a more plausible explanation is x .

As well as giving your own interpretations, make sure to relate your results back to the scholarly work that you surveyed in the literature review . The discussion should show how your findings fit with existing knowledge, what new insights they contribute, and what consequences they have for theory or practice.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do your results support or challenge existing theories? If they support existing theories, what new information do they contribute? If they challenge existing theories, why do you think that is?
  • Are there any practical implications?

Your overall aim is to show the reader exactly what your research has contributed, and why they should care.

  • These results build on existing evidence of …
  • The results do not fit with the theory that …
  • The experiment provides a new insight into the relationship between …
  • These results should be taken into account when considering how to …
  • The data contribute a clearer understanding of …
  • While previous research has focused on  x , these results demonstrate that y .

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Even the best research has its limitations. Acknowledging these is important to demonstrate your credibility. Limitations aren’t about listing your errors, but about providing an accurate picture of what can and cannot be concluded from your study.

Limitations might be due to your overall research design, specific methodological choices , or unanticipated obstacles that emerged during your research process.

Here are a few common possibilities:

  • If your sample size was small or limited to a specific group of people, explain how generalisability is limited.
  • If you encountered problems when gathering or analysing data, explain how these influenced the results.
  • If there are potential confounding variables that you were unable to control, acknowledge the effect these may have had.

After noting the limitations, you can reiterate why the results are nonetheless valid for the purpose of answering your research question.

  • The generalisability of the results is limited by …
  • The reliability of these data is impacted by …
  • Due to the lack of data on x , the results cannot confirm …
  • The methodological choices were constrained by …
  • It is beyond the scope of this study to …

Based on the discussion of your results, you can make recommendations for practical implementation or further research. Sometimes, the recommendations are saved for the conclusion .

Suggestions for further research can lead directly from the limitations. Don’t just state that more studies should be done – give concrete ideas for how future work can build on areas that your own research was unable to address.

  • Further research is needed to establish …
  • Future studies should take into account …
  • Avenues for future research include …

Discussion section example

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Tips for writing a case report for the novice author

A case report is a description of important scientific observations that are missed or undetectable in clinical trials. This includes a rare or unusual clinical condition, a previously unreported or unrecognized disease, unusual side effects to therapy or response to treatment, and unique use of imaging modalities or diagnostic tests to assist diagnosis of a disease. Generally, a case report should be short and focussed, with its main components being the abstract, introduction, case description, and discussion. This article discusses the essential components of a case report, with the aim of providing guidelines and tips to novice authors to improve their writing skills.

Introduction

For many doctors and other healthcare professionals, writing a case report represents the first effort at getting articles published in medical journals and it is considered a useful exercise in learning how to write scientifically due to similarity of the basic methodology. 1 Case reports aim to convey a clinical message. 2 , 3 Despite different types of case reports, they all aim to enhance the reader's knowledge on the clinical manifestations, the diagnostic approach (with a focus on imaging modalities for case reports published in medical imaging/radiology journals), or the therapeutic alternatives of a disease. 2 – 4 Thus, a case report worthy of reading should contain both useful practical messages and educational purpose. 2 – 5

Although case reports are regarded by some as the lowest (some even do not list the case reports at all) in the hierarchy of evidence in the medical literature, publishing case reports allow for anecdotal sharing of individual experiences, providing essential sources of information for the optimum care of patients. In the hierarchy of evidence-based medicine, randomized controlled trials are placed at the top, superseded by systematic reviews and meta-analyses, followed by prospective experimental trials, then observational studies, case–control studies, and case series at the bottom. 1 , 6 – 8 Most authors are now aware of the impact factor of journals to which they submit their studies. Case reports are infrequently cited, and therefore, publishing case reports is likely to decrease the journal's impact factor. 9 This has led many editors to remove case report sections from their journals. 10

On the other hand, it has been pointed out by others that case reports that are carefully prepared and interpreted with appropriate caution play a valuable role in both the advancement of medical knowledge and the pursuit of education. 11 – 16 Vandenbroucke 17 listed five roles of potential contribution to defend the publication of case reports:

  • Recognition and description of a new disease
  • Recognition of rare manifestations of a known disease
  • Elucidation of the mechanisms of a disease
  • Detection of adverse or beneficial side effects of drugs (and other treatments)
  • Medical education and audit

Two main roles are recognized for case reports published in medical imaging and radiology journals: as sources of new knowledge and as important means for education and learning. The case report as a source of new knowledge refers to visualization of a new manifestation or finding, or clearer demonstration of a known feature of a disease, using a new imaging technology or an imaging method. 18 , 19 Figure 1 is an example showing 3D virtual endoscopy and the unique intraluminal views of the coronary lumen provided by this new visualization tool. 18 The case report as a means for teaching and learning can be manifested as publication of characteristic and instructive cases for educational features. An example is that British Journal of Radiology (BJR) used to publish six to seven case reports in its monthly issue; however, it has changed the format to publishing “Case of the Month” since May 2012. Educational value instead of extreme rarity is the main virtue of a case report worthy of publication. 2 , 3

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is jmrs0060-0108-f1.jpg

Multiplanar reformatted image showing the left coronary artery with coronary stent implanted (arrows) at the ostium of left main stem (A). Virtual endoscopy views of the proximal segment of left coronary artery (B), left anterior descending (C), and left circumflex (D). The internal wall of these coronary branches looks smooth on virtual endoscopy images with no sign of intraluminal irregularity. (Reprint with permission from Reference. 18 )

Writing a case report can be educational for the author as well as for potential readers. 13 Whether in the context of reporting something potentially new or presenting an instructive example of something well known, the author's first and most important task is to search and read extensively on the topic. 20 This article aims to provide guidance on the novice author for writing case reports. Although it is recognized that these guidelines and tips for writing case reports are insufficient for making a successful author, they do help inexperienced authors to exercise and develop basic skills needed in medical writing.

The structure of the case report

Case reports are shorter than most other types of articles. Case reports should encompass the following five sections: an abstract, an introduction with a literature review, a description of the case report, a discussion that includes a detailed explanation of the literature review, and a brief summary of the case and a conclusion. 21 , 22 Tables, figures, graphs, and illustrations comprise the supplementary parts and will enhance the case report's flow and clarity. Unlike original articles, case reports do not follow the usual IMRAD (introduction, methods, results, and discussion) format of manuscript organization. As the format for case reports varies greatly among different journals, it is important for authors to read carefully and follow the target journal's instructions to authors.

The title is the first component of a case report that will be read by readers. Therefore, it should be concise, informative, and relevant to the subject. The ideal title should attract the reader's attention and state the focus on a particular issue, without being too cumbersome or artificial. 23 Redundant words such as “case reports” or “review of the literature” should be omitted, and ostentatious words such as “unique case” or “first report of” should be avoided. 1 , 5 Table 1 lists the titles of case reports that were published in BJR ( British Journal of Radiology ) and JMIRO ( Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology ) between 2012 and 2013.

A list of case reports published in BJR and JMIRO between 2012 and 2013

IVC, inferior vena cava; CPD, continuing professional development.

The abstract

Like other types of articles, it is necessary to include a short summary that gives an overall idea about the content of the case report. The abstract is usually quite brief and generally shorter than that for other types of articles, and it typically has a word limit of 100 words or less. The abstract should be unstructured, pose the clinical question or diagnostic problem, and provide essential information which allows for easier retrieval from electronic database and helps researchers determine their levels of interest in the case report. 5

The introduction

The introduction should be concise and immediately attract the attention and interest of the reader. The introduction should provide background information on why the case is worth reading and publishing, and provides an explanation of the focus of the case report, for example: “We present/report a case of ….” Merit of the case report needs to be explained in light of the previous literature, thus, a focussed comprehensive literature review is required to corroborate the author's claim in this section. The author should bear in mind that a more detailed literature review belongs to the discussion, although critical evaluation of the literature is still required. 5 For some journals, such as BJR (case of the month), there is no Introduction section and the body of the case reports starts immediately with a description of the case.

The case description/summary

The case description or summary is the focus of the case report. The case is best presented in chronological order and in enough detail for the reader to establish his or her own conclusions about the case's validity. 5 , 21 The current medical condition and medical history, including relevant family history, should be clearly described in chronological order, typically comprising clinical history, physical examination findings, investigative results, including imaging and laboratory results, differential diagnosis, management, follow-up, and final diagnosis. 1 , 24 The following paragraph is an example of describing the patient's history:

A 34-year-old female was admitted to the outpatient department due to an increasing lump on the right thigh, which she stated as having been present for 5 years. A painful feeling sometimes occurred in the right upper leg. There was no complaint of lower limb weakness, no history of trauma and the patient was otherwise in good health. On physical examination, a deep seated round mass was detected and located on the right thigh with a size of 25 × 25 × 15 cm, showing hard consistency and non-mobile features ( Fig. 2 A). 25 Open in a separate window Figure 2 (A) Photograph showing a huge lump in the anterior part of the right thigh. (B) Radiographs revealed a bulged soft tissue mass in anterior compartment of right lower thigh showing predominantly radiolucent density with multiple chondroid matrix of calcification. Bone structure is still intact. (Reprint with permission from Reference. 25 )

All important negative findings should also be provided. The author's own interpretation or inferences should be avoided in the body of a case report. Tables/figures should be used to reveal chronological findings or to compare observations using different methods. The following paragraph is another example on the detailed description of using different methods both imaging and diagnostic:

Radiographs showed a bulge soft tissue mass in the right lower thigh having predominantly radiolucent density with multiple chondroid matrix of calcification ( Fig. 2 B), but the bone cortex is still intact. An MRI was obtained to further define the extent and nature of the lesion, confirming heterogeneous soft tissue mass in the anterior compartment of the muscle of the right lower thigh which mostly consisted of fat tissue, thick septation and some nodular non-adipose components. T2-weighted images through the tumour demonstrated high signal intensity comparable with the signal intensity of fat. Fat-suppressed T2-weighted images through the distal part of the tumour showed suppression of the signal through the central fatty components and lobular high signal intensity component at the peripheral rim. 25

In particular, figures need a brief but clear description. In the case of surgery and pathology specimens, the author is advised to provide a comprehensive summary of the surgical procedure and detailed pathologist's report. 5 , 25 The following paragraph is an excerpt from the case report published in the Australasian Medical Journal (AMJ):

The patient was admitted to the surgical ward with preparation for open surgery. The abdomen was opened through the site of the previous incision, and an abscess was observed and drained. A hole was detected in the peritoneal fascia. The anterior duodenum was oedematous and thickened with coverage of fibrin. A small perforated duodenal ulcer was seen. Graham patch procedure was performed to repair the perforated duodenal ulcer with two drains put in place and then the abdomen was closed. The patient was managed with intravenous fluids, as well as analgesics and antibiotics. 26

It is worth noting that patient confidentiality must be preserved. Patient demographics such as age and gender, and occasionally, race and occupation are referred to in the first sentence. In order to reduce the possibility of identifying the patient, the patient's initials, date of birth, and other identifiers such as hospital number must not be used.

The discussion

The discussion is the most important section of the case report. The discussion serves to summarize and interpret the key findings of the case report, to contrast the case report with what is already known in the literature and justify its uniqueness, to derive new knowledge and applicability to practice, and to draw clinically useful conclusions. 2 , 21 In comparing the new case with prior knowledge, the author should briefly summarize the published literature and show in what aspect the present case differs from those previously published, and thus deserves to be read and published. The discussion section of a case report is not designed to provide a comprehensive literature review and citation of all references; therefore, all the references cited should be critically evaluated.

Any limitations of the case should be stated and the significance of each limitation described. The value that the case adds to the current literature should be highlighted, so should the lessons that may be learnt from the case presented, especially if new recommendations for patient diagnosis (with use of an imaging modality) or management, could be put forward. 2 , 5 , 21 The following paragraph is an excerpt from a case report with regard to the concluding statement in the discussion:

This case report highlights the importance of using CT in making accurate diagnosis in patients with abdominal pain due to suspected GI tract perforation. In particular, appropriate selection of CT scanning protocol, such as with oral contrast administration is necessary to ensure timely diagnosis and improve patient management. 26

In the last paragraph, the author should provide the main conclusion of the case report based on the evidence reviewed in the discussion section. A concise statement of the lesson to be learnt from the case could be stated with justifiable evidence-based recommendations. This section should be concise and not exceed one paragraph. 14 , 21

The references

The references listed at the end of the case report should be carefully chosen by virtue of their relevance. References should provide additional information for readers interested in more detail than can be found in the case report, and they should support any specific points highlighted. 14 Some journals restrict the number of references to no more than 15 for a case report.

A case report will not have as much potential impact on the clinical practice of healthcare as randomized controlled trials or other research articles. However, case reports provide valuable sources of new and unusual information for clinicians to share their anecdotal experiences with individual cases, make others aware of unusual presentations or complications, and deliver the educational and teaching message. Well-written and appropriately structured case reports with meticulous attention to the very minute details will contribute to the medical literature and can still enrich our knowledge in today's evidence-based medical world. Table 2 provides the suggested checklist for reporting case reports. Guidelines and tips for writing case reports are not enough for becoming a successful author; however, they are considered helpful for inexperienced or novice authors to exercise and improve their skills needed in medical writing.

Checklist for writing case reports (based on advice in existing literature). 27

Conflict of Interest

None declared.

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Making Sense of Your Results: How to Craft a Strong Discussion Section in Your Lab Report

Stefani H.

Table of contents

Lab experiments are an integral part of any science course. If you’re a science student, you’ve probably been tasked with writing a lab report. And one essential part of writing any lab report is the discussion section.

Writing an effective discussion section can be challenging, considering its many components and the need to explain various concepts of your experiment. If not done correctly, the overall outcome may be confusing and not accurately convey your findings.

This blog post will provide an overview of how to write a discussion section in a lab report and the key components you must include for your report to be effective.

What should a lab report discussion include?

The main purpose of this section is to interpret the results and findings of your experiment and connect them to your hypothesis. It also connects theoretical concepts with the collected data and draws conclusions about the topic under study.

[FREE] Lab Report Examples Written by Our Writers

Additionally, the discussion section evaluates the experimental design and explores any errors or inconsistencies that may have occurred during the experiment. Finally, it highlights any gaps that need to be investigated in future research.

Essential parts of the discussion section in a lab report

Learn about the crucial parts of a lab report's discussion section: result interpretation, hypothesis evaluation, limitations, errors, implications, and future research recommendations.

  • An interpretation of results in light of the hypothesis;
  • An explanation of why the hypothesis was or wasn’t supported by the data;
  • Limitations or assumptions of the study;
  • An explanation of any experimental errors or unexpected outcomes;
  • Implications of your research findings;
  • Recommendations for future research.

How long should a discussion be in a lab report?

A discussion section should be approximately 10% of the overall length of your lab report. That means if your lab report is 10 pages long, your discussion should be approximately one page—this is about 3-5 paragraphs long.

How many pages should a discussion section be?

A typical discussion section should be about one page long. However, this may vary depending on the depth of your research and the complexity of the topic.

How many words should a discussion be in a lab report?

A discussion section should be about 300-600 words long. Again, the length may vary with the complexity and depth of your research.

Important insights

1. The primary aim of the discussion section is to interpret your experiment's results and findings in relation to your hypothesis.

2. Approximately 10% of your lab report should be devoted to the discussion section.

3. Depending on the complexity of the topic, the discussion section should typically be one-page long and around 300-400 words.

Discussion section in a lab report: Master it in 11 simple steps

When writing your lab report, the discussion section is among the parts that require more time and effort. This is because it summarises the entire report and makes the reader understand your experiment even without going through the data.

Here are the steps to help you to write an effective discussion section for your lab report.

Step #1: State the purpose of the experiment

The first step in writing an effective discussion section for your lab report is to state the purpose of the experiment.

Use one or two sentences to let the reader know what you were trying to discover and why it was important. Stating the purpose helps orient readers and allows them to understand how relevant your results are in the associated industry or topic of study.

Step #2: Give a brief overview of the methodology

Next, provide a brief overview of the methodology used in the experiment. This allows readers to understand how you obtained the results in your lab report.

When reviewing the methodology, include details such as the materials and methods used, how data was collected or analyzed, and any assumptions made during the experiment. Also, identify any challenges encountered during the experiment and how you addressed them.

Step #3: Identify and analyze data/results

Once you've given an overview, it's time to identify and analyze your data or the results obtained from your experiment. When discussing your results, use descriptive language that accurately describes what you observed in every part of the experiment. You can also use graphs, charts, or tables where applicable for your readers to understand your findings easily.

Finally, summarize any trends or patterns emerging from your experiment and highlight any unexpected results.

Remember to remain objective in this section of your lab report and focus on just presenting the data without interpreting them.

Step #4: Form conclusions based on findings

Once you've analyzed all the relevant data points from your experiment, it's time to draw conclusions based on your findings. Summarize all your observations in one concise statement that accurately explains what happened during your experiments.

Be sure not to draw unfounded conclusions. You want your conclusions backed by evidence from your experiment and existing literature related to the subject matter. This will help maintain the credibility and validity of your lab report.

Step #5: Interpret and explain the results

Now comes one of the most challenging parts— interpreting and explaining your results in light of published literature.

This is also where you interpret the data in relation to the purpose of your experiment (what you were trying to find out). Did the results prove your hypothesis right or wrong? Did you achieve the main purpose of your experiment?

When interpreting your results, be sure not to make any unfounded claims. Every claim you make should be based on evidence from relevant sources like peer-reviewed journals or other scientific studies.

You'll need to research extensively and gain deep knowledge of your topic here. This will enable you to accurately explain why certain results occurred the way they did and their relevance to existing research.

Step #6: Present alternative explanations and interpretations

When interpreting your data, it’s important to provide alternative explanations and interpretations. Consider all possible angles of explanations for the results obtained during your experiment.

For instance:

  • Was there something that could have influenced the results?
  • Is there any other implied meaning of the results?
  • How does your data compare to what was expected?
  • Was the outcome what you predicted? If not, why do you think that is?

Presenting alternative explanations shows that you’ve thought critically about the results of your experiment and drawn meaningful conclusions from it.

Step #7: Discuss any unexpected or surprising outcomes

You may have encountered some unexpected or surprising outcomes during your experiment. These also form a significant part of your lab report and should never be left out.

Did anything strange happen during the experiment? Were there any unusual results? If so, what do you think was the cause?

It’s always important to explain all your results, even if they are not what you anticipated. They can often provide valuable insights into your report and inspire further research.

Again, remember to back up all your claims with existing evidence from your data or other relevant published articles.

Step #8: Summarize the significance of your findings

After presenting and discussing your findings, take a step back and summarize the significance of what you found.

What do your findings mean for the broader scientific community? Why are they important, or what value do they add to science?

Step #9: Describe the broader implications of your findings

Now that you’ve explained the significance of your research findings, you’ll also need to describe their broader implications.

How can your findings be used practically to make lives better? How will your findings impact future research in this area? How can it inspire learning in your field of study?

Step #10: Identify any inconsistencies or limitations in the experiment

The discussion section also presents an opportunity to highlight any inconsistencies or limitations of the experiment in the discussion section.

Were there any problems with the experimental design? Did anything go wrong during the experiment that could affect the outcome? Were there any biases that could impact the overall results?

Highlighting inconsistencies and limitations ensures that you provide a more accurate interpretation of your experimental data.

Step #11: Make recommendations for future experiments

Finally, it’s important to make recommendations for future research and experiments. Based on what you’ve learned from this experiment:

  • What needs to be done differently next time?
  • How can similar experiments be improved in the future?
  • What additional research needs to be done in this area?
  • What questions still need to be answered?

Your recommendations will show the value of your work and inspire other students who may want to carry out related experiments in the future.

Every science student should learn and master how to write a discussion section in a lab report. The discussion section is the basis for further analysis to ensure your experiment’s findings are valuable and accurate.

All you need to do is understand your research work and have your data properly organized. Once you know the structure and basic components of the discussion section, you’re good to go!

If you have trouble writing the discussion section or the entire lab report, reach out to Writers Per Hour and hire our academic writers .

We are a professional writing service with expert lab report writers on the team who can help you research, write, edit, and rewrite your lab report. We guarantee 100% original and custom-written lab reports with on-time delivery.

So, the next time you’re struggling, don’t waste a minute and order a lab report from us.

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How To Write A Lab Report | Step-by-Step Guide & Examples

Published on May 20, 2021 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment. The main purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method by performing and evaluating a hands-on lab experiment. This type of assignment is usually shorter than a research paper .

Lab reports are commonly used in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This article focuses on how to structure and write a lab report.

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Table of contents

Structuring a lab report, introduction, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about lab reports.

The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but they usually contain the purpose, methods, and findings of a lab experiment .

Each section of a lab report has its own purpose.

  • Title: expresses the topic of your study
  • Abstract : summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
  • Introduction: establishes the context needed to understand the topic
  • Method: describes the materials and procedures used in the experiment
  • Results: reports all descriptive and inferential statistical analyses
  • Discussion: interprets and evaluates results and identifies limitations
  • Conclusion: sums up the main findings of your experiment
  • References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA )
  • Appendices : contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures

Although most lab reports contain these sections, some sections can be omitted or combined with others. For example, some lab reports contain a brief section on research aims instead of an introduction, and a separate conclusion is not always required.

If you’re not sure, it’s best to check your lab report requirements with your instructor.

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Your title provides the first impression of your lab report – effective titles communicate the topic and/or the findings of your study in specific terms.

Create a title that directly conveys the main focus or purpose of your study. It doesn’t need to be creative or thought-provoking, but it should be informative.

  • The effects of varying nitrogen levels on tomato plant height.
  • Testing the universality of the McGurk effect.
  • Comparing the viscosity of common liquids found in kitchens.

An abstract condenses a lab report into a brief overview of about 150–300 words. It should provide readers with a compact version of the research aims, the methods and materials used, the main results, and the final conclusion.

Think of it as a way of giving readers a preview of your full lab report. Write the abstract last, in the past tense, after you’ve drafted all the other sections of your report, so you’ll be able to succinctly summarize each section.

To write a lab report abstract, use these guiding questions:

  • What is the wider context of your study?
  • What research question were you trying to answer?
  • How did you perform the experiment?
  • What did your results show?
  • How did you interpret your results?
  • What is the importance of your findings?

Nitrogen is a necessary nutrient for high quality plants. Tomatoes, one of the most consumed fruits worldwide, rely on nitrogen for healthy leaves and stems to grow fruit. This experiment tested whether nitrogen levels affected tomato plant height in a controlled setting. It was expected that higher levels of nitrogen fertilizer would yield taller tomato plants.

Levels of nitrogen fertilizer were varied between three groups of tomato plants. The control group did not receive any nitrogen fertilizer, while one experimental group received low levels of nitrogen fertilizer, and a second experimental group received high levels of nitrogen fertilizer. All plants were grown from seeds, and heights were measured 50 days into the experiment.

The effects of nitrogen levels on plant height were tested between groups using an ANOVA. The plants with the highest level of nitrogen fertilizer were the tallest, while the plants with low levels of nitrogen exceeded the control group plants in height. In line with expectations and previous findings, the effects of nitrogen levels on plant height were statistically significant. This study strengthens the importance of nitrogen for tomato plants.

Your lab report introduction should set the scene for your experiment. One way to write your introduction is with a funnel (an inverted triangle) structure:

  • Start with the broad, general research topic
  • Narrow your topic down your specific study focus
  • End with a clear research question

Begin by providing background information on your research topic and explaining why it’s important in a broad real-world or theoretical context. Describe relevant previous research on your topic and note how your study may confirm it or expand it, or fill a gap in the research field.

This lab experiment builds on previous research from Haque, Paul, and Sarker (2011), who demonstrated that tomato plant yield increased at higher levels of nitrogen. However, the present research focuses on plant height as a growth indicator and uses a lab-controlled setting instead.

Next, go into detail on the theoretical basis for your study and describe any directly relevant laws or equations that you’ll be using. State your main research aims and expectations by outlining your hypotheses .

Based on the importance of nitrogen for tomato plants, the primary hypothesis was that the plants with the high levels of nitrogen would grow the tallest. The secondary hypothesis was that plants with low levels of nitrogen would grow taller than plants with no nitrogen.

Your introduction doesn’t need to be long, but you may need to organize it into a few paragraphs or with subheadings such as “Research Context” or “Research Aims.”

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A lab report Method section details the steps you took to gather and analyze data. Give enough detail so that others can follow or evaluate your procedures. Write this section in the past tense. If you need to include any long lists of procedural steps or materials, place them in the Appendices section but refer to them in the text here.

You should describe your experimental design, your subjects, materials, and specific procedures used for data collection and analysis.

Experimental design

Briefly note whether your experiment is a within-subjects  or between-subjects design, and describe how your sample units were assigned to conditions if relevant.

A between-subjects design with three groups of tomato plants was used. The control group did not receive any nitrogen fertilizer. The first experimental group received a low level of nitrogen fertilizer, while the second experimental group received a high level of nitrogen fertilizer.

Describe human subjects in terms of demographic characteristics, and animal or plant subjects in terms of genetic background. Note the total number of subjects as well as the number of subjects per condition or per group. You should also state how you recruited subjects for your study.

List the equipment or materials you used to gather data and state the model names for any specialized equipment.

List of materials

35 Tomato seeds

15 plant pots (15 cm tall)

Light lamps (50,000 lux)

Nitrogen fertilizer

Measuring tape

Describe your experimental settings and conditions in detail. You can provide labelled diagrams or images of the exact set-up necessary for experimental equipment. State how extraneous variables were controlled through restriction or by fixing them at a certain level (e.g., keeping the lab at room temperature).

Light levels were fixed throughout the experiment, and the plants were exposed to 12 hours of light a day. Temperature was restricted to between 23 and 25℃. The pH and carbon levels of the soil were also held constant throughout the experiment as these variables could influence plant height. The plants were grown in rooms free of insects or other pests, and they were spaced out adequately.

Your experimental procedure should describe the exact steps you took to gather data in chronological order. You’ll need to provide enough information so that someone else can replicate your procedure, but you should also be concise. Place detailed information in the appendices where appropriate.

In a lab experiment, you’ll often closely follow a lab manual to gather data. Some instructors will allow you to simply reference the manual and state whether you changed any steps based on practical considerations. Other instructors may want you to rewrite the lab manual procedures as complete sentences in coherent paragraphs, while noting any changes to the steps that you applied in practice.

If you’re performing extensive data analysis, be sure to state your planned analysis methods as well. This includes the types of tests you’ll perform and any programs or software you’ll use for calculations (if relevant).

First, tomato seeds were sown in wooden flats containing soil about 2 cm below the surface. Each seed was kept 3-5 cm apart. The flats were covered to keep the soil moist until germination. The seedlings were removed and transplanted to pots 8 days later, with a maximum of 2 plants to a pot. Each pot was watered once a day to keep the soil moist.

The nitrogen fertilizer treatment was applied to the plant pots 12 days after transplantation. The control group received no treatment, while the first experimental group received a low concentration, and the second experimental group received a high concentration. There were 5 pots in each group, and each plant pot was labelled to indicate the group the plants belonged to.

50 days after the start of the experiment, plant height was measured for all plants. A measuring tape was used to record the length of the plant from ground level to the top of the tallest leaf.

In your results section, you should report the results of any statistical analysis procedures that you undertook. You should clearly state how the results of statistical tests support or refute your initial hypotheses.

The main results to report include:

  • any descriptive statistics
  • statistical test results
  • the significance of the test results
  • estimates of standard error or confidence intervals

The mean heights of the plants in the control group, low nitrogen group, and high nitrogen groups were 20.3, 25.1, and 29.6 cm respectively. A one-way ANOVA was applied to calculate the effect of nitrogen fertilizer level on plant height. The results demonstrated statistically significant ( p = .03) height differences between groups.

Next, post-hoc tests were performed to assess the primary and secondary hypotheses. In support of the primary hypothesis, the high nitrogen group plants were significantly taller than the low nitrogen group and the control group plants. Similarly, the results supported the secondary hypothesis: the low nitrogen plants were taller than the control group plants.

These results can be reported in the text or in tables and figures. Use text for highlighting a few key results, but present large sets of numbers in tables, or show relationships between variables with graphs.

You should also include sample calculations in the Results section for complex experiments. For each sample calculation, provide a brief description of what it does and use clear symbols. Present your raw data in the Appendices section and refer to it to highlight any outliers or trends.

The Discussion section will help demonstrate your understanding of the experimental process and your critical thinking skills.

In this section, you can:

  • Interpret your results
  • Compare your findings with your expectations
  • Identify any sources of experimental error
  • Explain any unexpected results
  • Suggest possible improvements for further studies

Interpreting your results involves clarifying how your results help you answer your main research question. Report whether your results support your hypotheses.

  • Did you measure what you sought out to measure?
  • Were your analysis procedures appropriate for this type of data?

Compare your findings with other research and explain any key differences in findings.

  • Are your results in line with those from previous studies or your classmates’ results? Why or why not?

An effective Discussion section will also highlight the strengths and limitations of a study.

  • Did you have high internal validity or reliability?
  • How did you establish these aspects of your study?

When describing limitations, use specific examples. For example, if random error contributed substantially to the measurements in your study, state the particular sources of error (e.g., imprecise apparatus) and explain ways to improve them.

The results support the hypothesis that nitrogen levels affect plant height, with increasing levels producing taller plants. These statistically significant results are taken together with previous research to support the importance of nitrogen as a nutrient for tomato plant growth.

However, unlike previous studies, this study focused on plant height as an indicator of plant growth in the present experiment. Importantly, plant height may not always reflect plant health or fruit yield, so measuring other indicators would have strengthened the study findings.

Another limitation of the study is the plant height measurement technique, as the measuring tape was not suitable for plants with extreme curvature. Future studies may focus on measuring plant height in different ways.

The main strengths of this study were the controls for extraneous variables, such as pH and carbon levels of the soil. All other factors that could affect plant height were tightly controlled to isolate the effects of nitrogen levels, resulting in high internal validity for this study.

Your conclusion should be the final section of your lab report. Here, you’ll summarize the findings of your experiment, with a brief overview of the strengths and limitations, and implications of your study for further research.

Some lab reports may omit a Conclusion section because it overlaps with the Discussion section, but you should check with your instructor before doing so.

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A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment . Lab reports are commonly assigned in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method with a hands-on lab experiment. Course instructors will often provide you with an experimental design and procedure. Your task is to write up how you actually performed the experiment and evaluate the outcome.

In contrast, a research paper requires you to independently develop an original argument. It involves more in-depth research and interpretation of sources and data.

A lab report is usually shorter than a research paper.

The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but it usually contains the following:

  • Abstract: summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
  • References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA)
  • Appendices: contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures

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.

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  1. How to Write a Discussion Section

    How to Write a Discussion Section | Tips & Examples Published on August 21, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 18, 2023. The discussion section is where you delve into the meaning, importance, and relevance of your results.

  2. How to Write Discussions and Conclusions

    the results of your research, a discussion of related research, and a comparison between your results and initial hypothesis. 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.

  3. Writing a Lab Report: Introduction and Discussion Section Guide

    The discussion is the most important part of your lab report, because here you show that you have not merely completed the experiment, but that you also understand its wider implications. The discussion section is reserved for putting experimental results in the context of the larger theory.

  4. Writing a discussion section

    Writing a discussion section In the discussion section, you will draw connections between your findings, existing theory and other research. You will have an opportunity to tell the story arising from your findings. This page will help you to: understand the purpose of the discussion section follow the steps required to plan your discussion section

  5. PDF 7th Edition Discussion Phrases Guide

    The Discussion is your opportunity to evaluate and interpret the results of your study or paper, draw inferences and conclusions from it, and communicate its contributions to science and/or society. Use the present tense when writing the Discussion section.

  6. 8. The Discussion

    The discussion will always connect to the introduction by way of the research questions or hypotheses you posed and the literature you reviewed, but the discussion does not simply repeat or rearrange the first parts of your paper; the discussion clearly explains how your study advanced the reader's understanding of the research problem from wher...

  7. How to Write a Discussion Section for a Research Paper

    In a nutshell, your Discussion fulfills the promise you made to readers in your Introduction. At the beginning of your paper, you tell us why we should care about your research. You then guide us through a series of intricate images and graphs that capture all the relevant data you collected during your research.

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    How to write a report in 7 steps What is a report? In technical terms, the definition of a report is pretty vague: any account, spoken or written, of the matters concerning a particular topic. This could refer to anything from a courtroom testimony to a grade schooler's book report .

  9. How to write a discussion section?

    The discussion section can be written in 3 parts: an introductory paragraph, intermediate paragraphs and a conclusion paragraph. For intermediate paragraphs, a "divide and conquer" approach, meaning a full paragraph describing each of the study endpoints, can be used.

  10. Research Guides: Writing a Scientific Paper: DISCUSSION

    Show how your results agree or disagree with previously published works. Discuss the theoretical implications of your work as well as practical applications. State your conclusions clearly. Summarize your evidence for each conclusion. "Discussion and Conclusions Checklist" from: How to Write a Good Scientific Paper.

  11. How to Write the Discussion?

    Fig. 21.1. How a discussion should look. First arrow—Mention your key results/findings; Second arrow—Discuss your results with their explanations\step by step; Third Arrow—Enumerate your studies limitations and strengths; Last arrow—Suggest future directions for investigation. Full size image.

  12. Organizing Academic Research Papers: 8. The Discussion

    Organization and Structure. Keep the following sequential points in mind as you organize and write the discussion section of your paper: Think of your discussion as an inverted pyramid. Organize the discussion from the general to the specific, linking your findings to the literature, then to theory, then to practice [if appropriate]. Use the ...

  13. WRITTEN REPORT GUIDELINES

    Written Report Guidelines. The written report should have the following sections: (1). Title page (2). Abstract (3). Introduction (4). Materials and Methods (5). Results (6). Discussion (7). Conclusions (8). References. Description of the content of each of these sections follows. Additional remarks on report preparation and writing style are ...

  14. Writing a compelling results and discussion section

    This article speaks about the best ways in writing results and discussion section during your research work. Charlesworth Author Services, a trusted brand supporting the world's leading academic publishers, institutions and authors since 1928. We only work with native English-speaking editors with advanced or postdoctoral degrees in their disciplines.

  15. Guide to Writing the Results and Discussion Sections of a ...

    Text: to explain about the research data Figures: to display the research data and to show trends or relationships, for examples using graphs or gel pictures. Tables: to represent a large data and exact value Decide on the best way to present your data — in the form of text, figures or tables (Hofmann, 2013). Data or Results?

  16. Writing Lab Reports: Discussion

    The purpose of the discussion section is to provide a brief summary of your results, relate them to your hypotheses, and put them into context within the field of research. This is the most substantial section of your report, and where you will include your unique interpretations and ideas.

  17. (PDF) How to Write an Effective Discussion in a Research Paper; a Guide

    Always write the discussion for the reader; remember that the focus should be to help the reader understand the study and that the highlight should be on the study data. View. Show abstract.

  18. Discussion Section of a Research Paper: Guide & Example

    Step 3. Relate Your Results. Readability checker. discussion section of a research paper is where the author analyzes and explains the importance of the study's results. It presents the conclusions drawn from the study, compares them to previous research, and addresses any potential limitations or weaknesses.

  19. LibGuides: Lab Report Writing: Discussion/Conclusion

    Discussion or Conclusion. Once you've discussed the most important findings of your study in the Results section, you will use the Discussion section to interpret those findings and talk about why they are important (some instructors call this the Conclusion section). You might want to talk about how your results agree, or disagree, with the ...

  20. How to Write a Discussion Section

    Step 1: Summarise your key findings Step 2: Give your interpretations Step 3: Discuss the implications Step 4: Acknowledge the limitations Step 5: Share your recommendations Discussion section example What not to include in your discussion section There are a few common mistakes to avoid when writing the discussion section of your paper.

  21. Tips for writing a case report for the novice author

    Introduction. For many doctors and other healthcare professionals, writing a case report represents the first effort at getting articles published in medical journals and it is considered a useful exercise in learning how to write scientifically due to similarity of the basic methodology.1 Case reports aim to convey a clinical message.2,3 Despite different types of case reports, they all aim ...

  22. Lab Report Discussion Made Easy: Tips and Tricks

    Step #1: State the purpose of the experiment. The first step in writing an effective discussion section for your lab report is to state the purpose of the experiment. Use one or two sentences to let the reader know what you were trying to discover and why it was important. Stating the purpose helps orient readers and allows them to understand ...

  23. How To Write A Lab Report

    Introduction. Your lab report introduction should set the scene for your experiment. One way to write your introduction is with a funnel (an inverted triangle) structure: Start with the broad, general research topic. Narrow your topic down your specific study focus. End with a clear research question.