Writing good results and discussion

Last time we talked about writing good Abstract, Introduction, and Method sections. In this post, we synthesise the criteria of good Results and Discussion section.

By: Hao Ran Lai

Results

1. Report findings only, do NOT discuss (that is for later)

2. A results section needs to be mostly text & narrative, using figures and tables to help readers make connections and to provide evidence for your statements. A results section should never just be a list of tables & figures with no or little connecting text.

2. Provide evidence to answer all questions or hypotheses posed in the introduction

3. Results should be followed by statistical test method and P value where appropriate. For example: group A is significantly taller than group B (t = 2.171, d.f. = 29, P < 0.05).

4. If it helps with explanation, use a graph and/or table.

  • Refer to correct figure or table numbers!
  • Captions should be concise and clearly explain the figure or table content. Caption should be situated below a figure but above a table (usually but check journal format)

Discussion

1. The purpose is to:

  • Address hypotheses (are they resolved?), questions, aims, and/or limitations
  • Discuss the consequences or implications of results
  • Make comparisons with previous findings (support or contradict)
  • Announce your study’s contribution to the current field
  • Draw broader conclusions

2. General outline:

  • Big overview or summary of consequences of strongest results (1 paragraph)
  • Limitations (1 paragraph)
  • Expands thoughts on results and hypothesis (3-4 paragraphs; also depends on the number of hypotheses or result sections)
  • Conclusion or take home message (1-2 paragraphs)

3. Do not add too much new information:

  • No need for a comprehensive literature review, that has already been done in the Introduction section
  • Do not introduce too many new citations

4. No need to repeat results, that is already done in the Result section.

5. Tricks for writing about limitations:

  • Try not to undermine your work by discrediting your methodology or significance of study
  • The point of writing about limitations is to pre-empt negative editor comments, by saying “we have thought about the limitations but we think it would not affect our study” or “our results are meaningful despite these limitations”
  • Limitations can be meaningful because they guide future study design
  • Can separate and mix each limitation into different paragraphs, so that they do not seem to be dominating the Discussion section or you can put your main limitations all together in the 2nd paragraph and deal with them straight away so that readers/reviewers aren’t thinking “oh but they haven’t dealt with x, y, z…”

6. Sometimes using a figure is allowed in discussion but it should not introduce new findings, it should be for illustration of conclusions.

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One thought on “Writing good results and discussion

  1. Pingback: Teaching Tuesday: Writing in Ecology | Small Pond Science

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