How to Write the Most Effective Discussion Section

How to Write the Most Effective Discussion SectionThe purpose of the discussion section 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 insights that emerged as a result of your study of the problem. 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.

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.
  • Use the present verb tense, especially for established facts; however, refer to specific works or prior studies in the past tense
  • Use subheadings to help organize your discussion or to categorize your interpretations into themes, If needed.
  1. The Content

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

  1. 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. Note any unusual or unanticipated patterns or trends that emerged from your results and explain their meaning in relation to the research problem, if appropriate.
  2. 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 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 result 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:

  1. 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].
  2. Use the same key terms, narrative style, and verb tense [present] that you used when describing the research problem in your introduction.
  3. 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.


  1. 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.

  1. Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why they are Important

Consider the likelihood that 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 [“why didn’t I think of that?”]. 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 in the results section.

Remember, the discussion section is presenting an interpretation of your major findings. So you need to perfect it. We hope that the above rules will help you. If you have an inquiry, visit



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