Writing the Results Chapter for a Dissertation
This module highlights how the results chapter should objectively report the findings, presenting only brief observations in relation each sub-question, hypothesis or topic.
MODULE 5: RESULTS
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Chapter 1: Writing The Results Chapter For Qualitative Studies
We’ll begin with qualitative studies. At the end of the chapter you should be able to understand:
- What a results chapter is
- The importance of the chapter in your dissertation
- How to write a results chapter for a qualitative study
Once you are done collecting your data and analysing them for quality, the step that follows is usually to write up the results chapter or as it is called the findings chapter. To write to have a good results chapter, it is important to understand how it is written. Our ABCs will guide you in writing your qualitative findings chapter, through certain steps.
- Meaning of qualitative results chapter
- Contents of the chapter
- How to write the results chapter
- Additional tips to guide in writing
Results chapter: Meaning
A result of the findings chapter in a dissertation or any research work report is the chapter of presentation of the analysis done during the research. The data being presented should also be neutral representing the non-biases in the research. Depending on the school or department in various schools, the results chapter varies. Some results chapters contain discussion while some results chapters contain no discussion, as it is treated as a separate chapter. The latter is the most common approach in the results chapter and is what we will base on in this module.
There exist two different results chapters, the quantitative and the qualitative chapters. The quantitative chapter is a presentation of statistics and figures based on the research done according to the objectives. The qualitative results chapter, however, is different from the quantitative one as it mainly presents the data from the research objectively in words. The qualitative results chapter may contain a few figures and statistics like the frequency of a certain topic in your research according to the method of research used.
Quantitative results are important because numbers, figures and statistics provide more evidence adding weight to the findings in research in a qualitative results chapter. Qualitative results chapters are meant to give deeper meaning to the study and provide a clearer understanding of what was discovered or found during the study. It is therefore important to realize that numbers or quantitative analyses are important, they add flesh to the chapter but they do not hold much without the qualitative analysis. The qualitative analysis gives meaning to the numbers.
In summary, the results chapter is the chapter that focuses on the findings and presentation of both the qualitative and quantitative data with no biases. This chapter does not involve data interpretation it is just the presentation. So do not bother interpreting the results as that will be done in the discussion chapter. So what then will you include in your results chapter? We look at the content of a results chapter in the next part.
Contents of a qualitative results chapter
A results chapter should include the qualitative data from the research. The data presented in this chapter should be described and explained in detail but not interpreted. Do not relate the findings to your research questions or to any literature that you may have had before. Interpretation comes in on the discussion chapter. If you interpret your results then the chapter seizes to be a results chapter and becomes a discussion chapter and your dissertation may lack a results chapter. In the results chapter, you may talk about the hypotheses if there were any, and you may state whether your results support or do not support your hypotheses.
Often the contents of your results chapter will depend on the methodology of the research. The method used for qualitative analysis determines the inclusions of the results chapter. For instance, if the qualitative analysis was based on the themes or certain topics, these topics and themes will appear in your results as your findings, with evidence provided. Some of the pieces of evidence can be extracted or texts to support the themes that you have mentioned as your findings. In giving your results, avoid ambiguity and giving large chunks of data that is raw with no explanations. Try as much as possible to give important results that are the factual findings that have pieces of evidence that support them. Do not just fill the chapter with so much data and little explanation. You would rather even have a few findings but with clear explanations. If you feel the need to include your extra data then do so on the appendices.
Always ensure that you are along with your research, and do not go out of topic with your findings. If you have hypotheses then they should give you a clear guide of the things you need to include in your results chapter. Following the questions in the research, keeping in mind the hypotheses in the research, and remembering the aims and objectives of your research will enable you to include only what is required in the results chapter.
How to Write the Qualitative Results Chapter
Writing a results chapter becomes very easy once you have familiarized yourself with what it is and what is to be included in the chapter. The results chapter contains three parts:
- Body or the flesh of the chapter
- And a conclusion to wrap up the contents.
Introduce the chapter before going into detail about the results. The introduction part is very important because it gives an overview of what your results entail. When writing your introduction, begin with recapping your statement of problem and questions in your research, you should also highlight the purpose of the research. Ensure that your statement of the problem, statement of purpose and research questions are well pointed out so that as you write your results body, you remain in context.
After a well-written paragraph spelling out the statement of the problem, statement of purpose and research questions, one can now outline the results chapter structure. This part of the introduction makes the reader or the examiner aware of the things in the chapter. Give the examiner or the reader what to expect in your results. To give your reader a clear orientation, ensure that you write a proper structure for your results chapter, coherently, and flawlessly to allow easy understanding by the reader. You should also make sure that the statements are logical to give meaning to your writing. A good structure can be written by first making a draft with headings and subheadings following the heading styles 1, 2 and 3. This makes it very easy to follow the chapter and flow with the work.
It is important to note that this is an introduction, not a summary and therefore, should not be made lengthy, keep it brief. Write an introduction of about 300 words utmost, around two to three short paragraphs giving just an overview and not so much detail about the chapter. Keep it brief and short just like the paragraphs given for this part.
This is the flesh of your results chapter, you would want it to look very good and therefore you need to prepare well in advance. The body is the part where you go into detail about your results, explaining them but not interpreting them. After introducing your results you need now to give clear details of the qualitative data and the quantitative data and not suggest or imply any form of interpretation.
In writing the results chapter, you should be sure of the flow of words to make sense. You should make the right choice of words, portioning your work into different sections to allow a better understanding of your results. Each key result should be explained in its section following particular styles to have a proper flow of the work.
Most results chapters for qualitative studies are usually structured in form of themes and it enables a clear flow of the chapter. Some chapters, however, are not structured in this form and therefore are not the only way to present your results, it depends on the study. For instance, a theoretical study would have a presentation of results in form of theories, a longitudinal study would have results that are presented chronologically and so on.
In writing your results chapter, especially the qualitative type, you will need to give a supporting statement to your findings. Use quotes, texts and supporting statements to give weight to your results. Ensure that each claim and each result you give has a clear supporting quote, a text or a supporting statement to make it valid. Words directly quoted from sources can be put in italics and punctuated in quotes to distinguish them from other words in the chapter. Use at least two pieces of evidence or supporting statements to support your claims and should be linked directly to the data or claims you made. Do not be biased by presenting just the results that favour your assumptions but present all relevant results to the study.
You may also include other supporting work for your claims like the appendices that are to be a reference in your text. When supporting your claim with an appendix, be sure to reference the name and the number of the appendix and the line where you drew your reference from. Remember that reference styles vary with different writing styles and therefore you should check the style directed by your school keeping it constant throughout the chapter.
The conclusion or the summary of your chapter summarises the key findings and results in your chapter. It also directs the reader to the next part of your dissertation which is the discussion chapter. Your summary is very vital in your writing because most readers read only this part of your results chapter. After all, it is supposed to contain all the important information of the chapter summarised. Ensure that this part is, therefore, written well, flawlessly and direct to the point. Keep your summary brief you are not rewriting the body once again so do not go into detail, just keep it simple.
Point out the key findings in your research to ensure that the reader is aware of the results. In your writing, ensure that the results are well defined and related to the research questions. This will help you build up your upcoming discussion chapter. Keep in mind that your reader may have also read a lot on the body part of the chapter and therefore you are reminding them of the key results, and the important information you would want them to know.
In this part, you are concluding your results chapter and hence do not bring up any new information, or any new data that was not presented in the body of your chapter.
Tips for a High-quality qualitative results chapter
To achieve a high-quality paper it is important to note that:
- Write the chapter in the past tense as you are reporting on an already past event. The research work has already been done and you are now reporting on the results you found.
- Review your work before submission. Ensure that your work is written and flawless. Check on the claims that you made to confirm that each claim has a piece of evidence either in form of a quote, an appendix reference or text drawn from a reliable source. To be on the safer side each claim should have at least two supporting pieces of evidence.
- Remember that you are writing on the results and therefore should not be tempted to interpret your data. Avoid statements and words that may suggest interpretation.
- Give results that are relevant to the study. To ensure that you remain relevant in the presentation of your results, relate them to the objectives of the research, the research questions and the statement of purpose of the research.
- For an easy flow of work, include headings and sub-headings in your work. Use Microsoft word for guidance on the styles of headings to use. This will also make it easier for your reader to follow and understand.
- It is good to highlight themes and topics in your results chapter by using different colours to differentiate them. This also gives flow to your work logically.
- If you include tables and figures it is important to use a visual aid. Your visuals should be so comprehensive that the reader can understand all the details just by looking at the table without reading further explanation given.
Chapter 2: Quantitative Results Chapter
This chapter is about the results chapter for studies involving quantitative analysis. At the end of the chapter you should be able to understand:
- What the quantitative chapter is
- The importance of the chapter in your dissertation
- How to write the quantitative chapter
When data has been collected for research work, then the next step is to write a results chapter on the findings of the research. In this chapter, Skylink Research helps you to craft a good results chapter or finding chapter for your dissertation. We guide you on the steps to achieving a good results chapter and answer your questions regarding the results chapter.
- Meaning of quantitative results chapter
- Content of the chapter
- The how to write the results chapter
- Additional tips to guide in writing
Results chapter: Meaning
It is also known as the findings chapter and it is the part of the dissertation that explains the results. It is a very important part of the dissertation as it gives meaning to what was being done during the research in terms of quantitative data. Data are presented in this chapter in form of a narrative supported by tables, figures, graphs and charts. In this chapter. You are supposed to just outline the findings and not interpret them as that will be done in the discussion chapter. Present your findings, and describe them but do not interpret them or link them to previous research in your literature review or to your research questions that are to be done in the discussion chapter.
Use your results chapter for explaining facts not interpreting them. Unless your school requires you to write your results and discussion in one chapter, save your interpretations for the discussion chapter. You may have had interviews with respondents and found that a certain number of respondents fit into one category, in your results chapter you will only be required to state the number of respondents in the categories but do not explain further relating to your research questions why those respondents fell into the different categories, that is interpretation and it will be in the discussion chapter.
It is always good to consult with your supervisor on whether the results and discussion are to be written in one chapter or not when you are not sure of what to do.
Content of a Qualitative Results Chapter
Include only what is important and relevant to your study. In this case, you are presenting results from quantitative analysis and therefore your results chapter should include relevant quantitative results. Quantitative analysis mostly results in so much data that may at times not be relevant to your study, it is, therefore, your work to identify what is relevant to your study whether favouring or not favouring your hypothesis, as long as it is within your study.
Identifying relevant data in your results chapter
- It is important to look keenly into your results and relate them to your purpose of the study to know what is relevant and what is not.
- You need to review your research questions, your statement of the problem and your objectives for the research and relate them to your results. This will guide you on what data works well with your study and what does not.
- Be constant in your review while writing, to maintain consistency.
Remember that any data you include in the results chapter will be discussed in the discussion chapter and therefore you should be sure of the interpretation to give. For instance, if it is about the relationship of variables that will be discussed in the discussion chapter then ensure that the presentation in the results chapter is on relationships of the variables like regression and correlation analysis data.
To ensure that you have the right content in your results chapter, the quantitative results chapter, includes demographic data, hypotheses and reliability tests, and descriptive and inferential statistics where your research questions and objectives require them. We will discuss this in detail in the structure of the results chapter.
How to Write the Quantitative Results Chapter
Writing of the quantitative results chapter involves many steps depending on the purpose of the study, the objectives of the research, the statement of the problem and the research questions. Your study will determine the number of steps you will have in your study. The general steps in writing the quantitative results chapter are:
- Review Research Questions
Before beginning to write the chapter it is important to go back to the research questions and relate them to your results. You need to review your research questions to identify which tests and statistical analysis answered the research questions appropriately. This step is important because it directs the specific method that was used during the research. Each analysis method used should address a question in the research and answer it.
Secondly, in this stage, you should also plan on how to write the chapter, and how you are going to structure it and write it. You would make a rough draft for the chapter, beginning with identifying the tests and statistics relevant to your study and planning the order in which they will appear in your chapter. You could also make a draft for your discussion chapter at this point, by identifying the analyses that relate to your study and using them to answer your research questions hence doing an interpretation in the process.
- Introduction Overview
An introduction gives the reader an overview or direction on what the chapter is all about. The introduction should be brief and not into detail about what the results are about. Make the introduction a length of about 3 paragraphs at most. Introduce each analysis and the findings in brief relating them to the research questions without being too detailed. This will allow your chapter to flow and have consistency.
- Present the Data
The next step after completing the introduction of your data is to present the data. You will begin with presenting demographic data, which is responses from your respondents. The data to include in these parts are data on things like age, gender, ethnicity distribution and population distribution in the area of your study. You give the demographic data as your first presentation to assess the representation of a sample in the study of a bigger population. For generalisability, it is also important to present the demographic data to relate the sample to the general population. You must get the right demographic data so that you can relate it to your specific samples especially if you are interested in generalisability.
However, if you are not interested in generalisability, the demographic data will help you to understand your sample better and make the right interpretation when it comes to discussion. Therefore, demographic data should be included in your quantitative results chapter.
- Review your Composite Measures and Data shape
a) Composite Measures
These are multiple measures that are based on scale combined to capture a construct. For instance, you may have several measures that measure the same components but in different ways. Internal Consistency- All the ways used to measure a certain parameter should give similar results. It is not guaranteed and therefore should be assessed for reliability using various composite measures tests. A common test done for reliability is Cronbach’s Alpha Test. A high alpha would mean that the measures used are highly consistent while a low alpha would mean that the measures used are inconsistent and there is a need for removal of at least one of the measures.
b) Data Shape
You need to check whether the data you have are symmetrical or are a normal distribution or not. This will guide the analysis type to be used because some analysis tests work for the normal distribution of data while some do not. Tests like ANOVA and T-tests require the data to be in normal distribution while some other inferential tests do not require normal distribution of data.
To assess your shape of data, use descriptive statistics like mean, skewness and median. You will then present the descriptive statistics.
- Descriptive Statistics Presentation
Mean- a mathematical average of a range of numbers or a population
Median – is the midpoint or the middle figure in a range of orderly arranged numbers
Mode – is the most appearing number in a range of numbers
Standard Deviation – shows how dispersed a range of values is from the mean of the values.
Skewness –indicates the symmetry of a range of numbers. It shows whether the values are in a normal distribution or lie on a smooth curve in the middle of the graph or whether they lean on the left or the right as the data is in non-normal distribution.
Kurtosis –shows how the data is related to the normal distribution. It shows how closely or further data is from the normal distribution.
These are the statistics that are used in scale data analysis. There are many ways in which you would present your data depending on the type of data you are presenting. Some of the ways you would present the data include:
- Use of tables – tables containing various variables like mean, median, mode, standard deviation, kurtosis and skewness could be used to present your data.
- Use of graphs, figures and charts –you could use graphs like bar graphs and charts like pie charts to present your data especially
It is important to note that you should use different colours for your data to differentiate them from other words. You should also ensure that when using figures, graphs and charts they should have clear labelling and simplicity for the reader to understand. Ensure that the graphs, charts and tables that you use for your presentation are clear enough to be understood without other narratives. Depending on your research questions, aims, objectives and purpose of study, the descriptive analysis may be longer or shorter.
- Inferential Statistics Presentation
Inferential statistics are optional and therefore can be skipped. However, if your studies require you to make inferential statistics then you will be required to make their presentation.
Inferential statistics make general statistics on a population and its major difference from the descriptive statistics is that inferential is focused on the general population while descriptive statistics is focused on a sample rather than the entire population.
Types of inferential statistics are:
- Techniques that compare group measurements. Some of the techniques in this category are ANOVA and T-tests. ANOVA tests measure the difference among multiple groups while T-tests measure the difference between two groups.
- Techniques that assess the relationships between variables like correlation and regression.
It is important to remember that not all tests are used with normal distribution or non-normal distribution. Some tests are used for normal distribution while others are used for non-normal distribution. Also, remember that you are answering the research questions and achieving your research objectives and therefore should adopt techniques that lead you to achieve that goal.
This step is important but will depend on your study, if required make use of tables, graphs and charts making it easy for your readers to understand your work.
- Test Hypotheses
Hypothesis testing is conditional for those who used it in their studies. If your study does not require you to state a hypothesis then it will not be necessary to have this step. However, if you stated a hypothesis in your study then you must test the hypothesis in this step of your quantitative results chapter.
A statement of hypothesis usually gives the difference between groups in a study or relationships between variables in a study that can either be accepted or rejected through a statistical test.
Hypothesis testing involves:
Step 1: Specify your null hypothesis.
Step 2: specifying an alternative hypothesis which is the opposite of your null hypothesis
Step 3: setting the significance level which is normally a constant of 0.05
Step 4: Calculate the statistics and find your p-value. P-value is a number showing the likelihood of your data occurring under assumptions of your null hypothesis, like a p-value of 0.01
Step 5: Conclude, referring to your null hypothesis. This is very important in your results chapter, ensure you state whether you support or reject the hypothesis.
For those whose study purpose may have been to either support a theory or restructure it, then the hypothesis testing would help present the theoretical framework.
Keep your conclusion brief, summarising the key findings in your chapter. Write a summary of 2-3 paragraphs do not make it too long. Some readers will skip to the summary directly and therefore you should highlight your main points here, everything that would be relevant to your reader. You should include your research questions, objectives and purpose of study here to enlighten your readers more.
Tips for a High-Level Quantitative Results Chapter
Here are a few tips to guide you in writing your quantitative analysis:
- Always write your chapter in the past tense. You are reporting on an already done work and therefore it should appear in the past tense.
- Do your work. In presenting data in tables and graphs do not copy from statistical analysis programmes such as SPSS. Writing your work makes it even easier to have flawless work as you know exactly what you are writing about.
- In writing your chapter be systematic and consistent. Arrange your work, but the analysis and tests are in order and consistent with your results.
- Another takeaway is that you should show that the data you have is suitable for a particular analysis before writing your chapter. If you have data that do not correspond to the assumptions of certain analyses, then your work becomes invalid and meaningless.
- Lastly, review the chapter, and ensure that you have answered the research questions using your results. Go through the objectives and align them with your results, and also check that you did not give any suggestion or interpretation of your results which should be done in the discussion chapter.
In case of any questions or further clarifications on the results chapter both the qualitative and quantitative results chapter, you may contact us. If you would like to have a conversation with us on the results chapter in general or specific on qualitative or quantitative results chapters, reach us right away.
Chapter 3: Ten Common Mistakes Made In The Results Chapter
There are many mistakes that people make when writing the results chapter for their dissertations but we are only going to discuss the main ten mistakes made. These mistakes have been analysed by our coaches and put together for writers to learn about them and avoid making them in their dissertations.
Mistakes are analysed here to apply to both qualitative and quantitative results chapters.
1. Interpretation of results in the results chapter
One of the most mistakes made in the results chapter is an interpretation of the result, in this case, the results and discussion chapters are different chapters. Unless the structure of your dissertation required you to have a results and discussions chapter as one chapter do not interpret your results in the results chapter. It has been noted that most people tend to give so much information about their results that they end up interpreting the results. It is important to keep in mind that the results chapter is meant for presenting and describing your results solely. The interpretation should be done in the discussion chapter. In the results chapter, show your findings from the methodology you used, and save your explanation of what the results mean for the discussion chapter.
Remember that the purpose of writing your results chapter is to show the objectives findings and answers you found for the research questions and not what those results mean.
It is also important to note that in your quantitative results chapter you are required to do hypothesis testing and this means that you just state whether the hypothesis is supported or rejected but do not go into detail about why it was rejected or supported.
2. Inclusion of irrelevant data in your content
Another common mistake is including data that is irrelevant in your results chapter. You may feel the need to include everything you found in your results chapter but not every analysis is suitable for your chapter. Include only the value-adding data to your research objectives, research questions and purpose of the study. Sometimes, this may be difficult to do as you may have found data that is not directly related to the research questions but builds up on the answers to the research questions. In such a situation, it is important to consult with your supervisor or put it up in your appendix.
You should review your research questions, your objectives and the purpose of your study to be guided on what to include in your results chapter. Another way to be sure of what you should include in the chapter is by referring to the methodology chapter and ensuring that the findings you found align or agree with the methodology approach you used.
You may have found data that you found worth presenting in your appendix but does not match your methodology or even your objectives, and therefore you should not present that data.
3. Inclusion of complex analyses that are hard to explain or understand
In some instances, connected to the mistake discussed above, you may feel the need to include the complex analysis you made to appear unique and outstanding. You should review your methodology before writing your results chapter to check for any complex methodology that would give you trouble writing your results chapter rather than help you answer your research questions. Remember that the goal is to answer your research questions and relate your objectives and therefore the analysis whether simple or complex should help you achieve your goal. There is no problem in using simple or less complex analysis methods to get your results, use simpler or less complex analysis for your results and avoid the complex ones at all costs. It would make work easier for you in writing your results chapter and would also allow your reader to follow when you used less complex analysis.
4. Over-reliance on figures rather than the narrative of your results.
One of the most common mistakes done in the results chapter is overusing tables and charts in their results chapter. Many students take advantage of charts, tables, and figures and let them present their data, instead of adding a narrative to their figures. It is important to have the figures in your work but you should also include words to your to give a clear description of your work and everything that is presented in the tables and charts.
You would begin by giving a descriptive narrative of your results and then presenting the data in the figures. Giving a narrative and then presenting the data in the visuals, implies that you understood exactly what you were doing and even makes it easier for the reader to understand your figures. Ensure that your text can ‘speak’ solely for your results and the figures will support the already given description. Remember that in your description you should not use words that suggest an interpretation of the results which should be done in the discussion chapter. Approach tables and charts where possible, do not just give narratives without tables where it would be possible to use tables and figures too.
For your quantitative results chapter, it would be nice to have fewer figures do not to overload the chapter with many unnecessary figures. You can make a compound figure covering so much instead of having several charts all presenting similar data. This will save you time and also the work to put up many tables and charts.
For your qualitative analysis results chapter, there are usually fewer figures and therefore you would use the similar approach of having a compound figure instead of having many figures presenting the same data. Adding selective tables and charts to your qualitative analysis chapter help break the large narrative and is a plus to your work. You would use qualitative coding software like N-Vivo that would help you create good tables, charts and graphs for your qualitative analysis results chapter. Identify the relevant figures that would help you present your results from the qualitative coding software.
5. Poor choice of figures, tables, charts and graphs
Apart from overreliance on the figures, tables, charts, and graphs to present the results chapter another common mistake is choosing the wrong figures, tables, charts and graphs to present your data. It is important to note that not all tables, charts, graphs, and figures work for your results you need to select the tables and charts to use. You should review your aims and research questions and present the tables that are directly related to them. The choice of tables and charts that you make serves a great role in ensuring that your work remains coherent and flawless.
To choose the best visual for your presentation it is important to identify the exact aim for your presentation whether it is to describe the data, or show a particular relationship of the data and ensure that your visual type is suitable for the type of data being presented. You should also have in mind that the data you are presenting is directly related to your research aim.
6. Poor labelling of figures, tables, charts and ragphs
Ensure that you label your charts, tables, figures and especially your graphs properly. A common mistake done is the wrong labelling of axes in graphs and this makes the graph meaningless as it gives a wrong presentation of data. When presenting your visuals in the results chapter, each visual should have a caption giving information about what is in the visual. The caption should be so comprehensive giving enough information about the data and not giving the reader need to go through the narrative part again. Ensure that the caption is in the right position in the visual depending on the format you used and that it is descriptive of your work.
Specific visuals work for specific data and therefore ensure you choose the right visual for your data. For example, if you would want to present results on the relationship of certain data, you could use a scatter plot, if you would like to show normal distribution you would use a line graph, or if it is a non-normal distribution you would use a box plot. You could use our chart selector on our website, to assist you in creating a good chart for the presentation of your results. You should also be aware of the software you use and the suggestions they give you, some suggestions may be from the experts but do not work for your data so you have to be very aware of what works for your data.
7. Misinterpretation and shaping of results to suit your preferred putcomes
Many students tend to tamper with their results to get the results that they had been pre-convinced about. It is important to remember that the results chapter is meant for the description and presentation of results and not to prove the same. Therefore, use the chapter to present your results without trying to convince the reader why you have those results. The results chapter should not be used to interpret your results. Trying to change the results to your preferences does not make the work better but rather gives you trouble in interpreting them.
Sometimes the results may appear opposite of your expectations and this helps unveil new findings in your study which were unseen before therefore you should not shape the results in any way, and record exactly what you found. There may have been research done before similar to your work with contrary results that may cause alarm but you should maintain your results and let them speak for themselves in the discussion chapter.
8. Exclusion of certain data that are unsupportive
Do not exclude some results because they do not match the expectations you had. Record every important result including the contradicting ones because they are significant and can be discussed. Remember that you will not always find statistically significant results but that is okay and allowed. Some odd results can open up to further research and study as to why they appeared odd and therefore you should not omit a result just because it appeared different from what you expected.
In qualitative results chapters, sometimes one may have certain expectations of the results before data collection which is not always the case. Do not let your preconceived notions and ideas influence the results that you present. Describe and present all your results as they are without the concern of whether they are significant or not.
9. Poor structure and flow of your chapter
A result chapter usually has an introduction part, a body and a final summary part. In the introduction part, you are presenting giving the reader an overview of what you are presenting in brief. It is in the introduction that your reader is made aware of the structure of your results or findings chapter. The second part is the body where you give a detailed description of your results involving visuals where possible, and in the conclusion or summary part, you are giving the reader a summary of your results including all the results you mentioned in your body. It is also in the summary part that you remind the reader of your purpose of study, aims and objectives.
Remember to give a good summary that is leading to the next chapter which is the discussion chapter. Provide a clear summary with full information about your findings because in most cases some readers skip to the summary part expecting to get full information about the findings there.
In a quantitative results chapter, begin with reminding the reader of the research aims and objectives before describing your results. A clear description of the results then follows presenting your data in demographic data forms and descriptive data forms in your body and finally, an inferential statistics analysis can be done if it is necessary for your study. The conclusion part should include your research aims and objectives to remind the reader of the purpose of the study and also state whether the hypothesis has been accepted or rejected depending on your findings. Stating your hypothesis in the conclusion helps you to transit to the next chapter of the discussion.
Your qualitative results chapter needs to have clarity, and consistency and has to appear properly structured. Begin the chapter with an introduction then a body stating claims you made in your study and at least two supportive statements, quotes or texts. Note that when writing your body it would be well-structured, to begin with, from the macro-level to the micro-level, starting with the broader themes and moving towards the narrow themes.
10. Poor flow of the chapter
Narratives should come before the presentation of visuals in your results chapter. Presentation of tables, figures, charts and graphs is very important as it supports the narratives. As much as your narrative in the results chapter needs to be flawless and easy to follow the visuals that follow it should also be easy to understand and follow.
For a proper flow of the results chapter, you should also take advantage of transition words that help you move to the part of your chapter. This makes it very easy for the reader to follow and understand your work.
Chapter 4: Discussion Chapter
This is the chapter in your dissertation that is meant for interpretation and explanation of your results. It is an important part of your dissertation that gives you the chance to interpret the results that you presented in the results chapter.
In this section, we shall guide you on how to write your discussion chapter, in the best way possible to make it easy for you to understand what you are required to do and enable you to write a great discussion chapter.
- Meaning of discussion chapter
- Content of the discussion chapter
- How to write the chapter
- Additional tips for a good discussion chapter
Discussion Chapter: Meaning
The discussion chapter is the chapter in your dissertation that which interpretation and further explanation of results are done. The discussion chapter elaborates on the results that were presented in the results chapter, evaluates the results and gives a discussion of the findings of the research.
In the discussion chapter, you discuss the results you found and not any other results. The chapter is meant to give a clear interpretation of your results about your research aims and objectives and compare them to previous studies and literature. The discussion chapter is therefore very comprehensive and should be well written. When writing the discussion chapter one is also required to show the significance of the results to your research. In the chapter, you will be required to argue as to why you arrived at the conclusions in your study. For instance, why a hypothesis was accepted or rejected or why a certain claim was made in the results. Ensure that you explain and interpret your results and findings in detail.
Contents of a Discussion Chapter
In simple terms, the discussion chapter should contain an interpretation of the details in the results chapter. The chapter should give an elaboration of your study, analyse the study and give its importance to your research work. You should evaluate the results you made at this point and interpret them correctly to give meaning to them.
The discussion chapter is meant to help you answer the research questions you had stated, and achieve your research objectives and aims. Therefore, when writing your discussion chapter, ensure that you are using your results to answer the research questions, aims and objectives of your research. Give the relevance of your results to your studies and spend less time on irrelevant details about your analysis. Remember that this chapter is the opposite of the results chapter and therefore you should not present or describe your results but rather interpret them and give further details on them.
Do not introduce new findings but report on the already presented findings. You cannot come up with new findings in the discussion chapter because the chapter is meant to interpret already presented data. To have a good discussion chapter ensure that all the relevant data that you would like to discuss is captured in the results chapter. Go through your results chapter before writing the discussion chapter to confirm the exact data presented and make a proper interpretation.
It is also important to note that the structure of your results chapter varies with your university. Some schools have the results and discussions as one chapter while others have the results and discussions as separate chapters in the dissertation. Consult with your supervisor when in doubt to be sure of which structure to use for your discussion chapter.
Do not spend much of your time discussing results that are not directly answering your research questions and are not directly linked to your research aims and objectives. For every result that you presented in the results chapter ensure that you discuss it in the discussion chapter. Do not omit any presented result from the discussion as this will disqualify your results. This also means that every result that you show in your results chapter should have relevance to your study and hence will appear in your discussion chapter.
Before starting on the discussion chapter it would be important to have a draft of what your chapter will look like. Include all the important details in your draft and use it as a guide for your final one. Review all your research questions, aims and objectives to ensure that your discussion answers the results questions and is directly linked to your aims and objectives. This will also ensure that your work is consistent and has logic.
In summary, the discussion chapter should have an analysis of your results chapter, evaluation, elaboration, interpretation and relevance of the results to your study. Include the links of the results to your research questions, aims and objectives. Do not include irrelevant data interpretation and be very detailed.
How to Write the Discussion Chapter
When you have a clear picture of what your discussion chapter should include then your next step is to get into the business of writing the discussion chapter. There are several structures of writing the discussion chapter depending on the university requirements, the methodology and the nature of the research. However, the most common and widely used structure of the discussion chapter involved the following steps:
- Review your Research Questions and the Aims of the Study
Before writing the discussion chapter, you should review your research questions, the aims and the objectives of your study. You should have a draft of the chapter before writing the final copy of your work. Review the research questions and link them to the results you found to see if the results have relevance and importance to your study. Reviewing helps you remain consistent and focused on the purpose of your study.
- Restate the Research Questions, Objectives and Aims of the Study
After reviewing your research questions, aims and objective, the next step is to restate them in your discussion chapter. You may also restate the hypothesis in the study if there were any. The purpose of restating your research questions and objectives is to allow the reader to follow and easily understand your discussion chapter. The reader may have forgotten your research questions and objectives after reading through so much information in the dissertation. Therefore, when you restate the research questions, aims and hypothesis of your research the reader can remember what your research was all about and follows.
- Summarise Key Findings from Your Results Chapter
After restarting your research questions and allowing the reader to follow closely on your discussion, the next thing you should do is summarise your key findings. The findings are not new findings from your analysis, but the very findings you reported in your results chapter. Do not state new findings in your discussion chapter. The purpose of the chapter is to explain and interpret the already reported results and therefore you should just summarise what you had stated as your key findings in your results chapter.
Depending on your results chapter, the discussion chapters may vary. Discussion chapters on qualitative analysis may contain much information on themes and relationships while quantitative analysis discussion chapters discuss the casual and correlation relationships of the data. In both discussion chapters in this step, you should be focused on giving the key findings of the analysis and not the minor findings. This will guide you in writing your discussion chapter on proper detail and not irrelevant results.
Keep your summary of the key findings brief and to the point, as you are only introducing the chapter and more detail will be given later in the chapter. This part should be a two to three-paragraph length with few details on the key findings. Depending on your research questions, you would use words such as, “the data suggests…” “From the analysis, it was identified that…” for this part of your discussion chapter.
- Interpretation of Results
The next step is interpreting your results. The results being interpreted here are the results that had been presented in the results chapter and mentioned in the summary of the key findings in the discussion chapter. Note that the results being interpreted are not new findings but the reported ones.
For consistency and ease of interpretation of the results, you would go back to your results chapter and follow the order in which you presented the results and use the same order to discuss your results in the discussion chapter. This way you will not miss any result discussion and you will also be guided not to introduce new findings. You may also structure your interpretation based on your research questions, this means that you answer each research question or relate each research question accordingly with the right results.
While interpreting your results you may find certain relationships between the results to previous research work or literature review and you must include all this information in this part of your discussion chapter. The results may be similar to previous research done or different from the previous research and it is important to note that all these relationships should be stated in the discussion chapter. A contradicting result does not mean that the result was wrong but that there has been a new development in the study and further research is to be done too. Do not shy away from interpreting all your results even those that seem absurd but are related to the study, interpret all results indiscriminately.
Interpretation of results should be done carefully, backing up every claim with a piece of evidence or two and giving supportive proof to every data you presented. Do not give shallow interpretation and discussion of your results but be comprehensive, giving supportive statements to your claims and presentations in your qualitative discussion chapter. For the quantitative analysis, your discussion chapter should have statistical tests and methods to give weight to the data presented.
- Limitation Acknowledgement in Your Study
The next step after interpreting your results is acknowledging the limitations of your study. This may seem like self-contradiction and many students may shy away from sharing the limitations of their study for fear that it may cost them. However, it is important to acknowledge limitations in areas like the methodology, the scope of the study and the sample used in the study. Your study might have been too narrow, hence cannot give a view of a more generalised area.
Stating your weaknesses in the research work and identifying them correctly is strength in research. It shows that you are self-aware and acknowledging the limitations of your work. You should also let the reader know the possible remedies for the limitations without undermining your work. Make the reader know that you are aware of the limitations but your work remains very relevant.
- Recommendations and Future Research
After you have identified the limitations of your research, there may be recommendations that you would give to better the research in the future. In this part of your chapter, you should have in mind that apart from giving practical applications of your results you are also giving suggestions for research in the future.
Begin with giving the relevance of your research in the world today, of what use would your research be? You would give specific examples of where your research could be used and the problem it would help to solve. Your applications should be practical and not imaginary.
You can then follow up your recommendations on the practical applications with the suggestions for further research on your study. The recommendation for further studies is as a result of maybe contradicting findings you made, limitations of your study and how it could improve the findings of the study if dealt with and the need to build on what you have found. Recommending for further studies shows that there is a need to improve your work and therefore you should not only state that there is a need for further studies but that there is a need for further studies to build on what you had gathered.
Finally, provide a concluding summary of the chapter. In this section, you are not giving new details of your research or new interpretations but rather giving a review of what you have already discussed. Mention the important or key findings you discussed, give a brief discussion on the findings and conclude by summarising the recommendations. When writing on the key findings relate them to your research questions and keep them brief. You are giving the reader your findings in brief, their relevance in your study and what needs to be done. Some readers tend to read the summary rather than the entire paper and therefore ensure that your conclusion is very comprehensive.
Tips for a High-Level Discussion Chapter
Here are some additional tips to help you better your discussion chapter and get it right:
- Spell out all your findings without overlooking any and interpreting them correctly. Do not make any assumptions about your results leaving out some information, ensure that you remain very comprehensive including all the findings you had in your results chapter. Sometimes you may be tempted to oversimplify the discussion by giving brief details on them but this should not be the case. Have in mind that your reader is not aware of your work and therefore you are informing them and giving them all the details.
- Avoid words that may make your work look final and proof of something. The dissertations rarely prove a study because there is a variety of them done all with different results. Avoids words such as “the study proves that…” but instead of proving use the word “suggest” to show that your work gives a certain view of a study. Avoid the finality language remembering that you are giving room to further studies and research on your work to build on your work. You would also use the word “indicate” in place of “prove” in your discussion.
- Consistency of your work is key in allowing your reader to follow. Ensure that your discussion is consistent with your introduction chapter to allow easy following of your readers, especially the readers who skip other chapters and read the introduction and discussion chapter. Consistency will also make your dissertation flow and ensure that the correct structure is followed.
- Before writing your discussion chapter, confirm with your supervisor or look at similar dissertations in your school to ensure that you follow the correct format in writing. Following the right format for your work enables you to go through all the sections easily and conveniently.
Chapter 5: Ten Common Mistakes Made In The Discussion Chapter
Many mistakes are made when writing the discussion chapter. Here are the most common ten mistakes made in this chapter:
1. Presenting and Interpreting Results in the same Section or Chapter.
In a chapter where the results and discussion of results are made then this would not be a mistake. However, it has been noted that many students mix up the results and the discussion in a single chapter where they are required to have separate results and discussion chapters. It is very important to keep in mind that in the results chapter you present and describe your results while in the discussion chapter you interpret and show the importance of your results to the research questions. You will realise that you have a repetition of content in the discussion chapter if you interpret your results in the results chapter and therefore you will not have a flow of content.
2. Presentation of New Findings in the Discussion Chapter
In the discussion chapter, you are supposed to interpret the results that you had already presented in the results chapter. Do not introduce new findings that do not appear in your results chapter. Review your results chapter and note the results before interpreting the results. You can use the order that you used to present your results to discuss them and this way you will avoid adding new information and allow consistency in your discussion. You should also use your research questions to discuss the results by matching the results to the research questions and discussing them. Ensure that you review your work after completion to confirm that you captured the results well and that you did not present new findings. It would be important to get a second opinion on your results before writing to check on any possible gap in your results and include the new results in the results chapter before interpreting them in the discussion chapter.
3. Omission of Some Results in the Discussion Chapter
In connection to presenting new findings in the discussion chapter, some students also tend to omit some results in the discussion chapter making the discussion chapter inconclusive. Before writing the discussion chapter confirm that all the results can be interpreted and linked to the research questions. Ensure that all your results can be explained to avoid omitting some in your discussion. The discussion chapter is meant for the interpretation of every result that was presented in the results chapter.
Do not shy off from discussing contrasting results to the previously done research, but embrace the difference giving possible reasons for the results. contrasting results may be the most valuable results.
It is important to make points before writing the discussion chapter indicating the meaning of every result and their importance in the study. Making notes before writing the chapter guides you in writing and ensures consistency in writing the chapter. You may follow the order in which you wrote the results in the results chapter in writing the discussion chapter and this will also help you include all your results in the discussion chapter.
4. Poor Linkage of your Results to the Literature and Theoretical Framework.
Before you reach the point of writing your discussion chapter, you go through the introduction chapter, the literature chapter and the methodology. This means that you have gone through the research work and now you are linking your results to the research work. The discussion section should link your results with the literature and previously done research work on the same. Write your discussion showing how the results are important to the context of already done results.
You should note that when writing the discussion and linking the results to your literature, put yourself in the position of the author. Do not previously found results to justify your results but simply compare your results to the previously done research. Your position in the discussion chapter is to contextualize your work and integrate them into previous research. It may be difficult to find significant results in your study, especially in your quantitative data analysis. Sometimes your research may end up with little or no findings and that is okay because the research might have had possible limitations leading to the results.
5. Poor Linkage of your Results to the Objectives, Research Questions and Aims of the Research
Your discussion chapter is meant to link your results to the objectives, aims and research questions of your study. Answer the research questions in the discussion chapter using your results. You can match each result with a research question and answer the questions. You may also write down your aims and objectives of the research on a piece of paring and refer to them when writing your discussion. Have a clear understanding of your research questions and objectives to give a clear discussion on how they relate to the findings you got.
The results may also be contrasting with your aims and objectives but always ensure that your discussion is comprehensive of these results. The reason for doing this is that, despite the results being contrasting to your aims you still found out something. Begin your discussion by outlining your objectives and research questions and summarise them at the end of the chapter with how they were linked to the results you found.
6. Poor Structure of the Discussion Chapter
Begin your chapter with an introduction, giving the research questions and objectives to bring the reader up to speed with what your study is about. Remember that you are keeping the structure of the chapter constant as the one for your results chapter but the content of the chapter is different. In your results chapter you presented your results like the degree of frequency, the p-value, the mean, and the standard deviation, in the discussion chapter, however, you are going to give the interpretation of the meaning of the results you presented. You may make references to the results but do not copy and paste the contents into the discussion chapter.
Confirm with your supervisor what structure and format to use in your discussion chapter to avoid confusion. You may also refer to recently done similar research in your school and use similar structures for your research discussion chapter.
7. Poor Flow of the Discussion Chapter
Your discussion chapter should remain cohesive and consistent with the previous chapters. Ensure that your discussion chapter has a flow like that of the introduction chapter to allow your reader to follow easily. Contextualise your results with consistency and ensure that your results give meaning to your research questions and objectives. Ensure that your work is logical and coherent to allow the flow of your work. Avoid repetition of the contents of your results chapter in your discussion chapter. Interpret correctly and your work will have a clear flow. Consult with your supervisor on which structure to use and this will help you have the right structure and flow of work. Make clear connections between your points to have a flow of content. Begin with a leading sentence in your paragraph and end with a transitioning sentence.
8. Use the Word “Prove” in your Discussion Chapter
Do not use the word prove or proof in your discussion chapter Remember the purpose of your discussion chapter is to give suggestions for your research. Your work is not final nor is it a proving point rather it gives a different view of research work. Avoid statements such as “ the study proves that…” or “the study is a proof of…” but use statements such as “the study suggests that…” because your work is not final. Remember that your discussion of the results and your dissertation, in general, should give room for more research and therefore is not the end of the study.
9. Mixing the Discussion Chapter with the Conclusion Chapter
Remember the purpose of your discussion chapter and stick to it without diluting it with the conclusion. Check with your school and the lecturer to confirm the structure of the discussion and conclusion chapters before writing them. you may have a paper to write down possible conclusions and recommendations that come into mind when writing your dissertation discussion chapter. Avoid including any statements that may suggest a conclusion or a recommendation in your discussion chapter.
10. Inclusion of Irrelevant Content in the Discussion Chapter
Include relevant content in your discussion chapter. Relate the results to the research questions and objectives of the research. Include the results that were previously presented in the results chapter so that the discussion can flow. You may have included irrelevant data in your results chapter and therefore led to the inclusion of irrelevant interpretation. To avoid such a mistake write down your results on a notepad or a boon then relate them to your research questions and objectives and finally write your discussion chapter. Therefore, you should review your results chapter before writing your discussion.
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