Academic Writing Tips for the Discussion Section of a Research Paper

For academic writing help, consider these tips on how to write discussion section of your academic article

This article is part of an ongoing series on academic writing help of scholarly articles. Previous parts explored how to write an introduction for a research paper, literature review outline and format, how to write a research methodology, and presenting research findings.

In the ‘Discussion and Conclusion’ section, you have to interpret and depict the noteworthiness and significance of your discoveries as they relate to the research questions and results. Also, it is important to point out and clarify any new understanding or contributions your study brings to the problem you have examined.

What to Include in Your Academic Article’s ‘Discussion’ Section

This section is frequently viewed as the most important component of your academic article. That’s why, it’s very important that your ‘Discussion’ section includes the following aspects:

  • Results explanations and clarification of results: in your discussion, mention if your study’s findings were according to your initial assumptions or if you discovered outcomes that unexpected or particularly significant. In case you reached unexpected results or patterns, you should explain them and clarify significance (or new avenues for future research) in connection to the research issue.
  • Referencing other studies: your research outcomes should be contrasted to other previous studies, or presented in line with other recorded findings. This can incorporate re-visiting previously sources that were already mentioned in the Literature Review or Results section.
  • Highlighting links to a broader framework: in your academic article, you can describe how the outcomes of your research are connected to broader concepts or knowledge on a particular subject.
  • Hypothesis discussion: it’s also important to present a general conclusion that emerged from the outcomes of your study, regardless if the claim was demonstrated or refuted. The general conclusion you present can also be linked to new avenues for future research.

How to Organize the ‘Discussion and Conclusion’ Section of Your Research Paper

For a high-quality academic article, you should divide your ‘Discussion’ section in at least 3 parts, focused on the theoretical contributions of your research paper, the managerial or policy implications, and limitations and future research suggestions based on the outcomes and conclusions of your study.

Theoretical Contributions

This should be the first sub-section of your article’s ‘Discussion and Conclusion’ section and it should portray the following aspects:

  • Start by repeating the research problem and present the most important findings of your study
  • Clarify the meaning of the findings and explain their significance
  • Show how your research helps reach a more meaningful comprehension of the research problem
  • Present solutions to the research problems you encountered based on your study’s discoveries
  • Indicate similarities or differences with prior studies that explored similar issues like your research paper
  • Document negative results and offer explanations for their emergence
  • Consider all possible explanations for the study’s discoveries and discuss them, accordingly

Managerial or Policy Implications

In social sciences, particularly for academic articles in business and management, marketing, economics and finance (as the ones we publish at Expert Journals), a majority of studies have either managerial, or policy implications.

The implications for practitioners or policy-makers reflected in your academic article should show:

  • How your study responds and offers solutions to real and current issues they are experiencing
  • Which practical measures you propose, as an academic for managers or policy-makers, based on your analysis and results

Study’s Limitations and Directions for Future Research

Limitations and suggestions for future research can either be included in one sub-section, or two, depending on the length of the discussion for each one of them.

For your academic article’s Limitations, you should:

  • Indicate any research questions or problems that were not included in your academic article (these can also serve as suggestions for future research)
  • For empirical studies, focus on the restrictions of your chosen research methods, data collection limitations, results, interpretation and describe in detail the issues you experienced and why.
  • For theoretical studies, focus on limitations regarding your sources, concepts, and what you might have overlooked (or not emphasized enough) in your paper.

For your academic article’s Future Research Directions, you should:

  • Correlate possible new avenues for research with your results (either the ones that were discovered, or the unexpected findings)
  • Depict the hypotheses, relationships, connections that resulted from your analysis and offer perspective on what they mean to general knowledge of the subject being studied.
  • Identify limitations and restrictions of your research paper
  • Outline your recommendations for additional research to the limitations of your study or to aspects that your analysis revealed and need further examination

Key Structure Aspects for Your ‘Discussion and Conclusion’ Section

For a good structure and organization of your research’s discussion and conclusion, keep in mind these aspects:

  • Think of your discussion and conclusion section as an inverted pyramid: start from the general aspects of your research and then focus on the specifics.
  • Use the same terms, academic writing style that was used throughout your research paper
  • Use the present verb tense (as the one used in the Introduction of your paper), especially for established facts; however, refer to specific works or prior studies in the past tense
  • Include any unexpected findings that your analysis highlighted
  • Note that negative results offer you the opportunity to write a more engaging ‘Discussion’ section
  • Avoid repetitions of your article’s findings that were already presented in the ‘Results’ section

Which aspects do you focus on when writing your research results section?

This blog series focuses on useful academic writing tips. Find our more on writing high-quality research papers

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