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Understanding discussions

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The purpose of the discussion section is to explain what the results mean in relation to the research aim. The discussion focusses on building an argument by interpreting the results and explaining their significance. It may also explain why the results turned out the way they did and if anything was inconsistent or unexpected.

Note also that the middle section of the Discussion does not have to follow a strict linear order and that some elements may be repeated depending on the number of results you have to report.

The discussion section may contain the following elements and may occur in this order. Some of the elements may be repeated and a cycle of Explain result; Refer theory/other research; Discuss limitations may occur.

Some elements are more likely to occur at the beginning of the discussion, e.g. Relate to aim, Explain results, Refer to Research, while others occur at the end of the discussion, e.g. Explain significance, Discuss implications.

Click on the element to see an explanation of that element.

Element   Explanation
Relate to aim / purpose

Provides an overview of the research aim and purpose.

Support hypothesis

States whether the hypothesis was supported or not.

Restate / explain results)

Provides a more general statement of results or explains and interprets them further than in the results section. Can explain whether the results were expected or not. Can refer to tables and figures in the results section to give further explanation.

Refer theory / other research

Reviews other research and/or theory and relates to author's research as well as to what extent it agrees or disagrees with the author(s)' research.

Discuss limitations

Accounts for any limitations of the study that could restrict the extent to which the findings can be generalised. May suggest improvements to help overcome limitations.

Explain significance  

Generalises from the results and explains their significance.

Discuss implications  

Discusses general implications of the research and may make recommendations for future research.

Click on Next to see examples of these elements from the text.