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- How to Write Discussions and Conclusions
The discussion section contains the results and outcomes of a study. An effective discussion informs readers what can be learned from your experiment and provides context for the results.
What makes an effective discussion?
When you’re ready to write your discussion, you’ve already introduced the purpose of your study and provided an in-depth description of the methodology. The discussion informs readers about the larger implications of your study based on the results. Highlighting these implications while not overstating the findings can be challenging, especially when you’re submitting to a journal that selects articles based on novelty or potential impact. Regardless of what journal you are submitting to, the discussion section always serves the same purpose: concluding what your study results actually mean.
A successful discussion section puts your findings in context. It should include:
- the results of your research,
- a discussion of related research, and
- a comparison between your results and initial hypothesis.
Tip: Not all journals share the same naming conventions.
You can apply the advice in this article to the conclusion, results or discussion sections of your manuscript.
Our Early Career Researcher community tells us that the conclusion is often considered the most difficult aspect of a manuscript to write. To help, this guide provides questions to ask yourself, a basic structure to model your discussion off of and examples from published manuscripts.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Was my hypothesis correct?
- If my hypothesis is partially correct or entirely different, what can be learned from the results?
- How do the conclusions reshape or add onto the existing knowledge in the field? What does previous research say about the topic?
- Why are the results important or relevant to your audience? Do they add further evidence to a scientific consensus or disprove prior studies?
- How can future research build on these observations? What are the key experiments that must be done?
- What is the “take-home” message you want your reader to leave with?
How to structure a discussion
Trying to fit a complete discussion into a single paragraph can add unnecessary stress to the writing process. If possible, you’ll want to give yourself two or three paragraphs to give the reader a comprehensive understanding of your study as a whole. Here’s one way to structure an effective discussion:
While the above sections can help you brainstorm and structure your discussion, there are many common mistakes that writers revert to when having difficulties with their paper. Writing a discussion can be a delicate balance between summarizing your results, providing proper context for your research and avoiding introducing new information. Remember that your paper should be both confident and honest about the results!
- Read the journal’s guidelines on the discussion and conclusion sections. If possible, learn about the guidelines before writing the discussion to ensure you’re writing to meet their expectations.
- Begin with a clear statement of the principal findings. This will reinforce the main take-away for the reader and set up the rest of the discussion.
- Explain why the outcomes of your study are important to the reader. Discuss the implications of your findings realistically based on previous literature, highlighting both the strengths and limitations of the research.
- State whether the results prove or disprove your hypothesis. If your hypothesis was disproved, what might be the reasons?
- Introduce new or expanded ways to think about the research question. Indicate what next steps can be taken to further pursue any unresolved questions.
- If dealing with a contemporary or ongoing problem, such as climate change, discuss possible consequences if the problem is avoided.
- Be concise. Adding unnecessary detail can distract from the main findings.
- Rewrite your abstract. Statements with “we investigated” or “we studied” generally do not belong in the discussion.
- Include new arguments or evidence not previously discussed. Necessary information and evidence should be introduced in the main body of the paper.
- Apologize. Even if your research contains significant limitations, don’t undermine your authority by including statements that doubt your methodology or execution.
- Shy away from speaking on limitations or negative results. Including limitations and negative results will give readers a complete understanding of the presented research. Potential limitations include sources of potential bias, threats to internal or external validity, barriers to implementing an intervention and other issues inherent to the study design.
- Overstate the importance of your findings. Making grand statements about how a study will fully resolve large questions can lead readers to doubt the success of the research.
Snippets of Effective Discussions:
Consumer-based actions to reduce plastic pollution in rivers: A multi-criteria decision analysis approach
Identifying reliable indicators of fitness in polar bears
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Discussion or Conclusion
Test yourself (discussion).
Once you've discussed the most important findings of your study in the Results section, you will use the Discussion section to interpret those findings and talk about why they are important (some instructors call this the Conclusion section). You might want to talk about how your results agree, or disagree, with the results from similar studies. Here you can also mention areas ways you could have improved your study or further research to be done on the topic. Do not just restate your results - talk about why they are significant and important. Here's a paragraph taken from the Discussion from the bone fracture paper. Notice how the authors relate their results to what is already known about the topic. The numbers in brackets refer to references listed at the end of their paper (not shown here).
The data indicate that avoiding a low level of physical activity substantially reduces the risk of all fractures, particularly hip fractures—the most devastating of osteoporotic fractures—in men. Even changes in physical activity during the follow-up affected hip fracture risk. As expected, those who maintained a high physical activity level had the lowest risk of hip fracture, but there was also a tendency towards a lower risk of fracture for those who increased their level of activity compared with those who reduced their level of activity, or compared with those who reported constant low activity. This observation has previously been made in women [8,16]. There are several possible mechanisms, related to muscle performance and balance as well as to bone architecture and strength, whereby physical activity can reduce the risk of fractures [28,29].
Which of the following is a good example of a sentence you would find in the Discussion section of a lab report?
a. Ten dogs with no previous training were selected for the study. b. Unlike in previous studies on dog training, most of the dogs in this study retained the ability to perform tricks for up to six weeks after the initial training sessions. c. Seven of the ten dogs learned how to "sit" after three training sessions. d. It was hypothesized that the dogs would be able to retain all of the training commands for six weeks after the initial training sessions.
B The Discussion should interpret the findings from the study and relate them to other similar studies. It is not the place to talk about the results, the methods use, or the original hypothesis.
Click on the question, to see the answer.
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Discussion Vs. Conclusion: Know the Difference Before Drafting Manuscripts
The discussion section of your manuscript can be one of the hardest to write as it requires you to think about the meaning of the research you have done. An effective discussion section tells the reader what your study means and why it is important. In this article, we will cover some pointers for writing clear/well-organized discussion and conclusion sections and discuss what should NOT be a part of these sections.
What Should be in the Discussion Section?
Your discussion is, in short, the answer to the question “what do my results mean?” The discussion section of the manuscript should come after the methods and results section and before the conclusion. It should relate back directly to the questions posed in your introduction, and contextualize your results within the literature you have covered in your literature review . In order to make your discussion section engaging, you should include the following information:
- The major findings of your study
- The meaning of those findings
- How these findings relate to what others have done
- Limitations of your findings
- An explanation for any surprising, unexpected, or inconclusive results
- Suggestions for further research
Your discussion should NOT include any of the following information:
- New results or data not presented previously in the paper
- Unwarranted speculation
- Tangential issues
- Conclusions not supported by your data
Related: Avoid outright rejection with a well-structured manuscript. Check out these resources and improve your manuscript now!
How to Make the Discussion Section Effective?
There are several ways to make the discussion section of your manuscript effective, interesting, and relevant. Hear from one of our experts on how to structure your discussion section and distinguish it from the results section:
Now that we have listened to how to approach writing a discussion section, let’s delve deeper into some essential tips with a few examples:
- Most writing guides recommend listing the findings of your study in decreasing order of their importance. You would not want your reader to lose sight of the key results that you found. Therefore, put the most important finding front and center. Example: Imagine that you conduct a study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of stent placement in patients with partially blocked arteries. You find that despite this being a common first-line treatment, stents are not effective for patients with partially blocked arteries. The study also discovers that patients treated with a stent tend to develop asthma at slightly higher rates than those who receive no such treatment.
Which sentence would you choose to begin your discussion? Our findings suggest that patients who had partially blocked arteries and were treated with a stent as the first line of intervention had no better outcomes than patients who were not given any surgical treatments. Our findings noted that patients who received stents demonstrated slightly higher rates of asthma than those who did not. In addition, the placement of a stent did not impact their rates of cardiac events in a statistically significant way.
If you chose the first example, you are correct!
- If you are not sure which results are the most important, go back to your research question and start from there. The most important result is the one that answers your research question.
- It is also necessary to contextualize the meaning of your findings for the reader. What does previous literature say, and do your results agree? Do your results elaborate on previous findings, or differ significantly?
- In our stent example, if previous literature found that stents were an effective line of treatment for patients with partially blocked arteries, you should explore why your interpretation seems different in the discussion section. Did your methodology differ? Was your study broader in scope and larger in scale than the previous studies? Were there any limitations to previous studies that your study overcame? Alternatively, is it possible that your own study could be incorrect because of some difficulties you had in carrying it out? The discussion section should narrate a coherent story to the target audience.
- Finally, remember not to introduce new ideas/data, or speculate wildly on the possible future implications of your study in the discussion section. However, considering alternative explanations for your results is encouraged.
Avoiding Confusion in your Conclusion!
Many writers confuse the information they should include in their discussion with the information they should place in their conclusion. One easy way to avoid this confusion is to think of your conclusion as a summary of everything that you have said thus far. In the conclusion section, you remind the reader of what they have just read. Your conclusion should:
- Restate your hypothesis or research question
- Restate your major findings
- Tell the reader what contribution your study has made to the existing literature
- Highlight any limitations of your study
- State future directions for research/recommendations
Your conclusion should NOT:
- Introduce new arguments
- Introduce new data
- Fail to include your research question
- Fail to state your major results
An appropriate conclusion to our hypothetical stent study might read as follows:
In this study, we examined the effectiveness of stent placement. We compared the patients with partially blocked arteries to those with non-surgical interventions. After examining the five-year medical outcomes of 19,457 patients in the Greater Dallas area, our statistical analysis concluded that the placement of a stent resulted in outcomes that were no better than non-surgical interventions such as diet and exercise. Although previous findings indicated that stent placement improved patient outcomes, our study followed a greater number of patients than those in major studies conducted previously. It is possible that outcomes would vary if measured over a ten or fifteen year period. Future researchers should consider investigating the impact of stent placement in these patients over a longer period (five years or longer). Regardless, our results point to the need for medical practitioners to reconsider the placement of a stent as the first line of treatment as non-surgical interventions may have equally positive outcomes for patients.
Did you find the tips in this article relevant? What is the most challenging portion of a research paper for you to write? Let us know in the comments section below!
This is the most stunning and self-instructional site I have come across. Thank you so much for your updates! I will help me work on my dissertation.
Thank you so much!! It helps a lot!
very helpful, thank you
thanks a lot …
this is one of a kind! awesome, straight to the point and easy to understand! Thanks a lot
Thank you so much for this, I never comment on these types of sites but I just had too here as I’ve never seen an article that has answered everyone of the questions I wanted when I searched on Google. Certainly not to the extent and clear clarity that you have presented. Thanks so much for this it has put my mind to ease a bit with my terrible dissertation haha.
Have a nice day.
Helped massively with writing a good conclusion!
Extremely well explained all details in simple and applicable manner, Thank you very much for outstanding article. It really made life easy. Ravi, India.
Thanks a lot for such a nicely explained difference of discussion and conclusion. now got some basic idea to write what.
Thanks for clearing the great confusion. It gave real clarity to me!
Clarified my confusion. Thank you for this article
This website certainly has all of the information I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.
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Discussion and Conclusions
Your Discussion and Conclusions sections should answer the question: What do your results mean?
In other words, the majority of the Discussion and Conclusions sections should be an interpretation of your results. You should:
- Discuss your conclusions in order of most to least important.
- Compare your results with those from other studies: Are they consistent? If not, discuss possible reasons for the difference.
- Mention any inconclusive results and explain them as best you can. You may suggest additional experiments needed to clarify your results.
- Briefly describe the limitations of your study to show reviewers and readers that you have considered your experiment’s weaknesses. Many researchers are hesitant to do this as they feel it highlights the weaknesses in their research to the editor and reviewer. However doing this actually makes a positive impression of your paper as it makes it clear that you have an in depth understanding of your topic and can think objectively of your research.
- Discuss what your results may mean for researchers in the same field as you, researchers in other fields, and the general public. How could your findings be applied?
- State how your results extend the findings of previous studies.
- If your findings are preliminary, suggest future studies that need to be carried out.
- At the end of your Discussion and Conclusions sections, state your main conclusions once again .
Back │ Next
Results, discussion, and conclusion, results/findings.
The Results (or Findings) section follows the Methods and precedes the Discussion section. This is where the authors provide the data collected during their study. That data can sometimes be difficult to understand because it is often quite technical. Do not let this intimidate you; you will discover the significance of the results next.
The Discussion section follows the Results and precedes the Conclusions and Recommendations section. It is here that the authors indicate the significance of their results. They answer the question, “Why did we get the results we did?” This section provides logical explanations for the results from the study. Those explanations are often reached by comparing and contrasting the results to prior studies’ findings, so citations to the studies discussed in the Literature Review generally reappear here. This section also usually discusses the limitations of the study and speculates on what the results say about the problem(s) identified in the research question(s). This section is very important because it is finally moving towards an argument. Since the researchers interpret their results according to theoretical underpinnings in this section, there is more room for difference of opinion. The way the authors interpret their results may be quite different from the way you would interpret them or the way another researcher would interpret them.
Note: Some articles collapse the Discussion and Conclusion sections together under a single heading (usually “Conclusion”). If you don’t see a separate Discussion section, don’t worry. Instead, look in the nearby sections for the types of information described in the paragraph above.
When you first skim an article, it may be useful to go straight to the Conclusion and see if you can figure out what the thesis is since it is usually in this final section. The research gap identified in the introduction indicates what the researchers wanted to look at; what did they claim, ultimately, when they completed their research? What did it show them—and what are they showing us—about the topic? Did they get the results they expected? Why or why not? The thesis is not a sweeping proclamation; rather, it is likely a very reasonable and conditional claim.
Nearly every research article ends by inviting other scholars to continue the work by saying that more research needs to be done on the matter. However, do not mistake this directive for the thesis; it’s a convention. Often, the authors provide specific details about future possible studies that could or should be conducted in order to make more sense of their own study’s conclusions.
- Parts of An Article. Authored by : Kerry Bowers. Provided by : University of Mississippi. Project : WRIT 250 Committee OER Project. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
The second to last step in conducting a research study is to interpret the findings in the Discussion section, draw conclusions, and make recommendations. It is important that everything in this last section is based off of the results of the data analysis. In an empirical research study, the conclusions and recommendations must be directly related to the data that was collected and analyzed. Simply put, look at the key topics in the conclusion and recommendations. If that topic was not precisely assessed by the questionnaire, then you cannot draw a conclusion or make a recommendation about that topic. A paper can only make valid conclusions and recommendations on those variables that the study has empirical data to support.
For example, almost every single paper written in Nigeria that I read recommends that the government should provide more teaching materials and increase the salaries of teachers. However, better instructional materials and adequate pay are rarely even distantly related to the topic of the paper! Draw conclusions and make recommendations only directly related to the purpose and results of the study. Everybody in Nigeria knows that schools need more materials and teachers need higher salaries Draw conclusions and make recommendations that are meaningful, unique, and relate to the results of the study.
Most papers require five different sections for the Discussion, although the order may vary depending on the requirements of the paper. Each section is described separately below.
This section might be called Discussion or it might be called Summary of Findings. The purpose of this section is to highlight the major statistical findings from the results section and interpret them. First, restate the overall purpose of the study. Then explain the main finding as related to the overall purpose of the study. Next, summarize other interesting findings from the results section. Explain how the statistical findings relate to that purpose of the study. One way to do this is to take every research question and hypothesis in turn and explain in plain terms what the statistical results mean. Also describe how the results are related to education in general. All explanations must be supported by the results of the data analysis.
Generally, the Discussion section does not need to include any numbers. No statistics need to be repeated from the results, nor does the discussion need to refer to table numbers. Instead, simply explain the results in language that is easy for a non-researcher to understand.
Also try to integrate the findings into the results of other research studies. An example paragraph from a Discussion section is given below:
Next, give recommendations based on the results of the study. What practical steps can educators take to implement the key findings of the research study? Remember, these recommendations must be supported by the statistical findings from the data analysis. If the statistical results found that a new teaching program improves mathematical exam scores, then the only valid recommendation that can be made is that the new teaching program should be implemented in order to improve exam scores. However, if the data analysis found that the new teaching program does not improve mathematical exam scores, then the researcher cannot conclude that the new teaching program should be implemented, because the program was found to be ineffective in improving exam scores.
Educators can only change their own behavior; they cannot change the government. Therefore, the most beneficial recommendations will be ones that educators themselves can implement.
Below is a sample recommendation. Notice how the first sentence provides the empirical support for the recommendation.
After the recommendations have been written, reread each recommendation. Consider which statistical result from the results section supports that recommendation. If there is no statistical result to support the recommendation, then it must be canceled.
All studies have limitations in terms of the sample, measurement or manipulation of key variables, and procedure for data collection. This section should report the limitations that resulted from the research methods. How could the research be conducted with a different research design? How may the participants and sampling techniques not be representative of the target population? How might the target population be limited? How were the instruments inadequate? Were there any problems with the treatment? What problems resulted from the study's procedures? What other unexpected problems arose in the data collection?
I frequently read that the study was limited by time, money, or other resources. However, every single research study ever conducted in the history of this world was limited by money, resources, and time. These factors are external to the study and should not be mentionedd.
A sample Limitations section is given below.
Every research study provides one or two answers about education, but also opens the door for five to ten additional questions. Based on the Discussion/Summary of Findings and Limitations of the study, what additional research should be conducted? What questions arose because of the major finding of your study? How can other research studies improve over the limitations that were described in the Limitations section? A sample of Suggestions for Further Research section is below.
The final section of the paper is the Conclusion section. Briefly summarize the overall conclusion of the data analysis based on the purpose of the study. Also explain the importance of the major finding to educational practice. An example conclusion is given below.
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What’s the difference between the discussion and conclusion?
“I think that the discussion will bring up two or three main points but you need to explain those main points, explain those main conclusions, give an argument to support those main conclusions. But the conclusion section just states those main points and doesn’t give the back-up for it. I like writing the conclusion. I like to pick out bits of the work that are absolutely fundamental because that’s the higher-order thinking. It’s not the detail. Introduction, method, discussion, that’s all detail, which is hard work, but conclusions are just main points. Of course, the abstract won’t report those two or three main conclusions. It will report what the main thrust of what those two or three main conclusions mean for the topic as a whole. Again it’s even less detail. In an abstract you can make some quite dramatic claims for your work. It’s only when they go to the discussion that they can see whether you have backed it up well. And I think the abstract should be about catching people’s attention and making it relevant to a broader area of the discipline than it really is and suggesting implications for broader issues so that you can draw as many people into the subject as possible. I’m thinking here of writing research papers, writing for journals.”
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6 Writing the Discussion and Conclusion Sections
This section discusses your results, presenting the “so what,” or “why should the reader care” about your research. This is where you explain what you think the results show. Tell the reader the significance of your document by discussing how the results fit with what is already known as you discussed in your introduction, how the results compare with what is expected, or why are there unexpected results. Here are some words to get you thinking about this section: evaluate, interpret, examine, qualify, etc.
Start by either summarizing the the information in this section or by stating the validity of the hypothesis. This allows readers to see upfront your interpretation of the data. End the discussion by summarizing why the results matter.
- Summarize the most important findings at the beginning (1-3 sentences)
- Describe patterns and relationships shown in your results
- Explain how results relate to expectations and literature cited in Introduction
- Explain contradictions and exceptions
- Describe need for future research (if no Conclusion section)
- Overgeneralize, use specific supported statements
- Ignore unexpected results or deviations from your data
- Speculate conclusions that cannot be tested in the foreseeable future.
The Discussion usually serves as the conclusion. If there is a separate conclusion section then it should be brief, only one or two paragraphs. In the conclusion typically authors offer either recommendations or future perspectives for the research. Figs. 2.9 and 2.10 show the Discussion and Conclusion sections from the sample paper.
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Frequently asked questions
What’s the difference between the discussion and the conclusion.
In a thesis or dissertation, the discussion is an in-depth exploration of the results, going into detail about the meaning of your findings and citing relevant sources to put them in context.
The conclusion is more shorter and more general: it concisely answers your main research question and makes recommendations based on your overall findings.
Frequently asked questions: Dissertation
Dissertation word counts vary widely across different fields, institutions, and levels of education:
- An undergraduate dissertation is typically 8,000–15,000 words
- A master’s dissertation is typically 12,000–50,000 words
- A PhD thesis is typically book-length: 70,000–100,000 words
However, none of these are strict guidelines – your word count may be lower or higher than the numbers stated here. Always check the guidelines provided by your university to determine how long your own dissertation should be.
A dissertation prospectus or proposal describes what or who you plan to research for your dissertation. It delves into why, when, where, and how you will do your research, as well as helps you choose a type of research to pursue. You should also determine whether you plan to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.
It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives , ready to be approved by your supervisor or committee.
Note that some departments require a defense component, where you present your prospectus to your committee orally.
A thesis is typically written by students finishing up a bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Some educational institutions, particularly in the liberal arts, have mandatory theses, but they are often not mandatory to graduate from bachelor’s degrees. It is more common for a thesis to be a graduation requirement from a Master’s degree.
Even if not mandatory, you may want to consider writing a thesis if you:
- Plan to attend graduate school soon
- Have a particular topic you’d like to study more in-depth
- Are considering a career in research
- Would like a capstone experience to tie up your academic experience
The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation should include the following:
- A restatement of your research question
- A summary of your key arguments and/or results
- A short discussion of the implications of your research
The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.
For a stronger dissertation conclusion , avoid including:
- Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the discussion section and results section
- Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion …”)
- Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g., “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)
Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.
While it may be tempting to present new arguments or evidence in your thesis or disseration conclusion , especially if you have a particularly striking argument you’d like to finish your analysis with, you shouldn’t. Theses and dissertations follow a more formal structure than this.
All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the discussion section and results section .) The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.
A theoretical framework can sometimes be integrated into a literature review chapter , but it can also be included as its own chapter or section in your dissertation . As a rule of thumb, if your research involves dealing with a lot of complex theories, it’s a good idea to include a separate theoretical framework chapter.
A literature review and a theoretical framework are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work, a literature review critically evaluates existing research relating to your topic. You’ll likely need both in your dissertation .
While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work based on existing research, a conceptual framework allows you to draw your own conclusions, mapping out the variables you may use in your study and the interplay between them.
A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.
Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:
- Your anticipated title
- Your abstract
- Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)
When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .
In most styles, the title page is used purely to provide information and doesn’t include any images. Ask your supervisor if you are allowed to include an image on the title page before doing so. If you do decide to include one, make sure to check whether you need permission from the creator of the image.
Include a note directly beneath the image acknowledging where it comes from, beginning with the word “ Note .” (italicized and followed by a period). Include a citation and copyright attribution . Don’t title, number, or label the image as a figure , since it doesn’t appear in your main text.
Definitional terms often fall into the category of common knowledge , meaning that they don’t necessarily have to be cited. This guidance can apply to your thesis or dissertation glossary as well.
However, if you’d prefer to cite your sources , you can follow guidance for citing dictionary entries in MLA or APA style for your glossary.
A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, an index is a list of the contents of your work organized by page number.
The title page of your thesis or dissertation goes first, before all other content or lists that you may choose to include.
The title page of your thesis or dissertation should include your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date.
Glossaries are not mandatory, but if you use a lot of technical or field-specific terms, it may improve readability to add one to your thesis or dissertation. Your educational institution may also require them, so be sure to check their specific guidelines.
A glossary or “glossary of terms” is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. Your glossary only needs to include terms that your reader may not be familiar with, and is intended to enhance their understanding of your work.
A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, dictionaries are more general collections of words.
An abbreviation is a shortened version of an existing word, such as Dr. for Doctor. In contrast, an acronym uses the first letter of each word to create a wholly new word, such as UNESCO (an acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
As a rule of thumb, write the explanation in full the first time you use an acronym or abbreviation. You can then proceed with the shortened version. However, if the abbreviation is very common (like PC, USA, or DNA), then you can use the abbreviated version from the get-go.
Be sure to add each abbreviation in your list of abbreviations !
If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation , you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .
If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.
A list of abbreviations is a list of all the abbreviations that you used in your thesis or dissertation. It should appear at the beginning of your document, with items in alphabetical order, just after your table of contents .
Your list of tables and figures should go directly after your table of contents in your thesis or dissertation.
Lists of figures and tables are often not required, and aren’t particularly common. They specifically aren’t required for APA-Style, though you should be careful to follow their other guidelines for figures and tables .
If you have many figures and tables in your thesis or dissertation, include one may help you stay organized. Your educational institution may require them, so be sure to check their guidelines.
A list of figures and tables compiles all of the figures and tables that you used in your thesis or dissertation and displays them with the page number where they can be found.
The table of contents in a thesis or dissertation always goes between your abstract and your introduction .
You may acknowledge God in your dissertation acknowledgements , but be sure to follow academic convention by also thanking the members of academia, as well as family, colleagues, and friends who helped you.
A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .
An annotated bibliography is a list of source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a paper .
In the discussion , you explore the meaning and relevance of your research results , explaining how they fit with existing research and theory. Discuss:
- Your interpretations : what do the results tell us?
- The implications : why do the results matter?
- The limitation s : what can’t the results tell us?
The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.
In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.
Results are usually written in the past tense , because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.
The results chapter of a thesis or dissertation presents your research results concisely and objectively.
In quantitative research , for each question or hypothesis , state:
- The type of analysis used
- Relevant results in the form of descriptive and inferential statistics
- Whether or not the alternative hypothesis was supported
In qualitative research , for each question or theme, describe:
- Recurring patterns
- Significant or representative individual responses
- Relevant quotations from the data
Don’t interpret or speculate in the results chapter.
To automatically insert a table of contents in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:
- Apply heading styles throughout the document.
- In the references section in the ribbon, locate the Table of Contents group.
- Click the arrow next to the Table of Contents icon and select Custom Table of Contents.
- Select which levels of headings you would like to include in the table of contents.
Make sure to update your table of contents if you move text or change headings. To update, simply right click and select Update Field.
All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents . That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them.
The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list .
Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract in the table of contents.
The abstract appears on its own page in the thesis or dissertation , after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .
An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 200–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.
In a thesis or dissertation, the acknowledgements should usually be no longer than one page. There is no minimum length.
The acknowledgements are generally included at the very beginning of your thesis , directly after the title page and before the abstract .
Yes, it’s important to thank your supervisor(s) in the acknowledgements section of your thesis or dissertation .
Even if you feel your supervisor did not contribute greatly to the final product, you must acknowledge them, if only for a very brief thank you. If you do not include your supervisor, it may be seen as a snub.
In the acknowledgements of your thesis or dissertation, you should first thank those who helped you academically or professionally, such as your supervisor, funders, and other academics.
Then you can include personal thanks to friends, family members, or anyone else who supported you during the process.
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Discussion and conclusions
Your discussion and conclusions sections should answer the question:.
What do your results mean?
In other words, the majority of the Discussion and Conclusions sections should be an interpretation of your results. You should:
Discuss your conclusions in order of most to least important. Compare your results with those from other studies: Are they consistent? If not, discuss possible reasons for the difference. Mention any inconclusive results and explain them as best you can. You may suggest additional experiments needed to clarify your results. Briefly describe the limitations of your study to show reviewers and readers that you have considered your study's weaknesses. Discuss what your results may mean for researchers in the same field as you, researchers in other fields, and the general public. How could your findings be applied? State how your results extend the findings of previous studies. If your findings are preliminary, suggest future studies that need to be carried out. At the end of your discussion and conclusions, state your main conclusions once again.
Example Source Feilong Wang, Wenzhi Pan, Shuming Pan, Shuyun Wang, Qinmin Ge and Junbo Ge Usefulness of N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide and C-reactive protein to predict ICU mortality in unselected medical ICU patients: a prospective, observational study. Critical Care 2011;15(1):R42.
Discussion In this large scale study of 576 unselected medical ICU patients, we found that NT-proBNP and CRP independently predicted ICU mortality even after adjustment for the APACHE II score and multiple potential confounders including eGFR, age...
...In the present study, we also used a more sensitive test of improvement in model discrimination . We found that the addition of NT-proBNP to the APACHE II score significantly increased the ability to predict ICU mortality as demonstrated by the IDI (6.6%, P = 0.003) and NRI (16.6%, P = 0.007) indices. NT-proBNP was not an independent predictor of ICU mortality in the non-cardiac subgroup after adjustment for APACHE II score and CRP. Kotanidou et al.  found that NT-proBNP predicted mortality independently after the adjusted APACHE II score and some inflammatory cytokines levels in non-cardiac ICU patients. But they used TNF-a, IL-6, and IL-10 rather than CRP and enrolled many surgical and multiple trauma cases. In the cardiac subgroup, NT-proBNP independently predicted ICU mortality while the AUC of the APACHE II score was not different from that of NT-proBNP (0.81 ± 0.03 vs 0.77 ± 0.04; P > 0.05). The addition of NT-proBNP to the APACHE-II score can obviously increase predictive ability (IDI = 10.2%, P = 0.018; NRI = 18.5%, P = 0.028). Therefore, although NT-proBNP could predict ICU mortality in unselected medical patents, it appeared to be more useful in cardiac patients than in non-cardiac patients.
...One previous study showed no predictive value of CRP for in-hospital mortality, even in univariate analysis . The scope of the study was rather small (N = 103) and, thus, the statistical power was less than that of our study. Moreover, the endpoint of the previous study was in-hospital mortality but not ICU mortality. The present study revealed that CRP was also an independent predictor of ICU mortality in unselected patients or non-cardiac patients...
Several limitations of our study should be mentioned. First, neither echocardiography was performed nor cardiac function assessed in the present study. The division of subgroups was according to primary admission cause. Thus patients in the non-cardiac group may also have cardiac disease and cardiac dysfunction. However, patients with cardiac diseases as the primary principal diagnosis leading to ICU admission must have cardiac diseases. The statistical conclusion drawn from the cardiac group was appropriate. Second, this was a single-center study, and participants did not include surgery and trauma patients. The value for NT-proBNP in prediction of adverse outcome would be a bit different if the population was different. At last, a limitation of the net reclassification improvement and other reclassification measures is that they depend on the particular categories used . We had used < 10%, 10% to 30%, and 30% to 50%, and > 50% for the risk of ICU death as risk categories. But there are still no well-recognized risk categories now. If the risk categories used had been different, the NRI would be a bit different.
Conclusions In this large-scale study of unselected ICU patients, we confirmed that NT-proBNP and CRP can serve as moderate independent predictors of ICU mortality. Although the predictive ability was lower compared with the APACHE II score, but the addition of CRP or NT-proBNP or both to the APACHE II score could significantly improve the ability to predict ICU mortality, as demonstrated by IDI and NRI indices. NT-proBNP appeared to be more useful for predicting ICU outcomes in cardiac patients.