Lesson 13: Discussion
In this first part of our class, we’ll discuss how to properly discuss your results.
- To establish the importance of discussing your results.
- To determine the proper way in which to discuss your results.
- To identify how discussing your results properly can help make your thesis better.
Quick Navigation through the Lesson 13:
The discussion of your results is one of the most important parts of our thesis. This is the part which ties your entire thesis together—in this section, you should be able to discuss all of the results you reported while being able to tie them in with your related literature, your thesis statement and the relevance of your study. In this lesson, we’ll be discussing the three important things which you’ll have to achieve when writing the discussion portion of your paper.
Explaining Your Data
When writing your thesis discussion, the main goal is to be able to explain your data in a manner that is thorough but understandable. When doing this, you should make sure to talk about all the factors which may have contributed to your results—environmental conditions, unforeseen circumstances, personal errors. You should also be able to attribute their effects to either the success or failure of a certain theory: this grounds your explanations in data (whether they agree with the data or not, what’s important is that you’re able to explain it to your readers based on a context applicable to the field).
Let’s say your thesis is about learning by imitation and you used Bandura as a main source. However, your results ended up not agreeing with Bandura. When writing your discussion, you mention this and explain your point thoroughly.
The children, although exposed to violent media did not proceed to exhibit any violent behavior. This can, perhaps be attributed to the fact that the media was on television or a medium separate from the child’s immediate environment whereas in Bandura’s experiment, the dolls which were beaten (along with the weapon used to beat them) were in the same room as the children.
One key factor to being understood is to use fairly simple language. Keep the tone academic and proper, but don’t over-convolute your sentences. Also avoid flowery language because it distracts from the main point of your discussion.
The point of view of this section is entirely up to you—you can choose to carry on writing in 3rd person (e.g. the results found were calculated with Statistica over a period of 2 months) or switch to 1st person (e.g. our results for this part of the experiment may have been altered by the presence of naphthalene in the water).
Tying Figures to Your Data
In this portion, it’s important to reference your figures so that the readers know why they’re relevant. Now is the time to explain why the figures matter, in light of everything you previously discussed. Here, you should be able to properly link the data you gathered to the rest of your thesis. It’s best to start with specific points before you make general claims. You should explain first how the data relates to your literature and then to the theories you used and then to the general practice which your thesis is involved in.
If your thesis is about whether or not corporal punishment correlates to conduct disorders and your results show that spanking does correlate to rebellious behavior in children, at p>0.23 then, you should explain this figure like this:
When we ran the correlation between spanking and rebellious childhood behavior, we got a value of p>0.23 which confirms a positive correlation. While this by no means assures causality, it at least gives us basis to work toward establishing causality between corporal punishment and conduct disorders—a possibility which was discovered by Albert Bandura during his studies with imitation and bo-bo dolls. Because the correlation is positive, we can say that when corporal punishment increases, the chances of a child exhibiting problems with conduct also increases. This correlation can mean great things for the future of the study of Conduct Disorders—one of the biggest obstacles in human growth and development today.
*notice that the interpretations follow the sequence we discussed beforehand
Explaining Tables & Figures
This task is one of the most crucial things to accomplish when writing the discussion part of your thesis. It’s also the part which can most easily turn readers off from your thesis—the descriptions of graphs, tables and figures is often very tedious. The discussions portion should be the most entertaining part of your thesis because this is where most of the pieces of your study come together—you should be showing your readers the bigger picture, not obfuscating it. It’s important not to be overly repetitive when explaining your tables and figures so that you’re able to get to the point and provide a clear perspective for your readers.
When referring to figures, numbers or tables always refer to the title of the figure—don’t reiterate what the tables contain unless absolutely needed.
When discussing the results in Table 7.3, we say:
The positive outcome of the fertilization experiment as seen in Table 7.3 implies that cleanliness of water does affect the reproductive health of Amphibians.
*notice that the sentence is clear and concise
We don’t say:
Our Table for fertilization experiments shows that of the three groups, group 2 or the frog group which was dipped in clean water had a significantly higher rate at 50% more than the frogs dipped in dirty water. We were able to statistically prove this by using Statistica to run a single regression for each of the frog populations.
*notice that the paragraph repeats a lot of the data which is already presumed to be listed in the Table—the sentences are also very long and convoluted, making it more difficult to understand
In this lesson, we were able to discuss how to discuss our results. We were able to conclude that the discussion should help unify the theoretical part of your thesis to its practical application. We also learned that when writing the discussions section of our thesis paper, we should be thorough and should write in a clear and direct tone.
Next we’ll be discussing how to conclude your paper. We’ll talk about the proper way to sum up everything that your thesis discussed and how to write a good end to your thesis study.