Jamal El Ouahi

Helping researchers. Posts about scientific research & its process. Academia/Government Consulting.

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Jamal El Ouahi

Helping researchers. Posts about scientific research & its process. Academia/Government Consulting.

#17 How to write a strong discussion section for your manuscript

Read time: 4 min.

Hey friends,

I want to share here how the MIT communication lab structures discussion sections of scientific papers.

Recently, I posted on my LinkedIn an annotated example by MIT of such a section.

The discussion section reviews your findings but within the context of the overall research.

It is often combined with your conclusions.

Many researchers would read the title of your paper, then the abstract.

If they find them relevant, they will probably jump to the discussion/conclusions before reading your methods and the detailed results.

Here is the annotated example I mentioned earlier.

This example includes the following components:

– Summary of your results

First, you want to summarize your main findings.

This part gives readers a clear understanding of what you found and why it is significant.

Here, you can use phrases such as:

“In this section, we outline what we discovered in our research. We found that [brief summary of your results]. These results are important because they shed light on [mention the significance or relevance of your findings]. Overall, our study contributes to the understanding of [topic of your research].”

– Your results as an extension of previous work

Then, you link your results with existing knowledge/literature in your field.

You need to show how your study builds upon previous research.

But also contributes to the conversation and understanding of your topic.

You may use sentences such as:

“Our findings build upon previous studies in several ways. First, we confirmed [mention any evidence from past research]. Second, we expanded on [describe how your results go beyond previous findings]. This continuity with past work adds new insights to the field.”

– Implications

Here, the goal is to discuss the implications of your results.

A good way to do this is to think about practical applications.

Who may use your research? What’s in it for your readers?

What do your results mean in the “real” world? Or with the overall subject/field?

Maybe, your findings also have implications concerning specific frameworks.

Some examples of sentences:

The implications of our research are significant for [mention the relevant stakeholders or beneficiaries]. Our findings suggest [describe the practical or theoretical implications]. This knowledge can be used to [explain how your findings can be applied or further explored].”

– Mention of limitations

Next, you need to mention the limitations of your work.

Here, you want to be transparent about the weaknesses of your study.

These can be related to the conditions of your experiments, limited data sources, drawbacks of your method, performance of your algorithms etc.

By doing that, you help readers interpret your findings in a better way and more accurately.

Also, this guides future research where you identify areas for improvement or further investigation.

You may use phrases such as:

While our study provides valuable insights, it is important to acknowledge its limitations. One limitation is [mention a specific limitation or drawback]. Another limitation is [describe another aspect that could be improved or studied further]. Despite these limitations, our findings remain valuable and contribute to the existing body of knowledge.”

– Future research / forward-looking statements

Finally, you mention potential future research projects inspired by your work.

This way you encourage others to continue research in your field/ topic.

And this also shows the readers where we have research gaps.

Looking ahead, there are several avenues for future research. One direction is to [propose a specific question for future studies]. Additionally, exploring [mention another potential area of research] could provide deeper insights into [topic of your research] and will continue to advance our understanding of  [your research topic/field].

That’s it. This is how I structure my discussion and conclusion sections.

As usual, if anything is unclear or if you need help with your research projects please contact me and I will reply.

See you in the next newsletter!


Question of the Week

How do you write your discussion? Any tips and recommendations?

Please share with us your advice in the comments section.

My favorite things this week

  1. I conducted a webinar about the use of bibliometric data in Global University rankings. Great engagement and follow-ups with participants.

  2. In case you missed it, here is the LinkedIn post where I share the useful annotated example of a discussion section by MIT Communication lab that you can use to write yours.

Quote of the Week

“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.”
– Margaret Heffernan

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