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November 1, 2017
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November 7, 2017

How to Write Dissertation Discussion Chapter

Dissertation discussion is the chapter where you explore the relevance, significance and meanings of your findings – giving you the opportunity to showcase your talents in terms of describing and analyzing results of your study. Here you will be expected to demonstrate how your research findings answer the research questions established or test the hypothesis stated. Arguments you assert in the dissertation analysis and discussions chapter lay the foundations of your overall conclusion. It is critically important to discuss the results in a precise manner. To help you understand how to write dissertation discussion chapter, here is the list of the main elements of this section so you stay on the right track when writing:

  • Interpretations: What is the significance of your findings?
  • Implications: Why are your findings important to academic and scientific communities and what purpose would they serve?
  • Limitations: When and where your results will have no implications?
  • Future Recommendations: Advise for other researchers and scientists who explore the topic further in future.

The dissertation discussion chapter should be carefully drafted in order to make sure that the results mentioned in your research are in line with your research question, aims and objectives. Considering the importance of this chapter, we have put together comprehensive guidelines on how to write dissertation discussion chapter.

The discussion and conclusion chapters often overlap. Depending on your university, you may be asked to group these two sections in one chapter – Discussion and Conclusion. In some cases, the results and discussion are put together under the chapter – Results and Discussion. Here are some dissertation examples for you to work out the best structure for your own dissertation. Alternatively, you can look for the required dissertation structure in your dissertation handbook or consult your supervisor.

Steps of How to Write Dissertation Discussion Chapter

Provide a Summary of Your Findings

Start your discussion by providing a short summary of your key findings in relation to your research questions. Avoid repeating the information you have already stated in the previous chapters. In a nutshell, you will be expected to express clearly in one or two paragraphs your interpretation of results to answer the research questions originally established. Here are some examples of how to present the summary of your findings; “the data suggests that”, “the results confirm that”, “the analysis indicate that”, “the research shows a relationship between”, etc.

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Interpretations of Results

Your audience will expect you to provide meanings of the results although to you they might seem obvious. The results and their interpretations should be clearly linked to the research questions so the reader can understand the value your research has added to the literature. There are many ways of interpreting the data, but your chosen approach to interpreting the data will depend on the type of research involved. Some of the most common strategies employed include;

  • Describing how and why you ended up with unexpected findings and explaining their importance in detail
  • Relating your findings with previous studies conducted
  • Explaining your position with logical arguments when/if any alternative explanations are suggested
  • An in depth discussion around whether or not the findings answered your research questions and/or successfully tested the hypothesis

Examples of how you can start your interpretation in the Discussion chapter are –

  • “Findings of this study contradict those of Allen et. al, (2014) that”,
  • “Contrary to the hypothesized association”, “Confirming the hypothesis…”,
  • “The findings confirm that A is….. even though Allen et. al, (2014) and Michael (2012) suggested B was …..”

Implications of your Study

What practical and theoretical implications your study will have for other researchers and the scientific community as whole? It is absolutely vital to relate your results to the knowledge in the existing literature so the readers can establish how your research will contribute to the existing data. When thinking of the possible consequences of your findings, you should ask yourself these;

  • Are your findings in line with previous studies? What contribution did you research make to them?
  • What could be the reason your results are completely different from other studies performed on the same topic?
  • Did your findings approve or contradict existing knowledge?
  • What are the practical implications of your study?

Remember that you, as the researcher, should aim to let your readers know why your study will contribute to the existing literature. Possible ways of starting this particular section are;

  • “The findings show that A….. whereas Lee (2017) and John (2013) suggested that B”, “The results of this study completely contradict the claims made in theories”,
  • “These results are not in line with the theoretical perspectives”,
  • “The statistical analysis provides a new understanding of the relationship between A and B”,
  • “Future studies should take into consideration the findings of this study because”

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Recognise Limitations of your Research

Almost every academic research has some limitations. Acknowledging them will only add to your credibility as a scientific researcher. In addition to the possible human errors, it’s important to take into account other factors that might have influenced the results of your study including but not limited unexpected research obstacles, specific methodological choices and the overall research design. Avoid mentioning any limitations that may not be relevant to your research aim but do clearly state the limitations that may have affected your results.

For example, if you used a sample size that included a very small population then you may not be able to generalize your results. Similarly, obstacles faced in collecting data from the participants can influence the findings of your study. Make a note of all such research limitations, but explain to the reader why your results are still authentic.

Examples

  • The small sample size limited the generalisability of results
  • The authenticity of the findings may have been influenced by….
  • The obstacles in collecting data resulted in…
  • It is beyond the framework of this research…

Provide Recommendations for Future Research

The limitations of your research work directly result in future recommendations. However, it should be noted that your recommendations for future research work should include the areas that your own work could not report so other researchers can build on them. Sometimes the recommendations are a part of the conclusion chapter. Some examples;

  • More research is needed to be performed in order to….
  • Future research needs to focus on

Image result for research limitations

The Purpose of Dissertation Discussion Chapter 

Remember that the discussion section of a dissertation is the heart of your research because a) it will indicate your stance on the topic of research and b) it answers the research questions originally established in the Introduction chapter. Every piece of information you present here will add value to the existing literature within your field of study. How you structured your findings in the preceding chapter will help you work to out the best structure for your dissertation discussion section. For example, it might be logical to structure your analysis/discussions by theme if this is the pattern you chose in your findings section.

But generally discussion based on research questions is the more widely used structure in academia because this pattern clearly indicates how you have addressed aim of your research. Most UK universities require the supervisor or members of marking committee to comment on the extent to which each research questions have been answered. You will be doing them a great favour if you structure your discussion in a way that each research questions is laid out separately.

Irrespective of whether you are writing an essay, dissertation or a chapter of a dissertation, all pieces of writing should start with an introduction. Once your readers have read through the results of your study, you might want to highlight the contents of succeeding discussion in form of an introduction paragraph (summary of your results – as explained above). Likewise, the discussion chapter is expected to end with a concluding paragraph – allowing you the opportunity to summarize your interpretations. Dissertation analysis & discussion chapter is usually very long so it will make sense to emphasize the important points in a concluding paragraph so the reader can grasp the key information. This will also help to make sure the reader understands your analysis.

Also Read: Research Discussion Of Findings

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Useful Tips 

Presentation of Graphs, Tables, and Figures

Back in 1990s and early 2000s, students spent days to create graphs and charts for their statistical analysis work. Thanks to technology, you can produce even more accurate graphs and figures today in a shorter period of time. Using Microsoft Word, STATA, SPSS, Microsoft Excel and other statistical analysis software, we can now draw beautiful looking figures, tables and graphs with just a few clicks and make them appear in our document at the desired place. But there are downsides to being too dependent on technology.

Many students make the common mistake of using colours to represent variables when really they have to print their dissertation paper final copy in black and white. This means that any colours on graphs and figures will eventually be viewed in grayscale presentation. Recognising different shades of grey on the same chart or graph can be a little confusing at times. For example, green and purples appear as pretty much the same shade of grey on a line chat, which means that your chart will become unreadable to the marker.

Another trap that you may fall into is the unintentional stuffing of dissertation chapter with graphs and figures. Even though it is important to show numbers and statistics, you don’t want to overwhelm your readers with too many of them. It may not be necessary to have a graph/table under each sub-heading. Only you as the writer can best judge whether or not you need to have a graph/table under a particular sub-heading.

Image result for excel graphs and charts

Relating to Previous Chapters  

As a student, it can be challenging to come out with your own analysis and discussion of results. One of the requirements of a great discussion chapter is to showcase your ability to relate previous research to results of your own research. Avoid repeating the same information over and over. Many students fall into this trap which negatively affect the mark of your overall dissertation paper.

Concise and to the point information will help you get your point across to the readers in a more effective manner. Although you must demonstrate how your findings relate to previous research, it is equally important to make sure you are not simply rewriting what has already been said previously in the introduction and literature review chapters. The best strategy is to use examples from previous sections to postulate an argument.

Use of hyperlinks is recommended to take the reader from one section to another. This is especially important for electronic documents to be submitted as .word or .pdf files. Hyperlinking is a tedious and time consuming work so you should allow for this in your dissertation timeline to avoid rushing in the closing stages.

How to Write the Abstract for Dissertation.

Using Sub sections and Sub headings

You might want to reflect the structure of the discussion in your organization of dissertation discussion chapter, and for that you will need to create sub-sections. It is important to keep sub sections to the point and as short as possible. Use a layer of subheadings if possible. For example a sub section 4.1 of Chapter 4- Discussion can be further divided into smaller sections 4.1.1 and 4.2.2. Any subheadings after three numerical layers (4.1.1, 4.2.2, 4.2.3) need not to appear in the table of contents.

The titles of all subsections will appear on your table of contents so choose the wordings carefully. A title too long or too short might confuse the reader. A one or two word subheading will not give enough information to the reader to understand what the section is about. Likewise, using a research question or long sentences in the subheading is also no recommended. It might help to look at how other researchers and writers create these subheadings.

table of contents

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Critical Thinking

Your critical thinking skills are the crux of your dissertation discussion chapter. You will doing yourself a great disservice if you fail to put the critical thinking element into the equation. After all, the purpose of this exercise is to showcase clarity in your thoughts and arguments. Markers of dissertation give more importance to analysis and discussion chapter. But you could be marked negatively if this particular chapter lacks critical thinking.

Many students struggle to establish the difference between basic descriptive analysis and one that entails critical thinking with your opinions on the research topic. Critical thinking is a skill that is developed over a period of time and it might be daunting for you to come to terms with the idea of critical thinking and its use in your analysis. But even if you are no expert, you must try best.

Image result for critical thinking

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Duplication of Content

Another critical error that students make is the reaffirming the point the graph/chart was supposed to make. Writing out the same information as presented in the graph defeats the whole purpose of having them in the first place. You will be expected to form your opinions and arguments based on the findings (as presented by the graphs) so keep an eye on this mistake. Finally, avoid simply inserting a graph without any explanation whatsoever. It should be noted that there is no correct or incorrect number of charts/figures one can use in the dissertation findings and discussion chapter. A balance must be struck.

Avoid Over Interpretation

This is a major no-no when writing a dissertation discussion. Do not make an argument that isn’t backed by the data that you’ve collected. The results and interpretation that cannot be supported should not be mentioned at all. If you do so, your research will be deemed as unauthentic and will also be questioned by your supervisor. Results should be interpreted without any bias.

How to Write the Findings of a Dissertation.

Do not Speculate

Speculation in the discussion chapter of your dissertation is discouraged. The discussion of your dissertation is based on the data that you’ve collected and how it relates to your research questions, thus speculating here will certainly undermine the credibility of your research. Also, try not to generalize your findings. If your research is based on a specific population, do not state that the same findings might apply in every case. As indicated previously, it is important to acknowledge the limitations of your research.  On the other hand, if you think that your discussion needs to address other populations as well, start your sentence like this ‘We speculate that..’ or ‘It is speculated that..’ This will keep you from getting into any sort of trouble.

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