How to Structure a Dissertation Proposal
November 1, 2017
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How to Write the Introduction of a Dissertation
November 7, 2017

Dissertation discussion is the chapter where you explore the relevance, significance and meanings of your findings - allowing you to showcase your talents in describing and analyzing the 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: Advice for other researchers and scientists who explore the topic further in future.

The dissertation discussion chapter should be carefully drafted to ensure that the results mentioned in your research are in line with your research question, aims and objectives.

Considering the importance of this chapter for all students working on their dissertation, we have comprehensive guidelines on how to write a 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 summary of the key findings of your research questions. Avoid repeating the information you have already stated in the previous chapters.

In a nutshell, you will be expected to clearly express your interpretation of results to answer the research questions originally established in one or two paragraphs.

Here are some examples of how to present the summary of your findings;

  • “The data suggests that”,
  • “The results confirm that”,
  • “The analysis indicates 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 a 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 the 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 clearly state the limitations that may have affected your results.

For example, if you used a sample size that included a tiny population, you may not 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.


  • 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 to….
  • Future research needs to focus on

Image result for research limitations

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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 out the best structure for your dissertation discussion section.

For example, it might be logical to structure your analysis/discussions by theme if you chose the pattern 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 the aim of your research.

Most UK universities require the supervisor or committee members to comment on the extent to which each research question has been answered. You will be doing them a great favour if you structure your discussion so that each research question 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 your study results, you might want to highlight the contents of succeeding discussion in the 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

Useful Tips 

Presentation of Graphs, Tables, and Figures

In the 1990s and early 2000s, students spent days creating 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 the grayscale presentation. Recognising different shades of grey on the same chart or graph can be a little confusing at times.

For example, green and purple 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 can best judge whether or not you need to have a graph/table under a particular sub-heading as the writer.

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 great discussion chapter requirements is to showcase your ability to relate previous research to your own research results.

Avoid repeating the same information over and over. Many students fall into this trap which negatively affects the mark of your overall dissertation paper.

Concise and to the point information will help you get your point across to the readers effectively.

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 saying 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 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 the Dissertation.

Using Subsections and Subheadings

You might want to reflect the structure of the discussion in your organization of the dissertation discussion chapter, and for that, you will need to create sub-sections.

It is important to keep subsections to the point and as short as possible. Use a layer of subheadings if possible.

For example, subsection 4.1 of Chapter 4- Discussion can be further divided into smaller sections 4.1.1 and 4.2.2. After three numerical layers (4.1.1, 4.2.2, and 4.2.3), any subheadings need not appear in the contents table.

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 the reader enough information to understand the section.

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

Critical Thinking

Your critical thinking skills are the crux of your dissertation discussion chapter. You will do 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 the analysis and discussion chapter. But you could be marked negatively if this particular chapter lacks critical thinking.

Many students struggle to distinguish between basic descriptive analysis and 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. Your research will be deemed unauthentic and will also be questioned by your supervisor if you do so. 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. Your dissertation's discussion is based on the data you’ve collected and how it relates to your research questions. Thus, speculating here will certainly undermine your research's credibility.

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 trouble.

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