The discussion section

I enjoy writing templates for students. I’ve just finished one on the discussion chapter and therefore decided to share it with readers.  Enjoy.
The discussion section or chapter answers these questions about your study: ‘So what?’ And ‘What does it mean?’ Milos Jenicek, writes in ‘How to read, understand, and write ‘Discussion’ Sections in Medical Articles.  An Exercise in Critical Thinking.’
The discussion section is where the world hears your voice, because it is where you describe in detail how your investigation pushed back the frontiers of knowledge.
 “The purpose of the discussion,” Annesley Thomas says, “is to interpret and describe the significance of your findings in light of what was already known about the research problem being investigated, and to explain any new understanding or fresh insights about the problem after you’ve taken the findings into consideration.”
Therefore, the significance of the discussion section is easily understood, but why do we need templates?
Graff, Birkenstein and Durst argue persuasively on the importance of templates in improving students’ academic writing.  This, they encourage, even among students to whom English is a first language.
Yet, we have a legion of students around the world who have to write in English because it is the language of instruction in their universities even though they lack fluency in it. Therefore, unpacking and providing academic writing templates for such students give them enormous advantage by improving their thoughts and preparing them to make the sophisticated moves in academic writing.
“One virtue of such templates,” Graff and colleagues write, “is that they focus writers’ attention not just on what is being said, but on the forms that structure what is being said…the rhetorical patterns that are key to academic success.”
Therefore, the purpose of the following templates is to help with such structure. My approach is to present the distinct moves of a discussion chapter or section.  I found about 10 of such moves, when, in fact, researchers may identify or see fewer of such subtopics and integrate them into their writing with one or two sweeping moves.  (I’ve included only three of the 10 moves in this column).
However, in this little space, it is not possible to present all colours and contours of how a discussion section is written.  However, it suffices to address sections that are deemed important. My focus on these parts is not to understate other worthy perspectives.
1. State the major findings of the study
“The discussion should begin with a statement of the major findings of the study,” D. Hess writes in Respiratory Care journal. “This should be the very first paragraph in the discussion. It should be a direct, declarative, and succinct proclamation of the study results. However, it should not include data or reference to the study design.”
We can find a ready example in the 2014 published article of Duckworth and her colleagues which appeared in the Frontiers in Psychology journal:
 “Across four studies, grittier individuals were less likely to drop out of their respective life commitments: Gritty soldiers were more likely to complete 3 weeks of a grueling ARSOF selection course (Study 1), gritty sales representatives were more likely to remain at their jobs three months later (Study 2), gritty high school juniors were more likely to graduate from high school 1 year later (Study 3), and gritty men (but not women) were more likely to remain married (Study 4).”
So how do we state the major finding of our study? Here’s a template: “On the question of [   ], this study found that [  ].” Or, “across four research questions, the study found that X is [ ].”
2. Explain the meaning of the findings and why the findings are important
“As the person who conceived, designed, and conducted the study, the meaning of the results and their importance seem obvious to you,” Hess writes. “However, they might not be so clear for the person reading your paper for the first time. One of the purposes of the discussion is to explain the meaning of the findings and why they are important, without appearing arrogant, condescending, or patronizing. After reading the discussion section, you want the reader to think, “That makes perfect sense. Why hadn’t I thought of that?”
Therefore, stating the major findings is not enough, you will have to explain them. Here is a published example from Duckworth’s article:
“Taken together, these findings take the first step toward establishing the association between grit and persistence across a range of life contexts. Overall, grit and other measured individual differences each explained small, approximately comparable amounts of variance in the retention outcome.”
And here’s a template to write yours:
The most interesting finding was that [   ]. The present results are significant in at least two major respects. One, [  ].  Two, [  ].
3. Relate the findings to those of similar studies
“No study is so novel and with such a restricted focus that it has no relation to other previously published papers,” Hess writes, “the discussion section should relate your study findings to those of other studies. Questions raised by previous studies may have served as the motivation for your study. The findings of other studies may support your findings, which strengthens the importance of your study results.”
Here’s a template on how to do that:
“Prior studies have noted the importance of [   ].  A strong relationship between X and Y has been reported in the literature. However, in reviewing the literature, no data was found on the association between X and Y. Yet, the findings of the current study are consistent with those of Smith and Jones (2001) who found [  ]. However, this result has not previously been described using the type of data used in the current study.”
To freely access more templates of different chapters, visit my blog:


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