How to Write a Dissertation | The Discussion

| June 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

The discussion section of your dissertation is the one which is the real “nitty-gritty” the culmination of all your research work should be outlined in this section. It is here that you interpret your data and this means that you will have to refer the reader back to the tables in your results or findings section. In this section you provide the reader with the answers to your research question and link these with the data, the previous research done on the topic (which you may have already mentioned in the Literature Review section if you have taken the “Schools of Thought” approach to it), and your arguments.

Often this section begins with a summary of what you wanted to accomplish in your research and then a statement of what has actually been accomplished and reasons why there is a discrepancy or perhaps you have fulfilled exactly what you set out to do, in which case you should state that this is the case. However if you have written an abstract, do not simply reiterate what you have said in it. You can refer the reader back to it and add a few sentences if you think these are necessary.

As this section is separate from that of your Findings or Results then there should be no introduction to any new data or information. This Discussion section is only about your research and how it fits in or doesn’t fit in with that done previously. If your results validate previous research then this should be stated here. Perhaps your research negates or refutes previous work, in which case you should discuss the possible reasons for this in this section. Here you will have to continually go back to past research and state where yours fits into it. If you like you can think of this as a conversation between the past and the present.

You should also discuss the limitations of your research here. Your supervisor or marker will have already picked up on the weak areas, so there is no point in trying to sweep them under the carpet or trying to fudge the issues. Tackle them head on and give a reasoned analysis of your perhaps disappointing results.

Your results may be completely different to the ones you were expecting and if this is the case don’t panic, as this is not necessarily a bad thing. Having the result of your research different to others might have been unexpected, but that could in fact be a positive rather than a negative. If you think that your overall research design was flawed, say so here. Then say what you should have done and what you will do in the future to ensure that you get other results. Acknowledge and explain where it went wrong and that won’t necessarily mean that you dissertation will fail.

Let’s face it, your supervisor is on your side; if your research is flawed, then it is as much the fault of your supervisor for not guiding you correctly as it is yours. No supervisor wants a student to fail as that reflects badly on his/her supervisory skills. So be positive, confident and honest when writing up your discussion.

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Category: Dissertation Writing Guide

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