Discussion for Dissertations
Some students would say that the hardest part of writing a dissertation is the discussion chapter. This is especially true when the results are close at hand and the writer’s head is full of all sorts of data. To write a discussion chapter properly, you need to step backwards and look at the bigger picture. It is for this reason a lot of students close their eyes before they start to write, putting the results out of sight. Or you could imagine that you run into a fellow student or friend and you don’t have your manuscript with you. Then try and describe your research findings to that person. What aspects were significant or memorable, and what conclusions did you draw from your findings? What do they really mean and how can you account for the results? Are your findings useful, important or in any way significant? If so, why? Who will they be useful to?
This is about you selling the work you have put into your research project. However, you do need to tread carefully. Is there anything wrong? Is there anything you should bear in mind regarding your research findings? Were there any limitations to your project and did these limitations have any impact on the results? In fact, a whole section of a dissertation is sometimes devoted to limitations.
The discussion section of a dissertation can be likened to the executive summary of a business report. If this section is the only part your readers bother or have time to read, they should be able to understand what it was you found and the significance of your findings. Therefore, it is important you explain this clearly in narrative form without repeating the results from another chapter.
In talking about the discussion chapter, it is also worth mentioning the concluding chapter. This section should aim to accomplish two important things:
- A concise summary of the whole research project – as an extended or more comprehensive abstract if you like. It should reiterate what you wanted to achieve at the outset e.g. the purpose of your project, what research you did, how you did it (your methods), and what you discovered e.g. your results.
- Recommendations or guidance for further research in the future: When developing this part, do not restrict your thinking to repeating the work you did and look beyond the limitations. Think of better or more innovative ways of addressing the identical research problem or question. Now that the results of your research are known, are there any other interesting aspects that could or should be addressed? Are there any other questions or issues that come to mind?