Results, Discussion and Conclusion
Dr. Y. A. Odusote
Good evening dear colleagues
I am humbled to be here tonight
Hope you all have a great day
Tonight we shall continue with our interactive session as a follow-up to what our erudite Professors have discussed in the past weeks.
One of the ultimate products of any scientific research is the report emanating therefrom. Thus, a poor idea or a poorly designed investigation can not be saved by an excellent presentation of the work, and equally a well-executed research that is poorly written does the researcher no good since the quality of the write-up plays a prominent role in establishing the competence of researcher.
In this light, report writing is key to any scientific investigation be it project report, thesis/dissertation or journal articles. Tonight focus is going to be on how to present our research findings via results, discussion and conclusion in journal articles It is an important skill we all need to learn as researchers. Because, you will always need to interpret or analyse your data, that is, say what it means, especially in relation to your research question(s). Traditionally, journal articles in the sciences consist of four sections: Introduction, materials and methods or theoretical framework/concepts, results and discussion, and finally conclusion.
For journal articles, it is important intending author(s) look at the Instructions for Authors prior to preparing your manuscript. A well-executed research must attempt to provide answer to these questions:
-Why do we care about the problem and the results
-what problems are you trying to solve?
-How did you go about solving or marking progress on the problem?
-what’s the result?
-What are the implications of your results?
The last two questions are the object of the results and discussion sections, respectively. If a paper contains a conclusions section, it also focuses on implications.
The main objective of the results section is to present the key findings of your research without interpreting their meaning. It cannot be combined with the discussion section unless the journal you intend to publish combines the results and discussion into one section.
The results should be presented in an orderly sequence, using an outline is usually advisable as a guide for writing and following the sequence of the methods/theory section upon which the results are based.
For every result, there must be a method in the methods/theory section. It is equally important to carefully plan the tables and figures to ensure that their sequence tells your story well. The following points should be noted carefully when presenting your results: I would try to summarize them
1) determine which results to present by deciding which are relevant to the question(s) presented in the introduction irrespective of whether or not the results support the hypothesis(es). The results section does not need to include every result you obtained or observed.
2) organize the data in the results section in chronological order according to the methods or in order of the most to least important within each paragraph preferably
3)Decide whether the data are best presented in the form of text, figures, graphs, or tables etc.
Try to summarize your findings and refer readers to the relevant data in the text, figures and/or tables. With the text complementing the figures or tables, do not repeat the same information. Describe your results and data of controls including observations not presented in a formal figure or table, if necessary. Make sure that the data are accurate and consistent throughout the manuscript. Describe your results using meaningful statistics, when necessary.
I personally prefer the use of past tense when referring to my results. Number figures and tables consecutively in the same sequence they are first mentioned in the text. Depending on the journal, tables and figures should be in order at the end of the manuscript after the References, or located appropriately within the text of your results section. Finally on results presentation, write with accuracy, brevity and always strive for clarity.
Let’s quickly look at the discussion section. This section is often considered the heart of the paper and usually requires several writing attempts. The discussion should explain the significance of the results and place them into a broader context. It should not be redundant with the results section. This section may consist of subheadings and can in some cases be combined with the results section. While the introduction should start with general background information and moves to the specific purpose of the research, the discussion should rather starts with an analysis of the author’s own specific results and then moves to general implications of the research. To make your message clear, the discussion should be kept as short as possible while clearly and fully stating, supporting, explaining, and defending your answers and discussing other important and directly relevant issues.
Care must be taken to provide a commentary and not a reiteration of the results. Side issues should not be included, as these tend to obscure the message you are trying to communicate. I must say that No paper is perfect. The important thing is to help the readers determine what can be positively learned and what is more speculative. Explain how your results relate to expectations and to the literature, clearly stating why they are acceptable and how they are consistent or fit in with previously published knowledge on the topic. In your writing of the Discussion, discuss everything, but be concise, brief, and specific.
A few papers also contain a conclusion section, which usually focuses on practical application or provides a short summary of the significance of the research. In writing this section, you must:
1. State your conclusions, as clearly as possible.
2. Summarize your evidence for each conclusion.
3. Always avoid the temptation of trying to reach cosmic conclusions. Your conclusions must be buttressed by your data; do not try to extrapolate to a bigger picture than that shown by your data, one may appear foolish to the point that even your data-supported conclusions are cast into doubt.
4. Always write in simple fashion. Avoid verbose language and even fancy technical words.
Anderson, P.V. (2003). Technical communication — A reader-centered approach (5th ed). Boston: Heinle. McMurrey, D.A. (2002). Power tools for technical communication. Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers.
Olorunnisola, A.O. (2003). Some essentials of scientific research planning and execution, Educational Publishers, Ibadan.
Wesiman, H. (1996). Basic technical reporting. New Jersey, Englewood Woods: Prentice Hall.
Q. Is it considered good practice to use graph to better explain results already presented in tables?
A. That would among to duplication of results. You have to decide which of the two would better tell your story.
Q. Also, is it compulsory to refer to every figure and table in the discussion section?
A. All figures and tables must be referred to under results and discussion. Avoid redundancy. Well. In such a situation you just pick the most relevant graph or if it is possible to plot using multiplot. I once published a paper with 64 graphs but I grouped them using multiplot
Q. Is it right to refer to other people’s work in presentation of one’s results?
A. Yes. One can reference others related work or works under results and discussion. I don’t think there is any wrong with that as long as the works are relevant and properly cited.
Q. My work, after optimizing the results, has about 21 graphs and a few tables. What do you advise when faced with lots of graphs and tables?
A. The conclusion should just summarize the relevant practical application or provides a short summary of the significance of the research. I always avoid duplication of abstract in the conclusion sections. It is painstaking when writing conclusions and abstract. And as a matter of fact, I take extreme care when writing these two sections. For conclusion extending to two pages, I wonder what the author(s) is writing while not condemning it. I feel it is not a very good practice. As for reference under conclusion, I want to believe it is allowed if the author(s) considered it necessary
Q. Can i include in my conclusion the shortcomings and advise other method (s) that will unravel more findings. Can i also make recommendations in my conclusion?
A. It depends for journal articles, one can provide outlook for future research work but as regard shortcomings and advise other method, I feel these should be built into your introduction, particularly when developing your research problem/justification for the work via literature review.