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IMRAD Info #3: Results Sections That Get Results

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By Barbara Gastel | Dec. 17, 2016  |

Greetings again. I hope you’re doing well.

The previous two posts discussed writing the introduction section and the methods section. This week’s post focuses on the results section.

The results section is the heart of a scientific paper. Without results there’s no paper. However, a results section need not always be long. If research is highly focused, the results section may be short but strong.

The purpose of the results section is, of course, to report your findings. The findings should follow from the methods you described. And they should help answer the question(s) you posed.

When writing results sections, some new researchers feel compelled to include every piece of data they obtained. However, summarizing data or providing representative findings is often preferable. Looking at papers in your target journal can help in knowing how much detail to include.

The results section should be well organized. Sometimes chronological order works best. Other times, another order—such as from most important to least important—works better. Sometimes a combination is most effective.

Often a results section includes tables or figures. It should mention each one. But it shouldn’t repeat its content in detail. Rather, it should state the main message of the table or figure and perhaps note some important items in it.

Unless a paper has a combined results-and-discussion section, the results section should just state the findings, not comment on them. For example, it should not speculate on reasons for the results.

Such commentary belongs in the discussion section. I look forward to discussing that section in the next post.

Until then—

Barbara

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