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IMRAD Info #4: Discussing the Discussion

By Barbara Gastel | Dec. 24, 2016  | Research writing Research skills

Greetings again. I hope you’re doing well.

Earlier posts in this series discussed writing the introduction, methods, and results sections of a journal article. The current post discusses the discussion. This section can be especially hard to write because it can vary considerably in content and structure.

One way to approach writing the discussion is to consider its beginning, middle, and end.

Commonly, the beginning should focus on the current research. It should quickly summarize what was done and found. And often it’s the place to answer the question(s) that the research addressed. Other items to consider discussing here include discrepancies in the findings and strengths and limitations of the work.

The middle should put the current research in the context of previous research. For example, it may show how your findings are or aren’t consistent with published findings and may speculate on the reasons. This part may have relatively many citations.

Finally, the end should put the research in broader context, for example by noting theoretical or practical implications or both. If the article won’t have a conclusions section, the discussion may conclude with a paragraph briefly summarizing the research and stating the take-home message.

Discussions vary somewhat among fields and journals. Therefore, it’s important to look at examples in one’s target journal.

Whereas the introduction moves from general to specific, the discussion tends to move from specific (the current research) to general (broader significance). In other words: The introduction resembles a funnel, but the discussion resembles an inverted funnel. It leads readers back into the wider world in which the research occurred.

Until the next post—


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