Four Great Tips on How to Write the Discussion Chapter for a Dissertation
Even though the majority of people write a discussion chapter to include in their theses or dissertations, a lot of them overlook a number of critical aspects. A discussion chapter is the section where you bring your entire paper together, so it is essential to keep the following points in mind:
- Make Sure the Structure is Clear
Firstly, a discussion chapter should be separated into a number of sections, where you go from very specific findings or results to the implications of these. While much depends on your chosen topic, you may want to consider using this structure:
- Sum-up your main findings (provided you are writing the discussion and results sections separately).
- Explain how your findings relate to or are relevant to the literature you reviewed.
- Describe how your initial hypothesis is affected by this.
- Explain what everything means in practical terms.
- Use of Tense
When it comes to discussing what it was you found or what results you obtained, you should be consistent in the way you use the present and past tense. Furthermore, the context of what you are saying will influence which tense you use. If you are describing the meaning of specific results in practical terms or are referring to particular data, it is best to use the present tense. For example:
As Figure 1 shows, when there is an increase in light, there is decrease in speed. These results show that productivity is improved with coffee intake.
However, you should use the past tense to sum-up some particular results or when describing something that has already happened. For example:
Road traffic accidents reduced considerably in number between the years 2014 and 2016.
At times both tenses are needed. For example:
As figure 1 shows, road traffic accidents reduced in number between the years 2014 and 2016. The statistics imply that speed camera technology decrease the number of road accident fatalities.
- Your Findings/Results Will Need to be Evaluated
Instead of just describing what you found or the results you obtained, consider their meaning. Think about any patterns or relationships that are evident in the results and what these imply. Additionally, you should question how these relate to any theories you used in the research work you did.
Furthermore, it is important that you discuss your results objectively. If you did not find what you had expected to find, say so in your discussion chapter. You should not shy away from recognizing any anomalies, inconsistencies or any other types of limitations.
- Refer Back to Your Hypothesis and Review of Literature
The practice of referring back to earlier sections of a paper is a way of giving context to a discussion section. If, for instance, you mention a particular theory in the review of literature section e.g. that speed camera technology has no effect on road accident fatalities, you can then relate your results or findings to this theory.
This same principle applies to a paper’s hypothesis e.g. have your forecasts or predictions been proved or disproved by your results? This is a way of giving a coherent feeling to a paper.