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All you need to know about the discussion chapter of your dissertation

A dissertation is one of the most important elements in a student's academic life.  It is a structured, authentic, and lengthy piece of writing which tends to develop a logical argument about the selected research topic. A dissertation contributes majorly to the final assessment of a master's degree program. It is an extensive and complex piece of write-up necessary for the successful completion of a post-graduation discipline. Writing a dissertation helps a student to expand his subject knowledge, rational skills, critical thinking skills, and reasoning skills.

What is the discussion section of a dissertation?

The discussion section of a dissertation is the part where a student relates the findings of his research with the framework built in all the previous chapters of the dissertation. It is considered as the most meaningful chapter of a dissertation project. It is this section that answers the research question raised at the beginning of the dissertation paper. Discussion lays down the foundation for the presentation of the overall conclusion of a dissertation. If an alternate or unexpected result has ascended, you can offer explanations for the same in this part of the dissertation. The limitations of your dissertation research are also included in the discussion section only.

Difference between the discussion and conclusion section

Students often get confused between the terms ‘discussion’ and ‘conclusion’ while writing their dissertation. Tough the two concepts have some similarities but are fairly different from each other and have different purposes to serve in a dissertation. The discussion is a detailed presentation of the findings of a dissertation. It provides relevant evidence to back up the arguments made in the entire document.

It explains the findings, interprets them in reference to the previous research work conducted in the same study area, and also provides recommendations for future research. The conclusion, however, is the section that briefly mentions the key points of your dissertation. It can be seen as the summary of your dissertation discussion and informs the examiner or readers about the relevance of your dissertation research.

Importance of the discussion section in a dissertation

  • Effectively demonstrates the ability of a researcher: Discussion is considered as the most important portion of a dissertation paper because it clearly represents the research ability of a scholar. It indicates the scholar's ability to think critically, the ability to develop creative solutions, and the ability to formulate a deeper understanding of the research problem mentioned in the dissertation.
  • Helps to explore the underlying meaning of the research conducted: The discussion chapter of a dissertation allows a student to understand the fundamental meaning of the research conducted, its application and relation to the other study areas, and the possibility of improvement in the study area.
  • Allows a student to showcase the importance of his dissertation: Discussion is where a student establishes the relevance of his dissertation project and its contribution towards filling the gaps in the previous researches conducted in the same area of study. A student can also demonstrate how the findings of his dissertation research revealed new gaps in the literature that have not been brought to light before.
  • Helps a student to infuse dissertation results with the meaning of the dissertation: The discussion is where to engage your readers by providing the evidence to support the interpretation of your findings in the dissertation paper.

Structure of the discussion chapter of a dissertation

A student should focus on the main goals of his dissertation while writing the discussion chapter. He should necessarily include the interpretations, opinions, explanation of findings, suggestions and predictions for future researches in this unit of the dissertation. There are four bits of advice that a student should keep in mind while writing the discussions chapter of his dissertation

  • Answer the questions raised in the introduction part of your dissertation.
  • Link the answers to the results found during the research process.
  • Explain how the answer derived fits the existing body of knowledge about the subject.
  • State the limitations of the results derived.

Keep in mind that the structure of the discussion chapter of a dissertation depends on what the topic of your dissertation is and how you plan to structure your findings in the paper.

How to write the discussion section in a dissertation paper

To develop a crystal clear discussion chapter a student should follow the KISS rule, i.e. Keep It Short and Simple, in his writing pattern. Discussions should fully explain, state, support, elaborate, and defend the conclusions made. Make sure that the discussion chapter is written in the commentary style and is not just a spit out of the results derived from the research. Maintain the essence of your message and help the reader to determine what are the facts and what is speculation. Here are a few steps a student can follow while writing an effective dissertation

Step 1: Write your main findings

Always start your discussions chapter by recapitulating the dissertation problem followed by coherently summarizing the key findings. Do not spew out all the data collected. Use a clear statement to answer the main hypothesis or research question posed by the dissertation. Use only one paragraph to briefly shed light on the findings.

Step 2: Add in your interpretations

After mentioning the findings, it is time to state the significance of the derived results. The meaning of the results might be clear to you because you've conducted the research but you will need to present it in front of the readers to state its relevance to the posed research questions. The research type will determine the form of interpretation you should ideally use in your dissertation paper. Here are a few approaches that can help you to interpret the collected data

  • Identifying the links, patterns, and relationships between the data.
  • Discuss whether the derived results support or oppose the formulated research question or hypothesis.
  • Scrutinizing the findings of your dissertation with previous research and theories.
  • Explaining the unexpected results and analyzing their importance.
  • Considering the alternative explanations, if any, and making argument to defend your stand.

Step 3: Discuss the implications

It is important for a student to relate his findings and results to the studies and journals mentioned in the literature review along with providing his own views on the same. The discussion section should showcase how the current findings fit in with the previous research works, what new insight do they offer, and what consequences do they have for theory or practice. The ultimate aim is to determine how your dissertation research has contributed to the field and why that contribution should matter.

Step 4: Pay attention to the limitations

Even the most extensively conducted research has some limitations and it is essential for a student to highlight those limitations in his dissertation study to build the credibility of the paper. Limitations are not the errors in your dissertation, but are a way to provide a practical and accurate picture of what can or cannot be inferred from your dissertation study. Limitations can arise because of many reasons like an issue with overall research design,  inaccurate methodological choices, or unanticipated obstacles that emerged during the research process.

A student should only mention relevant and logical limitations in his paper and carefully evaluate what impact they had on the overall research process of the dissertation. Make sure that after providing the limitations, you should always reiterate why the results of your dissertation are still valid for answering the main research question.

Step 5: Give in your recommendations

Now add in the details about the practical and relevant implementation of your derived results in the discussion chapter. These recommendations basically arise from the limitations mentioned earlier in the same section. Do not just say that more studies can be done in the area without giving concrete ideas for future work.

Tips to write an influential discussion chapter

Discussion is the most critical section of a dissertation that greatly impacts the grades of an individual. Therefore, the chapter should be produced with the utmost care and hard work to get the right outcome.

Here are a few tips you can use to write your discussion chapter efficiently

  • Organize your discussion chapter in an inverted pyramid form. Always move the focus of your dissertation structure from the 'specific', i.e. the narrow confines, to the 'general', i.e. the general framework of the study.
  • Make sure that you use the same tense, key terms, and point of view as used in the introduction of the dissertation.
  • Always start your discussion chapter by restating the research questions or hypotheses posed at the beginning of your dissertation. Then move ahead to answer those questions supported by the evidence collected throughout the research process.
  • Move forward by explaining how the derived results relate to the expectations of your study and the literature review presented. Clearly state how the derived results are valid and how they fit in with the previously published knowledge.
  • Use relevant citations to add credibility and authenticity to your dissertation paper.
  • Do not forget to inform the readers about the key patterns, principles, and relationships between the major findings and put them in perspective.
  • Try to defend your answers by either explaining the relevance of your answer or by showcasing the shortcomings of others' answers. It is better to give a balanced point of view on both sides of the story.
  • Appropriately highlight the opposing data in your dissertation and provide a relevant point of discussion and evaluate any conflicting explanation of your results.
  • Do not forget to include the discussion of unexpected findings.
  • Discuss everything in brief at the end of the chapter.
  • Avoid being verbose or repetitive with the content in the discussion chapter.
  • Do not use jargon unnecessarily.
  • Follow a logical stream of thought throughout the entire chapter.
  • It is better to use present tense for the established facts and past tense for referring to the previously done studies in the same field.
  • Use subheadings to organize the text clearly and concisely.
  • Do not overinterpret the results as it turns off the readers and examiners.
  • Do not add two result sections in your dissertation.
  • Avoid the usage of the word “prove” in your discussion chapter.
  • Words like “show, demonstrate, indicate, support, suggest, imply, and appear” are more suitable for the nature of the discussion chapter.
  • Sparing use of hedging terms like “maybe, might be, could be, probably, possibly” is the most common mistake students make while writing their discussion chapter. The terms can be used as needed, but one should avoid using too many hedges in one sentence.
  • Avoid unwarranted speculation.
  • Do not introduce any new results in the discussion chapter of the dissertation.
  • Try to avoid writing in the first word.
  • Do not make the discussion chapter wordy by restating your results again and again.

Once you’re through with writing your discussion chapter, you should mention the key conclusions of your research in a summarized manner. The conclusions should be numbered consecutively. Students should be aware of the fact that if the examiner feels that their discussion section is not written appropriately, he can reject the entire dissertation paper. Thus, in order to avoid producing a completely vague and non-relevant piece of text, you should prepare an outline in the beginning about what you want to add in the discussion chapter of your dissertation. An outline will ensure that you do not go wildly off the topic.

Do not repeat the same content in your conclusion chapter. Once you're through with writing the discussion chapter of your dissertation, you can begin to relax slightly as the toughest part is now over. At the end get another set of eyes to review the written text for you so that any grammatical or structural errors can come into the light. Seek the help of your mentor if necessary as relevant expertise is very essential for writing this chapter. Remember that you are taking the reader on a journey, so make sure they stay on the path and arrive at the final location with you!

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