The Writing Center @ The University of Wisconsin - Madison
The Writer's Handbook
Writing Scientific Reports

Discussion Section

The table below offers some questions effective discussion sections in scientific reports address.

What do your observations mean?

  • Summarize the most important findings at the beginning.

What conclusions can you draw?

For each major result:

  • Describe the patterns, principles, relationships your results show.
  • Explain how your results relate to expectations and to literature cited in your Introduction. Do they agree, contradict, or are they exceptions to the rule?
  • Explain plausibly any agreements, contradictions, or exceptions.
  • Describe what additional research might resolve contradictions or explain exceptions.

How do your results fit into a broader context?

  • Suggest the theoretical implications of your results.
  • Suggest practical applications of your results?
  • Extend your findings to other situations or other species.
  • Give the big picture: do your findings help us understand a broader topic?

Additional tips:

  1. Move from specific to general: your finding(s) --> literature, theory, practice.
  2. Don't ignore or bury the major issue. Did the study achieve the goal (resolve the problem, answer the question, support the hypothesis) presented in the Introduction?
  3. Make explanations complete.
    • Give evidence for each conclusion.
    • Discuss possible reasons for expected and unexpected findings.

What to avoid:

  1. Don't overgeneralize.
  2. Don't ignore deviations in your data.
  3. Avoid speculation that cannot be tested in the foreseeable future.