Completing the results chapter is one of the most important and challenging parts of the research process. Many students are interested in how to write the results section of a research paper. This guide aims to help them solve this crucial and arduous task. We’ll delve into the purpose and composition of this section and equip readers with practical strategies and techniques to present their findings effectively. Whether you’re a novice student embarking on your dissertation journey or a seasoned researcher seeking to enhance your reporting skills, this article will provide valuable ideas and actionable tips to communicate your results concisely and meaningfully.
What is the results section of a research paper?
In academic writing, the results section is a critical component that summarizes the study's key discoveries obtained through data collection and analysis methods. The author delivers these findings in an impartial and logical sequence, free from personal interpretation or bias. The main purpose of this part is to present the data and demonstrate its relevance to the research questions.
Typically, the chapter with research findings appears third in the order of sections in most academic papers, following the methodology and materials and preceding the discussion. However, some journals present these two paragraphs (results and discussion) together. This chapter addresses the fundamental question, “What were the research findings?”
What is the difference between a research paper's results and discussion sections?
When it comes to a research paper, it has two chapters that may seem similar - the results and discussion section of a research paper. As for the first part, the researcher just exposes the information gathered and adds a brief explanation. In the second chapter presenting a discussion, the writer analyzes the collected information more deeply. So, the main distinction between the two paragraphs is the following: whereas the first presents the research findings, the discussion part goes deeper into the data analysis.
What should be included in the results section?
While searching the information about how to write the results section of a research paper, understanding its structure is essential. The chapter outlining the research findings in a dissertation or thesis should be concise and objective. Its structure depends upon the research type. If the research paper is quantitative, it’s necessary to mention the following information:
- the type of analysis you used in your investigation;
- relevant inferential and descriptive statistics;
- whether the alternative hypothesis was maintained for each question or hypothesis.
On the other hand, in qualitative research, the paragraph providing the research findings should include other components. Here, it’s essential to describe the following:
- recurring patterns;
- representative or significant individual responses;
- relevant citations for every theme or question.
It's essential to refrain from explaining in detail and speculating in the results section, regardless of the study approach applied.
Captioning and referencing tables and figures
When writing the results section of a research paper, it is necessary to add tables and figures mindfully. These elements are central in this chapter and serve to convey your findings. That's why writing strong captions for your figures and referring to them appropriately within the research paper.
The best suggestion for drafting this section is to pay attention to the design and layout requirements of the target journal, as each journal has its standards. These guidelines can be found in the author’s instructions on the journal’s website. You can also get an idea of the suitable size, number, and complexity of figures by reviewing published articles in the journal.
To ensure clarity and comprehension, figures should be exposed in the same order referenced in the results chapter and, if necessary, split up into different figures when numerous variables are analyzed. To create a caption, transform the research question into a phrase. Discover how it can be formulated in our results section of a research paper example.
Research question: “What are the effects of social media on mental health?”
Caption: “The impact of social media on mental well-being.”
In this sample, the original research question is transformed into a concise phrase that captures the main idea of the study. The resulting caption can be used as the best solution providing context and summarizing the key findings of the research.
How to write the results section of a research paper: 5 steps
The same as writing a conclusion of a research paper, there is no unique methodology to structure and write the results section where findings are specific to each investigation. This paragraph’s structure and content are affected by the paper’s design, particular research area, methods applied, and the requirements of the target institution or journal. Though, for writers preparing a manuscript for the first time or requiring a refresher, the next steps should be followed to write this section of most academic papers.
Step 1. Referring to the instructions provided by the target publisher or journal for authors.
It’s helpful to consider academic articles the journal has previously published, especially those dealing with methods, topics, and results similar to those of your study. Typically, guidelines offered by every journal list the requirements for the findings section, and published articles can serve as useful examples.
It’s crucial to pay attention to any restrictions on the content or length limitations, as journals may have various requirements. Thus, when some require separate results and discussion paragraphs, others may allow for a combined “Results and Discussion” section, which is more common in qualitative papers.
To prepare for writing, reading the journal’s “guide for authors,” including the aims and scope, and understanding the audience's interests is helpful. This awareness will be invaluable in tailoring the results section to meet the expectations of the journal’s audience.
Step 2. Evaluating the research results in light of the instructions provided by the journal.
Consider the findings and experimental outcomes relevant to your research questions and objectives, including unexpected or contradictory outcomes. To make your report clear and well-structured, apply subheadings to structurize your findings, which will help you avoid including excessive or minor details and assist the audience in comprehending and retaining the information. For readers interested in detailed information, add appendices that are too lengthy or distracting for the general audience.
Several factors, including your audience, evidence, and objectives, should define the structure of your research findings. You may organize the section describing your outcomes using various approaches, like following the order of research questions and hypotheses or presenting them in the same order as the methods. A well-thought-out structure can also follow a chronological order, have different levels of importance, or include grouping main themes or categories. When selecting a structure, it is vital to consider the objectives of your research and ensure that it effectively presents your findings to the intended audience.
Step 3. Including tables and figures to illustrate your point.
Creating figures and tables is crucial to presenting and illustrating your research data. For the best clarity and organization, you should use tables and figures numbered in the same order as these elements indicated in the paper’s main text. Figures should be designed to be self-explanatory. They should come with captions providing the audience with all the necessary explanations and information to understand the main ideas without reading the entire text.
Tables and figures should be included to tell a coherent and informative story about your research and should not just repeat the information exposed in the text. Figures can enhance and clarify the text. They should not be used as a substitute for written content. Remember to use tables and figures as focal points to enhance your research findings and ensure they add value to your paper.
Step 4. Outlining the results section based on the research findings.
Once you have organized your outcomes and figures, you should start writing your results section to clearly and precisely present complex information. Writing concise and precise sentences is the most effective way to accomplish this.
Start the first paragraph of this chapter by stating your research questions to draw the reader's attention to what the results are targeted to demonstrate. Summarizing essential findings at the end of the chapter helps build a logical transition to the following interpretation and discussion.
Using the past tense and active voice is required to convey your findings effectively because the research has already been done, and the agent is clear. Applying this approach ensures that your explanations are logical and straightforward. It’s vital to define and clarify any particular terminology or abbreviations used in the results section in your introductory paragraph.
Step 5. Revising and editing.
After creating your content, it is necessary to review, edit, and revise it until it precisely reports the outcomes as you intend for your audience to understand them. Thoroughly verify the consistency and accuracy of all data and visual elements used.
Reading your draft aloud can help you see various mistakes, like spelling or grammar errors, mechanics, missing transitions, and awkward phrases. Make sure your findings are organized best to emphasize your goals and prepare the audience for evaluations, interpretations, and recommendations in the discussion section.
It is important to refer to the introduction, and your paper’s background when anticipating the discussion and conclusion to guarantee the presentation of your findings is effective and consistent. You may seek guidance from additional readers, such as professors, colleagues, or qualified experts, who can help you improve your paper by providing valuable insights.
Tips for Writing a Results Section
This dissertation chapter is of utmost importance to effectively demonstrate your research findings. Discover some helpful tips to complete it.
- Provide a brief and precise summary at the beginning.
If you don’t know how to start a results section, initiate the section with a succinct summary of the main findings that can offer readers a quick overview of your ideas.
- Add tables and figures.
Use tables and figures to demonstrate your data, making it more understandable and straightforward for the audience. Ensure that they are duly labeled and titled.
- Arrange the results logically.
Organize your findings in a systematic manner that follows a logical sequence. Begin with the most significant ideas and group the related outcomes together.
- Use simple and concise language.
Avoid technical terms and jargon that may be unfamiliar to your audience. Use simple and clear language to describe your outcomes.
- Be objective.
Maintain objectivity while presenting the findings and refrain from making interpretations or conclusions. Save these for the discussion section.
- Use statistical analysis.
If you have applied statistical analysis, report the findings accurately. Present essential information such as the test statistic, degrees of freedom, p-value, and confidence interval.
- Link to the research question.
Always link your outcomes to the hypothesis or research question. This approach will help you to stay on track and ensure your findings are significant.
- Ensure consistency.
Maintain consistency in reporting by using the same format and units of measurement throughout the whole paragraph.
Adhering to these guidelines can help create a chapter that effectively communicates your research findings concisely and clearly.
What to avoid while writing the results section?
Remember to avoid the most frequent mistakes when you complete this chapter. You’ll find this drawbacks list in every manual explaining how to write a research paper's results section. Let’s see them in detail.
- Including excessive raw data.
Refrain from adding raw or overly repetitive information in your research paper. Instead, it’s recommended to summarize the outcomes without presenting every single number and calculation. If necessary, you may include the raw data in supplementary materials.
- Duplicating information.
If the data is already present in the tables or figures, repeating it in the results section is unnecessary. Instead, you can use the discussion paragraph to emphasize the most important findings.
- Adding repetitive background information or research methods.
Avoid duplicating background facts or methods, and avoid including lengthy introductions in this chapter. If extra context is needed to expose your findings, including that information in the introductory paragraph may be more appropriate.
- Failing to match methods and results.
To ensure consistency, it is important to provide a clear and detailed explanation of the methodology used to get all experimental observations.
- Overlooking negative results or those contradicting your conclusions.
Neglecting to report such findings raises ethical concerns and is likely to displease reviewers. Exposing all relevant outcomes is necessary, even if they do not support your initial hypotheses or predictions. Negative results can provide valuable insights and help do further research on the subject. In the discussion section, give your interpretation of the negative outcomes.
- Using an excessive number of tables and figures.
Including too many tables or figures can overwhelm readers. Selecting only the most relevant ones and moving the rest to supplementary materials is advisable. Complex figures or tables can also pose problems, especially if they are difficult to read due to excessive subfigures or too complicated tables. It is essential to consider how these elements will appear in the final format of the article. Figures or tables that are challenging to interpret due to cryptic abbreviations, axis, unsuitable use of colors, symbols, scales, etc., can also lead to confusion. It’s crucial to ensure that figures and tables are self-standing, with a proper caption, all abbreviations explained in the legend or a footnote, and any statistical tests used are duly reported.
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To summarize, the results section is a crucial component of your research paper that supports your arguments. It is essential to dedicate sufficient time to structure it properly and create clear and understandable figures and tables to communicate your findings to the reader effectively.
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FAQ about the results section
How long should a research paper results section be?
The length of this chapter can vary and should be dictated by the study’s demands to provide a thorough and accurate account of the research findings. It should be sufficient to present all the appropriate findings and statistical analyses that validate the study’s research questions or hypotheses. Typically, this part of the dissertation is 10-30% of the paper’s total length, but this may differ depending on the academic journal or field of study.
Do the results section and the conclusion differ?
The first reports the study’s objective findings, presenting them clearly and logically without interpretation or discussion. In contrast, the conclusion provides the researcher’s interpretation and analysis of the research outcomes, discussing their implications and how they contribute to the field. The conclusion should also tie back to the research questions or hypotheses.
What tense should I write my results in?
The past tense is commonly used to write this chapter since it describes the outcomes of actions that have already been completed.