This section describes an organizational structure commonly used to report experimental research in many scientific disciplines, the IMRAD format: Introduction, Methods, Results, And Discussion.
Although the main headings are standard for many scientific fields, details may vary; check with your instructor, or, if submitting an article to a journal, refer to the instructions to authors.
Use the menu below to find out how to write each part of a scientific report.
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?
- Move from specific to general: your finding(s) --> literature, theory, practice.
- 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?
- Make explanations complete.
- Give evidence for each conclusion.
- Discuss possible reasons for expected and unexpected findings.
What to avoid:
- Don't overgeneralize.
- Don't ignore deviations in your data.
- Avoid speculation that cannot be tested in the foreseeable future.