Generating a good discussion is an academic and writing challenge: placing the research in context with current opinion and other researchers’ findings, justifying the contribution and using appropriate language of scientific argument to achieve this. Some find the discussion the most difficult part of a manuscript to write.
Ideally, a typical discussion should be well-structured and present the following:
- a summary of the main findings – best located in the first paragraph
- strengths and weaknesses of the study
- strengths and weaknesses in relation to other studies/theories
- a balanced conclusion
- unanswered questions and future direction.
Conversely, avoid the following common problems:
- failure to provide a balanced implication of the results – your results ‘in perspective’
- beginning with a second introduction
- repetition of all the results
- an unstructured argument
- inclusion of irrelevant material
- overinterpretation of results – ‘marketing spin’.
The discussion can be a daunting part of a manuscript to read. As for the introduction, readers will thank you for a relevant and focused discussion that does not go for page after page!