The discussion section can stand alone or be combined with the results section. It interprets the results of the project i.e. shows the reader how the information reported in ”results” is relevant. It provides commentary on and explanation of the results.


Here is a possible list of what can be included though this will vary from discipline to discipline.

•address similarities and differences between expected results and actual results e.g. why one data set may have resulted in skewed results

•reflect on how the findings of the report are either in keeping with the research of others or how these results differ from those of others

•address how this report adds to the research being done in the field

•comment on the research methodology used in the report

•address experimental uncertainty and the causes for this uncertainty

•indicate future research areas or possibilities for improvement. In this way, the writer can indicate not only how the information presented in this report is relevant now, but also how it can assist others in future work.

Possible structure of discussion section

  • Points to consolidate your research space

-Report your accomplishments by highlighting major findings

-Relate and evaluate your data in the light of previous research

-Interpret your data by making suggestions as to why your results are the way they are

-Anticipate and deal with potential criticisms (only if necessary)

  • Points to indicate limitations of your study
  • Points to recommend a course of action and / or identify useful areas of further research

 This could result in the following structure: (compare to the moves in the introduction section)

Move 1:  Background information (research purposes, theory, methodology)

Move 2: Summarizing and reporting key results

Move 3: Commenting on the key results (making claims, explaining the results, comparing the new work with the previous studies, offering alternative explanations)

Move 4: Stating the limitations of the study

Move 5: Making recommendations for future implementation and / or future research

(Swales and Feak, Academic Writing for Graduate Students, 2012)


  • Since this section involves hypothesising about results, the language needs to reflect this, so-called ”hedging” i.e. modified statements to show how certain /uncertain you are (see table 1 below)

Table 1: Words and phrases that modify statements

Model auxiliaries
may, might, could
Adjectives and adverbs
possible, probably, likely
Main verbs
appear, seem, indicate, tend, suggest, lead to
Grading words
most, many of, a majority of
  • For useful phrases to use in discussing findings, click here for the University of Manchester’s Academic Phrasebank.