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Tips to Write Discussion Part of a Scientific Paper

Updated on September 6, 2014


A daunting task in the career of science graduates, postdoctoral fellows, research scientists and faculty members is to report their research work by writing to peer-reviewed journals. Publications are like hard currency for scientists. Publication record is one the factor that determines a scientist’s reputation and career in the respective field.

Research articles in any field of science will have introduction, materials & methods, results and discussion. The discussion is the major section of a manuscript that is used to interpret, prove and explain the results of the study. Additionally, this section is also used to defend the research questions that are raised in the introduction part of the manuscript.

The discussion can run for several paragraphs. It depends on a number of factors such as the objective, number of methods and results generated in the study. Some journals impose restrictions on the number of pages of the article. In that case, one has to balance the lengths of discussion. Yet, discussion will be the core unit and will occupy major portion of any research article.

How to write discussion for a research paper

The sequence of writing the discussion is: state the outcome of the study with relevant results and methods; cite the work of others that are similar or different to your findings; provide rational reasons for agreeing or disagreeing. The order can be changed and there is no role of thumb for it. The easy way to start to write the discussion is to make it into three major parts: (1) opening statements or paragraph (2) body (3) summary and conclusion.

The opening statement gives the whole picture of the study. It should contain the answers to the following questions:

·What the study is about?

·Highlighting the results or findings

·What novel thing has been discovered or identified

For instance, In this study, we screened the plant products for analgesic and antidepressant activity using in vivo and in vitro experiments. We identified that among ten compounds five of them were effective in reducing pain and depressive-like behaviors in animal models of neuropathic pain. Additionally, our in vitro experiments demonstrated that these compounds mediate their mechanism through G-protein coupled receptors. These findings suggest that the compounds isolated from the plant products have potential analgesic and anti-depressant activity.

This should be few lines in length.

Body of the discussion

This will be the core section of discussion part. Writing this part will be challenging, and each discovery or results of the study should be supported by ample evidence. The below tips will help you to write this section.

(1)Inform about previous important studies that are closely related to the topic or subject that you want to communicate. All prior works have to be supported with appropriate references.

(2)Point out what has not been studied and also, the drawbacks of the reported work, and why it is important to prove or work on that.

(3)Name the methods or approaches used in the study to address specific research questions.

(4)Present your findings clearly. Avoid repeating all the outcomes details that you have written in the result section of the manuscript. Highlight major discoveries and tell how it supports the existing problems. Refer to the tables and figures to explain your results evidently.

(5)Cite reasons if your results are similar to published reports or defend if it is conflicting. Give suggestions on improving the methods or approaches.

(6)Maintain the sequence of the findings and describe how they are related to each other.

(7)Finally, inform rationally how your work has filled the gap in that particular line of research.

This exercise is repeated to all the major experiments and related results regardless whether it is statically significant or not. Use separate paragraphs to report each of your findings and linked methods you used to prove it. Therefore, the number of paragraphs and length of the body section depends on a number of results that you wish to discuss.

Summary and Conclusion

Some authors prefer to summarize and conclude their studies in a single paragraph under discussion section. Others will break the conclusion into a separate section. Here you will repeat all your innovations and their significance to the field of research in a concise form. You can also use this last paragraph to write about the follow-up question be, identify the potential limitations, and suggestions to improve the study by proposing a new hypothesis.

Additional tips

·Choose several articles related to your area of research and read the discussion part to get an idea how to reason your findings. It is better to read publications from reputed labs or from journal with high-impact factor.

·Most part of the discussion is written using the past tense.

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