After collecting and analyzing your research data, it’s time to write the results section. This article explains how to write and organize the thesis results section, the differences in reporting qualitative and quantitative data, the differences in the thesis results section across different fields, and the best practices for tables and figures.
Table of contents
- What is the thesis results section?
- What should the thesis results section include?
- What should the thesis results section not include?
- How should the thesis results section be organized?
- Differences among the results section in different fields of research
- Best practices for using tables and figures
- Tips for writing the thesis results section
- Results vs. discussion vs. conclusion
What is the thesis results section?
The thesis results section factually and concisely describes what was observed and measured during the study but does not interpret the findings. It presents the findings in a logical order.
What should the thesis results section include?
- Include all relevant results as text, tables, or figures
- Report the results of subject recruitment and data collection
- For qualitative research, present the data from all statistical analyses, whether or not the results are significant
- For quantitative research, present the data by coding or categorizing themes and topics
- Present all secondary findings (e.g., subgroup analyses)
- Include all results, even if they do not fit in with your assumptions or support your hypothesis
What should the thesis results section not include?
- If the study involves the thematic analysis of an interview, don’t include complete transcripts of all interviews. Instead, add these as appendices
- Don’t present raw data. These may be included in appendices
- Don’t include background information (this should be in the introduction section)
- Don’t speculate on the meaning of results that do not support your hypothesis. This will be addressed later in the discussion and conclusion sections.
- Don’t repeat results that have been presented in tables and figures. Only highlight the pertinent points or elaborate on specific aspects
How should the thesis results section be organized?
The opening paragraph of the thesis results section should briefly restate the thesis question. Then, present the results objectively as text, figures, or tables.
Quantitative research presents the results from experiments and statistical tests, usually in the form of tables and figures (graphs, diagrams, and images), with any pertinent findings emphasized in the text. The results are structured around the thesis question. Demographic data are usually presented first in this section.
For each statistical test used, the following information must be mentioned:
- The type of analysis used (e.g., Mann–Whitney U test or multiple regression analysis)
- A concise summary of each result, including descriptive statistics (e.g., means, medians, and modes) and inferential statistics (e.g., correlation, regression, and p values) and whether the results are significant
- Any trends or differences identified through comparisons
- How the findings relate to your research and if they support or contradict your hypothesis
Qualitative research presents results around key themes or topics identified from your data analysis and explains how these themes evolved. The data are usually presented as text because it is hard to present the findings as figures.
For each theme presented, describe:
- General trends or patterns observed
- Significant or representative responses
- Relevant quotations from your study subjects
Relevant characteristics about your study subjects
Differences among the results section in different fields of research
The presentation of results varies considerably across disciplines. For example, a thesis documenting how a particular population interprets a specific event and a thesis investigating customer service may both have collected data using interviews and analyzed it using similar methods, but the presentation of the results will vastly differ because they are answering different thesis questions. A science thesis may have used experiments to generate data, and these would be presented differently again, probably involving statistics. Nevertheless, results should be presented logically across all disciplines and reflect the thesis question and any hypotheses that were tested.
Differences between reporting thesis results in the Sciences and the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) domains
In the Sciences domain (qualitative and experimental research), the results and discussion sections are considered separate entities, and the results from experiments and statistical tests are presented. In the HSS domain (qualitative research), the results and discussion sections may be combined.
There are two approaches to presenting results in the HSS field:
- If you want to highlight important findings, first present a synopsis of the results, and then explain the key findings.
- If you have multiple results of equal significance, present one result and explain it. Then present another result and explain that, and so on. Conclude with an overall synopsis.
Best practices for using tables and figures
The use of figures and tables is highly encouraged because they provide a standalone overview of the research findings that are much easier to understand than wading through dry text mentioning one result after another. The text in the results section should not repeat the information presented in figures and tables. Instead, it should focus on the pertinent findings or elaborate on specific points.
Some popular software programs that can be used for the analysis and presentation of statistical data include Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), R software, MATLAB, Microsoft Excel, Statistical Analysis Software (SAS), GraphPad Prism, and Minitab.
The easiest way to construct tables is to use the Table function in Microsoft Word. Microsoft Excel can also be used; however, Word is the easier option.
General guidelines for figures and tables
- Figures and tables must be interpretable independent from the text
- Number tables and figures consecutively (in separate lists) in the order in which they are mentioned in the text
- All tables and figures must be cited in the text
- Provide clear, descriptive titles for all figures and tables
- Include a legend to concisely describe what is presented in the figure or table
- Label figures so that the reader can easily understand what is being shown
- Use a consistent font type and font size for all labels in figure panels
- All abbreviations used in the figure artwork should be defined in the figure legend
- All table columns should have a heading
- All abbreviations used in tables should be defined in the table footnotes
- All numbers and text presented in tables must correlate with the data presented in the manuscript body
Quantitative results example: Figure 3 presents the characteristics of unemployed subjects and their rate of crime convictions. A statistically significant association was observed between unemployed people <20 years old, the male sex, and no household income.
Qualitative results example: Table 5 shows the themes identified during the face-to-face interviews about the application that we developed to anonymously report corruption in the workplace. There was positive feedback on the app layout and ease of use. Concerns that emerged from the interviews included breaches of confidentiality and the inability to report incidents because of unstable cellphone network coverage.
|Ease of use of the app||The app was easy to use, and I did not have to contact the helpdesk|
|I wish all apps were so user-friendly!|
|App layout||The screen was not cluttered. The text was easy to read|
|The icons on the screen were easy to understand|
|Confidentiality||I am scared that the app developers will disclose my name to my employer|
|Unstable network coverage||I was unable to report an incident that occurred at one of our building sites because there was no cellphone reception|
|I wanted to report the incident immediately , but I had to wait until I was home, where the cellphone network signal was strong|
Table 5. Themes and selected quotes from the evaluation of our app designed to anonymously report workplace corruption.
Tips for writing the thesis results section
- Do not state that a difference was present between two groups unless this can be supported by a significant p value.
- Present the findings only. Do not comment or speculate on their interpretation.
- Every result included must have a corresponding method in the methods section. Conversely, all methods must have associated results presented in the results section.
- Do not explain commonly used methods. Instead, cite a reference.
- Be consistent with the units of measurement used in your thesis study. If you start with kg, then use the same unit all throughout your thesis. Also, be consistent with the capitalization of units of measurements. For example, use either “ml” or “mL” for milliliters, but not both.
- Never manipulate measurement outcomes, even if the result is unexpected. Remain objective.
Results vs. discussion vs. conclusion
Results are presented in three sections of your thesis: the results, discussion, and conclusion.
- In the results section, the data are presented simply and objectively. No speculation or interpretation is given.
- In the discussion section, the meaning of the results is interpreted and put into context (e.g., compared with other findings in the literature), and its importance is assigned.
- In the conclusion section, results and the main conclusions are summarized.
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