How to Write Your Thesis Discussion Section

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The discussion section is the most critical aspect of your thesis. It is written after presenting your data in the results section. This article explains how to structure your thesis discussion section and what content is required.

What is the thesis discussion section?

The thesis discussion includes explanations and interpretations of your results in the context of your thesis question and literature review, discusses their implications, acknowledges their limitations, and gives recommendations. In doing so, you make an argument to support your conclusion.


What should the thesis discussion section include?

  • A summary of your key findings

This analysis does not support the theory that…

  • The answer to your thesis question

These findings confirm our hypothesis that…

  • An interpretation of your findings

Our findings agree with the theory proposed by Jones (2019)…

  • The implications of your findings

The data provide new evidence of…

  • The limitations of your findings (i.e., what can’t the results tell us)

This study only included individuals living in urban areas, and the results may not be generalizable to populations in rural areas…

  • Suggestions of practical applications of your findings

X should be taken into consideration when

  • Recommendations for further scientific investigations

Further studies are necessary to…

What should the thesis discussion section not include?

  • A restatement of all your results
  • The introduction of new results. All results in the discussion section must have been presented in the results section.
  • Speculations that can’t be supported by your data
  • Results that do not directly relate to your thesis question or hypothesis
  • Tables and figures (these are usually included in the results section)

How does the discussion overlap with other thesis sections?

The content in the thesis discussion section overlaps with the results section—the results section presents the data, and the discussion section interprets it. The structure of the discussion section differs according to the type of research (quantitative vs. qualitative ). In qualitative research, such as in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) domain, the discussion and results sections are often combined. In thesis studies involving quantitative research, such as in the Sciences domain, these sections are usually written separately.

The content in the thesis discussion section also overlaps with the conclusion section—the discussion section presents a detailed analysis and interpretation of the data, and the conclusion section summarizes the main findings of the discussion. The discussion and conclusion sections may also be combined into a single section in some fields of study. If you are unsure of which structure to use, ask your supervisor for guidance and check the requirements of your academic institution.

How to write a thesis discussion

The discussion section is the most critical section of your thesis and will probably be the hardest to write. The discussion section of a thesis starts with an interpretation of the results and then places the findings in the general context of the field of study. This section also demonstrates your ability to think critically and develop innovative solutions to problems based on your findings, resulting in a deeper understanding of the research problem.

Because it can be daunting to write the thesis discussion section in one go, first prepare a draft according to the following steps:

  1. Prepare an outline that broadly states your argument and how your results support it.
  2. Strengthen your argument by mapping out how your results fit into the outline.
  3. Place unexpected or controversial results in context and describe what may have caused them.
  4. Go back to your literature review to identify any studies that you might want to delve into in greater detail given the findings of your study.
  5. Identify study limitations.
  6. Briefly summarize the importance and implications of your findings.
  7. Recommend any practical applications of your study findings.
  8. Suggest future work that could build on your findings or address study limitations.

Once you are happy with your draft, it’s time to finalize the thesis discussion section. Use the steps below as a guideline:

  1. First, restate your thesis question and hypothesis that were stated in the introduction.
  2. Then, use your findings to support the answer to your thesis question.
  3. Defend your answers by discussing other studies with correlating results.
  4. Explain how your findings consistently fit in with the current literature and mention how they address knowledge gaps in the field.
  5. Mention studies that conflict with your findings, and try to explain possible causes of these contradictions (e.g., population size, inclusion and excision criteria, differences in data collection and analysis methods).
  6. Address any unexpected findings. Describe what happened and then discuss the potential causes (e.g., a skewed response rate, sampling bias, or changes in the equipment used). Because they could have been caused by a flawed sampling method or an incorrect choice of methodology, carefully check that you have adequately justified your methodological approach. In extreme cases, you may need to restructure your hypothesis or rewrite your introduction.
  7. Research studies are expected to have limitations and weaknesses. Mention all of them and how they may have impacted the interpretation and validity of your findings. Some limitations could highlight areas that require further study.
  8. Summarize the practical applications and theoretical implications of your findings.
  9. Recommend potential areas for future research.

How do I interpret my results?

The thesis discussion section must concisely interpret the results and assign importance to them. This is achieved by:

  • Identifying relationships, patterns, and correlations in the data
  • Discussing whether the findings support your hypothesis
  • Considering alternative explanations while also justifying your chosen explanation
  • Emphasizing novel results and explaining how they fill knowledge gaps
  • Explaining unexpected results and determining their significance

How do I discuss the implications of my results?

The discussion section of your thesis explains how your findings fit in with and contribute to the existing literature. This refers back to the literature review section of your thesis. The following questions should be addressed:

  • Are your findings supported by other studies, and do they add to the body of knowledge or address a gap?
  • Do your findings disagree with other studies? If so, determine or suggest the reason(s) why.
  • Do your findings challenge or support existing theories?
  • What are the practical implications of your findings?

How do I acknowledge the limitations of my study?

It is expected that all studies will have limitations. When discussing your study limitations, don’t undermine your findings. A good discussion of the limitations will strengthen your study’s credibility.

Examples of study limitations: sample size, differences in methods used for data collection or analysis, study type (e.g., retrospective vs. prospective), inclusion/exclusion criteria of the study population, effects of confounders, researcher bias, and robustness of the data collection method.

How do I make recommendations for future research?

Recommendations should either be included in the discussion or the conclusion section of your thesis, but not in both. This could include:

  • Addressing questions related to your study that remain unanswered
  • Suggesting a logical progression of your research study using concrete ideas
  • Suggesting future work based on the study limitations you have identified

Example: Future studies using a larger sample size from multiple sites are recommended to confirm the generalizability of our findings.

Example: We suggest that the participants are re-interviewed after 5 years to determine how their perception of this traumatic experience has changed.

Tips for writing the thesis discussion section

  • Use subheadings to break down the discussion into smaller sections that identify key points.
  • Maintain consistency with the introduction and literature review sections. Use the same point of view, tone, and terminology.
  • Be concise.
  • Be logical. Present the discussion in the same sequence as the results, unless there is an unexpected or novel finding that should be emphasized first.
  • Do not use jargon, and define all technical terms and abbreviations/acronyms.
  • Cite all sources. The majority of references cited in the thesis discussion section should be recent (i.e., published within the past 10 years).
  • Avoid plagiarism.

A thesis is the most crucial document that you will write during your academic studies. For professional thesis editing and thesis proofreading services, visit Enago Thesis Editing for more information.



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