Writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper


What are study limitations?

According to Bem, this would be a poor way to begin a research report:. The individual who holds two beliefs that are inconsistent with one another may feel uncomfortable. For example, the person who knows that he or she enjoys smoking but believes it to be unhealthy may experience discomfort arising from the inconsistency or disharmony between these two thoughts or cognitions.

This feeling of discomfort was called cognitive dissonance by social psychologist Leon Festinger , who suggested that individuals will be motivated to remove this dissonance in whatever way they can p.

Will the answer fill a gap in the literature? Will it provide a test of an important theory? Does it have practical implications? Giving readers a clear sense of what the research is about and why they should care about it will motivate them to continue reading the literature review—and will help them make sense of it. Breaking the Rules Researcher Larry Jacoby reported several studies showing that a word that people see or hear repeatedly can seem more familiar even when they do not recall the repetitions—and that this tendency is especially pronounced among older adults.

He opened his article with the following humourous anecdote:. During an orientation meeting at the nursing home, the rules and regulations were explained, one of which regarded the dining room.

The Difficulties of Writing a Discussion Section

The dining room was described as similar to a fine restaurant except that tipping was not required. The absence of tipping was a central theme in the orientation lecture, mentioned frequently to emphasize the quality of care along with the advantages of having paid in advance.

Although both humour and personal anecdotes are generally discouraged in APA-style writing, this example is a highly effective way to start because it both engages the reader and provides an excellent real-world example of the topic under study. However, the literature review is not simply a list of past studies. Instead, it constitutes a kind of argument for why the research question is worth addressing. By the end of the literature review, readers should be convinced that the research question makes sense and that the present study is a logical next step in the ongoing research process.

Like any effective argument, the literature review must have some kind of structure. For example, it might begin by describing a phenomenon in a general way along with several studies that demonstrate it, then describing two or more competing theories of the phenomenon, and finally presenting a hypothesis to test one or more of the theories. Or it might describe one phenomenon, then describe another phenomenon that seems inconsistent with the first one, then propose a theory that resolves the inconsistency, and finally present a hypothesis to test that theory.

In applied research, it might describe a phenomenon or theory, then describe how that phenomenon or theory applies to some important real-world situation, and finally suggest a way to test whether it does, in fact, apply to that situation. Looking at the literature review in this way emphasizes a few things. First, it is extremely important to start with an outline of the main points that you want to make, organized in the order that you want to make them. The basic structure of your argument, then, should be apparent from the outline itself.

Second, it is important to emphasize the structure of your argument in your writing. One way to do this is to begin the literature review by summarizing your argument even before you begin to make it. Here are some simple examples:. Finally, remember that your goal is to construct an argument for why your research question is interesting and worth addressing—not necessarily why your favourite answer to it is correct. In other words, your literature review must be balanced.

If you want to emphasize the generality of a phenomenon, then of course you should discuss various studies that have demonstrated it. However, if there are other studies that have failed to demonstrate it, you should discuss them too. Or if you are proposing a new theory, then of course you should discuss findings that are consistent with that theory.

However, if there are other findings that are inconsistent with it, again, you should discuss them too.

How to write a discussion section

Besides, a large part of what makes a research question interesting is uncertainty about its answer. The first is a clear statement of the main research question or hypothesis. This statement tends to be more formal and precise than in the opening and is often expressed in terms of operational definitions of the key variables. The second is a brief overview of the method and some comment on its appropriateness.

How to Write a Lab Report

These considerations lead to the hypothesis that the more bystanders to an emergency, the less likely, or the more slowly, any one bystander will intervene to provide aid. Each subject should also be blocked from communicating with others to prevent his getting information about their behaviour during the emergency.

The experiment reported below attempted to fulfill these conditions. Thus the introduction leads smoothly into the next major section of the article—the method section. At the same time, it should avoid irrelevant details such as the fact that the study was conducted in Classroom 37B of the Industrial Technology Building or that the questionnaire was double-sided and completed using pencils.

The participants subsection indicates how many participants there were, the number of women and men, some indication of their age, other demographics that may be relevant to the study, and how they were recruited, including any incentives given for participation. After the participants section, the structure can vary a bit. Figure In the first, the participants section is followed by a design and procedure subsection, which describes the rest of the method. This works well for methods that are relatively simple and can be described adequately in a few paragraphs.

In the second approach, the participants section is followed by separate design and procedure subsections. This works well when both the design and the procedure are relatively complicated and each requires multiple paragraphs. What is the difference between design and procedure? The design of a study is its overall structure.

Sections of a Research Report

What were the independent and dependent variables? Was the independent variable manipulated, and if so, was it manipulated between or within subjects?

Discussion and Conclusion

How were the variables operationally defined? The procedure is how the study was carried out. It often works well to describe the procedure in terms of what the participants did rather than what the researchers did. For example, the participants gave their informed consent, read a set of instructions, completed a block of four practice trials, completed a block of 20 test trials, completed two questionnaires, and were debriefed and excused.

In the third basic way to organize a method section, the participants subsection is followed by a materials subsection before the design and procedure subsections.

Major Sections of a Research Paper in APA Style

This works well when there are complicated materials to describe. This might mean multiple questionnaires, written vignettes that participants read and respond to, perceptual stimuli, and so on. The heading of this subsection can be modified to reflect its content. Although there are no standard subsections, it is still important for the results section to be logically organized. Typically it begins with certain preliminary issues. One is whether any participants or responses were excluded from the analyses and why. The rationale for excluding data should be described clearly so that other researchers can decide whether it is appropriate.

A second preliminary issue is how multiple responses were combined to produce the primary variables in the analyses. For example, if participants rated the attractiveness of 20 stimulus people, you might have to explain that you began by computing the mean attractiveness rating for each participant. Or if they recalled as many items as they could from study list of 20 words, did you count the number correctly recalled, compute the percentage correctly recalled, or perhaps compute the number correct minus the number incorrect? A third preliminary issue is the reliability of the measures. A final preliminary issue is whether the manipulation was successful.

This is where you would report the results of any manipulation checks. The results section should then tackle the primary research questions, one at a time. Again, there should be a clear organization. One approach would be to answer the most general questions and then proceed to answer more specific ones.

Another would be to answer the main question first and then to answer secondary ones. Regardless, Bem [3] suggests the following basic structure for discussing each new result:. Notice that only Step 3 necessarily involves numbers.


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The rest of the steps involve presenting the research question and the answer to it in words. In fact, the basic results should be clear even to a reader who skips over the numbers. Discussions usually consist of some combination of the following elements:. The discussion typically begins with a summary of the study that provides a clear answer to the research question. In a short report with a single study, this might require no more than a sentence.

In a longer report with multiple studies, it might require a paragraph or even two. The summary is often followed by a discussion of the theoretical implications of the research. First, restate the overall purpose of the study. Then explain the main finding as related to the overall purpose of the study. Next, summarize other interesting findings from the results section.

Explain how the statistical findings relate to that purpose of the study. One way to do this is to take every research question and hypothesis in turn and explain in plain terms what the statistical results mean. Also describe how the results are related to education in general. All explanations must be supported by the results of the data analysis.

Generally, the Discussion section does not need to include any numbers.

writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper Writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper
writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper Writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper
writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper Writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper
writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper Writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper
writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper Writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper
writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper Writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper
writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper Writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper
writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper Writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper
Writing the discussion section of a psychology research paper

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