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How to write your dissertation

Writing a discussion

when you've finished this page you will be able to...

The discussion section of your dissertation is one of the most important parts of a dissertation, and it's worth the most marks. As a consequence, you'll have to spend the most time on this bit. The discussion is important because it's where, among other things, you...

Perhaps most importantly, the discussion is where you get to have your say and make your voice heard. The discussion is the place for critical writing. You need to think very carefully about what your results mean: don't just describe your results, explain them. It's your job to interpret your results for your readers, and your interpretation must be accurate and plausible.

You'll also need to critically analyse your work, recognising the limitations and shortcoming of your study and explaining how the work could be improved.

Top tip...

The discussion is generally the longest section of your dissertation, and it's a good idea help your readers to follow your lines of reasoning. By dividing the discussion up using sub-headings (or, at the very least, clear paragraphs), you'll avoid large chunks of text and help your readers navigate a smooth passage through your work.

Depending on the conventions of your subject or any specific instructions you've been given, you may choose to include your conclusions in the discussion section or instead choose to have a separate conclusion. Whichever applies to you, your conclusion is your chance to sum up, draw some firm conclusions, discuss further directions for this area of study and make recommendations.

Activity: Evaluating your discussion - 20 minutes

The discussion section is the most important part of your dissertation, and you'll need to make sure you have all the vital ingredients of a great discussion.

1. The check-list below includes a list of the important things you should include in your discussion. You can use this check-list as a guide to help you plan and write your discussion, or you can use it after you've written your discussion, to make sure you've missed nothing out.

2. When you're sure you can agree with each statement in the checklist, tick it off. Not every statement will apply to every dissertation, so cross out any that don't apply to your work.

In my discussion, I have... tick
summarised my main results  
interpreted (not described) my results  
discussed the significance of my results  
explained whether my results prove or disprove my hypothesis  
discussed my results in the light of previous research (confirmed or refuted previous studies)  
explained the wider implications (importance) of my work  
discussed any problems with or limitations of my study  
made suggestions for improvements  
suggested directions for future research  

If you need to make any changes to your discussion, do this now.

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