Dissertation Results And Findings
Once you’ve finished your research and analyses, you can begin working on the results section of your dissertation. This is where you present the main findings of your research and answer your research questions or test your hypotheses.
Different types of research involve a variety of tools, including observations, surveys and interviews; desk research is also a common choice. What your results section will look like depends on the kind of research you have undertaken, but you still proceed in generally the same manner.
This article provides a roadmap for presenting results related to both quantitative research (surveys) and qualitative research (interviews). Note that all of the steps below relate explicitly to your results chapter.
Results of quantitative research (surveys)
Step 1 – Introduce the relevant research
Explain that your survey was completed by a sufficient number of respondents and that you have analyzed the results.
Step 2 – Report the results in a structured manner
The easiest way to report your results is to frame them around any research sub-questions or hypotheses that you formulated before starting your research (as presented earlier in your dissertation). Your findings in relation to these sub-questions and hypotheses will together enable you to eventually answer your main research question.
Step 3 – Discuss the results
For sub-questions, briefly discuss (in one or two sentences) any results that relate to each question and make any relevant observations. However, don’t go so far as to actually answer your research questions or draw any formal conclusions (this happens only in your conclusions chapter).
The process is similar for hypotheses, although in this case you should state whether each hypothesis is actually proven by your research.
Step 4 – Add further tables or figures (optional)
You can include tables or figures (such as charts), but only if they reflect your results and add value to the story you are trying to tell. Make sure that you refer to these graphics in your running text, to ensure that readers understand how they relate to the point you are trying to make.
Note that it’s not necessary to fully explain each table or figure in the text; readers should be able to figure this out on their own. You can make it easier for them to do so by designing your tables and figures in a clear and logical manner and choosing a descriptive title.
Step 5 – Double-check your results chapter
Review the results you have addressed to make that that they all relate to your research questions/sub-questions and hypotheses. If results any are not directly related, either delete them entirely or shift them to an appendix to your dissertation.
Results section example: Write-up of a quantitative survey
The first hypothesis was tested by means of a regression analysis that used donation intention as the dependent variable and social distance as the independent variable. The results of this analysis (see Table 5) show that social distance has a significant weak link with donation intention (b * = 18, p = .05), which makes it a significant predictor of donation intention; once social distance increases, donation intention increases as well. As a result, H1 is not confirmed. To the contrary, this result suggests a significant effect in the opposite direction.
Results of qualitative research (interviews)
Step 1 – Introduce the relevant research
For example, note how many interviews you conducted and explain how you transcribed and coded the data that you collected.
Step 2 – Report the results in a structured manner
If your dissertation includes specific sub-questions or hypotheses, you can discuss the results on this basis. Answering these questions and testing your hypotheses is an important step that prepares you to answer your main question (which you will do in your conclusion section).
In qualitative research, however, interviews are not always directly related to specific questions or hypotheses. In this case, it’s better to discuss your results using the list of topics (or questionnaire) that you used for the interviews. These topics reflect the issues you are investigating and are thus tied in to your main question.
Step 3 – Discuss the results
Highlight the results that relate to each sub-question, hypothesis or topic and explain why they are relevant. You can clarify and support your observations with quotes from the interviews (so long as they speak to the topic).
You should also include a brief explanation (one or two sentences) that indicates precisely what those results mean in relation that that particular sub-question, hypothesis or topic. You might even think of this as a short conclusion – but remember that the significance of this conclusion to your research question should not be addressed until your conclusions chapter.
If you have formulated any hypotheses, you should indicate whether your research has proven or rejected them.
Step 4 – Double-check your results chapter
Take another look to ensure that all of the results you have presented relate to you sub-questions, hypotheses or topics.
Other results (such as full transcripts of your interviews, if appropriate) can be included in an appendix.
When asked what types of video games are more or less a form of art, the respondent
When asked what types of video games are more or less a form of art, the respondent replied that video games themselves are not an art form but that creativity is sometimes involved. The criteria used to identify art games consider aspects of a game that relate to its design, story and music as well as the creative teams working on it. One respondent noted the following:
“Well I think that in role-playing games [eh], more [eh] attention to [eh] character design […] to world design […] because there is a great […] because the whole story is important and more attention is paid to certain game elements […] so that perhaps […] that there is more [er][…]. Yes, […] there do you need bigger teams of creative experts than […] in […]. For example, an average shooter or something.”
It can be concluded that video games are perceived as art forms themselves, but it is clear that the creativity and art elements are more important in some games than in others.
What is the difference between the results and conclusion chapters?
The results chapter presents brief observations for each sub-question, hypothesis or topic (as seen in examples 1 and 2 above). In each case, the observations should only be one to two sentences long. Take care to not begin discussing the significance of these observations to your main research question.
This is where the conclusions step in. The results of all of the sub-questions, hypotheses or topics in the results chapter are merged in the conclusions chapter. Together they form the answer to the main research question, which is then discussed in detail in this chapter.
I. Organization and Approach
For most research paper formats in the social and behavioral sciences, there are two possible ways of presenting and organizing the results. Both approaches are appropriate in how you report your findings, but use only one format or the other.
- Present a synopsis of the results followed by an explanation of key findings. For example, you may have noticed an unusual correlation between two variables during the analysis of your findings. It is correct to point this out in the results section. However, speculating as to why this correlation exists, and offering a hypothesis about what may be happening, belongs in the discussion section of your paper.
- Present a result and then explain it, before presenting the next result then explaining it, and so on, then end with an overall synopsis. This is more common in longer papers because it helps the reader to better understand each finding. This is also the preferred approach if you have multiple results of equal significance. In this model, it is helpful to provide a brief conclusion that ties each of the findings together and provides a narrative bridge to the discussion section of the your paper.
NOTE: Just as the literature review should be arranged under conceptual categories rather than systematically describing each source, organize your findings under key themes related to addressing the research problem. This can be done under either format noted above [i.e., a thorough explanation of the results] or a sequential description and explanation of each key finding.
In general, the content of your results section should include the following:
- An Introductory context for understanding the results by restating the research problem underpinning your study. This is useful in orientating the reader's focus back to the research after reading about the methods of data gathering and analysis.
- Inclusion of non-textual elements, such as, figures, charts, photos, maps, tables, etc. to further illustrate key findings, if appropriate. Rather than relying entirely on descriptive text, consider the ways your findings can be presented visually. This is a helpful way of condensing a lot of data into one place that can then be referred to in the text. Consider using appendices if there is a lot of non-textual elements.
- A systematic description of your results, highlighting for the reader observations that are most relevant to the topic under investigation [remember that not all results that emerge from the methodology used to gather information may be related to answering the "So What?" question]. Do not confuse observations with interpretations; observations in this context refers to highlighting important findings you discovered through a process of reviewing prior literature and gathering data.
- The page length of your results section is guided by the amount and types of data to be reported. However, focus only on findings that are important and related to addressing the research problem. It is not uncommon to have unanticipated results that are not relevant to answering the research question, and this is not to say that you don't acknowledge tangential findings, but spending time describing them only clutters your overall results section.
- A short paragraph that concludes the results section by synthesizing the key findings of the study. Highlight the most important findings you want readers to remember as they transition into the discussion section. This is particularly important if, for example, there are many results to report, the findings are complicated or unanticipated, or they are impactful or actionable in some way [i.e., able to be acted upon in a feasible way applied to practice].
NOTE: Use the past tense when referring to your results. Reference to findings should always be described as having already happened because the method of gathering data has been completed.
III. Problems to Avoid
When writing the results section, avoid doing the following:
- Discussing or interpreting your results. Save all this for the next section of your paper, although where appropriate, you should compare or contrast specific results to those found in other studies [e.g., "Similar to Smith , one of the findings of this study is the strong correlation between motivation and academic achievement...."].
- Reporting background information or attempting to explain your findings. This should have been done in your Introduction section, but don't panic! Often the results of a study point to the need for additional background information or to explain the topic further, so don't think you did something wrong. Revise your introduction as needed.
- Ignoring negative results. If some of your results fail to support your hypothesis, do not ignore them. Document them, then state in your discussion section why you believe a negative result emerged from your study. Note that negative results, and how you handle them, offer you the opportunity to write a more engaging discussion section, therefore, don't be afraid to highlight them.
- Including raw data or intermediate calculations. Ask your professor if you need to include any raw data generated by your study, such as transcripts from interviews or data files. If raw data is to be included, place it in an appendix or set of appendices that are referred to in the text.
- Be as factual and concise as possible in reporting your findings. Do not use phrases that are vague or non-specific, such as, "appeared to be greater or lesser than..." or "demonstrates promising trends that...."
- Presenting the same data or repeating the same information more than once. If it is important to highlight a particular finding, you will have an opportunity to emphasize its significance in the discussion section.
- Confusing figures with tables. Be sure to properly label any non-textual elements in your paper. Don't call a chart an illustration or a figure a table. If you are not sure, go here.
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