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Research skills for HDR students

Writing up results

The results section in an empirical thesis describes your findings that can be used to answer your research question, or confirm, partially confirm, or disprove your hypotheses. It functions as a stepping-stone to the discussion and may be combined with your discussion section, or have elements of discussion included.

In the results section, you present your findings in figures (graphs and diagrams), tables and written text. Figures and tables present the complete findings in numerical, visual or graphical terms, while the written text helps the reader to focus on the most important aspects of the results and to interpret them.

Generally, there are four stages to a results section.

  1. Background information so that the reader can place your results in the context of other research.
  2. Tables and/or figures presenting your results. These are located and identified through numbers (for example, ‘Table 1’) and captions.
  3. Text accompanying and referring to the tables or figures, describing the aspects of the results you are focusing on.
  4. Comments on the results. For example, generalisations arising from the results, explanations of possible reasons for the results or a comparison of the results with other studies.

Sometimes results can be presented together, with an accompanying general comment. Other times each result requires its own comment.

As well as presenting your findings, the results section forms a basis for the discussion. The discussion is a set of arguments about the relevance, usefulness and possibilities or limitations of your findings. In the discussion you may have to explain the significance of your research, explain unexpected outcomes, refer to previous research, give examples, relate your results to your hypothesis, and make recommendations.

Not all of the elements above are included in all theses – there is considerable variation among different disciplines, particularly in the humanities.

Resources

This material was developed by the Learning Centre, who offer workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out more about how they can help you develop your communication, research and study skills.

See our handout on Writing a thesis proposal (pdf, 341KB).

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Last updated: 14 October 2019

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