Writing the Results Section
The Results section is where you get to report what the data reveals. However, you do not get to provide interpretation here. In fact, the rule is “results only.” The “fun” part of what you think the Results means gets written in the Discussion section.
This does not mean there is no creativity allowed in the Results section. In fact, the wise writer uses graphs and figures to highlight the most important or interesting information. Otherwise, arrange the results from most to least relevant or strong. You will also want to point out results that didn’t amount to much of anything, although this is unsatisfying. The only results that are often not reported are those with no pattern at all; that is, results that are uninterpretable.
The Results section may also be divided according to subheadings, especially if there were very strong trends or if there were multiple phases of the project. The section itself uses the subheading "Results". Grammatically, results are reported using the present tense, e.g. "The results show that 79% of men find the advertisements in Sports Illustrated more useful than the advertisements in GQ". Also note that the Results section reads more like a well-organized list than a story.
The fun of results is not so much in the writing as in the analysis itself. Lab supervisors are famous for entering their domains with cries of "Where is the data??". Results are analyzed in terms of the hypotheses being tested, variables chosen,and tests performed.
Step One: Since the Results section must use both verbal explanation and numerical explanation, it’s worth your time to write out a sentence or two about eachof the various relationships you notice in the data. Note that I didn’t say “a sentence or two describing each and every result.” The reader is perfectly capable of looking at a bar graph and noting for themselves that 17.2% of first time computer users were between ages 4 and 5. So it is not to your benefit or the reader’s to write out a sentence describing every detail.
What to include:
- results that answer the research question (most important)
- data you can use to outline important trends
- results that you intend to address in the discussion section
- results of statistical analyses, often in conjunction with measurements analyzed
- results related to those obtained by other researchers, especially if they conflict or are controversial
- negative results also
Step Two: Create a couple of interesting figures (graphs, tables) that reveal the relationships you’d most like the reader to notice. These should be results that most directly answer the research question. Thus crafting figures is a strategic way of highlighting information by juxtaposing salient results without actually going so far as to provide interpretation. You also need to have the basic data available for the reader, and this is where tables are quite useful.
One thing to keep in mind – if you create a graph, then it is because you wish to say something about this information in the Discussion section. Do not create "kitchen sink" figures where you put all the data just to have it there. If you used a software program capable of generating results for you, use that to create figures according to variables. Finally, figures must have text about them written in the Results section. You cannot just stick in a figure and be done with it. The main point of the figure should be written out with an appropriate reference at the end of the sentence, "...(Fig. 1)". All figures require titles and captions; graphs must have clear labels for X & Y axes.
Step Three: If you are using a stats program, then you should report +/- significances when appropriate. If using descriptive statistics, do NOT use the word "significant" anywhere in the Results or Discussion sections.
Writing the Experimental Report: Methods, Results, and Discussion
Written for undergraduate students and new graduate students in psychology (experimental), this handout provides information on writing in psychology and on experimental report and experimental article writing.
Contributors:Dana Lynn Driscoll, Aleksandra Kasztalska
Last Edited: 2013-03-11 09:59:00
Your method section provides a detailed overview of how you conducted your research. Because your study methods form a large part of your credibility as a researcher and writer, it is imperative that you be clear about what you did to gather information from participants in your study.
With your methods section, as with the sections above, you want to walk your readers through your study almost as if they were a participant. What happened first? What happened next?
The method section includes the following sub-sections.
I. Participants: Discuss who was enrolled in your experiment. Include major demographics that have an impact on the results of the experiment (i.e. if race is a factor, you should provide a breakdown by race). The accepted term for describing a person who participates in research studies is a participant not a subject.
II. Apparatus and materials: The apparatus is any equipment used during data collection (such as computers or eye-tracking devices). Materials include scripts, surveys, or software used for data collection (not data analysis). It is sometimes necessary to provide specific examples of materials or prompts, depending on the nature of your study.
III. Procedure: The procedure includes the step-by-step how of your experiment. The procedure should include:
- A description of the experimental design and how participants were assigned conditions.
- Identification of your independent variable(s) (IV), dependent variable(s) (DV), and control variables. Give your variables clear, meaningful names so that your readers are not confused.
- Important instructions to participants.
- A step-by-step listing in chronological order of what participants did during the experiment.
The results section is where you present the results of your research-both narrated for the readers in plain English and accompanied by statistics.
Note: Depending on the requirements or the projected length of your paper, sometimes the results are combined with the discussion section.
Continue with your story in the results section. How do your results fit with the overall story you are telling? What results are the most compelling? You want to begin your discussion by reminding your readers once again what your hypotheses were and what your overall story is. Then provide each result as it relates to that story. The most important results should go first.
Preliminary discussion: Sometimes it is necessary to provide a preliminary discussion in your results section about your participant groups. In order to convince your readers that your results are meaningful, you must first demonstrate that the conditions of the study were met. For example, if you randomly assigned subjects into groups, are these two groups comparable? You can't discuss the differences in the two groups until you establish that the two groups can be compared.
Provide information on your data analysis: Be sure to describe the analysis you did. If you are using a non-conventional analysis, you also need to provide justification for why you are doing so.
Presenting Results: Bem (2006) recommends the following pattern for presenting findings:
- Remind readers of the conceptual hypotheses or questions you are asking
- Remind readers of behaviors measured or operations performed
- Provide the answer/result in plain English
- Provide the statistic that supports your plain English answer
- Elaborate or qualify the overall conclusion if necessary
Writers new to psychology and writing with statistics often dump numbers at their readers without providing a clear narration of what those numbers mean. Please see our Writing with Statistics handout for more information on how to write with statistics.
Your discussion section is where you talk about what your results mean and where you wrap up the overall story you are telling. This is where you interpret your findings, evaluate your hypotheses or research questions, discuss unexpected results, and tie your findings to the previous literature (discussed first in your literature review). Your discussion section should move from specific to general.
Here are some tips for writing your discussion section.
- Begin by providing an interpretation of your results: what is it that you have learned from your research?
- Discuss each hypotheses or research question in more depth.
- Do not repeat what you have already said in your results—instead, focus on adding new information and broadening the perspective of your results to you reader.
- Discuss how your results compare to previous findings in the literature. If there are differences, discuss why you think these differences exist and what they could mean.
- Briefly consider your study's limitations, but do not dwell on its flaws.
- Consider also what new questions your study raises, what questions your study was not able to answer, and what avenues future research could take in this area.
Example: Here is how this works.
Briel begins her discussion section by providing a sentence about her hypotheses—what she expected to find. She immediately follows this with what she did find and then her interpretation of those findings. After discussing each of her major results, she discusses larger implications of her work and avenues for future research.
References should be in standard APA format. Please see our APA Formatting guide for specific instructions.