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Dissertations: Results and Discussion

Alternative Structures

The time has come to show and discuss the findings of your research. How to structure this part of your dissertation? 

Dissertations can have different structures, as you can see in the section Structure of this dissertation guide.

Dissertations organised by sections

Many dissertations are organised by sections. In this case, we suggest three options. Note that, if within your course you have been instructed to use a specific structure, you should do that. Also note that sometimes there is considerable freedom on the structure, so you can come up with other structures too. 

A) More common for scientific dissertations and quantitative methods:

- Results chapter 

- Discussion chapter

Example: 

  • ...
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • (Recommendations)
  • ...

if you write a scientific dissertation, or anyway using quantitative methods, you will have some objective results that you will present in the Results chapter. You will then interpret the results in the Discussion chapter.  

B) More common for qualitative methods

- Analysis chapter. This can have more descriptive/thematic subheadings.

- Discussion chapter. This can have more descriptive/thematic subheadings.

Example: 

  • ...
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Analysis
    • Case study of Company X (fashion brand) environmental strategies 
    • Successful elements
    • Challenges
  • Discussion 
    • Lessons learnt
    • Criticisms of Company X environmental strategies 
    • Possible alternatives
  • Conclusion
  • (Recommendations)
  • ...

C) More common for qualitative methods

- Analysis and discussion chapter. This can have more descriptive/thematic titles.

Example: 

  • ...
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Analysis and Discussion
    • Case study of Company X (fashion brand) environmental strategies 
    • Successful elements
    • Challenges
    • Lessons learnt
    • Criticisms of Company X environmental strategies 
    • Possible alternatives
  • Conclusion
  • (Recommendations)
  • ...

If your dissertation uses qualitative methods, it is harder to identify and report objective data. Instead, it may be more productive and meaningful to present the findings in the same sections where you also analyse, and possibly discuss, them. You will probably have different sections dealing with different themes. The different themes can be subheadings of the Analysis and Discussion (together or separate) chapter(s). 

Thematic dissertations

If the structure of your dissertation is thematicyou will have several chapters analysing and discussing the issues raised by your research. The chapters will have descriptive/thematic titles. 

Example: 

  • ...
  • Introduction
  • Background on the conflict in Yemen (2004-present day)
  • Classification of the conflict in international law  
  • International law violations
  • Options for enforcement of international law
  • Conclusion
  • ...

Results

Use a dedicated Results chapter especially if undertaking a scientific dissertation and/or you are using quantitative research.  

In this chapter you describe what your research has discovered. Follow some tips for an effective Results chapter:  

  • Identify the key findings. You don't need to show everything you have collected or calculated.
  • Be truthful and honest. Present the data you found - not what you wish you had found! Remember that misrepresenting data has ethical implications.  
  • Be objective. You will have plenty of opportunity to discuss and interpret the data in the Discussion chapter.
  • Be clear and concise. Include tables, graphs or illustrations to make it easier for the reader to understand the data.

Graphs and Charts with Excel

Quantitative Data Analysis

Quantitative analysis techniques 

Raw numerical data need to be processed and analysed to make them meaningful. Quantitative analysis techniques include tables, graphs and statistics (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p496).

Establish patterns and relationships

The way you present your data will help identify patterns and relationships in your research. These can be (depending on the field/subject) (Cottrell, 2014, p173):

  • Trends and developmental patterns over time (are there any patterns in the data? Do the data rise, fall, plateau? Where/when? How - gently or sharply?)
  • Correlations and relationships between sets of data (do they sets of data move in a similar way? Or do they move in an opposite way? Or do they have no relation at all?)
  • Relationships between events
  • Cause and effect (can you spot any causality?)

Qualitative Data Analysis

In qualitative research, meanings are derived from words and images - not numbers, as in quantitative research. Words and images can have multiple meanings, and need to be interpreted with care (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p568). For more information about qualitative data see the section on Methodology

How to undertake qualitative data analysis:

  • Group the data in themes to make sense of them (summarise, condense, code the data).
  • Link these themes and categories in a way that can help you answer your research question.
  • Reflect on whether the data support your original argument. If yes, make sure that when you present your data you emphasise how the data support your argument. If not, you should revise your original argument!

Approaches to analysing qualitative data 

Qualitative data analysis can take place using specific methods such as (there are many more, depending on your field!) thematic analysis, content analysis, grounded theory, narrative analysis, discourse analysis (see link below). The most generic approach to qualitative data analysis is thematic analysis, whose purpose is to identify patterns in qualitative data (interviews, observations, documents etc.) (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p579). 

Discussion

Discussion in section-based dissertations

As with all other chapters, the discussion chapter differ according to the discipline and structure of your dissertation. If the dissertation is organised by sections, the discussion chapter(s) could contain the following should do the following: 

  • Group your findings into themes; synthesise your findings.
  • Interpret the findings. What patterns do they reveal? Do they shed new light on the subject? 
  • Critically analyse the findings by linking them to the background research. Are the findings consistent with existing research, theories, established practices? Do they present anything unusual? 
  • Assess the importance of your study and how it’s filled a gap in your field.
  • If using a research question: state explicitly how your research has answered the research question! Reiterate your argument. 
  • If using an hypothesis: state explicitly if your findings support or not your research hypothesis!
  • Identify possible implications of your findings for your area and other areas of study.
  • Present a critique of your research in terms of methodology, limitations etc. If the hypothesis was not supported, consider reasons why this was the case (Cottrell, 2014, p192). 

Hourglass model

To be added

Discussion in thematic dissertations

Guidance on the discussion within thematic dissertations is provide in the Structure page. 

Qualitative Data Analysis