The discussion and conclusion sections are both essential parts of any academic thesis. In this short guide, I’ll define the content to include in each, as well as discuss the differences between the two sections, along with a few tips on what to include to ensure your thesis fulfills all the necessary criteria.
Discussion vs conclusion: what’s the difference?
When it comes to writing an academic thesis, the discussion and conclusion are two important sections to focus on. They serve different purposes and should be approached in their own ways to ensure a comprehensive and complete thesis.
The discussion section is where you’ll analyze and interpret your research findings in detail, providing a thorough explanation of your results. It’s not just a summary, but an opportunity to evaluate your work critically and answer any questions raised in the introduction. You should also mention any potential limitations and suggest any routes to explore in future research.
In contrast, the conclusion section summarizes your thesis, bringing together the key points from the introduction, literature review, methodology, and discussion. It’s your chance to restate your thesis statement and briefly summarize your findings in a concise and impactful way. Avoid introducing new information, as this section should focus solely on reinforcing the main points of your research and emphasizing its significance. The conclusion should leave the reader with a clear understanding of your research and its contribution to the field.
Here’s a simple table highlighting the major differences.
What should the discussion section include?
The discussion section can often prove to be one of the most challenging. Here, the author must condense their findings into a summary, along with a critical analysis and interpretation of the findings in relation to the existing literature. Essentially, it involves connecting the dots between one’s own work and the broader academic landscape.
In addition to writing a summary, a critical analysis, and an interpretation, the author must also consider the practical and theoretical implications of the research while clearly stating any potential limitations. Due to the high level of critical thinking researchers apply to the discussion section, it’s worth spending ample time on it.
The following are some common elements in a typical discussion section:
- Summary of findings: A brief summary of the main findings of the research.
- Interpretation of results: An explanation of what the findings mean, how they contribute to the existing literature, and how they relate to the research questions or hypotheses.
- Comparison with previous studies: A discussion of how the current study compares with previous research in the field.
- Limitations of the study: Here, the author describes any limitations of the research, such as sample size, methodology, or other factors that may have influenced the results.
- Implications of the findings: A discussion of the practical and theoretical implications of the research, and how it may impact future research or practice in the field.
- Recommendations for future research: Suggestions for future research that could build on the current study or address the limitations of the research.
- Conclusion: A summary of the main points discussed in the discussion section, and how they relate to the overall research aims and objectives.
Overall, the discussion section is an opportunity for the author to reflect on the significance and implications of their research, and to demonstrate their understanding of the field and its broader context.
As important components of the discussion section, the interpretations, limitations, and limitations help to demonstrate the author’s critical thinking and understanding of the research and are typically integrated into the discussion section, rather than included as independent sub-sections. Let’s take a look at the importance of each:
- Interpretations involve analyzing and interpreting the results of the research and explaining what they mean in the context of the existing literature. This includes addressing how the findings contribute to the field and what new insights they offer.
- Implications involve discussing the practical and theoretical implications of the research, such as how the findings could be applied in real-world situations, as well as any ethical or social implications of the research.
- Limitations involve acknowledging the limitations of the research, including any constraints on the research design or methodology, and suggesting ways that future research could address these limitations.
What makes an effective conclusion?
The conclusion of a thesis or dissertation should provide a summary of the key findings of the research and their implications, as well as offer suggestions for future research. Here are some specific elements to include:
- Restate the research questions or hypotheses and summarize the main findings of the study.
- Discuss the significance of the findings and their implications for the field, as well as any practical or theoretical implications.
- Provide a critical evaluation of the research and its limitations, and offer suggestions for future research that could build on the current study.
- Consider the broader implications of the research, including any ethical or social implications.
- End with a strong concluding statement that summarizes the main points of the conclusion and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.
Now, let’s summarize this information by comparing what should be included against what not to include:
Overall, as the table above shows, it is clear that the conclusion should leave the reader with a clear understanding of the key contributions and limitations of the research, as well as the potential for future research in the field.
In conclusion, the discussion and conclusion sections are two essential components of a thesis that serve different purposes. Whereas the discussion section is where the author critically analyzes and interprets research findings in the context of existing literature, assesses the practical and theoretical implications of the research, and suggests directions for future research, in the conclusion section, they reinforce the thesis statement, summarize the key points, and highlight the significance of the research. To create an effective conclusion, the author should restate the research questions, summarize the main findings, discuss the significance and limitations of the findings, and provide suggestions for future research, without including new data or personal opinions.