Dissertation results section
Once you’ve finished collecting and analyzing your data, you can begin writing up the results section of your dissertation. This is where you report the main findings of your research and briefly observe how they relate to your research questions or hypotheses.
When to write a results section
Your results will look different depending on the research methodology you used. In some types of research, it might not make sense to include a separate results section – for example, in desk research that focuses on interpretation of texts or analysis of case studies.
But in most dissertations based on experimental research or collection of primary data, it’s a good idea to report the results of your study before you move onto the discussion of their meaning. This will give the reader a clear idea of exactly what you found.
The results section should be written in the past tense. Its length will depend on the amount of data you collected and analyzed, but make sure you only include information that is relevant to your research problem and questions.
Results of quantitative research (e.g. surveys)
The easiest way to report your results is to frame them around any research questions or hypotheses that you formulated.
For each question or hypothesis, present the relevant results, including details of how they were analyzed. If you calculated validity and reliability, include these results too. Observe how each result relates to the question or whether the hypothesis was supported. You can highlight the most important trends, differences, and relationships among the data, but do not speculate on their meaning or consequences – this should be saved for the discussion and conclusion sections.
If you have results that are not directly relevant to answering your questions, or any extra information that will help the reader understand how you gathered the data (such as the full survey design), you can include them in an appendix.
Tables and figures
In quantitative research, it’s often helpful to include visual elements such as graphs, charts and tables, but only if they accurately reflect your results and add value to the story you are trying to tell.
Make sure you refer to all tables and figures in the text, but don’t simply repeat information. Tables and figures can be used to condense lots of complex data or clearly illustrate a trend in the results, while the text should summarize or elaborate on specific aspects. Give your tables and figures clear, descriptive titles and labels so the reader can easily understand what is being shown.
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. On the contrary, this result suggests a significant effect in the opposite direction.
Results of qualitative research (e.g. interviews)
In qualitative research, the results might not all be directly related to specific questions or hypotheses. In this case, you can structure your results section around key themes or topics that emerged from your analysis of the data.
For each theme, make general observations about what the data showed. For example, you might mention recurring points of agreement or disagreement, patterns and trends, and individual responses that were particularly significant to your research question. You can clarify and support these points with direct quotations.
Example: Write-up of qualitative interviews
When asked about video games as a form of art, the respondents tended to believe that video games themselves are not an art form, but agreed that creativity is involved in their production. The criteria used to identify artistic video games included design, story, music, and creative teams. One respondent noted a difference in creativity between popular video game genres:
“I think that in role-playing games, there’s more attention to character design, to world design, because the whole story is important and more attention is paid to certain game elements […] so that perhaps you do need bigger teams of creative experts than in an average shooter or something.”
It is clear from the responses that video game consumers consider some types of games to have more artistic potential than others.
Results vs discussion vs conclusion
The results chapter should objectively report the findings, presenting only brief observations in relation each question, hypothesis or theme. It should not give an overall answer to the main research question or speculate on the meaning of the results.
Avoid subjective and interpretive words like “appears”, “suggests” or “implies”. These are more suitable for the discussion section, where you will interpret the results in detail and draw out their implications. In the conclusion, you will synthesize your questions or hypotheses into an overall answer to the main research question.