Writing up your results in a thesis or dissertation
Once you’ve finished collecting and analyzing your data, you can begin writing up the results. This is where you report the main findings of your research.
All relevant results should be reported concisely and objectively in a logical order. You may use tables and graphs to illustrate specific findings.
Don’t include subjective interpretations of why you found these results or what they mean – your evaluation should be saved for the discussion.
When to write a results chapter
But in most cases, if you’re doing empirical research, it’s important to report the results of your study before you start discussing their meaning. This gives the reader a clear idea of exactly what you found and keeps the data itself separate from your interpretation of it.
The results should be written in the past tense. The length of this chapter depends on how much data you collected and analyzed, but it should be written as concisely as possible. Only include results that are relevant to answering your research questions.
Results of quantitative research (e.g. surveys, experiments)
The most logical way to structure quantitative results is to frame them around your research questions or hypotheses. For each question or hypothesis, present:
- A reminder of the type of analysis you used (e.g. a two-sample t-test or simple linear regression). A more detailed description of your analysis should go in your methodology section.
- A concise summary of each result, including relevant descriptive statistics (e.g. means and standard deviations) and inferential statistics (e.g. t-scores, degrees of freedom, and p-values). These numbers are often placed in parentheses.
- A brief statement of how the result relates to the question or whether the hypothesis was supported.
The statistics you should report and the conventions for presenting them depend on the types of analysis you used and the style guide you are following. For example, there are specific rules for writing a results section in APA style. If you’re unsure, read the results sections of other papers in your field to get a clear sense of what information to include.
Make sure to include all relevant results, both positive and negative. If you have results that didn’t fit with your expectations and assumptions, include these too, but do not speculate on their meaning or consequences – this should be saved for the discussion and conclusion.
You shouldn’t present raw data in your results chapter, but you may include it in an appendix so that readers can check your results for themselves.
Tables and figures
In quantitative research, it’s helpful to include visual elements such as graphs, charts and tables, but only if they accurately reflect your results and add value for the reader.
- Tables are used to communicate exact values, giving a concise overview of various results.
- Graphs and charts are used to visualize trends and relationships, giving an at-a-glance illustration of key findings.
You must refer to all tables and figures in the text, but don’t repeat information. The text should summarize or elaborate on specific aspects of your tables and figures, not just re-state the same numbers that you’ve already presented.
Give your tables and figures clear, descriptive titles and labels so the reader can easily understand what is being shown.
Results of qualitative research (e.g. interviews)
In qualitative research, the results might not all be directly related to specific 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, and report relevant demographic information about participants.
Results vs discussion vs conclusion
The results chapter should objectively report the findings, presenting only brief observations in relation to 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” 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 synthesize your interpretation of the results into an overall answer to your main research question. The conclusion is sometimes integrated into the discussion, but it is often a separate chapter at the very end.
Frequently asked questions about writing up results
- What goes in the results chapter of a dissertation?
The results chapter of a thesis or dissertation presents your research results concisely and objectively.
In quantitative research, for each question or hypothesis, state:
- The type of analysis used
- Relevant results in the form of descriptive and inferential statistics
- Whether or not the hypothesis was supported
In qualitative research, for each question or theme, describe:
- Recurring patterns
- Significant or representative individual responses
- Relevant quotations from the data
Don’t interpret or speculate in the results chapter.
- What tense should I write my results in?
Results are usually written in the past tense, because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.
- What’s the difference between results and discussion?
The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.