Witing course – structuring the results/discussion section



Finally. At last. About time. Today we got to the good/fun/scary bit of writing the journal article. Everything we’ve done on the previous days have been working up to this moment. The introduction, literatures and methods were all about setting up this next piece of writing. Here it is.

This is now the enjoyable part, the vaguely nervous moment …. And here comes the creative energy. This is the bit of the paper no-one else can do, because they haven’t done your research. Here and now, you are the expert. Yes, at last, you get to talk about your research, your results – and you make the argument for your contribution.

There is no right or wrong way to structure this work. However, there are four very common patterns used to structure this Results/Discussion Section, but these are not all there is. There are lots of others as well.

* Pattern One: Results plus Discussion in two discrete parts

* Pattern Two: Results and Discussion are integrated and organized around major points/themes

* Pattern Three: Theoretical framework provides the major organizing points for integrating results and discussion

* Pattern Four: Results and Discussion are integrated in a first part and the second, discrete part provides a theorized re-reading of the first.

So what did the writing group do?

Pairs looked at a paper from our little collection to see whether writers had used one of these four, or other, patterns. Then it was onto individual work.

In order to sort out which of the four patterns – or alternatives – would work best for their paper, the workshop participants brainstormed some possible outlines. They then talked these through with a partner. After this, they modified their outline in the light of the conversations. They then started to populate their outline – filling in the chunks with bits of descriptive and analytic writing, and supporting data.

A couple of people found it was better to reverse this process, to brainstorm the chunks and then move them around in a few different orders to see what worked best. Some people found that when they started to populate their chunks they just had too much stuff altogether and had to go back and narrow the focus of the paper. Thinking about the possible word count for this section of the paper helped other people to decide on the level of detail they would be able to have. One person worked out that her favorite quotes, the bits she had really thought she was going to work with, actually didn’t fit the outline argument she had made and she then had to go back to the data to find more appropriate pieces.

We could of course have storyboarded or mind mapped as alternative processes to arrive at the structure, and I will suggest these tomorrow to the couple of people who are still a bit stuck.

People worked on this section, the largest part of their paper, all morning, and many continued into the afternoon. Most of the group are now comfortable writing socially and seem to appreciate the additional energy that comes from being in a group that is very focused and working away. One person told me at the end of the day that some participants had decided to organize some social writing together outside of the course. Result!!

I had hoped to go onto conclusions next, but the course participants really all need another day working on this Results/Discussion Section. But most already have at least a couple of thousand words done overall, and some double that. So each individual paper is well on the way…

In the next post on results/discussions, I’ll talk about common problems that appear in this the most important, exciting, and creative part of the journal article.