Dissertation Discussion Sections Are Your Intellectual Showcase

The dissertation discussion section of this capstone paper of your academic career is where you make your case. The dissertation discussion chapter is what many readers will page through to first, and this is where you convince everyone that you have drawn correct conclusions. Your institution doubtless has its own requirements about the dissertation discussion (and every other) section of your dissertation, but we can offer some reminders and tips on format.
Segregate findings from inferences
You must keep patently clear the separation between your discussion of dissertation findings and your results, or conclusions. With every sentence you write, you must ask yourself:
Is this an observation (that should therefore be presented without pre-conception of reasons) or, alternatively, an inference about the meaning or import of that observation?
Have I made this clear? To accomplish this,

  • Separate your observations from your inferences in the physical layout of the paper
  • Use signaling phrases to let the reader know when you are making your own interpretation of your own (or others’) observations, for example: I infer, My interpretation of this is, This suggests to me, This implies to me.

What is included in discussions of dissertations?

  1. An introduction – as with every section of your paper, the dissertation discussion needs a few sentences alerting the reader what to expect.

    • Don’t frustrate readers by being too vague;
    • Leave persnickety detail for the body of this portion of the text;
    • Ensure that the time pressed scholar happening upon your work in future years should be able to determine immediately if this is what they need (their first clue should be in your abstract, but that is a different article).
  2. The general pattern of findings, whether you are a scientist or a scholar in the humanities, for example:
    • Trends in test results
    • Appearance of specific images in a body of literature
    • Changes over time
  3. Any exceptions, caveats, or provisos to this pattern
  4. Agreement/disagreement among previous scholars on your subject
  5. Relate the results of your investigations to the question you originally posed in your overall introduction (that section warrants another article)
  6. Hypotheses for why you found what you found – e.g., why did XYZ change?
  7. Logical chain of causation
  8. The implications/significance of inferences
  9. Cite generously in your dissertation discussion!
  10. Avoid intellectual fads in your dissertation discussion

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