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Discuss the results in relation to each hypothesis. This is the most important part of the Discussion section.

Discuss possible explanations for your results. This part should follow from the predictions you made earlier based on possible outcomes of the study. Do the results agree or disagree with the ideas that you introduced in the Introduction? How do the results relate to previous literature or current theory? Identify and discuss limitations in the experimental design that may reduce the strength of your results.

Generalize your results. This is where you tell the reader the extent to which your study is externally valid. Discuss strengths and weaknesses of applying your results to, for example, another population, species, age, or sex.

Identify followup experiments. Introduce new ideas that your results suggest, and propose ways to test them

How to Proceed

  • Explain whether your results support the hypotheses.
  • Discuss how the results relate to the research question in general. Example:

The key findings of the study is that low structural and cognitive social capital – measured by the frequency of social contact with friends and neighbours and experienced interpersonal trust – are both significantly associated with depression in older adults. These results are in line with the large body of research emphasising the strong link between social capital and mental health status across ages, as well as they add to the limited previous research on older adults taking both the structural and cognitive components of social capital into account (Almedon, 2005; De Silva et al., 2005).

If you had a directional hypothesis and your results didn’t turn out as expected, discuss possible explanations as to why, including unanticipated shortcomings in the design, problems such as equipment failure, or even that the theory you tested may need modification. Show how your explanation accounts for the specific pattern of results.

In addition to the social capital variables, marital status and age showed to be significantly associated with depression as defined in this study. Being single significantly increased the risk of depression compared to being married or cohabiting, and these findings correspond to previous studies showing statistically significant associations between depressive disorders and living alone (Adams, Sanders, & Auth, 2004). A possible explanation for this correlation could be that marital status is related to important aspects of the individual’s social capital, such as the social contacts and the social support provided in everyday life. This assumption is supported by our finding that single, divorced and widowed people with infrequent contacts experience a higher risk of depression as compared to married and cohabiting older people. Our research would suggest that older single people are in better health position if they engage socially with friends.

Discuss limitations of the experiment that could be remedied in future experiments. State the specific reason for performing the next experiment.

  • Avoid overstating the importance of your findings. Be modest rather than expansive. Avoid speculating beyond the data.
  • Stay focused on the research question. Resist the urge to digress or to state glittering generalities just because this section is the most flexible one.
  • Although you should acknowledge problems or weaknesses of your design, end the paper on a high note. Summarize the study’s strengths, conclusions, implications and/or ideas for future research.

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