How to Write the Discussion Section of a Dissertation

You have established a solid committee, asked a strong, clearly defined question, chosen an appropriate methodology, gathered and analysed data and laid out a pretty thorough of academic work so far; you’ve come a long way. Now it’s time to change modes. The secret of how to write the discussion section of a dissertation is, you need to use a different part of your brain.

Changing gears

Up until this point in your dissertation, you have been expected to think analytically, now it’s time to think creatively; it’s time to brush the dust off your imagination and take it for a ride. However, you may want to ask yourself, or someone who would know; does this part of the dissertation need to be a separate section or can it just sit inconspicuously among the rest of the work? The conventional (Introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion) model might not be the perfect fit for your particular discipline.

You have already gone to great lengths to tell your audience what your findings are, now you have to tell them what they might mean. You are going out on a limb, making claims about the value of your findings and the reason they are valuable. This is going to take guts; at this point in your career, claiming that something is true is the last thing you feel confident doing, right?

Start Writing

One way to start writing a discussion, is to start writing. Just take those thoughts that are whirling around and pin them down on the page. Here are a few techniques for getting thing started and putting them in order:

  • Write down why your results are meaningless, explain why they have no value. Have an argument with yourself (or someone else) to find out where you really stand with regard to your findings.
  • Compare and contrast. Write down the points of similarity and difference between your work and the work of others, then elaborate on the points.
  • The “Big Machine” method is one that you may find too abstract, but it may serve as a way of getting the imagination moving. Picture your results as the product of a “Big Machine”, now describe how the machine works, its parts, appearance, what fuels it, what would make it break down, etc.

Confidence is convincing

Most importantly, be confident. Choose a place to stand and describe the view. Bounce your opinions off someone to see if that is really your point of view. Put those views in order and you have a winner.