In a scientific research paper, the results section is the component that reports the main findings that have been derived from the methodology used for collecting and analyzing the data. The findings are ideally presented in a logical way, while avoiding potential biases or author interpretation as much as possible in order to set a framework for further evaluation and discussion of results. Therefore, the main purpose of a results section in a research paper is to present the data in an understandable sequence that clearly points to the significance of the results.
Components of a Results Section
In a research paper, the section that includes results should only be concerned with the study that has been conducted. The specific components can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Tables, charts, graphs, and other figures that present data found in the course of the research. These images can be placed in the same chapter with the text or separately;
- A report on the effectiveness of the data collection and/or recruitment process, as well as the participation of the study sample;
- A contextual analysis of the data found as a result of the research to explain its meaning and potential significance;
- Information and data that correspond to the main question of the research;
- Secondary findings of the study that can include subgroup analyses and secondary outcomes.
It is important to mention that the components of the results section usually depend on the scope of the study. This means that if it is broad, the section must state the range of results that appear to be the most relevant for the purposes of the study. Any data or information that has been found during research but bears no significance should be avoided. Unless otherwise required by journal editors or advisors, the results should usually be separated from the discussion, which means that explanations and interpretations must be avoided.
Organization of Results
The most efficient way to organize the results section is to report the findings in a logical way. A logical organization method is expected to provide findings in conjunction with research questions developed at the beginning of the research. Within every question, the kind of data that would address the necessary aspects should be provided. To understand how this organization of material could be presented, an example below is given:
Research question 1: “How often do parents check the web history of their children and use parental controls on the Internet?”
In a results section, this research question can be presented in the form of a statement to illustrate the findings:
The example above shows a logical presentation of material. The research question, formulated at the beginning of the study, serves as part of the results section. Results that address specific research questions should be presented first, followed by tables or graphs representing probabilities and standard deviations. The number of textual descriptions in a results section will depend on the level of interpretation necessary to explain different findings. However, it is best to avoid wordy explanations and present relevant information in a concise manner.
Steps for Developing a Research Section
As every research study is unique in its own way, there is no one approach to composing a research section. The content and the final layout of the section will depend on the specific research area, the study design, and the methodologies and guidelines used in the research. Nevertheless, there are several generalized steps that a researcher can follow in order to compose the most logical and concise research question possible:
Consulting relevant instructions or guidelines approved by the journal or publisher in order to obtain information on how previous studies on a similar topic have been published.
- Note limitations associated with content restrictions. For example, some journals require the results and discussion to be included in one section, while others require them to be separate;
- Read the scope and the aims of a journal’s guide for authors in order to understand the interests of potential readers.
Considering the results of a study in relation to a journal’s requirements
- Focus on the results of an experiment and other findings that are considered pertinent to the initial research questions and objectives. They should be included, even if they were not expected or did not support a researcher’s hypotheses or ideas;
- Catalog the findings through the use of subheadings that help to provide information in a clear and streamlined way. By doing so, it is possible to avoid the use of peripheral and excessive details during writing, as well as helping readers to understand and remember the research findings.
Designing tables and other graphical means for presenting and illustrating results
- Number tables and graphs in the same order in which they were presented in the body of the paper;
- Present information in charts and graphs in a way that is self-explanatory. Also, the design of tables and other visual aids should include explanations of terms and other data readers needed for understanding the information better;
- Using charts and tables as important tools for conveying concise information about a study and avoiding repetitions. While visual aids can enhance and clarify information, they should not be used as replacements.
- Drafting the results section by using the developed findings and figures
- Restate the initial research questions in the opening part of the results section to show readers which issues the study was focusing on;
- Report results in the past tense and active voice because the research has already been completed and the findings are usually clear;
- Ensure that any complex or specialized terminology and abbreviations have been explained and defined in the introduction section.
Reviewing, editing, and revising the draft until the results section reports exactly what potential readers need to know about the research
- Check data consistency and accuracy, as well as the sufficiency of the visual elements used in the study;
- Ensure that research results are organized in a logical order to focus on important research objectives and prepare readers for further recommendations, valuations, and explanations in the discussion section;
- Proofread the section to eliminate grammar, spelling, technical errors and awkward phrasing.
To conclude, the results section is an important component of a research paper because it gives scholars an opportunity to present their findings logically and in relation to the research questions that they have initially developed. Depending on the requirements of a journal, the results section may be used as a separate section or in conjunction with the discussion. Nevertheless, the key to a strong results section is the presentation of information in a way that will be clear and understandable to the reader.
“A Majority of Parents Check Their Teen’s Web History or Social Media Profile, While Fewer Use Tech-Based Parental Controls.” Pew Research, 25 Dec. 2014, www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/FT_15.01.06_parentsteens.png. Accessed 26 Dec. 2018.