Findings and discussion

Before discussing findings, let us delve into data collection.  Data collection is an exciting experience.  At times, we gather just the right type of data to help illuminate the issues that guided our inquiry in the first place. But more often than not, data collection can take us down a rabbit hole, a journey of discovery where each piece of insight opens up a new door, a new field waiting to be explored.

Sometimes the findings and discussion are specific chapters in a thesis.  The findings and discussion chapters can be seen as keystones in the research journey as they capture the essence of moments in the field, and present how your research will enrich existing knowledge in the field.

Purpose

The findings and discussion chapters allow us to present and make sense of the data gathered in the field, and organise them into themes and patterns that take the knowledge making project forward.  

Here are some considerations while brainstorming for ideas:

  • Do all of the points relate to what you set out to do? How?
  • Did you find anything unexpected?
  • Did you end up with even more questions and perhaps these are interesting?
  • How will you show  this?
  • Think about how you could organise the data
  • Think about how you will represent the data
  • The literature can give you a place a start, with themes, topics you could use. 

Drafting

Faced with an abundance of rich data, how do we sift through what is interesting and what is useful?  The first step would be to remind ourselves of the research questions.  What prompted us to begin the research?  The second step would be to remind ourselves of our chosen data analysis methods.  This could be thematic analysis, discourse analysis or even statistical research.  The third step would be to read through our data, familiarise ourselves with it and highlight aspects that are worth reporting.  Here are some guiding questions:

Presenting findings requires one to be systematic.  As you get to know your data, you will be able to devise headings and subheadings that would allow you to present them in a coherent manner.  For instance, if you are conducting a historical study, a chronological organisation might help.  If you are doing a case study, you could organise the ideas case by case.  

Tip: When presenting quotes and graphs, be sure to explain the aspects that might be most salient.  You could think of your explanatory moves as a sandwich, where you start by contextualising the quote / graph, present the quote / graph, and then explain important elements of the quote / graph, possibly linking it back to some of your main research questions or themes.  

While the findings chapter illustrates key moments in the field, the discussion chapter identifies themes and patterns and critically analyse them.  The discussion chapter helps to put the findings in context – teasing them out. If the findings and discussions are separate perhaps this could be a moment to focus on particular aspects of the findings.

  • looping back to the literature
  • drawing key themes
  • showing the importance and
  • considering the weaknesses
  • address the unexpected
  • suggest further areas, invite others to contribute

When writing the discussion chapter, consider organising your writing along themes.  Use this section to reflect back on the literature and see it as an opportunity to challenge or extend the scope of theories presented in the literature review.