The Results (or Findings) section follows the Methods and precedes the Discussion section. This is where the authors provide the data collected during their study. That data can sometimes be difficult to understand because it is often quite technical. Do not let this intimidate you; you will discover the significance of the results next.
The Discussion section follows the Results and precedes the Conclusions and Recommendations section. It is here that the authors indicate the significance of their results. They answer the question, “Why did we get the results we did?” This section provides logical explanations for the results from the study. Those explanations are often reached by comparing and contrasting the results to prior studies’ findings, so citations to the studies discussed in the Literature Review generally reappear here. This section also usually discusses the limitations of the study and speculates on what the results say about the problem(s) identified in the research question(s). This section is very important because it is finally moving towards an argument. Since the researchers interpret their results according to theoretical underpinnings in this section, there is more room for difference of opinion. The way the authors interpret their results may be quite different from the way you would interpret them or the way another researcher would interpret them.
Note: Some articles collapse the Discussion and Conclusion sections together under a single heading (usually “Conclusion”). If you don’t see a separate Discussion section, don’t worry. Instead, look in the nearby sections for the types of information described in the paragraph above.
When you first skim an article, it may be useful to go straight to the Conclusion and see if you can figure out what the thesis is since it is usually in this final section. The research gap identified in the introduction indicates what the researchers wanted to look at; what did they claim, ultimately, when they completed their research? What did it show them—and what are they showing us—about the topic? Did they get the results they expected? Why or why not? The thesis is not a sweeping proclamation; rather, it is likely a very reasonable and conditional claim.
Nearly every research article ends by inviting other scholars to continue the work by saying that more research needs to be done on the matter. However, do not mistake this directive for the thesis; it’s a convention. Often, the authors provide specific details about future possible studies that could or should be conducted in order to make more sense of their own study’s conclusions.