Preparing To Write about Research Results in a Thesis or Dissertation
Meaningful results or findings, the more significant the better, are the primary goal of the advanced research conducted by academics and scientists. This is certainly true of the research done for a thesis or dissertation, though it may seem at times like the primary goal is to earn the degree dangling carrot-sweet at the far end of the process. The importance of the results generated by a scholarly study, along with the need to disseminate those results to those who will make the best use of them, means that the written report of a research project’s findings must be planned and written with extreme care.
Ideally, as a postgraduate student conducting research for a thesis or dissertation, you will have diligently recorded and collected the data such as test results, participant responses, computer print outs, personal observations, transcriptions and notes of various kinds from your research as you conducted it. If not, this will have to be done before you begin writing about your results. With the relevant research data gathered before you, you are ready to review, organise and analyse what may be equivalent to a mountain of information. Tackling the data in a logical and orderly fashion will usually prove most successful, and do be patient with yourself – haste tends to generate errors and rarely enables the deep analytical thinking that is required to make the most of research findings.
If your study is quantitative in nature, make sure that you know exactly what all those numbers mean. Considering them in direct relation to the topic, problem or phenomenon you are investigating is essential, so focussing on your research questions and hypotheses as you consider your results can be an effective approach. You may find that you require the services of a statistician to help make sense of the data, in which case obtaining that help sooner rather than later is advisable. There is no doubt that you will need to understand your results thoroughly before you can write about them successfully.
If, on the other hand, your study is qualitative, you will need to read through the information you have collected several times to become familiar with the various pieces of evidence both as a whole and individually so that you can effectively establish important themes, patterns and categories. You will need to reflect on what you see and decide via sound criteria what is meaningful and significant in the data you have gathered. Such judgements must be made before your findings can be effectively analysed, interpreted and presented in writing.
If you have combined methodologies in the research for your thesis or dissertation, you will need to consider the results obtained from each of the individual methods separately and in relation to each other. By integrating, comparing and contrasting the results obtained through different methods, you will be able to discover how the results produced by one approach support, contradict or otherwise relate to the results of another. Discussions of this kind can become particularly complex and cumbersome, so do be sure to limit your analysis to key issues and the larger aims of your research.
Finally, remember that your results, analyses and interpretations are only as good as your writing is clear and correct. When so much detail is presented, mined for meaning and discussed with sophistication, errors and awkward constructions can confuse and lose readers with remarkable ease. If you feel that your writing could use some improvement or believe that you would benefit from the services of a professional academic or scientific proofreader, it is wise to arrange in advance whatever may be necessary to obtain the assistance you require.
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