Structure and Order for Reporting Results in Your Thesis or Dissertation
The task of reporting the results of advanced research in a thesis or dissertation can be enormously challenging. In most cases, the student designing the section or chapter dedicated to findings is not only pursuing an extensive research project for the first time, but also writing a long research-based document for the first time. The results of such a project are usually complex, necessitating the description of many details, trends, exceptions and so on. Complicated material of this kind must be presented in a thesis or dissertation with the utmost clarity if a student’s supervisory committee and formal examiners are to understand the results thoroughly, assess the student’s research accurately and ultimately approve his or her work so that a degree can be awarded.
In order to present the results of your research as clearly and effectively as possible, it is imperative to organise the report of findings in your thesis or dissertation in the manner best suited to the material. If you are investigating historical texts, for instance, it may prove most sensible to arrange the presentation of your results chronologically, or it might be more productive to choose a hierarchical order that represents the importance of the texts and the evidence they provide for your study. The first approach is likely to create an emphasis quite different from the second and therefore produce a report that leaves your readers with a different impression of your research and its findings. You will therefore need to recognise the most important aspects of your research, choose an approach that will focus on them clearly and design a structure for reporting your results that will present your work in the best light possible.
A short section dedicated to results may not require divisions and subdivisions, but a long chapter almost certainly will if you wish to make your prose and its content accessible and palatable to readers. Although it is usually not necessary to revisit descriptions of methodology in the results chapter of a thesis or dissertation, you can certainly use your research methods as a means of providing structure when organising the report of your findings. Your results chapter could, for instance, be divided into various sections, with each one focussing on the findings of a different kind of methodology or the use of a specific instrument. If you have used mixed methods, half of the chapter might address the findings of quantitative methods and the other half those of qualitative methods. The use of a variety of different tests, trials, surveys, reviews, case studies and so on in your research would allow you to dedicate a separate section to each, or you may want to create sections focussing on specific themes, patterns or categories, each of which incorporates the results obtained through several instruments.
On the other hand, revisiting your research questions and hypotheses as you organise the report of your findings may allow you to cluster results that relate to a particular question or hypothesis into a single section. This can be a particularly useful strategy because it provides cohesion for the thesis or dissertation as a whole and forces you to focus closely on the issues central to the topic, problem or phenomenon you are investigating. You will, for example, be able to refer back to those questions and hypotheses as you presented them in your introduction, and you will also be able to anticipate the discussion in the next part of your thesis or dissertation about how your research has answered the questions and tested the hypotheses.
The results generated by doctoral research are various and unique, which means that the best ways in which to present them can be as well. The key is to devote considerable thought and special care to the way in which you structure the report of your results. Whatever structure you choose should accurately reflect the nature of your results and highlight their most important and interesting trends, and it should also effectively allow you to discuss and speculate upon your findings in ways that will test the premises of your study, work well in the overall argument of your thesis or dissertation and lead to significant implications for your research.
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