Closeness to parents affect on false memories

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The Discussion Section: The section that really ties your paper together!

The Purpose of the discussion section

To evaluate and interpret the results and how they relate to your hypothesis.

•   How might my study help to resolve the original problem or question?

•   What conclusions and theoretical implications might I be able to draw from my study?

•   What will I have contributed to the field?

Formatting the discussion section

In APA style:

  • Section label called “Discussion” (no quotes) centered at the top. No italics, bold, underline, or all-caps
  • Follow appropriate APA format: double-spacing, page header and page number at top right, no skipped lines, left-justified with first paragraph indented, no underlining, italics, bold, or all-capital words, no subheadings, length is no less than 5 paragraphs (or about 2-3 pages)
  • Write in future tense: You will be discussing the expected results based on the premise that you find what you hypothesized (most likely)


The Main components of your Discussion section

1) Restate hypothesis (hypotheses) and summarize expected findings (one paragraph)

2)  Compare and contrast your proposed findings to previous research that you cited in the introduction (one paragraph)

3)  Discuss the strengths and limitations of your study (two paragraphs)

4)  Interpret your findings, suggest what we can conclude from these expected findings, and provide suggestions for future research (one to two paragraphs)

Description of the contents of each of these sections:

1) Restate your hypothesis (hypotheses) and summarize your expected findings (one paragraph)

  • Restate the goal of the study or major research questions
  • Clearly restate your original hypothesis (hypotheses)
  • In summary form, restate your proposed findings/results for each of these hypotheses. Be sure you note whether or not the findings do or do not support your hypotheses
  • Briefly summarize your expected findings/results and what they mean but do not include statistics here, just comment in your own language on how your variables were related — no “statistical language” or notation


2) Compare and contrast your proposed findings with previous research (one paragraph)

In the introduction section, you made predictions about your expected findings based on a survey of background research on your topic.

NOW—in the discussion, you will tell the reader how accurate you expect your predictions to be.

•   Start by mentioning what was new/different about your study and how it adds to the previous research.

•   Then, refer back to the past research you cite in your introduction section (CITE AGAIN HERE) and both state if and comment on how your hypotheses and proposed/predicted findings were either similar to or different from these other studies.

•   If your predicted findings differ from previous findings, discuss why that may be (so speculate as to the reasons for different findings).

•   If your predicted findings are the same as previous findings, briefly mention how your findings contribute to the knowledge base or what the implications of similar findings might be.

NOTE: If not much has been done on your exact topic, you should still have found previous research studies that are related to, if not exactly the same as, your topic, so you will be commenting on these and your findings in this section.


3) Discuss the strengths and limitations of your study (two paragraphs total – one of each!)

*you must have one paragraph of strengths that thoroughly discusses at least two strengths and one paragraph of limitations that thoroughly discusses at least two limitations*

Strengths can include, but are not limited to:

•   Sample size (did you have a large N?)

•   Sampling procedures (did you have a representative sample/generalizable sample?)

•   Measures (did you use extremely valid and reliable measures? Did you use observation rather than self-report measures (which can be biased because they are self-report)?)

•   Study design (was it a longitudinal design? Did you have an experimental design—something is being manipulated—that allows you to make causal inferences?)

•   Confounding variables (did you set strong control procedures to minimize confounding variables?)

•   Did your study look at something that previous studies have overlooked or not considered?

Limitations could include, but are not limited to:

Every study has limitations, and it is better to point out the limitations of your study and address them proactively rather than have someone else point out these flaws and have it appear as if you were negligent! Often there are methodological limitations with a study. For example, was the sample of participants homogenous or limited in some way such that the results are not very generalizable? Here are some common limitations that you should use to come up with yours:

•   Sample size (was your N too small?)

•   Sampling procedures (either restricted sampling, perhaps due to geographic locations, socioeconomic status, etc. or inadequate sampling methods)

•   Measures (were your measures inadequate?)

•   Study design (were there problems with your design?)

•   Confounding variables (were you not able to control for other variables that may influence your results?)

•   Bias (was there participant and/or experimenter bias?)

4) Interpret your findings, suggest what we can conclude from these expected findings, and provide suggestions for future research (one to two paragraphs)

•   What is your overall conclusion based on your expected results?

•   What are the implications of your expected findings? Think about your predicted results critically—what would they mean? Discuss these implications for your expected results but also address and discuss other possible (unexpected) results. Think critically – what would they really mean?

•   How could your proposed findings be applied in various settings (e.g., the real world, the lab, schools)?

•   What might your research imply about current practices, theories, knowledge, etc. (i.e., how should things change or stay the same?)?

  • Make clear what your study would contribute and then recommend future directions of study for other researchers. What new research should grow out of your study (perhaps as a way to correct for some of the limitations)?

•   Include a few concluding remarks about the topic as a whole in order to bring the paper to a conclusion


A few final tips:        Review your writing style guide handout (it’s on Blackboard too)

DO use words like “support” (your hypothesis), “suggest,” “contribute” (to the literature)

DO NOT use “prove,” “is/are evidence,” etc.

DO be creative as you think critically about limitations, implications of your study, and directions for future research

DO NOT be creative in reporting what your results mean in regard to your hypotheses – this is straightforward and in terms of your hypotheses only!