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In an academic paper, we sometimes have a "Results and Discussion" section.

It is not uncommon to add the explanation and discussion of the results together with the results section.

What are the pros and cons of both practices from an academic point of view? How do I weigh them for each paper?

  1. List the results without explaining their significance, which is then explained in the discussion section.
  2. List the results with their explanation as they are being listed, and eliminate the discussion section.

I find the second approach more appropriate to understand the results, since the reader wouldn't need to be going back and forth the sections, but then again, that is just my feeling.

  • Hi Leon, I edited your question to remove the subjective aspect of it “Which practice do you think is better”… I think it fits our Q&A format better that way. Do not hesitate to edit further if you think I lost some of your original meaning. – F'x Oct 17 '12 at 9:18
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I must say that I would have a hard time listing the pros of the first approach (separate results and discussion sections), because I don't like it and it doesn't fit my style of writing. My advice would be: if you can, write in the style that you like best, because that's how your writing will be most natural/readable/convincing.

However, the choice is not Manichaean as you make it sound. There exist a continuum between those two, because it mainly depends on what you call “results” and “discussion”. When I write for a journal that requires a strict “results then discussion” format, what I usually do is that I put most of my text in the results part, and leave some general overall discussion for the discussion part. Typically, it would given something like:

Results

  • First result. Discuss its implications.
  • Second result. How it confirms result #1. Consistent with previous observations [ref].
  • Third result. Again, some discussion of it.

Discussion

Altogether, what is the insight given by these results. It changes our view of this phenomenon somewhat. It is in line with work by X et al., but highlights some contradictions of Y’s model.

That's a bit “cheating”, but I've never been asked to reörganize any paper written in that way.

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My post doc advisor has submitted a number of papers with the "Discussion" section renamed "Speculation". While the editor/reviewers have always required the section be renamed "Discussion", her approach rubbed off on me. By treating the Discussion section as if everything is speculation, it becomes clear what goes into the Discussion and what goes inot the results.

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