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Dissertations: Writing Chapters

Writing Chapters

As part of your dissertation you will find that you need to write different types of chapters. In this guide we take you through those types, how to structure them. how to write them and some dos and dont's. Click on the links below to jump to the section you need.

Writing a methodology chapter

Writing a results chapter

Writing a discussion chapter


Writing a Methodology Chapter

A well-written methodology chapter is essential in establishing the credibility and validity of your research, as it allows other researchers to reproduce your study and build upon your findings. In this guide, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to write a comprehensive and well-organized methodology chapter that will effectively communicate the methodology you used in your research. 

What is a dissertation methodology?
  • The methodology explains your methodological approach and explains what you did and how, and why.
  • The methodology section allows the reader to critically evaluate a study's overall credibility
  • The purpose is to give another researcher enough information to replicate the study and obtain similar results.
  • Methods and methodology are not synonyms (overarching approach vs  specific tools and procedures used to collect and analyse data).

The methodology chapter, as any other chapters of your dissertation except the introduction and conclusion chapters, consists of 3 main sections: introduction, main body and conclusion/summary.

  • Restate the research problem (What is the purpose of the chapter?)
  • Short description of the research design chosen (How are you dealing with the research problem?)
  • Outline the organisation and state the scope (What is included? How is the chapter organised?)
Main body
  • Research approach and strategy (What is your research approach/strategy? Why? How do you intend sampling your target population? Why?)
  • Data collection (How do you propose to collect your data? Why have you chosen to collect your data that way?)
  • Framework for data analysis (How are you going to analyse your findings?) 
  • Limitations and potential problems (What are the limitations or problems with your practical research? (e.g. limitations in your chosen strategy or problems getting access to your research subjects?) Have you faced the twin issues of validity and reliability? (That is, are the research choices you made appropriate and can your work be trusted? How does your research comply with the School ethics?) 
Conclusion or Summary
  • A summary of the key points.
  • Wider implications and further action (leads to your results chapter)

[Adapted from: Succeeding with your Master’s Dissertation: A step-by-step handbook]

The sections included in the main body depend on the type of research and the type of dissertation. For example:

  • In the traditional dissertation, it is commonly a separate chapter preceding the Results chapter.
  • In topic-based dissertations, the Methodology chapter might have a different title such as ‘Conducting Research’.
  • In experiment-based or dissertations by compilation, each study or experiment might contain its own methodology or methods section. 
Step 1: Explain your research design/approach

This commonly includes a restatement of the research aim(s), a justification of choice of research methods, overview of specific method(s) used.


Step 2: Explain your methods of data collection

This involves explaining how the research was conducted and how the data were obtained. It requires a detailed description of processes and procedures and a justification of the reasons for doing so. This might include describing:

  • How was the data collection tool designed
  • How participants were obtained and how was the sample drawn
  • The location in which the data collection took place
  • The themes covered during the data collection or any variables and measures
  • Any piloting, adjustments made and reasons behind those
  • Ethical considerations and any obstacles faced and how those were addressed

Step 3: Explain your methods of data analysis

This involves explaining how you processed and analysed the data. However, do not start discussing the results unless you are combining results and discussion into one chapter (commonly seen in qualitative research). For example, you might want to include:

  • How you prepared the data before analysis (e.g., checking for missing data, removing outliers)
  • The software used to analyse the data (e.g., SPSS, Atlas.ti)
  • The methods used to analyse the data (e.g., regression analysis, thematic analysis)

[Adapted from: AND Thesis and Dissertation Writing in a Second Language: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors

For more information on language used in methodology chapters have a look at our page Language used in dissertations

Do not: Instead:
Spend the bulk of your time describing a whole realm of research strategies.  Focus on describing your research strategy referring to your specific study.
Fail to justify your chosen research strategy. Justify why this strategy is the most appropriate to answer your RQs/aims.
Misunderstand the nature of qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods research.  Consider the objectives of your research project and determine which approach (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods) aligns best with your research questions, objectives, and data.
Produce a long descriptive monologue on the different ways that data can be collected. Identify, describe, and justify your data collection techniques.
Fail to provide detail on how data was analysed. Explain the step-by-step process of how you analysed your data.
Ignore limitations or potential problems     Outline limitations and potential problems, but emphasise why your work is valid and reliable or how those were litigated.
Fail to link methodology adequately to methodological literature.  Include in-text citations and references to justify the choice of methodology, methods, and processes.


Writing a Results Chapter

The results chapter is a crucial section of any piece of research, as it presents and interprets the findings obtained from the study. This chapter allows you to communicate the outcomes of your investigation, analyse the data, and draw meaningful conclusions. Crafting an effective results chapter requires careful planning, organization, and attention to detail. This guide aims to provide you with a step-by-step approach to writing a results chapter that effectively communicates your research findings.

  • The results section of your dissertation is where you report the findings of your study based upon the information gathered as a result of the methodology you applied.
  • The results section should simply state the findings, without bias or interpretation, and arranged in a logical sequence
  • The results section should always be written in the past tense
  • The page length of this section is set by the amount and types of data to be reported. Try to be concise and use non-textual elements.
  • Avoid providing data that is not critical to answering the research question(s). 

The results chapter, as any other chapters of your dissertation except the introduction and conclusion chapters, consists of 3 main sections: introduction, main body and conclusion/summary.


This might include:

  • A brief reminder of the methodological approach or methods.
  • A preview of the chapter: outline the organisation and state the scope (What is included? How is the chapter organised?)


Main Body

The order of results can vary.  Some suggestions are:

  • From most important to least important.
  • As a logical response to the research questions or problems you are trying to answer or solve.  
  • If you are using a range of methods or a number of experimental elements, group the method/procedure together with the relevant results. 
  • In quantitative research, the descriptive statistics are generally presented first, then the results of each of the hypotheses or research questions that were tested.
  • The information in the results section should be organised to show how the data tests the research questions or hypotheses, and should be presented sequentially to respond to each research question or hypothesis.


Conclusion or Chapter Summary

This might include:

  • A brief summary of the key results.
  • Signpost how these will be discussed in the following chapter (leads to your discussion chapter).


Describe the findings of the study, but do not start to interpret the results. This will take place in the discussion section, which comes next, unless you decide to combine results and discussion, which is common in qualitative research.

Presenting Qualitative Results
  • Structure your results around key themes.
  • For each theme, make general observations about what the data showed.
  • Support these points with direct quotations.
  • If possible, include a brief conclusion (‘so what?’) to the observation and highlight any links with other findings.
  • Repeat this process as many times as necessary.
  • Further information can be included in an appendix.


Presenting Quantitative Results
  • Structure your results around your research sub-questions.
  • For each sub-question, present the relevant results, including any statistical analysis you conducted, and briefly evaluate their significance. 
  • Highlight the most important trends, differences, and relationships among the data, but do not speculate on their meaning or consequences.
  • If you have results that are not directly relevant to answering your questions, or any extra information that will help the reader understand how you gathered the data, you can include them in an appendix.


The description of tables and figures in academic written texts commonly includes two different elements:

  • Location or summary statement: identifies the table or figure and indicates its content.
  • Highlighting statement or statements: point out and describe the relevant or significant data.


Dos and don'ts of using tables and figures
Do not:   Instead:
Include excessive or unnecessary tables and figures.   Only use tables and figures when absolutely necessary and to present complex data or detailed information.
Use tables or figures as a substitute for proper explanation and interpretation in the text. Refer to tables and figures within the text and discuss their significance.
Describe all the information on the table or figure. Provide a brief explanation of the relevant or significant data.
Include a table or figure without providing a label (e.g., Figure 15. Social Skills Frequencies) Put a label ABOVE for tables and BELOW for figures (e.g. diagrams, graphs, photographs). The label should describe in a few words the content of the table or figure.
Mix tables and figures.   Make sure that tables and figures are numbered sequentially. There should be two numbering series: one for tables and one for figures (e.g., Table 1, Table 2 AND Figure 1, Figure 2)
Include tables or figures without introducing them in the text or discussing them.  Place tables and figures immediately below the paragraph/relevant text.
Just ‘plonk’ a table or figure into your writing. You need to refer to its existence and relevance to your argument in the preceding text.  Refer to the table or figure by number in your writing (e.g., Table 6 shows that…; This can be seen in Figure 4)
Restructure data from an information source into another format (e.g. a graph, a flowchart) without referencing the author of your information.  Provide a reference to a source if the table or figure is from or adapted from an outside source. If you have created the table or image yourself from your own data collection, you must still use a number and label, but no reference is required.
Use poor-quality images or illegible fonts. Ensure that tables and figures are clear, legible, and visually appealing.

For more information on the language used in results chapters see the Language section of this guide.

You can use the checklist below to ensure your results chapter includes all relevant information:


Writing a Discussion Chapter

The discussion chapter of a dissertation is an essential component that showcases your ability to analyse and interpret your research findings, draw meaningful conclusions, and provide valuable insights into the broader academic and practical implications of your study. This guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive overview of how to write a compelling and well-structured discussion chapter that strengthens the overall impact of your dissertation.

What is a discussion chapter?
  • Explains what the results mean;
  • Interprets and discusses the data;
  • Compares it with other research (literature review);
  • Evaluates its importance;
  • Points out the limitations of your research;
  • Raises questions for future directions.
Includes Does not include
  • A summary of the key findings;
  • how these relate to your aims;
  • confirmation of your aims;
  • comparison with theory/previous research;
  • explanation of unexpected results;
  • significance;
  • limitations/future directions
  •  Anything that is not in the Results section;
  • results that are less significant:
  • results that do not relate directly to or confirm your aims/hypotheses;
  • tables and diagrams (usually: they belong in the Results section).

Tip: When writing your discussion chapter, you might want to revisit your literature review chapter and ensure that the relevant literature included in this chapter has been already presented in the Literature Review.

The discussion chapter, as any other chapters of your dissertation except the introduction and conclusion chapters, consists of 3 main sections: introduction, main body and conclusion/summary.

  • Brief reminder of the overall results.
  • Outline the organisation and state the scope (What is included? How is the chapter organised?)
Main body  
  • There are a few ways in which you might want to structure the main body of your discussion:
  • Responding to the aims/research questions in the order that they are stated in your Introduction chapter/ Methodology chapter.
  • Starting with the most significant results, comment on them and work your way down to the least significant.
  • Following the pattern outlined in the previous section:
    • A summary of the key findings;
    • how these relate to your aims;
    • confirmation of your aims;
    • comparison with theory/previous research;
    • explanation of unexpected results;
    • significance;
    • limitations/future directions.
Conclusion or Summary 
  •  A summary of the key points.
  • Wider implications and further action (leads to your conclusion chapter).

[Adapted from: Succeeding with your Master’s Dissertation: A step-by-step handbook]

Your discussion should focus on explaining and evaluating your findings, displaying their connection to the previous literature (i.e., your literature review) and research questions, as well as presenting a persuasive argument to support your overall conclusion. 
While there are many different ways to write this section, you can focus your discussion around three key aspects:

  • Interpretations: What is the meaning behind the results?
  • Implications: Why do the results matter? Why are the results relevant?
  • Limitations: What can’t the results tell us? What are the constraints or limitations of the results in terms of what they can reveal?

This can be done following the 5 steps below:

Step 1: Summarise your findings

You can begin this section by reiterating your research problem and providing a succinct overview of your main findings. Do not just repeat all the data that you have already reported in the previous chapter, instead present a clear statement that directly addresses your research questions.

Step 2: Interpret your findings

While the significance of your results may appear apparent to you, it is crucial to explicitly articulate their importance for your reader by demonstrating how they directly address your research question. The manner in which you interpret the data will vary depending on the type of research conducted. However, some common approaches to interpreting the data include:

  • Recognizing correlations, patterns, and relationships within the data
  • Analysing whether the results align with your expectations or support your hypotheses
  • Placing your findings within the context of prior research and established theories
  • Elucidating unexpected results and assessing their significance
  • Considering alternative explanations and presenting a compelling argument in favour of your position.

Step 3: Place your findings in context (literature review)

A helpful way to place your findings within context and identifying how your findings agree or disagree with the previous literature is to use a summary table such as the one below:

Result from your study                                 Previous Literature                                                                                                                                                              Discussion – How do the results and previous literature agree or disagree? Why could this be? So what?
Single essays and exams less accurate than multiple  
  • students take a surface learning approach as opposed to a more in-depth approach when completing written assignments (Dang et al., 2022)
  • students get little or no feedback (Race, 2015).     
incorporating frequent and a variety of assessments with timely feedback could enhance student learning outcomes and improve the accuracy of assessments

This can result in a paragraph like:
The importance of timely feedback in block has also been stressed by students and faculty as one of the reasons as to why single assessments at the end of the module, and more specifically exams, are the least accurate method in block delivery. Although exams were considered by some participants as necessary in certain disciplines, participants agreed that this assessment type does not show knowledge depth as indicated by Dang et al. (2022) and students might receive limited or no feedback as highlighted by Race (2015). Therefore, incorporating frequent and a variety of assessments with timely feedback into block delivery could enhance student learning outcomes and improve the accuracy of assessments.

Step 4: Acknowledge the limitations

Every piece of research has limitations and acknowledging these is crucial for establishing the credibility of the study. The purpose of discussing these limitations is not to highlight errors, but rather to provide an accurate understanding of the conclusions that can and cannot be drawn from the study, as well as to highlight further areas for research on the topic. Limitations might relate to your research design, methodological choices, or unforeseen challenges encountered during the research process. Here are some examples:

  • If the sample size was small or limited to a specific group of individuals, it is necessary to explain how the generalizability of the findings is constrained.
  • If difficulties were encountered during data collection or analysis, it is important to elucidate how these challenges might have impacted the results.
  • If there are potential confounding variables that could not be controlled, it is essential to acknowledge the potential effects they might have had.


[Adapted from:]

For more information on the language used in discussions, have a look at our Language used in dissertations guide

Dos  Don’ts
  • Do provide a clear and concise summary of your main findings and results.
  • Do relate your findings back to your research objectives and research questions.
  • Do interpret your results and explain their significance in the context of existing literature and theories.
  • Do discuss the implications of your findings and their potential impact on the field of study.
  • Do consider alternative explanations or interpretations of your results and address them appropriately.
  • Do identify any limitations or weaknesses in your study and explain how they may have influenced your results.
  • Do propose areas for future research that can build upon your study and address its limitations.
  • Do demonstrate critical thinking and analytical skills by engaging in a thoughtful and balanced discussion of your findings.
  • Do use clear and logical organization to present your ideas, using subheadings if necessary.
  • Do use evidence and references to support your arguments and interpretations.    
  • Don't introduce new results or data that were not previously discussed in the results section.
  • Don't overgeneralize or make unsupported claims based on your findings.
  • Don't ignore contradictory or unexpected results; instead, address them and provide possible explanations.
  • Don't focus solely on the limitations of your study; also discuss its strengths and contributions.
  • Don't be overly repetitive or redundant; avoid restating information already presented in earlier sections.
  • Don't make broad statements without providing specific evidence or examples.
  • Don't engage in personal biases or unsupported opinions; maintain an objective and scholarly tone.
  • Don't neglect to relate your findings to the broader theoretical and practical implications.
  • Don't overlook the importance of synthesizing and integrating your findings with the existing literature.
  • Don't rush through the discussion chapter; take the time to carefully analyse and present your findings in a clear and thoughtful manner.


Journal of Suffolk Student Research

The Journal of Suffolk Student Research is an online academic journal, dedicated to the publication of high-quality undergraduate and postgraduate student research undertaken by University of Suffolk students. The journal will showcase the most outstanding student research undertaken at the University of Suffolk. It aims to promote and recognise this outstanding student research by offering valuable early experience of academic publishing and the peer review process. 

Find out more here