Every scientist is thinking about impact. According to manuscript consultant Katiana Bougouma, the discussion section is where you have the greatest opportunity to amplify your scientific impact. Here’s her six keys to a high impact discussion section, in brief:
- Connect to something your readers care about
- Inspire future work
- Transparently share limitations
- Claim potentially conflicting conclusions
Your discussion section is where you can make the most impact, showing your readers why they should care and what to do next. It’s also an opportunity to show off your expertise and contribute your own novel ideas to the world’s existing body of knowledge. Getting it right can be challenging – but we’re here for you! Read on for our manuscript consultant Katiana Bougouma‘s 6 key components of an impactful discussion:
1- Connect to something your readers care about
Your results section is a (sometimes dull) statement of your findings. Your discussion allows you to excite your readers with the value of your work. Clearly explain how your research moves the scientific community from the understanding of the issues before your research to a new more informed understanding of these issues based on your results.
Place your findings in the context of literature gaps. This gives you the space to assess your initial research question and/or hypothesis based on your findings. Be sure to: 1- highlight the potential implications of key results, 2- emphasize what aspects of the research topic your non-significant, but not insignificant results may clarify, and 3- expand on unexpected findings and what they might suggest.
Flex your persuasive writing skills to demonstrate to the reader the strengths of your arguments, while also highlighting the weaknesses of contrary opinions in the literature.
This gets your readers on board with your conclusions and increases your chances of publication and subsequent impact, whether your findings align with existing literature or break away in discovery. Importantly, don’t convey an apologetic tone about your expert opinion. State your position as clearly and objectively as if you were simply reporting on someone else’s.
4- Inspire future work
Real impact happens when your findings lead to action. Your discussion section is your chance to inspire future research. Maximize your chances of impact by recommending how the reader might explore the topic further and suggesting the next practical steps that incorporate this new knowledge.
5- Transparently share limitations
Clearly stating the limitations of your study increases your credibility as an expert in the field. This is often the best way to establish trust with your readers, particularly peer reviewers and other field experts who are bound to assess your methods critically. Establish your authority by mentioning all the potential methodological limitations that could affect the validity of your findings, including those you may have already accounted for in your results, and postulating at how the implications could change, were any of them to be the case.
6- Claim potentially conflicting conclusions
Would others draw different conclusions from your findings? If so, pre-empt this by discussing alternate conclusions and their respective merits or lack thereof. Again, this increases your credibility by road-testing the evidence base for your interpretation in front of your readers.
Your manuscript’s discussion section is your big opportunity to move from the dry reporting of findings to a more personal expression of your opinion as an expert in the field. By leveraging the six components of an impactful discussion, you’ll delve into the meaning, importance, and relevance of your research for future advancements, while also building your credibility as an expert. Apply these insights and watch your academic writing go to the next level!