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VI. Present Your Results or Findings

May 31, 2016 by Kathryn Betts Adams

In manuscripts reporting quantitative results, there is a fairly standard order of reporting findings from your analyses in a separate section usually titled Results or Findings.  The order is based on a common-sense approach to reporting data, starting with single variable descriptions of the sample and the main study variables, then two-variable or bivariate analyses such as correlations, and finally to multivariate equations, those that involve many variables at once.

So, following that plan, you will describe the sample in some specifics at the start of your Results section. Usually, it is helpful to create a table that contains information about the sample’s characteristics and the frequencies or mean values and standard deviations of the major variables of interest. When your sample consists of human individuals, the reader needs to know the number in the sample (the N), the age range and mean/standard deviation, gender distribution, racial and/or ethnic distributions, and then any other variables that are particularly relevant to the particular study, which might include marital status, occupation, education, health characteristics, and so on. You also need to show these basic descriptive statistics for any variables that will appear in your later analyses. As a reader, I find it very frustrating to see a variable in the literature review, in the current study description, and in a regression analysis, but omitted from a descriptive table. If your analysis compares two or more groups, you will need to give these descriptive values for each group separately. Try not to load up a paragraph of text with too much reporting of this sort of detailed numeric data, however; share everything in a table to save space and make the text flow better. That said, you should also include a few important facts about your sample in the first paragraph of text in your results section to allow the reader to continue reading through without referring to the table.

Because you have already included an analytic plan above in the Methods section, you will not belabor the technical aspects of your analyses here, nor should you repeat anything you wrote earlier. Nevertheless, you will need to describe anything about the data that had to be handled for the analyses, such as how much missing data you had and what method you used to replace it, any composite variables you created, and any necessary criteria for statistical equations that you tested.

Whether to include a full table of the bivariate correlations is somewhat optional and may not be needed in a simpler study where there are only a few variables of interest. In that case, correlations might be reported in the text rather than in a table. If you do include a correlation table, then you will refer to it in your text and note only the most interesting results in writing.

After you have reported the descriptive variables about your sample, and any correlations, the Findings section should exactly parallel your research questions, hypotheses, or theoretical model from earlier in your manuscript. The order of variables or relationships reported should be the same as these were listed earlier. In the text, you should report the outcomes of these analyses as clearly as possible in a way that de-emphasizes statistical terminology, i.e., write the description in such a way that the reader can interpret what the results mean at the most basic level. Particularly if you have the statistics displayed in a table, you can use the most straightforward words for the variables in your analysis. And always give the directionality of results that you report. For instance, rather than writing: “Gender was significantly related to salary,” which does not fully explain the result, it is better to write: “Women’s salaries were significantly lower than those of their male peers.”  The second example is very clear and does not require the reader to check the table to see which direction the analysis went and what the result said in terms of whose salary was lower.

After presenting the results that pertain to a research question, it is appropriate to note in the text within this section, “Thus, Hypothesis 1 was not supported.”  Or include a clause after your result something like this: “… answering our first research question.”

If things are not so straightforward, leave your points till the Discussion section. Beyond a matter-of-fact, unbiased reporting of the results that you promised earlier in the Current Study section, you should not interpret, compare or in any way discuss the findings in the Findings section. Keep this section to the presentation of your findings without comment or elaboration.

  • Sue says:

    Oct 19, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks for this, I am a psychology student at a university in California and I had always wondered about this for my papers and such. I will print this out and have it with me every time I am writing a paper.

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