AWAL: Results/findings


The term ‘results’ or ‘findings’ can describe the outcomes of research as well as the analysis of a literature review. As a section of an extended research text such as a dissertation or research article, results/findings often initially describe what the data show (Hahn Fox & Jennings, 2014). For example, in Pieretti et al.’s (2011) quantitative study of an avian community’s soundscape, the results section reports on the number of bird “vocalizations” the researchers identified:

A total of 30,758 vocalizations pertaining to 13 species were counted during the three recording sessions [on specific dates], as shown in Table 1. The detailed descriptions of the birds’ singing activity at each station is [sic] reported in Appendices A, B and C.

Recording sites three and eight were the most active in terms of songs during the 10th June recording session (2099 and 1604 songs, respectively), as were the seventh and fourth sites on 28th June (1678 and 1090 songs) and the eleventh and sixth sites on 19th July (988 and 971 songs). (p. 871)

This example does not discuss the significance of these results, but covers those points in the discussion. In other disciplines the results/findings section encompasses that content by providing analytic findings, particularly in fields that use theory as a lens for data analysis. In those cases, authors discuss the notions from a theoretical frameworkthat enabled them to develop the analytic findings.

Although people talk about ‘writing up’ the results/findings of a study, writing often begins before data collection and continues through the project. Such writing can involve making notes about research methods, emerging analyses, and ideas and inspiration, captured in researcher journals, spreadsheets, or laboratory notebooks (Hanauer, 2014). Qualitative data analysis also usually involves writing memos about the research process as well as the emerging findings (Emerson et al., 2011).

Variations and Tensions

Particularly in qualitative research, the significance of findings is often first discussed as findings are presented, then again in the discussion and conclusion (Swales & Feak, 2012). Some academic texts combine the results and discussion sections. For example, in Leenstra et al.’s (2014) study of hens’ egg-laying performance, the “Results and discussion” section (p. 3) presents the data collected from three sources in three tables, and discusses the significance of results from each data source separately.

Longer results/findings sections may include subheadings. In terms of language, past tense verbs are typically used to report results/findings, with the simple present often used to discuss their significance (American Psychological Association, 2020).

Graduate Student Voice

My qualitative dissertation includes two findings chapters. I started each by presenting the findings descriptively then supported my analytic claims with extracts from the data. I interpreted my claims by drawing on theoretical lenses and connecting my findings to the literature. —Mahmoud Altalouli

Reflection Questions

  1. How are verb tenses used in results/findings sections in your discipline? Do you see other changes in language use within or across sections?
  2. Where do texts in your discipline discuss the significance of results/findings? Does this practice vary across genres?

For Further Reading

Graduate (n.d.). Writing the results/findings section. This webpage discusses the organization of the results/findings section and its elements.

Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2012). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills (3rd ed.). University of Michigan Press. The section, “Results Sections” (pp. 305-326), discusses the difference between results and discussion sections and describes the common structure of the results section.


American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). American Psychological Association.

Emerson, R. M., Fretz, R. I., & Shaw, L. L. (2011). Writing ethnographic fieldnotes (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press.

Hahn Fox, B., & Jennings, W. G. (2014). How to write a methodology and results section for empirical research. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 25(2), 137–156.

Hanauer, D. I. (2014). A genre analysis of student microbiology laboratory notebooks. In M. J. Curry & D. I. Hanauer (Eds.), Language, literacy, and learning in STEM education: Research methods and perspectives from applied linguistics (pp. 27–42). John Benjamins.

Leenstra, F., Maurer, V., Galea, F., Bestman, M., Amsler-Kepalaite, Z., Visscher, J., Vermeij, I., & van Krimpen, M. (2014). Laying hen performance in different production systems; why do they differ and how to close the gap? Results of discussions with groups of farmers in the Netherlands, Switzerland and France, benchmarking and model calculations. European Poultry Science, 78, 1–10.

Pieretti, N., Farina, A., & Morri, D. (2011). A new methodology to infer the singing activity of an avian community: The Acoustic Complexity Index (ACI). Ecological Indicators, 11(3), 868–873.

Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2012). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills (3rd ed.). University of Michigan Press.

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