What is the Results section and what does it do?
The Results section of a scientific research paper represents the core findings of a study derived from the methods applied to gather and analyze information. It presents these findings in a logical sequence without bias or interpretation from the author, setting up the reader for later interpretation and evaluation in the Discussion section. A major purpose of the Results section is to break down the data into sentences that show its significance to the research question(s).
The Results section appears third in the section sequence in most scientific papers. It follows the presentation of the Methods and Materials and is presented before the Discussion section—although the Results and Discussion are presented together in many journals. This section answers the basic question “What did you find in your research?”
What is included in the Results?
The Results section should include the findings of your study and ONLY the findings of your study. The findings include:
If the scope of the study is broad or has many variables, or if the methodology used yields a wide range of different results, the author should state only those results that are most relevant to the research question stated in the Introduction section.
As a general rule, any information that does not present the direct findings or outcome of the study should be left out of this section. Unless the author is requested by the journal or advisor to included Results and Discussions together, explanations and interpretations of these results should be omitted from the Results.
How are the results organized?
The best way to organize your Results section is “logically.” One logical and clear method of organizing the results is to provide them alongside the research questions—within each research question, present the type of data that addresses that research question.
Let’s look at an example. Your research question is based on a survey:
“What do hospital patients over age 55 think about postoperative care?”
This can actually be represented as a heading within your paper, though it might be presented as a statement rather than a question:
“Figure 1: Attitudes towards postoperative care in patients over the age of 55.”
Present the results that address this specific research question first. In this case, perhaps a table illustrating data from a survey. Likert Items are included in this example. Other tables might include standard deviations, probability, matrices, etc.
Following this, present a content analysis of one end of the spectrum of the survey or data table. In our example case, start with the POSITIVE survey responses regarding postoperative care, using descriptive phrases. For example:
“65% of patients over 55 responded positively to the question ‘Are you satisfied with your hospital’s postoperative care?’(Fig. 2)
Include other data such as frequency counts, subcategories, and rich quotes for each category. The amount of textual description used will depend on how much interpretation of the figures is necessary and how many examples the reader needs to read in order to understand the significance of these findings.
Next, present a content analysis of another part of the spectrum of the same research question, perhaps the NEGATIVE or NEUTRAL responses to the survey. For instance:
“As Figure 1 shows, 15 out of 60 patients in Group A responded negatively to Question 2.”
After you have assessed the data in one figure and explained it sufficiently, move onto your next research question. For example:
“How does patient satisfaction correspond to in-hospital improvements made to postoperative care?”
This kind of data may be presented through a figure or set of figures (for instance, a paired T-test table).
Explain this data in this table with a concise content analysis:
“The p-value between the before and after sets of patients was .03% (Fig. 2). The greater the dissatisfaction of patients, the more frequent the improvements to postoperative care.”
Let’s examine another example of a Results section from an experiment. In the Introduction section, the aims of the study are presented as “determining the physiological and morphological responses of Allium cepta L. towards increased cadmium toxicity” and “evaluating its potential to accumulate the metal and its associated environmental consequences.” The Results section presents data showing how these aims are achieved in both tables and content analysis, beginning with an overview of the findings:
“Cadmium caused inhibition of roots and leaves elongation particularly with increasing effects at higher exposure doses (Fig. 1a-c).”
The figure containing this data is cited in parentheses. Note that this author has included three graphs in one single figure. Separating the data into separate graphs makes it easier for the reader to assess the findings, and consolidating this information into one figure saves space and makes it easy to locate all of the most relevant results.
Following this overall summary, the relevant data in the tables is broken down into greater detail.
“Results on the bio-accumulation of cadmium were found to be the highest (17.5 mg kgG1) in the bulb, when the concentration of cadmium in the solution was 1×10G2 M and lowest (0.11 mg kgG1) in the leaves when the concentration was 1×10G3 M.”
Captioning and Referencing Tables and Figures
As the hard data yielded by your study, tables and figures are central components of your Results section. Therefore, it is crucial to know how to caption the figures and refer to them within the text of the Results section.
The most important advice one can give here as well as throughout the paper is to check the requirements and standards of the journal to which you are submitting your work. Every journal has its own design and layout standards; perusing a journal’s articles will give you an idea of the proper number, size, and complexity of your figures.
Regardless of which format you use, the figures should be placed in the order they are referenced in the Results section and be as clear and easy to understand as possible. If there are multiple variables being considered (within one or more research questions), it can be a good idea to split these up into separate figures. Subsequently, these can be referenced and analyzed under separate headings and paragraphs in the text.
To create a caption, consider the research question being asked and change it into a phrase. For instance, if one question is “Which color did participants choose?” the caption might be “Color choice by participant group.” Or in our research paper example, where the question is “What is the concentration of cadmium in different parts of the onion after 14 days?” the caption reads:
“Fig. 1(a-c): Mean concentration of Cd determined in (a) Bulbs, (b) Leaves and (c) Roots of onion after 14 days period.”
Steps for Composing the Results Section
Because each study is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to designing a strategy for structuring and writing the section of a research paper where findings are presented. The content and layout of this section will be determined by the specific area of research, the design of the study and its particular methodologies, and the guidelines of the target journal and its editors. However, the following steps can be used to compose the results of most scientific research studies and are essential for researchers who are new to preparing a manuscript for publication or who need a reminder of how to construct the Results section.
Step 1: Consult the guidelines or instructions that the target journal or publisher provides authors and read research papers it has published, especially those with similar topics, methods, or results to your study.
Step 2: Consider your research results in relation to the journal’s requirements and catalogue your results.
Step 3: Design figures and tables to present and illustrate your data.
Step 4: Draft your Results section using the findings and figures you have organized.
Step 5: Review your draft; edit and revise until it reports results exactly as you would like to have them reported to your readers.
One excellent option is to use a professional academic editing service such as Wordvice. With hundreds of qualified editors from dozens of scientific fields, Wordvice has helped thousands of authors revise their manuscripts and get accepted into their target journals.
As the representation of your study’s data output, the Results section presents the core information in your research paper. By writing with clarity and conciseness and by highlighting and explaining the crucial findings of your study, authors increase the impact and effectiveness of their research manuscripts.
For more articles and videos on writing your research manuscript, visit Wordvice’s Resources page.
Guide for Authors. (Elsevier)
How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper. (Bates College)
Structure of a Research Paper. (University of Minnesota Biomedical Library)
How to Choose a Target Journal (Springer)
How to Write Figures and Tables (UNC Writing Center)
Orsuamaeze Blessings, Adebayo Alaba Joseph and Oguntimehin Ilemobayo Ifedayo, 2018. Deleterious effects of cadmium solutions on onion (Allium cepa) growth and the plant’s potential as bioindicator of Cd exposure. Res. J. Environ. Sci., 12: 114-120. Online: http://docsdrive.com/pdfs/academicjournals/rjes/2018/114-120.pdf