How to write a good discussion section

The layout of the discussion section typically follows a strict template so that you will write a discussion section in exactly the same way every time you write an original article.

The first section should contain what we normally call “basic findings”. This is a short summary of the results of the study without numbers and without p-values. This is a service to the reader since many will read the first paragraph as one of the first sections in the article and thereby they will immediately get the main results of the study.

The second and third paragraphs (and sometimes the fourth) will discuss the article’s primary and secondary outcomes, respectively. This is where you put your results in relation to what already exist in the literature. Remember to split it distinctly so that the primary outcome is only dealt with in the second paragraph in the discussion section and the secondary outcomes only in the third and maybe fourth paragraphs in the discussion.

The next paragraph will typically be strengths and limitations. Remember also to include the strengths and not only the study limitations. The study limitations must of course be honest and outline the main limitations of your study. It is probably a bad idea to be too complete and include all thoughts of greater or lesser importance. Include only the most important limitations. All studies can be criticized to the smallest detail, so in order not to tire the reader with all sorts of details here it is OK just to go through the main and most obvious limitations.

The next section is typically a paragraph with perspectives. Here you put your results in international perspective - how they can be implemented in everyday clinical practice and what impact it will have on patients both in your own area and also internationally.

Finally, the article's conclusion is put in the final paragraph in the discussion section. Typically, the conclusion will say something about that additional studies are required or you may have solved the mystery and thereby provided a final conclusion.

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© 2016 by Jacob Rosenberg