- Writing the Results Section for a Research Paper
- What is included in the Results?
- How are the results organized?
- Captioning and Referencing Tables and Figures
- Steps for Composing 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 to have them reported to your readers
- Research Paper Structure
- Major Sections of a Research Paper in APA Style
- Variations of Research Papers in APA Style
- Departures from APA Style
- Workshops and Downloadable Resources
- Further Resources
- Prepared by S. C. Pan for UCSD Psychology
- Figure 1. Mean (SE) number of additional happy compared with sad words (within subjects) recalled under two types of background music (between subjects)
- Sample ANOVA: 2×2 with one between and one within
Writing the Results Section for a Research Paper
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:
- Data presented in tables, charts, graphs, and other figures (may be placed among research text or on a separate page)
- A contextual analysis of this data explaining its meaning in sentence form
- Report on data collection, recruitment, and/or participants
- Data that corresponds to the central research question(s)
- Secondary findings (secondary outcomes, subgroup analyses, etc.)
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 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 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. rt 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 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?”
Data presented through a paired T-test table
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.Data from multiple graphs can be placed into one figure to consolidate results.
Data from multiple graphs can be placed into one figure to consolidate 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 lay 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
- The guidelines will generally outline specific requirements for the results or findings section, and the published articles will provide sound examples of successful approaches.
- Note length limitations on restrictions on content. For instance, while many journals require the Results and Discussion sections to be separate, others do not—qualitative research papers often include results and interpretations in the same section (“Results and Discussion”).
- Reading the aims and scope in the journal’s “guide for authors” section and understanding the interests of its readers will be invaluable in preparing to write the Results section.
Step 2: Consider your research results in relation to the journal’s requirements and catalogue your results
- Focus on experimental results and other findings that are especially relevant to your research questions and objectives and include them even if they are unexpected or do not support your ideas and hypotheses.
- Catalogue your findings—use subheadings to streamline and clarify your report. This will help you avoid excessive and peripheral details as you write and also help your reader understand and remember your findings. Create appendices that might interest specialists but prove too long or distracting for other readers.
- Decide how you will structure of your results. You might match the order of the research questions and hypotheses to your results, or you could arrange them according to the order presented in the Methods section. A chronological order or even a hierarchy of importance or meaningful grouping of main themes or categories might prove effective. Consider your audience, evidence, and most importantly, the objectives of your research when choosing a structure for presenting your findings.
Step 3: Design figures and tables to present and illustrate your data
- Tables and figures should be numbered according to the order in which they are mentioned in the main text of the paper.
- Information in figures should be relatively self-explanatory (with the aid of captions), and their design should include all definitions and other information necessary for readers to understand the findings without reading all of the text.
- Use tables and figures as a focal point to tell a clear and informative story about your research and avoid repeating information. But remember that while figures clarify and enhance the text, they cannot replace it.
Step 4: Draft your Results section using the findings and figures you have organized
- The goal is to communicate this complex information as clearly and precisely as possible; precise and compact phrases and sentences are most effective.
- In the opening paragraph of this section, restate your research questions or aims to focus the reader’s attention to what the results are trying to show. It is also a good idea to summarize key findings at the end of this section to create a logical transition to the interpretation and discussion that follows.
- Try to write in the past tense and the active voice to relay the findings since the research has already been done and the agent is usually clear. This will ensure that your explanations are also clear and logical.
- Make sure that any specialized terminology or abbreviation you have used here has been defined and clarified in the Introduction section.
Step 5: Review your draft; edit and revise until it reports results exactly as you would to have them reported to your readers
- Double-check the accuracy and consistency of all the data, as well as all of the visual elements included.
- Read your draft aloud to catch language errors (grammar, spelling, and mechanics), awkward phrases, and missing transitions.
- Ensure that your results are presented in the best order to focus on objectives and prepare readers for interpretations, valuations, and recommendations in the Discussion section. Look back over the paper’s Introduction and background while anticipating the Discussion and Conclusion sections to ensure that the presentation of your results is consistent and effective.
- Consider seeking additional guidance on your paper. Find additional readers to look over your Results section and see if it can be improved in any way. Peers, professors, or qualified experts can provide valuable insights.
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. Read more about the proofreading and editing process before proceeding with language editing for your manuscript.
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.
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
Research Paper Structure
Whether you are writing a B.S. Degree Research Paper or completing a research report for a Psychology course, it is highly ly that you will need to organize your research paper in accordance with American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines. Here we discuss the structure of research papers according to APA style.
Major Sections of a Research Paper in APA Style
A complete research paper in APA style that is reporting on experimental research will typically contain a Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References sections.
1 Many will also contain Figures and Tables and some will have an Appendix or Appendices.
These sections are detailed as follows (for a more in-depth guide, please refer to «How to Write a Research Paper in APA Style”, a comprehensive guide developed by Prof. Emma Geller).2
What is this paper called and who wrote it? – the first page of the paper; this includes the name of the paper, a “running head”, authors, and institutional affiliation of the authors.
The institutional affiliation is usually listed in an Author Note that is placed towards the bottom of the title page.
In some cases, the Author Note also contains an acknowledgment of any funding support and of any individuals that assisted with the research project.
One-paragraph summary of the entire study – typically no more than 250 words in length (and in many cases it is well shorter than that), the Abstract provides an overview of the study.
What is the topic and why is it worth studying? – the first major section of text in the paper, the Introduction commonly describes the topic under investigation, summarizes or discusses relevant prior research (for related details, please see the Writing Literature Reviews section of this website), identifies unresolved issues that the current research will address, and provides an overview of the research that is to be described in greater detail in the sections to follow.
What did you do? – a section which details how the research was performed.
It typically features a description of the participants/subjects that were involved, the study design, the materials that were used, and the study procedure.
If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Methods section. A rule of thumb is that the Methods section should be sufficiently detailed for another researcher to duplicate your research.
What did you find? – a section which describes the data that was collected and the results of any statistical tests that were performed. It may also be prefaced by a description of the analysis procedure that was used. If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Results section.
What is the significance of your results? – the final major section of text in the paper.
The Discussion commonly features a summary of the results that were obtained in the study, describes how those results address the topic under investigation and/or the issues that the research was designed to address, and may expand upon the implications of those findings. Limitations and directions for future research are also commonly addressed.
List of articles and any books cited – an alphabetized list of the sources that are cited in the paper (by last name of the first author of each source).
Each reference should follow specific APA guidelines regarding author names, dates, article titles, journal titles, journal volume numbers, page numbers, book publishers, publisher locations, websites, and so on (for more information, please see the Citing References in APA Style page of this website).
Graphs and data (optional in some cases) – depending on the type of research being performed, there may be Tables and/or Figures (however, in some cases, there may be neither). In APA style, each Table and each Figure is placed on a separate page and all Tables and Figures are included after the References.
Tables are included first, followed by Figures. However, for some journals and undergraduate research papers (such as the B.S.
Research Paper or Honors Thesis), Tables and Figures may be embedded in the text (depending on the instructor’s or editor’s policies; for more details, see «Deviations from APA Style» below).
Supplementary information (optional) – in some cases, additional information that is not critical to understanding the research paper, such as a list of experiment stimuli, details of a secondary analysis, or programming code, is provided. This is often placed in an Appendix.
Variations of Research Papers in APA Style
Although the major sections described above are common to most research papers written in APA style, there are variations on that pattern. These variations include:
- Literature reviews – when a paper is reviewing prior published research and not presenting new empirical research itself (such as in a review article, and particularly a qualitative review), then the authors may forgo any Methods and Results sections. Instead, there is a different structure such as an Introduction section followed by sections for each of the different aspects of the body of research being reviewed, and then perhaps a Discussion section.
- Multi-experiment papers – when there are multiple experiments, it is common to follow the Introduction with an Experiment 1 section, itself containing Methods, Results, and Discussion subsections. Then there is an Experiment 2 section with a similar structure, an Experiment 3 section with a similar structure, and so on until all experiments are covered. Towards the end of the paper there is a General Discussion section followed by References. Additionally, in multi-experiment papers, it is common for the Results and Discussion subsections for individual experiments to be combined into single “Results and Discussion” sections.
Departures from APA Style
In some cases, official APA style might not be followed (however, be sure to check with your editor, instructor, or other sources before deviating from standards of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association). Such deviations may include:
- Placement of Tables and Figures – in some cases, to make reading through the paper easier, Tables and/or Figures are embedded in the text (for example, having a bar graph placed in the relevant Results section). The embedding of Tables and/or Figures in the text is one of the most common deviations from APA style (and is commonly allowed in B.S. Degree Research Papers and Honors Theses; however you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first).
- Incomplete research – sometimes a B.S. Degree Research Paper in this department is written about research that is currently being planned or is in progress. In those circumstances, sometimes only an Introduction and Methods section, followed by References, is included (that is, in cases where the research itself has not formally begun). In other cases, preliminary results are presented and noted as such in the Results section (such as in cases where the study is underway but not complete), and the Discussion section includes caveats about the in-progress nature of the research. Again, you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first.
- Class assignments – in some classes in this department, an assignment must be written in APA style but is not exactly a traditional research paper (for instance, a student asked to write about an article that they read, and to write that report in APA style). In that case, the structure of the paper might approximate the typical sections of a research paper in APA style, but not entirely. You should check with your instructor for further guidelines.
Workshops and Downloadable Resources
- For in-person discussion of the process of writing research papers, please consider attending this department’s “Writing Research Papers” workshop (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar).
- How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [PDF]
- Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [PDF]
- Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – empirical research) [PDF]
- Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [PDF]
- Writing Research Paper Videos
APA Journal Article Reporting Guidelines
- Appelbaum, M., Cooper, H., Kline, R. B., Mayo-Wilson, E., Nezu, A. M., & Rao, S. M. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for quantitative research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report. American Psychologist, 73(1), 3.
- Levitt, H. M., Bamberg, M., Creswell, J. W., Frost, D. M., Josselson, R., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for qualitative primary, qualitative meta-analytic, and mixed methods research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report. American Psychologist, 73(1), 26.
Prepared by S. C. Pan for UCSD Psychology
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Figure 1. Mean (SE) number of additional happy compared with sad words (within subjects) recalled under two types of background music (between subjects)
Remember that everything that appears in the results section should be foreshadowed in the Introduction and Methods sections. The comparisons you make should be clear from your hypotheses.
Any scores you use should be clear from your descriptions of materials or procedure. Any demographic data you choose to explore (or included in your hypotheses) should be described under Participants.
You must use APA style.
Start with descriptives. Move to comparisons. Continue with any exploratory analyses. Report statistics to two decimal places only. Report the direction of difference (what is greater or less than what).
Illustrate what is clarified by illustration if it is a significant finding. Summarize in a table if it is helpful. The example below is totally fabricated. The numbers are not real, and do not add up. The single spacing is not APA style.
Consult your text book for additional examples.
Note especially that the graph inserted (Figure 1) has nothing to do with anything. I couldn't get an appropriate graph to work, and so just used this because it does a good job of communicating information AND it has everything labeled.
Sample ANOVA: 2×2 with one between and one within
Descriptive statistics are summarized in Table 1. These data were examined using a 2×2 ANOVA with one between (type of background music) and one within factor (affective tone of words).
The main effect for music was significant (F (1, 38) = 4.27; p < .05) with participants in the happy music condition recalling more words than those for whom sad music was played in the background.
The effect for word type within subject was not significant (F (1, 38) = 1.07; n.s.)
Table 1. Words (M (SD)) recalled by background music and type of word (N = 40)
Type of Music
Sad Words 27.65 (9.89) 32.25 (10.88)
Happy Words 26.75 (10.33) 34.25 (9.11)
A significant interaction effect emerged for the type of background music and affective tone of the target words (F (1, 38) = 9.85; p < .01). Participants, on average, recalled more words when the emotional valence of the background music matched the emotional valence of the words as illustrated in Figure 1.
In an exploratory analysis, the contribution of gender of the participant and degree of musical training were examined. Females tended to recall more words than males overall (t (18) = 2.20 p < .
10); however, there were no effects of gender when all a 2x2x2 ANOVA tested for gender, type of music, and type of word.
When the number of years of musical training was entered as a covariate, the significance of the main findings did not change.
· Label all figures and tables appropriately.
· Put any necessary data reduction information (e.g., how you created composite variables using means or sums—reducing from 80 individual variables to 2 composites) and any reliability information (for those of you coding responses for a type of content originality, fluency, or frequency) in Methods where you are discussing the instruments you use.
· Do put statistical sentences and interpretations in the results.
· Do not try to convey the results of multivariate tests that you do not understand at a level beyond which you should be expected (e.g., covariate analyses). Keep that part of the report simple.
· When you have a within subject variable, the thing you are interested in is the mean of the differences (e.g., average of all the happy scores minus all the sad computed for each participant) and not the average of the happy scores compared to the average of the sad. Make sure to get that concept conveyed in any tables or figures (as in sample, Figure 1).