How to Write a Discussion Section of your Dissertation or Thesis?

PhD Discussion Section


The discussion and analysis section of a PhD or a Post Graduate dissertation plays a crucial role in presenting and interpreting the research findings. It serves as the platform where you delve into the meaning, implications, and significance of your results, ultimately contributing to the advancement of knowledge in your field of study. Let’s explore why this section is of paramount importance.

When conducting research, the primary objective is to generate new insights, contribute to existing knowledge, and address gaps in the field. The discussion and analysis section serves as the space where you make sense of your findings and contextualize them.

Usually the discussion section follows the results section of the dissertation section. If you are not familiar with writing the section , then visit my post on ” Writing results section for your dissertation

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Summarize the Key Findings

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation, it is crucial to provide a concise summary of the main findings that emerged from your research. These findings directly address the research questions or hypotheses you formulated at the beginning of your study. Let’s explore a few examples:

Example 1: Research in Machine Learning

Research Question: How does the use of deep learning algorithms impact the accuracy of image recognition systems?

Key Findings: The study revealed that employing deep learning algorithms significantly improved the accuracy of image recognition systems. The experimental results demonstrated an average increase in accuracy of 15% compared to traditional machine learning approaches. Furthermore, it was observed that the performance improvement was particularly notable in complex and ambiguous image recognition tasks.

Example 2: Research in Natural Language Processing

Research Question: To what extent does sentiment analysis using neural networks capture the nuances of emotions in social media data?

Key Findings: The analysis demonstrated that sentiment analysis models based on neural networks exhibited a higher accuracy in capturing nuanced emotions in social media data compared to traditional rule-based methods. The study found that the neural network model achieved an overall accuracy of 85%, whereas the rule-based approach achieved only 70%. Moreover, the neural network model showcased better performance in identifying subtle emotions such as irony and sarcasm, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of sentiment analysis.

Example 3: Research in Cybersecurity

Research Question: What are the vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors in IoT (Internet of Things) systems?

Key Findings: The investigation identified several vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors in IoT systems. The study revealed that insecure default configurations and weak authentication mechanisms were the most common vulnerabilities exploited by attackers. Furthermore, the research unveiled novel attack vectors targeting IoT devices’ communication protocols, highlighting the need for robust encryption and secure communication channels to mitigate these risks.

Remember to present your key findings in a clear and concise manner, mentioning the specific research questions or hypotheses that your study aimed to address. This allows readers to understand the main outcomes of your research and their relevance to the overarching research goals in your field.

Interpretation and Explanation of Findings

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation, it is essential to interpret and explain the patterns, trends, and relationships that emerged from your data analysis. This involves using supporting evidence, such as statistical analysis or visual representations, to illustrate and strengthen your arguments. Additionally, it’s important to explain the significance and implications of your findings in relation to your research questions or hypotheses. Let’s explore some examples:

Example 1: Research in Data Mining

Findings: The analysis of large-scale customer transaction data revealed a strong association between customer purchasing behavior and their demographic characteristics.

Interpretation and Explanation: Statistical analysis demonstrated a significant correlation (p < 0.01) between customers’ age groups and their preferences for specific product categories. Younger customers showed a higher propensity for purchasing technology-related products, while older customers exhibited a preference for home and lifestyle products. These findings suggest that targeted marketing campaigns tailored to different age groups can enhance customer engagement and improve sales performance.

Example 2: Research in Network Security

Findings: The evaluation of network traffic data indicated a sudden increase in malicious activities during off-peak hours.

Interpretation and Explanation: Visual representations of network traffic patterns illustrated a substantial surge in the volume of suspicious packets and intrusion attempts between midnight and early morning hours. This finding suggests that attackers exploit the lower network traffic during off-peak hours to launch targeted attacks, making them more difficult to detect. To mitigate such risks, network administrators should enhance monitoring and employ automated threat detection systems capable of identifying anomalous behavior patterns.

Example 3: Research in Artificial Intelligence

Findings: The evaluation of various machine learning algorithms demonstrated superior performance of a novel deep reinforcement learning approach in game playing tasks.

Interpretation and Explanation: Comparative analysis using benchmark datasets revealed that the proposed deep reinforcement learning algorithm achieved an average win rate of 90% across different game environments. This outperformed traditional machine learning algorithms, including decision trees and support vector machines, which achieved win rates of 70% and 80%, respectively. These findings indicate that deep reinforcement learning holds great potential for advancing game playing AI systems, enabling them to make more optimal decisions and enhance player experience.

By discussing the patterns, trends, and relationships identified through data analysis and providing supporting evidence, such as statistical analysis or visual representations, you strengthen the validity of your arguments. Furthermore, explaining the significance and implications of your findings in relation to your research questions or hypotheses showcases the practical implications of your research.

Compare with Existing Literature

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation , it is crucial to compare your findings with previous studies in your field. This involves discussing the similarities, differences, and contradictions between your research and the existing literature. Additionally, you should highlight the contributions and novelty of your research and identify areas where your results align with established theories or challenge existing knowledge. Let’s explore some examples:

Example 1: Research in Natural Language Processing

Findings: The developed natural language processing model achieved a higher accuracy in sentiment analysis compared to previous studies.

Comparison with Existing Literature: Our findings align with Smith et al. (2018) and Johnson et al. (2020), who also demonstrated the effectiveness of machine learning techniques in sentiment analysis. However, our research advances the field by incorporating contextual embeddings and attention mechanisms, resulting in an additional 5% improvement in accuracy. This highlights the contribution of our novel model architecture in enhancing sentiment analysis tasks.

Example 2: Research in Computer Vision

Findings: The proposed object detection algorithm outperformed existing methods in terms of both accuracy and computational efficiency.

Comparison with Existing Literature: Our results are consistent with the findings of Chen et al. (2019) and Wang et al. (2020), who also emphasized the importance of utilizing deep learning frameworks for object detection. However, our research extends the current knowledge by introducing a novel anchor-free approach that eliminates the need for predefined anchor boxes, resulting in a more accurate and efficient object detection system. This novel approach challenges the conventional anchor-based methods and offers potential improvements in real-time object detection applications.

Example 3: Research in Cloud Computing Security

Findings: The proposed encryption technique demonstrated enhanced security and reduced computation overhead in cloud storage systems.

Comparison with Existing Literature: Our research builds upon the encryption schemes proposed by Li et al. (2017) and Zhang et al. (2019). However, our technique introduces a dynamic key management mechanism that strengthens data confidentiality and allows efficient data access. This advancement addresses the limitations of the existing methods and contributes to the field by providing a more secure and scalable solution for protecting sensitive data in cloud storage systems.

By comparing your findings with previous studies, you showcase your understanding of the existing literature and demonstrate how your research adds value to the field of study. Identifying areas of alignment with established theories helps validate your work, while highlighting areas where your results challenge existing knowledge highlights the novelty and potential impact of your research.

Addressing Limitations

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation, it is important to acknowledge the limitations of your study. This includes factors such as sample size, data collection methods, or other constraints that may have influenced your results. Reflecting on these limitations helps provide a transparent assessment of your research. Additionally, suggesting avenues for future research to address these limitations contributes to the advancement of the field. Let’s explore some examples:

Example 1: Research in Data Mining

Limitation: The study utilized a relatively small dataset consisting of 100 samples from a single organization.

Reflection: The small sample size may have limited the generalizability of the findings. The dataset’s limited diversity and narrow scope could impact the applicability of the results to broader contexts. It is important to recognize that different organizations may exhibit variations in their data patterns and characteristics.

Future Research: To address this limitation, future research could involve collecting data from multiple organizations across different industries. This would enhance the representativeness of the findings and provide a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomena under investigation.

Example 2: Research in Artificial Intelligence

Limitation: The study focused solely on image recognition tasks and did not consider other domains such as natural language processing or speech recognition.

Reflection: While the findings are valuable for image recognition, the limited scope restricts the generalizability of the results to broader AI applications. Different domains may have unique challenges and requirements that need to be considered.

Future Research: To overcome this limitation, future research could explore the application of the proposed algorithm in other domains such as text classification or voice-based applications. This would provide insights into the algorithm’s effectiveness across diverse AI applications and contribute to its broader adoption.

Example 3: Research in Human-Computer Interaction

Limitation: The study relied on self-reported measures to assess user satisfaction and perceived usability.

Reflection: Self-report measures are subject to biases and may not always capture the true user experience accurately. Participants’ responses may be influenced by various factors, such as social desirability or personal expectations.

Future Research: To address this limitation, future research could incorporate objective measures, such as eye-tracking data or physiological responses, alongside self-report measures. Combining multiple assessment methods would provide a more comprehensive understanding of user experience and yield more reliable and valid results.

By acknowledging the limitations of your study, reflecting on their potential impact, and suggesting avenues for future research, you demonstrate a critical and reflective approach to your work.

Exploring Unexpected or Contradictory Findings

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation, it is important to address any unexpected or contradictory results that emerged during your research. This involves discussing these findings and offering possible explanations or alternative interpretations based on available evidence. However, it is crucial to be cautious and avoid excessive speculation without supporting evidence. Let’s explore some examples:

Example 1: Research in Machine Learning

Unexpected Finding: The deep learning model exhibited lower accuracy on a specific subset of the dataset, contrary to initial expectations.

Exploration: Upon further analysis, it was discovered that the misclassification predominantly occurred for a particular class of samples with unique characteristics. One possible explanation for this unexpected finding is the class imbalance issue, where the dataset has significantly fewer samples for that particular class. This imbalance may have resulted in insufficient training data, hindering the model’s ability to accurately classify those samples.

Alternative Interpretation: Another alternative explanation could be the presence of inherent noise or ambiguity within the data subset. It is possible that the features extracted from these samples were inherently more challenging to differentiate, leading to lower accuracy. This highlights the need for further investigation and refinement of the model architecture to improve its performance on this specific subset.

Example 2: Research in Natural Language Processing

Contradictory Finding: The sentiment analysis model performed exceptionally well on a benchmark dataset but showed reduced accuracy on real-world social media data.

Exploration: The contradiction between the model’s performance on benchmark datasets and real-world social media data warrants further investigation. One possible reason for this disparity could be the linguistic complexities and informal language prevalent in social media posts. The model may struggle to accurately interpret slang, sarcasm, or context-specific expressions, leading to decreased accuracy in sentiment analysis.

Alternative Interpretation: Another alternative explanation could be the presence of bias in the training data. The benchmark datasets might not adequately represent the diverse range of language patterns and sentiments found in real-world social media data. This bias could result in a performance gap between controlled datasets and more dynamic and unpredictable real-world data.

In both examples, it is important to acknowledge unexpected or contradictory findings and explore potential explanations based on available evidence. However, it is crucial to exercise caution and avoid excessive speculation without supporting evidence. Further analysis, experimentation, or data collection may be necessary to validate and provide more concrete explanations for unexpected or contradictory findings.

By discussing unexpected or contradictory findings and providing possible explanations or alternative interpretations, you demonstrate a scientific and inquisitive approach to your research. This also allows other researchers to critically evaluate the results and contribute to the ongoing discourse.

Discussing Implications and Significance

In the discussion and analysis section of your dissertation, it is important to explain the broader implications of your findings for your field of study and beyond. This involves discussing how your research contributes to theory, practice, or policy and highlighting potential practical applications and recommendations that arise from your analysis. Let’s explore some examples:

Example 1: Research in Artificial Intelligence Ethics

Implications: The findings of the study shed light on the ethical considerations and challenges associated with the increasing use of AI technologies in decision-making systems. The research highlights the need for transparent and explainable AI models to ensure accountability and prevent biased outcomes. Furthermore, the study emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration between computer scientists, ethicists, and policymakers to develop guidelines and regulations that promote responsible AI development and deployment.

Contribution: This research contributes to the growing field of AI ethics by providing empirical evidence and insights into the ethical implications of AI technologies. It informs the development of ethical frameworks, guidelines, and policies that address the societal impact of AI and fosters the responsible use of AI in various domains such as healthcare, finance, and criminal justice.

Practical Applications and Recommendations: The findings underscore the importance of implementing explainable AI models in critical decision-making systems, such as loan approvals, hiring processes, and autonomous vehicles. Policymakers and organizations should establish regulatory frameworks that ensure transparency, fairness, and accountability in AI systems. Additionally, interdisciplinary collaboration should be encouraged to foster ongoing dialogue and exchange of knowledge among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the field of AI ethics.

Example 2: Research in Cloud Computing

Implications: The study identifies the potential risks and vulnerabilities in cloud computing systems, emphasizing the need for robust security measures to protect sensitive data. The research findings underscore the significance of ensuring data integrity, confidentiality, and availability in cloud storage and processing environments. Furthermore, the study highlights the importance of continuous monitoring and proactive detection of security breaches to prevent data breaches and unauthorized access.

Contribution: This research contributes to the field of cloud computing security by providing a comprehensive analysis of potential risks and vulnerabilities. It offers insights into the development of improved security measures and protocols for safeguarding data in cloud environments. The findings contribute to the ongoing efforts to enhance the security and reliability of cloud computing systems for individuals, organizations, and governments.

Practical Applications and Recommendations: The research findings have practical implications for cloud service providers, enterprises, and individuals utilizing cloud computing services. The study recommends implementing robust encryption techniques, multi-factor authentication, and intrusion detection systems to strengthen the security posture of cloud systems. Additionally, organizations should establish incident response plans and conduct regular security audits to identify and mitigate potential vulnerabilities in their cloud infrastructure.

By discussing the implications and significance of your findings, you highlight the broader impact of your research in the domain and beyond. Explaining how your research contributes to theory, practice, or policy demonstrates its practical relevance and potential for positive change. Additionally, discussing potential practical applications and offering recommendations based on your analysis provides actionable insights that can inform decision-making and guide future research and implementation efforts.


This blog post has provided an outline for writing the discussion and analysis section of a PhD or Post Graduate dissertation. We have discussed several key points that should be addressed in this section and provided examples from different domains to illustrate their application.

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Dr. Vijay Rajpurohit
Author: Dr. Vijay Rajpurohit
Dr. Vijay Rajpurohit is a researcher in Computer Science. He loves to educate researchers and research scholars on Research Paper Writing, Thesis Writing, Research Grants, Patenting Research Work and the latest Research-related issues. You can reach him @ [email protected]