Discussions and references
The discussion section gives the reader some insight into the subject area of the study and can shed new light on the results and their meaning. Alternative explanations for the results and their implications may also be presented.
One of the most frequent errors in scientific research is drawing conclusions that are not adequately supported by the data. This may occur for a number of reasons: collection of insufficient or inadequate data, over-generalisation, methodological problems, or inherent limitations in the study design. This is why it’s so important to review the methodology section carefully.
Finally, be wary of absolute conclusions that claim to be the final word on a subject. Good research answers some questions and raises others. A call for more research to investigate particular issues that remain unclear or to replicate the study findings is a frequent conclusion in journal articles.
Here are some key questions to bear in mind when reading the discussion:
Are the conclusions supported by the data?
Are the conclusions related to the stated purpose of the study? If not, do the study design and results support the secondary conclusions?
How do these results compare with those of other studies on the subject?
Experts in the subject area assess reference lists to find out if any key studies have been omitted. If this is the case, the researchers may have failed to evaluate prior research in the field that could have benefited their current study. A reference list that includes older as well as more recent papers can reassure the reader that the author has reviewed the entire body of research and has not just considered the last few or first few studies conducted on the topic.
Now you know how to read a scientific paper so whenever you see a newspaper headline that interests you, check to see if there’s a link to the original study. Then you can work out for yourself whether or not the headline reflects the science.
You’ll have the opportunity to do this in the next Step.
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