Writing the Results

Think of the story you want to tell. Choose and present only those results that are relevant to your hypothesis. A morass of experimental results unilluminated by a hypothesis and unembellished by a discussion is insulting and confusing to your reader. from "How to Write a Thesis"

Results are the ultimate objective of scientific research: here you summarize the data collected and the statistical treatment of them. Therefore, this section consists of the observations and measurements recorded while conducting the procedures described in the methods section. These components must address the questions raised in the introduction and any hypotheses formulated there.

Results are often presented in numerical form and indeed are more reader-friendly if presented graphically in tables and graphs than in written text. The writer must aim for ACCURACY, INCLUSIVENESS, and SYSTEMATICITY, as these results are the primary and permanent source of scientific knowledge.

Organization should "match" that of the Methods section, if required.  If the Methods section was a single, straightforward test, then the Results can follow the classic order: answer the RQ first, and arrange from most to least significant.  If your Methods section was structured, consider structuring the Results section similarly.  Feel free to use subheadings in the Results section.  Often, this can make it somewhat easier for the reader to follow.

What to include:

- results that answer the research question (most important)

- data you can use to outline important trends

- results that you intend to address in the discussion section

- results of statistical analyses, often in conjunction with measurements analyzed

- results related to those obtained by other researchers, especially if they disconfirm other results, or are controversial

- negative results also

Example (from Rothschild, G., Nelken, I., & Mizrahi, A. (2010). Functional organization and population dynamics in the mouse primary auditory cortex. Nature Neuroscience, 13, 353-360, DOI:10.1038/nn.2484):

To characterize the functional architecture and dynamics of local networks in A1, we performed in vivo two-photon calcium imaging in anesthetized, freely breathing mice (Fig. 1). We loaded cells in the auditory cortex with a mixture of Fluo-4 a.m. and SR101 using the multicell bolus loading technique14. Fluo-4 stained neurons, astrocytes and neuropil in a spherical volume with a diameter of ~250 μm. SR101 selectively stained astrocytes and diffused more readily throughout A1. Loading was optimal ~40 min post injection, at which time hundreds of neurons could be detected at depths of up to 450 μm, corresponding to cortical layers 2/3 (Fig. 1a, Supplementary Movie 1 and Supplementary Fig. 1).

Results sections can be the most frustrating for novices to read and most interesting to experts. Consider both of these audiences when constructing the results. Clear, even redundant labeling of figures can be useful. Figure legends should stand on their own, but restricted only to the figure. The text should reference specific figures as they come up, but should not merely refer readers to a table or figure for the information; some contentful statement must be included with the reference to the figure. Balancing the needs of both expert and non-expert readers will increase the impact of your research. (from Enhanced heme oxygenase-mediated coronary vasodilation in Dahl salt-sensitive hypertension / http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14700508)

Stylistically, results can be organized in a variety of ways, and you should employ subheadings as needed. If there is only a single protocol on a non-human subjects with no control group, there may be no need for subdivisions in the results section. If there are multiple trials or multiple groups, then subheadings should be used to label what is being discussed. The organization of results most commonly "matches" the research question -- groups or trials should be indicated in the last paragraph of the introduction and evident in the results section.

On the basis of these findings we hypothesized that cardiac HO-1 expression is increased in DS rats with salt-induced  hypertension and provides cardioprotection by promoting coronary vasodilation. To test this hypothesis we conducted experiments using hearts isolated from DS and DR rats after 4 weeks of high or low salt diets. We examined coronary expression of HO isoforms using immunohistochemistry and studied the effects of an inhibitor of HO on coronary perfusion pressure in isolated Langendorff-hearts perfused at a constant flow rate.

What to avoid:

- failing to integrate the graphic results into the text

- interpreting the results rather than just reporting them. Just present and report the observations and measurements, factually and informatively, without discussion.


Course Links

Student Resources

Attribution Info

  • Creative Commons License