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SOC S 200 | RESEARCH METHODS | TICKET 3893/3894 | T/TH | SPRING 2016

Discussion Section of APA Research Paper

Writing a Research Paper APA Style: 
Results, Discussion, Limitations, Further Research


Results vs. Discussion

Results and Discussion are two separate sections of the research paper with two distinct purposes and should be separated with a paragraph break and a level one heading.


Results Section

When writing about the results of your research, you will report the results of your findings. Rather than interpreting the meaning of the results, focus your writing on describing the findings of your survey questionnaire. Discuss the data in a narrative form and refer to tables or figures in appendices that should appear at the end of your research paper, after the References section. Report the results of the most interesting and relevant questions.

Tips for Reporting Results

In the text of your research paper, remember to reference the table and/or appendix where the reader can find more information. For example, “For further explanation, please refer to Table 2 in Appendix A.”

See Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: The Results for additional helpful information on the Results section. 

Discussion Section 

Don’t jump to conclusions or make bold statements in your discussion section. Be your own devil’s advocate—look for shortcomings or inconsistencies, and anticipate the reader’s reaction to your comments. 

The discussion section focuses on explaining the results. In this section you may include alternate explanations for your results. Focus on the most interesting and relevant data. Try to include research from previous studies you located when working on your literature review—whether it supports your findings or not. For example: Similar to Smith’s (2004) study… or Contrary to Smith’s (2004) study…

See Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: The Discussion for additional helpful information on the Discussion section. 



All studies have limitations. Limitations are related to your methodology. Some may be directly related to your survey; others to the number and types of participants, and still others to your procedure.

The following are examples of limitations that might be present in your studies. This is not an exhaustive list.

Examples: Our research has several limitations. This study was primarily limited by its small sample size. The sample size could have been expanded by including… An earlier start in data collection would have increased the time needed to survey more participants. More contact between the research and the target sample may have increased participation. Ideally, the number of participants would have been more evenly distributed across gender/year in school. The participants represented a narrow range of ethnicity/ages/etc. A larger sample with more diversity would have benefited our results. Including multiple colleges/groups on campus could have diversified the ethnicities/ages/etc. represented in the sample. Our study would have benefited from a question reading… Participants may have had a better understanding of survey items had a definition of…been included on the questionnaire.

Further Research

Your limitations could lead to ideas for future research. If you had no financial or time constraints, how would you have conducted your study? Think of what new items, experimental groups, or procedures you would add knowing your results? Again, this is not an exhaustive list.

Examples: Another possible improvement to our study could have been interviewing the participants. Personal interviews could elicit greater information regarding participants’ knowledge and attitudes. This method could have added important qualitative data and greater insight into the participants’ thoughts and opinions. 

Adapted from: Writing a Research Report in APA: Discussion Section;

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