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Mini-Module: Reports

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5. Writing the results section of a report

Skills for Learning Logo5. Writing the results section of a report

In this section, you report the results you got to the reader. Sometimes this section is combined with the discussion section. 

Go to the Manchester Academic Phrasebank to find out the actual phrases you can use in the results section.

Watch the video activity below to find out about writing the results section.


Results section

Video activity

(A full transcript is provided below the video)



00:00:    In this video I’m going to talk about the content of the results section.
00:04:    The results section is the 3rd major part of your research paper
00:08:    And it’s probably the most important part, because it contains the actual facts of your experiment.
00:14:    The other sections contain your plans, hopes, and interpretations, but the results section
00:20:    is the actual truth of your study.
00:22:    Basically, the results section explains any problems you have with your data collection,
00:27:    the main result of the experiment, and any other interesting trends in the data.
00:32:    And again, the results section should only contain the facts of your experiment.
00:37:    Don’t write your interpretation of the data here.
00:40:    Interpretation of the meaning of the results is done in the discussion section.
00:45:    In the results we want to convey our data in the most accessible way, so we usually use
00:50:    visual elements like tables and graphs to make it easier to understand the data.
00:56:    There are two main types of visual elements: figures and tables.
01:00:    Let’s look at tables first.
01:03:    Tables have the label at the top.
01:04:    They are labelled Table 1, Table 2, and so on.
01:08:    And they also have a title.
01:10:    It’s good if you can put the independent variable conditions on the left side vertically,
01:15:    and the things you measured horizontally, so you can easily compare the measurements
01:20:    across the categories.
01:22:    But you need to decide for each table you make, what is the easiest to understand, and
01:26:    what fits on the paper.
01:29:    This is a figure.
01:30:    All graphs, photographs, and diagrams are figures.
01:34:    Basically, anything that is not a table is a figure.
01:38:    In the case of figures, the label comes below, and is called Figure 1, Figure 2, and so on.
01:44:    In graphs, the independent variable is the x-axis, and the dependent variable is the y-axis.
01:50:    But if look at something changing over time, then the x-axis is time, and the independent variable
01:56:    are different colours or shapes, but the dependent variable is still the y-axis.
02:01:    Now there are many different types of graphs you can use to show your results.
02:05:    This one is a line graph.
02:08:    This is a bar graph.
02:10:    Here is a scatter plot, another line graph with colours, a box and whiskers plot, and
02:18:    this is a histogram.
02:20:    Tables are good for showing the exact values or showing a lot of different information
02:24:    in one place, but graphs are good for showing overall trends and are much easier to understand
02:30:    quickly.
02:31:    It also depends on your data: In general, continuous variables like temperature, growth,
02:37:    pH, age, time--these tend to be better displayed on line graphs or scatter plots, or maybe
02:44:    histograms.
02:46:    Categorical variables like men vs. women
02:48:    or different chemicals--these tend to be better displayed in bar graphs or tables.
02:55:    In any case you need to decide which is best for each particular example you have.
03:00:    NEVER put a graph AND a table with the same data in your paper!
03:05:    Let’s look at an example of a results section.
03:08:    This is a research paper about the effect of different kinds of sound on the behaviour
03:12:    of gorillas in the zoo.
03:18:    And here is the table of the results.
03:21:    We can see that there are 3 different conditions that are being compared,
03:26:    and 8 different behaviours that were measured.
03:30:    These numbers are the average number of each behaviour (the mean), during a period of
03:36:    10 days for each condition, observed for 4 hours per day.
03:39:    And the numbers in parentheses represent the standard error.
03:43:    We can see that none of the p-values are less than .05 so none of the results are significant in this particular study
03:52:    Now let’s look at the text.
03:55:    Notice that they start with the paragraph, NOT with the table.
03:59:    First, they explain the main result.
04:01:    Notice that there are no significant results.
04:04:    This is not really surprising since there are only 6 gorillas.
04:08:    But they still can explain the interesting trends in the data.
04:11:    In fact, they explain the main trends of all 8 behaviours that are included in the study
04:17:    So here we see the animals tended to spend more of there time resting and sitting
04:22:    during the ecologically relevant and in particular the ecologically non-relevant conditions
04:29:    So all 8 of these behaviours that are shown in the table are mentioned in the sentences,
04:35:    basically explaining what the differences are.
04:37:    so here's resting, here's sitting, here's the social interactions, moving, standing, autogrooming, aggressive behaviour, abnormal
04:49:    okay, so all 8 of these are mentioned
04:52:    in the table you can see the details of the particular numbers
04:55:    but in the sentences they just explain for example
05:00:    that these conditions encouraged more social interactions, and less moving, standing.
05:06:    They have a few numbers here, like where they say that aggressive behaviors were reduced by more than 50%
05:13:    but most of the time they just refer instead to the table. they tell you what the main difference is and to look at the table for the details.
05:22:    Let’s look at another example.
05:24:    This is a paper that compares green tea, black tea, and black tea with milk, by measuring
05:29:    the catechin levels in the blood of 12 people after drinking the tea.
05:34:    And here's the results section.
05:36:    In this case, the results section starts by explaining problems they had collecting the data.
05:41:    3 of the volunteers got stomach aches from drinking black tea.
05:46:    So they compared the results with and without those 3 subjects and since they found no difference,
05:52:    they decided to keep that data in with all the results
05:56:    Next they mention the tables and figures, ok, "Figure 1 shows", and then here they explain the main result.
06:05:    After that they explain the other interesting relationships in the data.
06:22:    Notice that not only things that were different were mentioned, like this significantly higher one
06:29:    but also things that did not change, was not different
06:33:    same thing down here
06:35:    had no effect on the total catechin levels
06:39:    Okay and in the case of this results section, they have Table 1
06:46:    Okay, they have Figure 1 and they also have Table 2.
06:51:    And those are shown later on. Here's Table 1. Here's the figure.
06:56:    Okay, where you can see that green tea is different than black tea and black tea with milk.
07:04:    and here's a table that summarizes the main results of the data
07:12:    Okay, so let's just go over the organization of the results section.
07:16:    Start with a paragraph, not a table or a figure, and make sure you show the tables and figures after they are mentioned in the text.
07:24:    Also at the beginning of the results section, you should explain any missing data or problems you had collecting the data.
07:31:    Then explain the main result and address your hypothesis
07:35:    And after that explain all the other interesting trends in your data
07:42:    Finally, let’s go over some common mistakes for the results section.
07:46:    First… don’t include raw data.
07:50:    For example, in the case of the gorillas, this is the raw data.
07:54:    It has the data for each of the 6 gorillas.
07:57:    Readers can’t understand this without doing the math themselves.
08:01:    And the purpose of the experiment to compare gorillas in general between those 3 conditions.
08:06:    We are not interested in comparing individual gorillas.
08:10:    Individuals will always be different.
08:12:    That’s why we use statistics.
08:14:    We want to know what gorillas generally do.
08:17:    If one gorilla was especially different, we might mention that in a sentence, but remember
08:21:    that you need to make your graphs and tables easy to understand.
08:25:    This is not easy to understand.
08:28:    Readers want to be able to check your conclusions and interpretations,
08:32:    but they don’t want to repeat your calculations.
08:35:    Next don’t just tell the reader to look at the table or figure and figure it out for themselves like this:
08:43:    The results are shown in the following tables and graphs.
08:46:    Next, don’t describe the figures or tables in too much detail in the sentences.
08:53:    this is hard to read
08:55:    Take a look at this example. I'm not going to read it. You can look at it.
08:59:    It would be much easier to just look at a graph of this.
09:04:    Finally, don’t talk about the figures in the sentences like this.
09:09:    Instead, talk about the subjects.
09:12:    In this case, talk about gorillas, don't talk about tables. Or don't say "according to Table 1"
09:19:    Table 1 is not the source of the information.
09:23:    It just displays information.