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Report results

Quantitative data

The purpose of the results section of the thesis is to report the findings of your research. You usually present the data you obtained in appropriate figures (diagrams, graphs, tables and photographs) and you then comment on this data.

Data commentary usually has the following elements:

  • a location element
  • a summary of the information presented in the figure
  • a highlighting statement to point out what is significant in all the data presented (eg trends, patterns, results that are more important than others).

Click on the highlighted text in the example below to see the elements of data commentary:

Table 5shows the most common modes of computer infection in Australian businesses. As can be seen in the table, home disks are the most frequent source of infection.

Exercise 1: Identify the elements of data commentary in the following example.

The influents to filter A and B were analysed fully on a number of occasions, and the averaged results are presented in Table 6.1. It can be seen from the table that the wastewaters from plants A and B are of similar composition.

location element
highlighting statement

After the initial presentation of the data, a reduced location element is used which gives only the table or figure number in brackets after the highlighting statement.

  1. The ranges of metal atom concentrations for the two precipitate types were found to overlap (Table 6).
  2. Quantitative analysis revealed some variation in the composition of the rods in the various exservice samples (Figure 7 and Table V).

Commentary on results may include:

  • explanations
  • comparisons between results
  • comments on whether the results are expected or unexpected
  • comments about unsatisfactory data.

Dealing with "Problems"

The difference between expected and obtained results may be due to the incorrect calibration of the instruments.
This discrepancy can be attributed to the small sample size.
The anomaly in the observations can probably be accounted for by a defect in the camera.
The lack of statistical significance is probably a consequence of weaknesses in the experimental design.
The difficulty in dating this archeological site would seem to stem from the limited amount of organic material available.

(Adapted from Swales and Feak, 2004, p. 138)

If you are discussing your findings in a separate chapter or section, limit your comments here to the specific results you have presented.

Past or present tense?

Location element: present tense
…the averaged results are presented in Table 6.1.
Table 5 shows…
Summary of procedure:
Presentation of findings:
past tense
The influents to filter A and B were analysed fully on a number of occasions,…
The ranges of metal atom concentrations … were found to overlap.
Comments: present tense
This discrepancy can be attributed to the small sample size.

Qualitative data

The reporting of qualitative data is much less bound by convention than that of quantitative data. The data itself usually consists of words, from written documents or interview transcripts, which has been analysed in some way, often into themes. In reporting the data, it is generally important to convey both the themes and some of the flavour of the actual words.

The data needs to be connected back through the layers of detail to the overarching research question it relates to. This can be done through the introductions to carefully-structured sections and subsections. Individual data extracts can be connected back into this structure through a process of 'tell-show-tell'

Examples from a Doctor of Education thesis:

6.4.3 Themes from the Interview Data

In analysing the interview data, two themes emerged which will be discussed in this section. These themes were: the complexity and challenges of working with families and the professional satisfaction and challenges of program planning for children in preschool or childcare.

For each of these graduates, their work with children was clearly the area of their professional lives that was bringing the most satisfaction, although there were some challenges identified. In the interviews, the data reveal that they were all seeking ways to improve their pedagogy and achieving success in different ways

Angela suggested that in her second year of teaching she had changed in that she was programming in a "more child oriented" way. She discussed this change:

One of the things I've changed is this idea of herding children through the Kinder day: they go from indoor play to snack time to the mat and so on. How I do it now is that I have a lot of different things happening at once. I'll have a small group on the mat and there might be some children sitting down and having a snack and there's still some children in home corner playing.

These comments seem to provide evidence that Angela is growing professionally for two reasons. First, the ability to identify changes in her program suggests to me that she has deeper pedagogical knowledge gained through critical reflection on her practice, and second, there is congruence between her expressed beliefs and the practice she describes.

location element
highlighting statement

In the Introduction to the thesis, this section has been explicitly related to one of the research aims:

'Compare and contrast the publicly expressed values with the professional values embedded in the personal philosophies articulated by a cohort of early childhood student teachers.'

The introduction to the section forecasts the themes that will be illustrated.

Introduces the second theme by picking up the keywords professional, satisfaction, children and challenges from introduction
Forecasts a sub-theme to be illustrated.
Introduces data extract as an instance of improving pedagogy (tell)
Data extract (show)
Comments on the extract, connecting the student's practice with her professional values, one of the aspects the research aim sets out to investigate. (tell)
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