Writing the Discussion Section of a Medical Study
by Paul Doughty
Here the general idea is to start specific with the results of your study, and then to begin to relate the new information you've discovered to what other people have found. Finally, you'll want to relate what all this means to the "big picture." There is much variation in how the Discussion section can be written. Below are some general principles, but the main thing to remember is to play around with the structure so that in the end your Discussion is a satisfying read (always bear your
long-suffering reader in mind!).

The first paragraph can serve as a mini-abstract for the Discussion section. Here you can restate the main question, your findings, an indication of the conclusion you're going to draw and an outline of what's to follow in the Discussion section. It's important to have a fresh angle at this point, and not merely a repetition of the Abstract.

It's usually a good idea to cover the particulars of your study in the second section. All studies have arbitrary features in them (and sometimes bits that went wrong), and these are best dealt with early in your discussion of the patterns in your data. After you go over the basics of your results, the reader will want your interpretation of all these patterns. Basically, "what happened?" You can first discuss the results of your own study, then start relating them to what others have found in similar studies - the widening of the inverse funnel!

Ultimately, the reader will want to know what the heck you think is going on. This is your time to say what you really think is going on, and so this bit is important (ooh - pressure!). One way to proceed is to make your strongest claim, then to back it up with 

(i) evidence (from your study and others) and 

(ii) a clear logical argument. 

Too easy, right? The key to writing this section is basically to use your guts and have fun. You've worked hard for months on this project, so your understanding of it that lies in the marrow of your bones needs to come out here. After all, you're in the best position to call it as you see it at this point. By marshalling your evidence and arguments in writing this section you can really sharpen your own understanding too. Don't worry about "gaps" in your preferred scenario - just make these an interesting part of your story.

Finally, you may want to have a "future directions"-type section at the end. This is often a good idea, but remember to keep your suggestions brief and realistic (rampant speculation is cheap).

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