Writing the Result Section of a Medical Study
by Paul Doughty with minor modification
The Results section is usually the shortest section. However, it is important to be very clear when presenting your results as the reader is hanging out for the answers of the questions you set-up in the Introduction. It is a good idea to put much care into thinking about how you'll present your data visually. In general, let the pictures tell the story! Humans are visual creatures, so having your main results in a figure will help your reader follow what happened in your study. Tables are good for including large amounts of information that the reader can have for completeness, but you should
not put your juiciest bits of data there. When possible, try to have scatterplots or frequency histograms of the data so that the reader will get a real feel for the data (including the noise!). This can be useful for later researchers who can analyze your data a different way for different reasons. With complex data sets, however, bar graphs should be fine as you don't want to overwhelm your reader with too many data points at once.

Another tip is to not rely too heavily on figure-making programs. If you start with a blank bit of paper and begin to sketch out what you're trying to get across, you can often come up with a better way to present the data visually. You're also likely to get less arbitrary features in your figures that come from the default settings of a figuremaking program. Try it!

When you're describing the results in words, the text should describe the patterns in the data - not the statistics. For example, a bad example might be: "Intraocular pressures differed significantly according to the frequency of drop X used." A better way to say this might be: "Patients on drop X more than once a day produced a bigger drop in intraocular pressure than those on drop X once a day."

In the Results, it is also a good idea to keep interpretation down to a minimum. It's OK to summarize the main results in words, but try not to impart too much beyond the basic patterns - there's plenty of scope for that in the next section.

Return to index