How to you write the discussion of your dissertation

Gepubliceerd op 8 december 2023 om 12:00

You are almost crossing the finish line now. You are ready to write the very last chapter of your dissertation: the discussion! Okay, maybe your acknowledgements are the last thing you write, but that is more of a bonbon with your coffee and not part of the meal. After all, you won't get questions about it during your defence, but you can get questions about your discussion. We would like to give you some tips on your final piece of writing.

Tip 1. Read discussions of other dissertations

Start by reading, before you start writing. Having an example of a good discussion is very helpful when you are writing your own discussion. What makes this discussion so good compared to other dissertations in your opinion? What information does it contain? How is it structured? Use this information to create a framework for your own discussion, so you can start filling in those headings.

Tip 2. Copy all your previous discussions

By copying all the discussions of your papers into one document, you have a nice foundation for your overall discussion. You may be able to write a bit more about some discussion points from your earlier papers with the accumulated knowledge you have now, at the end of your PhD project. For example, you may have found the answers to earlier questions through your later papers, or there have been many developments in this area either nationally or internationally.

Tip 3. Which questions are still open?

The introduction to your dissertation will of course explain what had prompted your research at that time. What ambitions were there? Which questions were open? See if you can come full circle in your discussion by answering those questions. Ask yourself if all questions are answered now, or whether there are still open questions. And if so, why? Or perhaps some new questions have arisen as a result of your research?

Tip 4. Lessons learned?

You have spent years working on your dissertation and you have learned a tremendous amount. What lessons would you like to give back to people in your field? Perhaps you have worked with questionnaires that, in retrospect, you did not like as much as you had hoped. Or perhaps you are very satisfied with a particular design and would recommend it to anyone. In short: what would you advise the new researchers in your field? It is good to give such knowledge back to people in your field. This knowledge does not always fit into the discussions of individual papers, but is great content for the overall discussion of your dissertation.

Tip 5. Let it go, let it go

You may not want to believe it, but in your discussion you are basically allowed to let go completely. It does not have to follow the rigid pattern you are used to. Here, you can show off everything you have learned. So no endless repetitions of the results already described in your dissertation (please don't!). Also no endless listing of all kinds of literature (a discussion is not a review study). It is also great if your discussion is not too long, about ten pages is more than enough. What is good to describe, is what your findings mean for the target audience, professionals, the research field and whoever the other stakeholders/interested parties of your research are!

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