Many manuscripts are rejected from journals because of poor discussion. Indeed, in the Discussion Section of an original article, the authors tell the readers how their study affects the progress of the science, and how they contribute to the science or add something new to the existing knowledge. Therefore, there is no need to greater emphasize how important and critical it is to write a rich and effective discussion.
A common mistake
One of the most common mistakes in writing a discussion is to present the findings of other sources one after another, without any critical review on their findings or how the authors combine their findings with the existing knowledge to come to a new conclusion.
What to discuss?
In the discussion section, authors are required to discuss the findings of their research, state how important their findings are, indicate how they relate to the findings of other researchers, and explain why they are the same or different. In this procedure, authors should cite an appropriate number of published papers, and most of the papers they cite should be among the most recent publications from high-quality, peer-reviewed journals.
How to discuss?
A simple approach in organizing the discussion section is to organize it into several paragraphs. Each paragraph should cover a main finding (or a main group of findings) of the research.
In the case that the study produced some socio-demographic information about the study population – which is common in health and social research – the authors should present those findings as well as the main general findings of the study in the first paragraph of the discussion section.
The other paragraphs should cover the other main findings. The main findings may be a result of examining some hypotheses, then the authors are required to design as many number of paragraphs as the study hypotheses or research objectives. In each of those paragraphs, the author will discuss the findings on each of the hypotheses.
Be careful to Discuss not to list
In discussion of each of the main findings (or findings of each hypotheses), authors should be careful that they do not repeat the numerical findings, as they have already presented them in the results section. But, they should describe each of the main findings and discuss the importance of that finding, and then compare its similarities and differences with other published papers, and try to give possible reasons on those similarities and differences and discuss them.
Then the authors should proceed to the next paragraph, and in that paragraph, they should do the same as above, but then discuss the second main group of the findings. The authors should continue to add new paragraphs based on the number of main findings of their study.
Discuss the strengths and limitations of the study
At the end of discussion, the authors are required to add one more paragraph to discuss the strengths and limitations of the study.
1- Strengths of the study
A common approach in organizing this last paragraph is to state the strengths of the study first. The strengths of the study could be something related to the advantages of the measurement tool or the instrument they used in the study compared with other similar studies, which made the findings of their study more reliable or valid. Another point regarding the strengths of the study could be the adequate sample size or a better sampling method and more rigorous approach in data collection and statistical analysis of the findings, especially if the researchers employed multivariate statistical techniques to control the potential effect of confounding variables.
2- Study limitation
Then the authors need to proceed to the study limitations. In this part, they may state any potential source of limitation in generalizing the findings of the study to larger study populations such as the potential bias and confounders, inadequate sample size, significant missing data (such as the questionnaires that are distributed but are not returned to the main investigators), technical limitations in using instruments, data collection, or accessing the required data, etc.