The discussion chapter in the dissertation is your opportunity to demonstrate your ability to perform critical evaluation. Critical Evaluation is a key requirement of Master’s Level study. This blog will provide some ideas for writing the discussion chapter.
Here is a short video clip on the subject.
Three Elements of a Dissertation
Here is a reminder of the three essential elements in a dissertation:
- Demonstration of Knowledge
- Demonstration of Application of Knowledge
- Demonstration of Critical Evaluation
Together, these three will ‘tell a story’ through the dissertation showing a logical progression. “I know this, I’ve seen it used, and I can critically evaluate it”. Such an approach will show a Master’s Level of academic study.
Often, students find it difficult to create enough content in the discussion section, so be careful with adding discussion or evaluation in other chapters (in the literature review or analysis of results). Collect all the discussion together in a single place – the Discussion Chapter.
The discussion chapter is your own work. The other sections are a capture of what others are saying on the research topic, so make sure that the discussion chapter is substantial. This is a good reason to collect all of the discussion into a single chapter.
The Dissertation Objectives
You may have some specific objectives relating to critical evaluation so remind the reader what these objectives are at the beginning of the discussion chapter.
Discussion Means Debate
Discussion means debate – a to/fro argument looking at the pro’s/cos or strengths/weaknesses of any situation. Items that need debate should have been identified in the literature review and pointers made to the discussion chapter. Therefore debate these points rather than state opinions or findings.
Discussion Parallels the Literature Review
This means that it is great if the two chapters parallel each other. Work through the Literature Review, and pick up points in turn for debate. When that is completed, work through the analysis section in sequence, picking up items for discussion.
Discussion has Implications and Recommendations
When the item has been debated, what is to be concluded? The output of any discussion may be a decision, conclusions, recommendations, or further work. It may equally be undecided, open-ended, and with no correct answer. However, the discussion needs drawing to a conclusion with suggestions for recommendations or further research.
Make sure that your discussion on each point is concluded in some manner.
Critical Evaluation and Discussion in the Master’s Dissertation
Now is your opportunity to discuss your findings. Findings from the literature review, and findings from the data collection.
- Comment on the differences discovered in the literature review chapter. Between authors, definitions, and/or theories. Why are they different?
- Comment on the differences between the case studies or the collected data. Examine why differences exist.
- Comment on how the theories studied in the literature review were applied (or not) in the case studies or supported (or not) in the data collected.
The discussion chapter, by definition, is an interconnection and debate between the various sections in the dissertation. It should include your thoughts and recommendations, and be backed up by a limited number of citations. The discussion chapter may operate in parallel to the literature review chapter, following the same order of topics. It will also point out the limitations, exceptions, and exclusions from the research.
Save your discussion for the discussion chapter, ensure that you cover all the issues raised in the literature review and data analysis. Realise that discussion means debate, and will result in recommendations.