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Discussion is one of the most challenging parts of the research article because it is highly argumentative in nature, requires the author to take a stance on the results, and underline the worth of the contribution the study makes[1]. The purpose of the Discussion section is to interpret the results obtained in the study to show the contribution of the study to scientific knowledge.

Immediately following the Results, the Discussion section starts out as narrow (see Figure 2) and gradually widens its scope as the topic develops from interpretation of the results to discussing them in relation to other research.


Figure 2.The canonical IMRaD model

As the Discussion section mirrors the Introduction section, Discussion and Introduction share a number of rhetorical moves. The three main moves in the Introduction section [LINK if possible] are Establishing the Territory, Establishing a Niche, and Occupying the Niche[2]. The main moves in the Discussion section are Re-Establishing the territory, Framing the New Knowledge, Re-shaping the Territory, andEstablishing additional territory5.

By making these moves, the author first grounds the discussion, by making a thematic connection with the previous sections, i.e. Introduction and Methods. Then moves on to comment the results to take a stance and attempt to convince readers of their position. After this, the results are discussed light of relevant previous literature that either supports or conflicts with the results obtained in the present study. As the last step, the author expands on the results by further comments on the value and/or implications of the study or by suggesting future research.

The moves and steps model, based on a sample of Discussion sections from 900 research articles, covering 30 disciplines proposed by Cotos, Link and Huffmanis presented in Figure 3:

Figure 3.Moves and Steps in the Discussion section

[1]Cotos, E., Link, S., & Huffman, S. R. (2016). Studying disciplinary corpora to teach the craft of Discussion. Writing and Pedagogy, 87(1), 33.

[2]Swales, J.  (1990). Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.