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After reading a lot of student dissertations/theses recently - some thoughts on writing discussion sections/chapters in qual reports, & particularly reports of #thematicanalysis. Often the trickiest part of a diss as we have run out of steam & have no idea what to say!
Discussions (conventional ones at least) are tricky because they are both formulaic (evaluate the study, make suggestions for future research) and also very open - there's lots of scope to choose what to focus on beyond the expected content. Some things to avoid first.
When making suggestions for future research - don't switch on the random ideas generator! The suggestions should *arise* from yr research. The limitations of your sample is often the go-to choice here but explain why it would be interesting to talk to other groups.
Is there any evidence to support the speculation that other groups might have different experiences? Avoid the 'more is better' trap 2 - do the same research with a larger sample so we can generalise. You R telling the reader qual is only a precursor 2 or poor substitute 4 quant.
Don't evaluate qual through the lens of quant values - researcher bias, small samples, lack of (statistical) generalisability... Use this great paper by @BrettSmithProf to discuss generalisability in a way that reflects qual values: tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.108…
Perhaps use qualitative quality criteria to guide your study evaluation. I like Lucy Yardley's widely cited open ended, flexible principles for guiding qualitative quality: tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.108…
Sarah Tracy's 8 'big tent' criteria for excellence in qual research are also worth a read: journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.117… Be wary of criteria and quality strategies/standards that are not theoretically open and flexible and have unacknowledged theoretical limits.
When contextualising your analysis in relation to existing literature - the theme-by-theme discussion is best avoided. It's not the most interesting approach & your themes R not yr analytic conclusions - you need to draw out the story & conclusions across the themes.
Writing your discussion is another good reason to keep a research journal - make a note as you go along of as things that might be interesting to reflect on in the discussion. Discussions are 4 contextualisation, highlighting contributions and reflection.
Your contributions might not just be your findings - they might be methodological too. Used a novel method - reflect on that. Used a method rarely/never used in your field - reflect on that, make an argument about its exciting potential for your field of research.
It's something went wrong, or there were challenges - and these might have wider relevance for researchers in your field, reflect on these. What did you learn? What do other researchers need to know? What needs to change? This is all part of looking forward to future research.
To help decide what 2 focus on - who do you want to speak to, influence? Who is your audience? You have lots of scope and flexibility - try to craft a discussion that highlights the contributions of your research and showcases your capacity as a reflective/reflexive-researcher.
Don't forget to end with a conclusion - one or a few paras depending on diss/thesis length. This is like the #thematicanalysis of your whole report - what are the key 'themes' or stories of your research? What have you contributed? What are the potential implications?
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