The Discussion should raise and address the major questions raised by the results. What biological principles have been established or confirmed? How do your results compare to the findings of others? How do the results relate to the hypotheses or previous results upon which the study was based. Are there any theoretical or practical implications of your work?

Do not repeat your full description of the results in the Discussion, but you may briefly summarise the results again in the first paragraph.


“In this study, riluzole treatment of ALS had a positive and dose-dependent effect on tracheostomy-free survival”

But thereafter you must refer to the results, not repeat them.Western scientific style requires you to clearly present your conclusions, and then to argue their validity. Immediately expand the brief conclusions given at the end of the results; state them clearly and then explain why they are valid conclusions.

Japanese authors will often approach the Discussion and Conclusions in a very different way; first by providing all of the evidence and interpretations, building their case to finally finish with the major conclusions. This approach is not appropriate for Western scientific journals.

Criticise your data, and then present your results within the context of the field. Ensure that all the conclusions are directly supported by the results.

However beyond your major conclusions some thoughtful speculation might be appropriate, but should only be a small part of the Discussion. It shows the reader that you are thinking about the broader direction of your work and may make some points or connections that others had not thought about.rhaps confirming your major conclusions or to show which way your work is going.

Occasionally it is appropriate to introduce new data in the Discussion section. Give this only as a description of unpublished results, and make it very clear that it is only preliminary evidence. This should not be used as a means to publish your new material, and should only be included to make a point, perhaps confirming your major conclusions or to show the direction your work is going.

The discussion is written partly in the past tense and partly in the present tense. Your current results are presented in the past tense. The results of previous studies that are well known and confirmed, are given in the present tense. Results from other studies that are preliminary or cast into doubt by your studies may be referred to in the past tense. The interpretation of your results is in the present tense.

Consider the following example discussion:

“The neuroprotective mechanism of riluzole is not fully understood. Riluzole inhibits glutamate release from presynaptic nerve terminals (Martine et al., 1993). In the present study, riluzole inhibited sodium channels; sodium channels mediate a number of functions within the CNS, including apoptosis. This may be consistent with the recent finding that riluzole inhibited apoptosis in the CNS of a transgenic mouse model of ALS (Garney et al., 1999)”

Let us look at each part:

“Riluzole inhibits glutamate release from presynaptic nerve terminals (Martine et al., 1993).”

These effects are well known or were clearly proven, and are therefore
in the present tense.

” In the present study, riluzole inhibited sodium channelsŠ”

As these results are still unsure (not published), the past tense is used.

“This may be consistent with the recent finding that riluzole inhibited apoptosis..”

By putting this in the past tense, it suggests that these recent findings are not yet well established.