The Discussion section is where you will analyze and interpret the results of your experiment. You should state your conclusions in this section. Do not use the word prove in your conclusions. Your results will support, verify, or confirm your hypothesis, or they will negate, refute, or contradict your hypothesis; but the word prove is not appropriate in scientific writing.

Complete your Introduction and Results sections before you begin writing the discussion. The figures and tables in the Results section will be particularly important as you begin to think about your discussion. The tables allow you to present your results clearly to the reader, and graphs allow you to visualize the effects that the independent variable has had on the dependent variables in your experiment. Studying these data will be one of the first steps in interpreting your results. As you study the information in the Introduction section and your data in the Results section, write down relationships and integrate these relationships into a rough draft of your discussion.

The following steps, modified from Gray, Dickey, and Kosinski (1988), may be helpful to you as you begin to organize your discussion:

  1. Restate your question, hypothesis, and prediction.
  2. Answer the question.
  3. Write down the specific data, including results of statistical tests.
  4. State whether your results did or did not confirm your prediction and support or negate your hypothesis.
  5. Write down what you know about the biology involved in your experiment. How do your results fit in with what you know? What is the significance of your results?
  6. List weaknesses you have identified in your experimental design. You will need to tell the reader how these imperfections may have affected your results.
  7. List any problems that arose during the experiment itself. Unforeseen difficulties with the procedure may affect the data and should be described in the discussion.

Having completed this list, integrate all of this information into several simple, clear, concise paragraphs.

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