Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How to write up the findings chapter

I don't know why I have taken so long to describe the findings chapter. My "Free online doctoral programme" has been up for three years now, but still it is silent on the most important chapter. So, here goes.

In a traditional five section thesis, the findings make up section four, Introduction, Literature survey, Methods, Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations. Nevertheless, it is really the first chapter that you will write out completely. It is the most important chapter of the thesis the most exciting one, but also the most difficult one to get started with.

The most common mistake that people make is to write the chapter as an inventory of what the instruments told them.  They would start unpacking the demographics of the participants, and then launch into the questionnaire from question 1 to question 100, providing all the relevant statistics, and generally boring everybody to tears.  So how is it done?

The first thing to do is to orientate the reader regarding the research.  Do not be repetitive, but explain briefly the purpose of your research and why you followed the methods that you did. Then explain how you will structure the findings chapter.  Two structuring principles are important here.  Your theoretical or conceptual model and your research questions.  The questions are structured as they are derived from the theoretical or conceptual model.  A simple example would be if one were to use a system as a conceptual model.  So the conceptual model will say that there is an input, there are processes, there is an output and there is a feedback loop to ensure sustainability. From this the questions will be derived.  What is the input? What are the processes? What is the output? How is sustainability achieved? And that is how the chapter will be structured.

So after brief description of the research and the participants you launch into the story of your research.   The rhythm is this:

The question was...
The reason for this question was to determine...
The instruments used to get to the answer were...
The instrument that gave the best information was...
This is the information that the instrument gave (in narrative form)
And here is the evidence of that information (statistics, quottionss, screen captures, embedded video clips, transcripts)...
These instruments supported the answer in this way, and here is the evidence.
These instruments gave contradictory evidence (if any) and this is it.
So my tentative answer to the question is ...
This supports the literature that says... and contradicts the literature that says... and adds the following to our body of knowledge.

And so you go on, question by question question.  Of course, you start with the sub-questions and the lesser questions so that they all add up when you finally ANSWER THE MAIN QUESTION(S).

And that's it. You  have presented your findings.  Now write Chapter 5 the way Tjeerd Plomp suggests. Then tidy up the other chapters and ensure they are completely aligned with Chapter 4. Then submit and have a happy life.
 

2 comments:

Kelly-Anne Morgan said...

I absolutely geeked out when I read this breakdown of chapter four. After struggling with how to approach this chapter I finally came across a succinct breakdown and explanation that really assisted me. I am quite excited to write up this chapter thanks to this info. Thank you!

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