The second to last step in conducting a research study is to interpret the findings in the Discussion section, draw conclusions, and make recommendations. It is important that everything in this last section be based off of the results of the study that were presented in Step 18: Results. The only conclusions and recommendations that are possible in a study are those that are based out of the data that was collected and analyzed. For example, when interpreting the findings and making recommendations, every single paper written in Nigeria that I read always states that the government should provide more teaching materials and that the government should pay the teachers better. Better instructional materials and proper pay is rarely ever related to the topic of the paper! Please, draw conclusions and make recommendations related to the purpose and results of the study. Everybody in Nigeria knows that schools need more materials and teachers need better pay. Draw conclusions and make recommendations that are meaningful, unique, and relate to the results of the study.
Most papers require five different sections for the Discussion, although the order will vary depending on the requirements of the paper, described separately below.
This section might be called Discussion or it might be called Summary of Findings. The purpose of this section is to highlight the major statistical results from Step 18: Results and interpret them. First, restate the overall purpose of the study. What was the main lesson learned from the study? Next, summarize the results from Chapter 4. Explain how the statistical findings from the Results section relate to that purpose of the study. One way to do this is to take every research question and hypothesis and explain in plain terms what the statistical results mean and how the results are related to education in general. All conclusions must be supported by statistics calculated in Chapter 4. Try to integrate the findings into the results of other research studies. An example paragraph from a Discussion section is given below:
This study found that Nigerian teachers have a mix of beliefs regarding early literacy development, some accurate beliefs and other inaccurate beliefs. The teachers sampled in this study were accurate in their agreement about the importance of oral language. Indeed, with the lack of materials often available for early childhood educators in Nigerian classrooms, instruction focused on oral language may be one of the most successful and cost-effective ways of improving early literacy skills. The four instructional strategies previously mentioned - songs, rhymes, and word play; storytelling; circle time; and dramatic play (Roskos et al., 2009) - are relatively easily to implement and require few instructional materials. However, agreeing to the importance of oral language in literacy development is different from having the expertise to effectively teach oral language skills. Additional research needs to be conducted to determine how well early childhood education teachers use instructional strategies that promote oral language in the classroom. Particularly in Africa where high quality reading materials are oftentimes scarce, early childhood teachers need to be well trained in teaching strategies that foster oral language.
Next, give recommendations based on the results of the study. What practical steps can educators take based on the results of the study? Remember, these recommendations must be supported by the statistical findings from Step 18: Results. If the statistical results found that a new teaching program improves mathematical exam scores, then the only valid recommendation that can be made is that the new teaching program should be implemented in order to improve exam scores.
Educators can only change their own behavior; they cannot change the government. Therefore, the most beneficial recommendations will be ones that educators themselves can implement.
Below is a sample recommendation. Notice how the recommendation is supported by a statistical result from the first sentence.
This study found that there is considerable variation in the judgments of acceptability of ethical study practices, providing evidence that university students are not certain about the right way to study. Thus, teachers need to spend class time educating students about positive, effective study skills. Few students understand and use good study practices without explicit instruction (Weinstein, Meyer, Husman, Van Mater Stone, & McKeachie, 2006). Therefore, direct instruction in study skills is necessary. For example, teachers should instruct their students on how to set goals for their education as well as specific study practices such as effectively reading textbooks and studying notes for the exam. When teachers spend the time necessary for teaching study skills, then students will not be uncertain about ethical study practices and will be more prepared for their exams. As Murdock and Anderman (2006) note, students who are confident in their abilities engage in less cheating behaviors.
After you have written your recommendations, reread each recommendation. What statical result from Step 18: Results is used to support that recommendation? If there is no statistical result to support it, then cancel that recommendation.
All studies have limitations in terms of the population/sample, measurement or manipulation of key variables, and procedure for data collection. This section should report the limitations that resulted from the Research Methods described in Chapter 3. How could the research be conducted with a different research method? How were the participants and sampling method limited? How were your instruments inadequate? Were there any problems with the treatment? What problems resulted from the study's procedure? What other unexpected problems arose?
I frequently read that the study was limited by time, money, or other resources. However, every single research study ever conducted in this world was limited by money, resources, and time. These factors are external to the study and should not be mentioned.
A sample Limitations section is given below.
One of the limitations of this research study was the constitution of the sample. First, students were not randomly selected from a larger population to participate in the study. Information about the study was sent home with all of the students at Tonganoxie Elementary School. The parents then had to sign and return an informed consent document. This might have biased the sample. However, the teachers at Tonganoxie Elementary School commented that students from a range of ability levels did participate in the study. The sample was also relatively homogeneous with mostly Caucasian middle class students who lived in a relatively rural community. Therefore, the results might not generalize to other student populations, particularly those in an urban community or those with greater diversity in ethnicity and social class.
Since the experimenter in the study also authored the paper, the experimenter might have biased students' responses during the task. However, this conclusion was unlikely since the results for the Number Series task were contrary to the original hypothesis. Regardless, a blind administration of the experiment would have been desirable.
A ceiling effect also most likely influenced performance on the Equivalence task. This effect might have masked differences in performance between the Pictorial and Numeral conditions, particularly in the high ability and second grade samples.
Every research study answers a question or two, but also opens the door for five to ten additional questions. Based on the Discussion/Summary of Findings and Limitations of the study, what additional research should be conducted? What questions arose because of the major finding of your study? How can other research studies improve over the limitations that were described in the Limitations section?
Educational researchers need to continue conducting empirical research to ascertain the factors that contribute to cheating amongst students. First, researchers should identify the types of malpractices that are most frequent amongst students. Second, researchers should determine what types of factors influence students to engage in examination malpractice. Finally, experimental research should be conducted to test various strategies for preventing examination malpractice to determine which strategies are most effective.
The final section of the paper is the Conclusion section. Briefly summarize the overall conclusion of the research study and its importance to educational practice. An example conclusion is given below.
The Nigerian teachers sampled in this study generally had outdated beliefs about literacy development, focusing more on drills of isolated reading skills than on authentic reading experiences with meaningful literature. Two significant changes must be made to improve the literacy development of young children in Nigeria. First, teacher training programs must improve the quality of instruction for pre-service teachers, particularly in the domain of literacy development. In-service professional development workshops need to be conducted to improve practicing teachers' knowledge and skills. Teachers must have a better understanding about emergent literacy skills, the skills necessary for children to be competent readers, instructional practices for fostering oral language skills, and the importance of reading meaningful texts. Research shows that effective teacher education results in better literacy among students (National Reading Panel, 2000).
Second, authentic, meaningful, and appealing picture books must be developed and produced for beginning readers in Nigeria. Without meaningful texts, young children will not have the opportunity to practice their reading skills. Furthermore, children cannot develop an interest in learning how to read and understand the relevance of reading if they are not exposed to interesting and meaningful literature. Curriculum developers must also improve the quality of literature in the textbooks produced for young children.
Literacy is a fundamental human right (UNESCO, 2006). However, learning how to read is a difficult endeavor that requires competent instructors. This study provided evidence that primary school teachers in Nigeria need additional professional development to improve their beliefs about literacy development so they can be more effective literacy instructors. Only competent, well trained teachers will help Nigeria's children develop a high level of literacy that is necessary for being effective in today's world.
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