Monday, 19 September 2016

What to write in our Findings

Our findings chapter is where, based upon the methodology we described in the previous chapter, we report what we found.

Sometimes called 'results', the findings section simply describes our data, logically arranged, without bias or interpretation. We don't attempt to apply meaning to our data in this chapter. We simply report what is (University of Southern California, n.d.).

When undertaking qualitative research, Wolcott (2008, p. 27) says "Give your account a firm footing in description". He suggests:
"Description provides the foundation upon which qualitative inquiry rests. Unless you prove to be gifted at conceptualizing or theorizing, the descriptive account will usually constitute the major contribution you have to make. The more solid the descriptive basis, the more likely it will survive changing fads and fashions in reporting or changing emphases in how we derive meaning from our studies."
Analysing our data in our findings helps us "to understand the problem from within, to break it into pieces, and to view the research problem from various perspectives" (University of Southern California, n.d.). We need to look for themes, ways of grouping or clustering our data that starts to make sense of what our research participants have told us.

We should ignore data that doesn't help us to answer our research question, and tell the story of what we HAVE found simply, briefly, and clearly. To answer our research question, as part of being brief, we can use "figures and tables, to present results more effectively". However, we shouldn't include non-summarised raw data, because that will not adequately describe what we have found (University of Southern California, n.d.).

Non-summarised or unanalysed data is simply a data-dump. It adds no context to help the reader understand the evidence that we have collected. Without that understanding, we will not be able to expand our argument in our discussion chapter into meaning.

However, we do have to be careful that we do not get confused between description and meaning. As Wolcott says, there is a "subtle but critical distinction between observed and inferred behavior" (2008, p. 28). In this chapter, we stay with 'observed'.

Think of the results section as the place where you report what your study found; think of the discussion section as the place where you interpret your data and answer the "So What?" question (University of Southern California, n.d.).



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