Results

A 'moves' analysis of the results sections of academic articles either looks like this:

• Move 1: State the main findings in order — relating them in turn to the hypotheses and methods used.

• Move 2: State the subsidiary findings — relating them in turn to the hypotheses and methods used.

or it is an interweaving of the two — the first set of main findings and related subsidiary ones, followed by the second set, and so on.

Again these subsections may be cued by subheadings. Slatcher and Pennebaker (2006), for example, divide their results section into two main parts (separated by the subheadings, 'Relationship stability and language use', and 'Mediation effects of changes in use of emotional words'). They provide a description of the results obtained, mainly in prose, in each part, indicating that the partners who wrote the romantic letters were significantly more likely to be dating their romantic partners three months later than were the partners who wrote the neutral ones.

It is typical in results sections to present the main data that support (or reject) the hypotheses in the form of tables and graphs. Indeed, it is quite common to find that the first sentence of a results section begins, 'Table 1 shows that . . .'. Slatcher and Pennebaker's paper is unusual here in that they provide only one such table, near the start of their second section of results, and this table is not used to illustrate their main findings. Because tables and graphs are so important in academic and scientific writing, I shall discuss them separately, in more detail, in Chapter 3.5.

Salovey (2000) argues that the art of writing a good results section is to take the readers through a story. This does not mean working step by step through the results obtained, but rather — as implied above — articulating what happened and illustrating it clearly, usually with data. In my view, this story is clearer if the sequence of topics addressed in the results section is the same as that articulated in the introduction and the method(s) sections.

Swales and Feak (2004) comment that the distinction between the results and the subsequent discussion section is not always as sharp as one might think. They cite a study by Thompson (1993) that showed that the authors of papers in biochemistry used a variety of rhetorical devices in their results section to justify their methodology, to interpret and comment on the findings, and to relate them to previous research. Indeed, the only thing that they did not do in their results sections was to call for further research - this was left for the discussion.

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