Results Section


The results section is where you tell the reader the basic descriptive information about the scales you used (report the mean and standard deviation for each scale).  If you have more than 3 or 4 variables in your paper, you might want to put this descriptive information in a table to keep the text from being too choppy and bogged down (see the APA manual for ideas on creating good tables).  In the results section, you also tell the reader what statistics you conducted to test your hypothesis (-ses) and what the results indicated.  In this paper, you conducted bivariate correlation(s) to test your hypothesis.


Include in Results (include the following in this order in your results section):

   Give the descriptive statistics for the relevant variables (mean, standard deviation). 

   Provide a brief rephrasing of your hypothesis(es) (avoid exact restatement).  Then tell the reader what statistical test you used to test your hypothesis and what you found.

   Explain which correlations were in the predicted direction, and which were not (if any).  Were differences statistically significant (i.e., p < .05 or below)?  Don't merely give the statistics without any explanation.  Whenever you make a claim that there is (or is not) a significant correlation between X and Y, the reader has to be able to verify it by looking at the appropriate test statistic.  For example do not report “The correlation between private self-consciousness and college adjustment was r = - .26, p < .01.” In general, you should not use numbers as part of a sentence in this way. Instead, interpret important data for the reader and use words throughout your sentences: “The negative correlation between private self-consciousness and college adjustment indicated that the more participants felt self-conscious, the worse their adjustment to college, r = - .26, p < .01”

   However, don't try to interpret why you got the results you did.  Leave that to the Discussion.

   Note: Be sure to underline all abbreviations of test statistics (e.g., M for mean and SD for standard deviation). See pages 112-118 of the APA manual for more on reporting statistics in text.


Some specifics:

     For each correlation, you need to report the following information either in the text of your paper or in a table: correlation coefficient, significance level (p value). 

     If you are reporting a single correlation for the whole results section, report it in the text of the paper as follows:    r =.26, p < .01   or    r = -.11, n.s.



   Use n.s. if not significant; or use whichever of the following is most accurate:

              p < .05;  p < .01;  p < .001

   If your correlation was non significant, but p < .10 you can still talk about it.  You might put the following text in your paper:  “While the correlation was not significant relative to the standard alpha level of .05, the p-value was less than .10.” Then provide a rationale for why you should still be able to discuss this non-significant correlation (see your hypothesis testing lecture notes).  You may then cautiously interpret such a correlation. Don’t make grand conclusions or use strong language based on the existence of a marginally significant finding. Also, you should indicate that a marginal correlation is non-significant in a table; only refer to the correlation as “approaching significance” in the text of the paper.

If you computed two or more correlations (thus involving at least three variables) provide a  table at the end of the paper (ordinarily tables would only be used for even more complex findings, but I'd like you to practice since you have a few correlations to work with).  Create a correlation matrix like the example (see Table 1).  If you include a correlation matrix table, you should, in the text of the result section, refer readers to your table instead of typing out the r and the p value for each correlation. If you are using Word as your word processor, create the table, then you can adjust the "borders and shading" for each cell/row/column to get the table formatted properly.  I can show you how if you have trouble. Other word processors should have similar functions.


Table 1


This Table is an Example of a Correlation Matrix among Three Variables for an Imaginary Sample of College Students (n = 129).





1.  name of variable




2.  name of next var.




3.  name of 3rd var.




* p < .05;  **p < .01




You need to report the statistics in some way in your result section, but regardless of whether you use a table or type the statistics in the text, you should also interpret the correlation for the reader… say exactly what that means:


E.g.  “As expected, college adjustment was positively correlated with the amount of contact with friends and family members (see Table 1).”   

E.g.  “No significant relationship was found between the importance of one's social life and social adjustment to college, r = -.11, n.s.

E.g.  “As shown in Table 1, some of my predictions were supported.  There was a significant correlation between extroversion and life satisfaction.  However, life satisfaction was not significantly related to college adjustment.”


See your text, APA manual, and Sample Paper (“The Title of the Paper”) for more information and suggestions.  In general, I would suggest writing the words of the results section first, and then going back to insert the numbers and statistical information.



Discussion section


In your discussion section, relate the results back to your initial hypotheses.  Do they support or disconfirm them?  Remember: Results do not prove hypotheses right or wrong, they support them or fail to provide support for them.


I suggest the following information in the following order:


   Provide a very brief summary of the most important parts of the introduction and then the results sections. In doing so, you should relate the results to the theories you introduced in the Introduction. Your findings are just one piece among many -- resist the tendency to make your results the final story about the  phenomenon or theory of interest.  Integrate the results and try to make sense of the pattern of the findings.


   In the case of a correlational project, be careful to not use causal language to discuss your results – unless you did an experiment you cannot infer causality. However, it would be impossible to fully discuss the implications of your results without making reference to causality. That is fine. Just don't claim that your results themselves are demonstrating causality.


   If your findings did not support your hypotheses, speculate why that might be so.  You might reconsider the logic of your hypotheses.  Or, reconsider whether the variables are adequately measuring the relationship.  For example, if you hypothesized a relationship between anger toward the stigmatized and narcissism and didn’t find it – consider whether anger is really the right variable... perhaps "disgust" would better capture the relationship. Alternatively, you might also consider whether the relationship you hypothesized might only show up in certain populations of people or under certain conditions (e.g., self-threat). Where possible, support your speculation with references.


   Talk about any qualifications important to your findings (all studies have weaknesses/qualifications). This includes alternative explanations for the results.  For example, you might speculate about an unexamined third variable that was not present in you study.  However, BE SPECIFIC and back up any assertions you make.  For example, if you claim that 3rd variables might affect your correlations, tell me what they are and how they would affect your correlations.


   Speculate about future directions that research could take to further investigate your question. This might relate back to any weaknesses you’ve mentioned above (or reasons why the results didn’t turn out as expected).  Future directions may also include interesting next steps in the research.


   A discussion section is about “what we have learned so far”; and “where we should go next”;  Your final conclusion should talk briefly about the broader significance of your findings.  What do they imply about human nature or some aspect of it? (Don't wildly speculate, however!) Leave the reader feeling like this is an important topic... you will likely refer back to your opening paragraph of the introduction here and have partial answers or more specific responses to the questions you posed.


Important Parts of the Paper – Don’t Forget Them!!


Title page -  Try to write a title that maximally informs the reader about the topic, without being ridiculously long. Use titles of articles you've read as examples of form. Also provide the RUNNING HEAD and an abbreviated title that appears in the header of each page along with the page number. Provide your name and institutional affiliation (Hanover College). See APA Manual and sample paper.


Abstract - Write the abstract LAST. An abstract is a super-short summary and is difficult to write.


Info on abstracts from APA manual:

An abstract is a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of an article, allowing readers to survey the contents quickly.


A good abstract is:


   accurate: Ensure that your abstract correctly reflects the purpose and content of your paper.  Do not include information that does not appear in the body of the paper.

   self-contained:  Define all abbreviations and acronyms.  Spell out names of tests/ questionnaires.  Define unique terms.  Paraphrase rather than quote. 

   concise and specific: Make each sentence maximally informative, especially the lead sentence.  Begin the abstract with the most important information (your question), but do not repeat the title.  Be as brief as possible.

   non-evaluative: Report rather than evaluate: do not add to or comment on what is in the body of the manuscript.

   coherent and readable: Write in clear and vigorous prose. Use the third person rather than the first person.


In less than 150 words your abstract should describe:

   the problem under investigation (an "introduction" type sentence)

   the specific variables investigated and the method of doing so (a "method" type sentence)

   the results of the study in brief (no numbers, just words)

   a hint about the general direction the discussion section takes



References: Use APA style.  See your APA manual, textbook and the sample paper for examples of how to cite and how to make a reference list.  Make sure that all references mentioned in the text are also mentioned in the reference list and vice versa.


Tables and/or Figures:  Use APA style. Tables go at the very end of your paper.  Make sure you refer to the table or figure in the text of your paper. 



*See APA Manual, textbook and sample paper for information on how to format each section of your paper and how to order the sections.