Do’s and don’ts in writing the results section of a scientific manuscript

Participants, facilitators and organizers of the 2nd National Writing and Peer Review Workshop pose for the group picture taking.

“The common mistake of authors in writing the results of a scientific manuscript is the misplacement of information. Sometimes, authors include details in the results that should be discussed in materials and methods or discussion portion,” said Dr. Jose Florencio Lapeña, Jr., Editor-in-Chief of the Philippine Journal of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery and President of the Philippine Association of Medical Journal Editors (PAMJE) during the 2nd National Writing and Peer Review Workshop in Davao City last July 26- 27, 2012.

The first task of authors before writing, according to Dr. Lapeña, is to review and analyze the data and identify which findings merit inclusion in the results section. “To decide which results to incorporate, choose only those data and information relevant to the questions presented in the introduction whether or not they support the hypothesis. Do not state ‘all’ results gathered or observed,” Dr. Lapeña  explained.

Selecting the most coherent structure in presenting the results is another pre-writing task. Dr. Lapeña said, “Before starting to write the results section, the flow of discussion should be considered. To determine the best structure, authors may ask if the results must be arranged in the same order of items in the Materials and Methods section or should it be presented in the order of the most important finding to the least.”        

Presenting data in tables and figures is also encouraged. According to Dr. Lapeña, some data is best presented in the form of tables, figures, or graphs. Thus, authors must choose the type of illustration that best supports the findings of the study. Dr. Lapeña reminded, “Authors must carefully plan their use of tables, graphs and figures. This is crucial in empowering readers to grasp the same conclusion of the study. Do not include raw data when summarizing findings.”

Finally, authors must remember that the purpose of the results section is to present the main data collected and the observations made during the research. The results section must guide the reader through the questions investigated in the study and sets the stage for the discussion part of the manuscript. Dr. Lapeña reiterated, “As authors, keep in mind that in the results section you show and don’t tell. Ensure that all necessary data required by readers and reviewers to evaluate the outcome of the paper is presented. Let the results section prepare your readers for the next part, the discussion section.”