1. Roe-Prior, Paula PhD, RN

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Using the DiMattio et al. (2010) study, the basic components of the methods section of a research article were described in the previous column (Roe-Prior, 2002). Briefly, when writing the methods section, first mention the study design and then the sampling technique, including participant recruitment, inclusion and exclusion criteria, the timing and setting in which the research occurred, the data collection process, instruments used for data collection, the data analysis plan, and the assurance of ethical conduct. A well-written methods section should be sufficiently detailed to allow the study to be replicated and be clearly written and with enough context for a reader to understand the findings (Burns & Grove, 2009, pp. 567-568; Busse & August, 2021; Polit & Beck, 2017, pp. 678-679).

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In this issue, I would like to describe the next component of a quantitative research article: the results. One does not wax poetic in the results section but rather reports only the research data. The explanation for why the findings is important is saved for the discussion section. The biggest pitfalls that I have come across in reviewing research manuscripts are the author, instead of "just the facts mam" (attributed to Joe Friday), begins to provide an explanation of their meaning and/or has collected data on irrelevant variables, which she then feels determined to include in the text or tables. This "thoroughness" only serves to bury the results that deserve highlighting. Other pitfalls are as follows: getting bogged down in describing the processes of data analysis; failing to follow the conventions for reporting the results of a particular hypothesis-testing statistical test, namely, the test statistic, the degrees of freedom, probability level, and confidence intervals (Polit & Beck, 2017, p. 682); neglecting to provide the direction of a statistically significant relationship; and reporting any number beyond two decimal points, except for a p value less than or equal to .000, which should be written as p < .001. One other pitfall frequently encountered is a failure to address the testing results of each of the study questions or aims, preferably, in their order of appearance in the methods (Busse & August, 2021; Burns & Grove, 2009, p. 569).


The foci of the results section are to describe the number in the final sample, the number of nonrespondents for a survey, and the dropouts and their most frequent reasons, if an intervention study. The type of stats used to analyze the data should be mentioned (Busse & August, 2021). Then, descriptive statistical results should be included; if they are few, mention them in the text, but when many, include them in a table. If two groups are being compared, a table is the most efficient way to provide individual and group comparisons. One such example of descriptive stats are demographics. Any data that lend itself to a graph or figure should be displayed that way. Such presentation can be used to emphasize important findings and prevents boredom on the part of the reader caused by reading a series of numbers. Whenever tables, or figures, are included, they should have precise titles, and any abbreviations used should be defined in a footnote. The tables and figures should be numbered separately and sequentially and referred to in the text of the results section (Burns & Grove, 2009, p. 570; Polit & Beck, 2017, p. 682). Do not overdo the tables and figures; use them sparingly to emphasize important findings. As Zelner et al. (2022) have stated, "Big, complex tables are where reader attention goes to die" (p. 5).


Oftentimes, readers will read the abstract of an article and then jump to the results (Mensh & Kording, 2017). Therefore, it is important that your narrative, tables, and figures be easy to follow and understand. So, be clear and concise when writing the results section. As William Zinsser (1990) wrote in On Writing Well: "If the reader is lost, it's usually because the writer hasn't been careful enough. I hope I have not lost you oh reader but hope if not clear, I have at least been concise" (p. 7).




Burns N., Grove S. K. (2009). The practice of nursing research (6th ed., pp. 567-570). Saunders. [Context Link]


Busse C., August E. (2021). How to write and publish a research paper for a peer-reviewed journal. Journal of Cancer Education, 36, 909-913. [Context Link]


DiMattio M. J. K., Roe-Prior P., Carpenter D. R. (2010). Intent to stay: A pilot study of baccalaureate nurses and hospital nursing. Journal of Professional Nursing, 26, 278-286. [Context Link]


Mensh B., Kording K. (2017). Ten simple rules for structuring papers. PLOS Computational Biology, 13, e1005619. [Context Link]


Polit D. F., Beck C. T. (2017). Nursing research: Generating and assessing evidence for nursing practice (10th ed. Vol. 682, pp. 678-679). Wolters Kluwer. [Context Link]


Roe-Prior P. (2002). Research methods. The Journal of Nurses in Professional Development. [Context Link]


Zelner J., Broen K., August E. (2022). A guide to backward paper writing for the data sciences. Patterns (New York, N.Y.), 3, 100423.[Context Link]


Zinsser W. (1990). On writing well (4th ed., p. 7). Harper Collins Publishers. [Context Link]