Release Date: May 3, 2014
Category: Manuscript Writing
Author: Rita N., Ph.D.
A strong Discussion section provides a great deal of analytical depth. Your goal should be to critically analyze and interpret the findings of your study. You should place your findings in the context of published literature and describe how your study moves the field forward.
It is often easy to organize the key elements of a Discussion section into distinct paragraphs (or groups of paragraphs).
|Example: EGFR-overexpressing cancers are highly aggressive and have a higher tendency to metastasize. Currently, available drugs specifically target the EGFR and elicit high response rates. However, the majority of patients eventually develop progressive disease. The mechanisms through which cancers escape EGFR-targeted therapies remain unclear. Identification of specific molecules that mediate resistance to EGFR-directed treatments will facilitate the development of novel therapies and may improve responses to currently available therapies.|
|Example: In this study, we measured secreted factors in the media of sensitive and resistant cell lines to identify differentially expressed cytokines that may mediate resistance. Through a combination of ELISAs and mass spectrometry-based assays, we identified cytokine A as being significantly up-regulated in resistant cells. Cytokine A is a major activator of the ABCD signaling cascade (literature citations). The ABCD cascade is a known target of EGFR signaling and is usually blocked in response to EGFR inhibition (literature citations). A previous study demonstrated that exogenous stimulation of ABCD signaling reduces the response to EGFR-targeted drugs (literature citations). This report is consistent with our finding that a major stimulus of ABCD signaling is overexpressed in resistant cells. Based on these data, we propose that hyperactive ABCD signaling is a major mechanism of resistance to EGFR-targeted therapies (Figure XX, schematic of proposed mechanism of resistance). This section will be greatly expanded in a real Discussion section to place your finding in the context of multiple published studies.|
|Most studies yield multiple results. After you discuss your main result in the paragraph above, discuss additional major or minor findings. Unexpected and intriguing findings may be especially important to convey to readers. In addition, if a finding is contrary to what has been suggested in the literature, acknowledge this, and offer explanations based on your study. Even if a result was not statistically significant, it can be helpful to discuss a potential trend that may be important to assess in a future study. If these additional findings relate to your main finding, discuss the associations.|
|Discuss potential limitations in study design. For example, how representative was your model? Did sample size affect your conclusions? Consider how these limitations affect the interpretation or quality of data. Do they affect the ability to generalize your findings?|
In summary, a strong Discussion includes a concise summary of the problem you are investigating and a critical discussion of major and minor findings in the context of published literature. The limitations should also be acknowledged, and future directions should be discussed. A strong ending is important; discuss the significance, overall conclusion, and major impact of your study.
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