Chapter 4 of a dissertation is commonly the presentation of the research findings. The first three chapters of your dissertation were based on a whole lot of research into what other scholars have already done. Chapter 4 is where you present your own research! This should be fun! You are done with data collection and analysis, so now you just have to get through this chapter and your discussion. However, for many doctoral students, Chapter 4 can be a stumbling block. While it may be easy to write about the work others have done, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to writing about your own work. Here we will discuss some tips to get past this hurdle.
Most schools require some basic sections in Chapter 4. You will need an introduction and presentation of the findings, but you will also be expected to write about how you analyzed your data, your participants and their demographic characteristics, and the setting of your research. Before you get started, outline the chapter. Using your school’s template and preferred formatting style, create all of your section headings. This will help with your outline and overall chapter structure.
Then, start with the low-hanging fruit. If you do not feel like writing up your results just yet, there are other sections you can work on that take less mental effort. Write about the setting where you conducted your research. In this section, you can highlight any of the differences between what you proposed to do in Chapter 3 (i.e., the methodology) and what actually happened when you collected your data. You can also write about your participants. This may include a brief background, or sketch, of each of your participants. Are you good at making tables? Think about including a table showing your participants’ demographics. You can include ages or age ranges, gender, and other demographic characteristics relevant to your study (occupation, year in school, etc.). Or you can write about your data analysis; if you have already completed this task, it will (hopefully!) still be fresh in your mind.
Try not to get too hung up on perfection at this stage. Write the easy sections and write them comfortably. You w
ill go back and revise them several times, so do not worry about perfect scholarly writing at first. The important thing is that you are writing – and you are writing about your findings – both of which will help you think through and flesh out your findings as you go and get you in the right mindset to write those up. Before you know it, this chapter will be complete.
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