The main purpose of the results is to point out trends or inconsistencies in your data but should not include explanations or opinions. The results section is a numerical, observational, and/or statistical summary of WHAT HAPPENED or WHAT YOU FOUND or SAW. Present your findings in a logical order (chronology is not a requirement). Present the data you have observed, not what you think you should have found. The observations are real regardless of what you think they should show! You may have to do some thinking to find out why the results came out differently that you expected.

Results can often be reported more effectively in the form of one or more tables or figures (plots or illustrations). These should have clear labels, titles, and captions and you must refer to them within the written portion of the results. Any tables or figures must be explained in the text as well, but do not repeat the numbers or entries in the tables or figures; rather, summarize the trends, interesting observations, deviations from the ‘normal trends’, etc.. Refer to tables and figures in your text, but avoid sentences that include “Figure 1 shows...” or “ seen in Figure 1”.

The text should be kept as close as possible to the figure or table to which it refers without breaking paragraphs up into unnecessarily small paragraphs (remember, one sentence does not a paragraph make!). Alternatively, append tables first and figures second to the end of the assignment, as if you were submitting to a journal for publication. Likewise, do not create or insert sentences of no meaning just to conform to the definition of a paragraph. Instead, come up with logical ways of stringing ideas together. In some cases, the summary statement of a table or figure may only be one sentence and it will be impossible to place the text next to the table or figure. As well, a sound paragraph may include ideas from several tables or figures. In these cases, just place the tables or figures in order of citation within the paragraph. Do not present the same data in the text, a table, and a figure. Use only one of these options.

See the sections on Tables and Figures for more details on proper citing of tables and figures and other relevant information.

Statistical analyses of your data should also be included here if appropriate. When writing about results of statistical tests, give the name of the test, followed by the degrees of freedom and the probability (e.g. chi-square = 3.14, df = 4, p = 0.01). When using standard deviations or standard errors, the correct format is mean ± standard deviation/error (e.g. “The length was 7.2 ± 0.3 mm.”). The abbreviation for standard deviation is SD and for standard error is SE.

Results Formatting

  • always start with text (paragraph), not a table or figure
  • use past tense
  • provide summary data only (means, standard deviations, etc.)
  • include raw data and/or calculations, only if requested and in an appendix
  • round off data to justifiable limits (a person cannot take ½ a breath, nor can you measure height to 5 decimal places with a ruler)