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“Conclusions and Discussion”? What should you call the last section of your paper?

October 2, 2014 Filed under Blog, Featured, Writing 

the-end-old-movieAstute reader Colin Smith fired the following question my way:

I find that many authors call their closing section “Conclusions and discussion”, rather than ‘Discussion and conclusions”. I prefer the latter because, to me, it is logical to first discuss your results in a wider context, and then draw conclusions. However, I also understand why they do it. Usually, they have structured the section such that the conclusions come first, and then they go on to discuss the implications of those conclusions, often in terms of future avenues of research. Sometimes I ask that they consider renaming the section “Conclusions and future perspective”, or similar, especially if the discussion in terms of their own results has largely taken place earlier in the paper. However, it is not always that clear cut, and after deliberating about it for longer than I probably should, I often end up leaving the heading as it is. So, what I’m interested to hear from you is, does “Conclusions and discussion” also not quite sit right with you, or do you think it is fairly acceptable and that I should quit worrying over nothing?

Here was my reply:

I, too, have noticed this tendency for “Conclusions and discussion”. I’m not sure what is behind it. In such a case, I would recommend to the author to use “Conclusion”, implying that this section concludes the paper, without reference to what the “Conclusion” section contains. It may contain “conclusions”, but it may contain other discussion points, as well.

I like your suggestion for “Conclusions and (future) perspective”. That’s a good solution, if it works for that particular paper and the author.

I think if you are going to have “Discussion and conclusions” with the discussion first, then you ought to break this up into two sections.

What are your thoughts, readers?

Which of these titles do you think are inappropriate choices to end a paper? (You may select more than one answer.)

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2 Responses to ““Conclusions and Discussion”? What should you call the last section of your paper?”
  1. My thought is that is the author’s responsibility to provide section names, and there is no one correct way to do this. Let the author(s) decide.

  2. Sama says:

    Well, as far as I am concerned authors use both, and we cannot definitely say that one is incorrect based on what the author thinks and tends. What I usually use is “Discussion and conclusions”. but the v.s. is also acceptable for the reasons you mentioned as well.

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