Chapter 5: Writing the Results Section

Results Goal 3: Construing the Niche

The next goal in the Results section is called Construing the Niche. The main aim of Goal 3 is to comment on and frame the results of the current study. This commentary on the results helps to explain the findings and develop a reader’s understanding of how the findings relate to the other literature in the discipline. You would typically use this goal after a report of findings because it is a prime opportunity to evaluate how the presented results fit in the pre-existing literature. While in most other sections, we have pointed out that there is no set order to the goals and strategies, in the case of Results Goals 2 and 3, it is the norm to find them in a particular order. In Goal 2, you first simply report the results, and then in Goal 3, you follow that report with attempts to interpret the results in relation to what has occurred in the study and what has been reported in other relevant research in the discipline. To sum up, Construing the Niche allows authors to describe and evaluate the reported results.

It must be noted that Goal 3 may or may not appear in the Results section of a research manuscript. If the manuscript is organized with the Results and Discussion sections combined, then Goal 3 will be included. However, if the Results section and Discussion section are separate, the author may discuss the results in later sections of the manuscript, meaning Goal 3 may not be present in the Results section at all.

Strategies for Results Communicative Goal 3: Construing the Niche

  • Comparing results with literature review
  • Accounting for results
  • Explicating results
  • Relating to expectations
  • Acknowledging limitations
We’ll now discuss each of these and provide some examples from published research.

Results Goal 3 Strategy: Comparing Results with the Literature Review

Comparing results with the literature review is a strategy where authors compare the results of their current study with reported findings, theoretical beliefs, and/or previously stated assumptions or predictions in their discipline. In other words, authors must attempt to match what they wrote about in the Introduction in order to underscore similarities and/or differences between their research findings and previous research findings. This strategy is also an opportunity to support explanations and/or claims with what is known from previous research, show how the results relate to the body of existing knowledge on the topic of current research and strengthen the credibility of your findings. Here are two examples of how you can accomplish this step, with the specific language bolded to show how language can be used to realize this strategy:


  • These observations are consistent with previous researchers’ findings that bond order is independent of the d18O of water and the d13C of dissolved inorganic carbon (Schauble et al., 2006). 10.[1]
  • The short action time of 0.4s estimated based on the micro-PIV measurements was found to agree well with the value reported by Demuren et al. (2009). 10.[2]


Note that both examples have cited relevant literature with which the authors are comparing their findings.

Results Goal 3 Strategy: Accounting for Results

Accounting for results reflects on the nature of your study’s results to point out what may have contributed to your results or outcomes and suggest reasons for, hypotheses about, speculations for, and/or assumptions that may account for certain findings. By using this strategy, you are working to justify the basis of the results.

Consider the following examples of how you can accomplish this strategy, with the specific language bolded to highlight important language:


  • Thus, it is likely that the in vivo visualization of the polymerized MTs was unbiased, despite the construct being driven by a strong promoter. [3]
  • The discrepancy of the downtime NH3 ER (0.14 vs. 0.88 g d-1 bird-1) may have been a result of differences in litter source (rye hull vs. shavings) and clean-out practices, such as the extent of caked litter removal, tilling, and rebedding.[4]


There are two important points to note about the examples: (1) This step can be completed with or without referencing previous research; (2) Writers will often use hedging techniques.

What is hedging? Hedging refers to how a writer expresses certainty or uncertainty. Often in academic writing, a writer may not be sure of the claims that are being made, or perhaps the ideas are good, but the evidence is not very strong. It is common, therefore, to use cautious language that indicates uncertainty (known as hedging language).[5]

There are two primary language “tools” that writer’s use to indicate they are hedging:

  1. Adjectives and adverbs of likelihood as in the first example (e.g., likely)
  2. Modal verbs as in the second (e.g., may have been)

The University of Bristol’s website (noted above) provides a list of these tools and even has an exercise where you can test yourself on how well you understand them.

Results Goal 3 Strategy: Explicating Results

Explicating results is another strategy that helps to explain the reported results in the context of the study. Writers accomplish this by interpreting, inferencing, and possibly citing literature in order to give meaning to the results, make immediate deductions from the results, provide logical interpretations, and prepare for further discussion of the results outside the context of their study.

Let’s examine some examples of how you can realize this strategy in your writing (specific language bolded):


  • Indeed, this finding suggests that strength of ties, per se makes little difference, at least in our context, in the extent to which bridging promotes individual innovativeness. [6]
  • These results indicated that SsoPox immobilized on nanoalumina membranes can indeed attenuate the production of P. aeruginosa quorum- sensing-associated virulence factors.[7]


Results Goal 3 Strategy: Relating to Expectations

Relating to expectations is used to reason about the anticipated or unanticipated research findings and/or observations. This step is typical when you want to point out expected or unexpected results, express attitudes about findings (often with regards to surprising or unsatisfactory results), or connect the findings to original hypotheses, possibly stating whether or not they are confirmed or supported.

Below are two examples of writing that uses this strategy to accomplish Goal 3 in the Results section:


  • One of the most striking findings is that all participants spent some time on both kinds of problems (i.e., there were neither floor nor ceiling effects), and there was considerable variability in time spent on both types of problems.[8]
  • Perhaps the most intriguing finding of our single-crystal X-ray analyses comes from the location of the protons in compound. [9]


The Academic Phrasebank website provides a list of sentence starters that would indicate the use of this strategy. Here are a few examples:

  • Interestingly, the X was observed to …
  • This result is somewhat counterintuitive.
  • Interestingly, this correlation is related to …
  • The more surprising correlation is with the …
  • Surprisingly, only a minority of respondents …
  • The most surprising aspect of the data is in the …
  • The correlation between X and Y is interesting because …
  • The most striking result to emerge from the data is that …
  • Interestingly, there were also differences in the ratios of …
  • The single most striking observation to emerge from the data comparison was …
This is a/an (rather) surprising








Results Goal 3 Strategy: Acknowledging Limitations

Acknowledging limitations is important in any study in order to justify what went wrong in the study, avoid over-generalizations about the study’s findings, anticipate potential criticism from other scholars in the field, and possibly transition to recommendations for future research.


  • It was not possible, however, to conclude from the derived s-value what the molar mass of this species is due to uncertainties of hydrodynamic shape and because the reaction boundary of a rapidly interacting system always sediments slower than the sedimentation coefficient of the complex species.[10]
  • Due to the unexpected low bird number (an inadvertent error during bird transfer from the brooder barn to the grower barn) and considerable bird number changes of flock 1 at the tom site, data for one entire investigated flock had to be excluded from the ER assessment, as they were not representative of natural flocking patterns.[11]


Because the presentation of results can become quite complex, you will need to distinguish between what you have accomplished (your methods) and what you found (your findings). As you are moving between your various findings, you might find it useful to use some of these suggestions from the Academic Phrasebank website:
  • If we now turn to …
  • A comparison of the two results reveals …
  • Turning now to the experimental evidence on …
  • Comparing the two results, it can be seen that …
  • The next section of the survey was concerned with …
  • In the final part of the survey, respondents were asked …

Key Takeaways

These strategies for Construing the Niche can help you to consider which aspects of your results to focus on. More than likely, all readers will choose to read this portion of your paper, even if they don’t read other sections. Here are the strategies again:

  • Comparing results with literature review, and/or
  • Accounting for results, and/or
  • Explicating results, and/or
  • Relating to expectations, and/or
  • Acknowledging limitations.

  1. Tripati, A. K., Thiagarajan, N., Eagle, R., Gagnon, A. C., Eiler, J. M., & Bauch, H. A. (2009, December). Equilibrium 13C-18O Isotope Signatures and ‘Clumped Isotope’Thermometry in Foraminifera and Coccoliths. In AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts (Vol. 2009, pp. PP31B-1340).
  2. Wang, B., Demuren, A., Gyuricsko, E., & Hu, H. (2011). An experimental study of pulsed micro-flows pertinent to continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion therapy. Experiments in Fluids51(1), 65-74.
  3. Keech, O., Pesquet, E., Gutierrez, L., Ahad, A., Bellini, C., Smith, S. M., & Gardeström, P. (2010). Leaf senescence is accompanied by an early disruption of the microtubule network in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology154(4), 1710-1720.
  4. Li, H., Xin, H., Burns, R. T., Jacobson, L. D., Noll, S., Hoff, S. J., ... & Hetchler, B. P. (2011). Air emissions from tom and hen turkey houses in the US Midwest. Transactions of the ASABE, 54(1), 305-314.
  5. University of Bristol website. (
  6. Tortoriello, M., & Krackhardt, D. (2010). Activating cross-boundary knowledge: The role of Simmelian ties in the generation of innovations. Academy of Management Journal53(1), 167-181..
  7. Ng, F. S., Wright, D. M., & Seah, S. Y. (2011). Characterization of a phosphotriesterase-like lactonase from Sulfolobus solfataricus and its immobilization for disruption of quorum sensing. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 77(4), 1181-1186.
  8. Forbes, C. E., & Schmader, T. (2010). Retraining attitudes and stereotypes to affect motivation and cognitive capacity under stereotype threat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology99(5), 740.
  9. Richards, G. J., Hill, J. P., Subbaiyan, N. K., D’Souza, F., Karr, P. A., Elsegood, M. R., ... & Ariga, K. (2009). Pyrazinacenes: aza analogues of acenes. The Journal of Organic Chemistry74(23), 8914-8923.
  10. Barda‐Saad, M., Shirasu, N., Pauker, M. H., Hassan, N., Perl, O., Balbo, A., ... & Samelson, L. E. (2010). Cooperative interactions at the SLP‐76 complex are critical for actin polymerization. The EMBO Journal, 29(14), 2315-2328.
  11. Li, H., Xin, H., Burns, R. T., Jacobson, L. D., Noll, S., Hoff, S. J., ... & Hetchler, B. P. (2011). Air emissions from tom and hen turkey houses in the US Midwest. Transactions of the ASABE54(1), 305-314.


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