How to write the results section of a research article in the social sciences

When you analyze data, your readers will want to know the results. But, you have lots of data and lots of analyses. How can we best write the results section of an empirical research article in the social sciences?

Articles on writing empirical research articles in the social sciences

Some tips on how to write the results section of a research article

1. The results section should flow from the rest of the paper. As with the theory section, for example, the results section should be selective.

2. Be honest! It is important to include all results, not just the ones that “fit” your theory. Present the results objectively and transparently, including any unexpected or contradictory findings.

3. Whatever data you have, or will produce, there will be a lot of it. The possibilities for analysis are vast. Indeed, there may be uses for your data that, at the current time, are not known.

However, for an empirical research article in the social sciences, the results section must focus on…

(a) testing hypotheses, i.e. the main concepts of the paper,

(b) anomalous results that are not methodological artifacts (the results are due to issues with the methods and do no reflect reality).

4. Text on the results should be about results of the analyses, not the interpretation of them in terms of theory. The conclusion or “summary” sections are where you can summarize the results and interpret them with regard to the theories.

5. Use subheadings: organize your results with a clear structure. The structure should be primarily about the main concepts of the paper.

Examples of how to structure the results sections

Quantitative Articles

Walking the reader through the relationships between concepts

Start with the simplest relationships and then move on to more complex relationships, e.g. interactions. It should reflect the order of the concepts from the introduction.

For example, if the relationships were gender, gendered parliamentary representation, and policy adoption, the order should be…


Gender ← → Representation
Representation ← → Policy adoption
Gender ← → Policy adoption


Gender ← → Representation ← → Policy adoption

Hypothesis by hypothesis

This is a variation on walking the reader through the relationships between concepts.
Hypothesis 1.
Hypothesis 2.

Hypothesis n.

Qualitative Articles

Theme by theme

This is good for the standard qualitative article. Each subsection of the results is another theme that you revealed through your analysis of the data. Be sure to order the themes in the same way as you ordered them in the introduction and theory section.


If the “I” is important in how you collected the data and analyze the results, then there must be some writing on how you fit into the story and may have influenced these crucial parts of the study.


If the study’s focus is how the events unfolded over time, then a chronological structure is best. I.e. Alissa Cordner’s “Staring at the sun during wildfire season: knowledge, uncertainty, and front-line resistance in disaster preparation,” published in Qualitative Sociology 44, no. 2 (2021): 313-335, and summarized in Occam’s Press.


This is when the researcher compares different groups, cases, or settings. The writer will compare and contrast the experiences, perspectives, or behaviors of the different groups or cases. This can be done thematically, or can be done case by case.

Leave a Reply