Edited by Timothy Clark, Mike Wright and David J. Ketchen Jr.
Chapter 10: Suggestions for strengthening the discussion section and increasing your odds of publication success
What section of a paper do you read first? The Introduction? Did you know that many reviewers and editors read the Discussion first? Surprised? Don’t be, as this section is where readers learn about how a paper’s story adds uniquely to knowledge. An effective Discussion will identify the research purpose, the paper’s unique insight, and then provide an elaboration of the contribution’s meaning and implications. If your paper offers a new advance, the reader should find it in the Discussion. If your paper does not offer a new contribution, the reader will find that out too. In many ways, the Discussion section is where the author showcases the paper’s contribution. You want it to be a big bang and not a whimper, which, I’m sorry to say, is usually what happens. Using my experience as a long-term reviewer (20 years or so) and as an associate editor of three top journals for more than 12 years now, I want to share with you that I usually run into big problems when I read the Discussion sections of new manuscripts. These outcomes are disappointing, as authors have usually invested considerable resources in creating an impressive model and data set while reviewers discover that the authors do not leverage the uniqueness about their research to provide a new and meaningful insight. There is good news though. Many problems with contribution can be anticipated and resolved before submission.
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