Sometimes you will have negative or unexpected results in your paper. You must talk about it in your discussion section. In this blog, we will see how to effectively communicate negative and unexpected findings in your paper with detailed examples.

1. Is It Okay to Have Negative Results in Research?

Negative and unexpected results

Do not suppress negative results in your paper. Don’t worry if your experiments did not yield the results that you were expecting. Don’t try to ignore or downplay the result just because it doesn’t support your hypothesis. It doesn’t mean that your research is a failure.

Negative results are as good as positive results. You have discovered a useful piece of evidence that your experiments don’t work. This is an important contribution to the scientific community so that future researchers can learn from your work and modify their experiments to avoid the mistake you did in your work.

Tip: Negative results will inform the research community that certain method or experiment didn’t work. This is a very valuable contribution. 

Following is an example of an author reporting negative and moderate results in the paper. The authors have reported their results in the paper with full transparency and honesty, and that is how it should be.

The authors have reported their negative results with full transparency and honesty

The performance did not improve significantly with the new approach, though some marginal improvement was still achieved in terms of speed. These findings are in contrary to our original hypothesis.

 _ Negative and moderate results

2. Examples of Negative/Unexpected Findings

A lot of students find it difficult to write this part. The best way to handle this situation is not to look at results as either positive or negative. A result is a result, and you will always have something important and interesting to say about your findings. Just spend some time investigating what might have caused this result and tell your readers about it.  Let’s look at some examples.

2.1. Example #1

An example from a social sciences research paper presenting negative results

Contrary to our prediction, there is no significant difference in academic performance between students who use technology in the classroom and those who do not. Thus, the results of the present study is in stark contrast with most previous studies on this topic. An alternative possibility for this discrepancy could be that students who are already inclined toward academics are more likely to look for and employ technology in their studies, which would skew the data in favour of a positive connection.

_ Negative Result _ Disagreement with prior studies _ Author’s explanation

In the above example, the author’s original hypothesis is that there is a link between the use of technology in classrooms and student grades. But after conducting the experiments their data showed that there is no link. This clearly contradicts their hypothesis. It turns out that this finding is also in contrast to previous papers published on this topic in the literature.

Now the authors are finding themselves in a difficult position having to explain their findings to the readers. The authors are saying that this might be because intelligent kids might be using technology outside the classroom. So it doesn’t matter whether they use technology in classrooms or not, they will still do better. This sounds plausible, and it sounds convincing enough.

2.2. Example #2

An example from a health sciences research paper presenting negative results

In our study, we did not find evidence for the presence of high vitamin C concentrations in the samples we analyzed. This is an unexpected finding, as we had hypothesized that vitamin C would be present in high concentrations in all of the samples. The results of the present experiments, therefore, argue against the notion that these fruit juices are rich in vitamin C [1-2]. This effect is likely due to several factors, such as improper postharvest treatment, poor storage conditions as well as oxidative stress.

_ Negative Result _ Hypothesis disproved _ Disagreement with prior studies _ Author’s explanation

In the above example, the authors are saying that they did not find any evidence of vitamin C in any of the samples in the experiment. This contradicts their hypothesis and some of the previous findings in the literature. Now the authors are explaining why they think they got this result. They think this might be due to various factors such as improper treatment, poor storage, oxidative stress, etc. As you can see the authors are honest about their findings and are trying to provide a rational explanation to justify their results.

3. Summary

It can be frustrating when you get negative results. Researchers are often disappointed and feel that it has been a waste of time. Please bear in mind that some of the greatest discoveries in science were accidental discoveries. It is very important to talk to your supervisor and colleagues to investigate the root cause of your negative or unexpected results. Then, logically lay it out in your research paper with honesty and full transparency. For further reading, please refer to our blogs on advanced tactics to address study limitations and research limitation examples

If you have any questions, please drop a comment below, and we will answer as soon as possible. We also recommend you to refer to our other blogs on academic writing tools,  academic writing resourcesacademic writing phrases and research paper examples which are relevant to the topic discussed in this blog. 

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *