A good research paper, following some of the style guides, especially APA, have clearly defined sections. Beginning with the introduction through the major research, one of the final sections, but one of the most important, is the discussion section. In a scientific article, the discussion section allows the researcher to interpret the findings of the results of a study. The intellectual basis for this can be traced back to the scientific method itself—hypothesis, experimentation and interpretation of results.
The discussion section allows the writer to make their original contribution to the literature. This is the step beyond the reporting of data, but as to its meaning. If you have found correlations between one of two or more observable behaviors, the discussion section is where you expound upon your educated opinion as to its meaning. Often, the discussion section will be a discussion of where your findings did not match your original hypothesis. Not every question is answered in the way we had hoped, or predicted, but such a result does not make for an invalid discussion section.
Thus, in the discussion section of a paper, the writer can explore self-criticism, and a solid plan for a new line of research. The discussion section allows for an intellectual interplay between writer and data, and summation of all that has been learned in the process. The discussion section is then followed by the conclusion.