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Implications in research: A quick guide

Last updated

11 January 2024

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Dovetail Editorial Team

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Hugh Good

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Research expands our knowledge of the world around us. The real impact lies in the implications of the research. 

Implications are a bridge between data and action, giving insight into the effects of the research and what it means. It's a chance for researchers to explain the why behind the research. 

When writing a research paper, reviewers will want to see you clearly state the implications of your research. If it's missing, they’ll likely reject your article. 

Let's explore what research implications are, why they matter, and how to include them in your next article or research paper. 

What are implications in research?

Research implications are the consequences of research findings. They go beyond results and explore your research’s ramifications. 

Researchers can connect their research to the real-world impact by identifying the implications. These can inform further research, shape policy, or spark new solutions to old problems. 

Always clearly state your implications so they’re obvious to the reader. Never leave the reader to guess why your research matters. While it might seem obvious to you, it may not be evident to someone who isn't a subject matter expert. 

For example, you may do important sociological research with political implications. If a policymaker can't understand or connect those implications logically with your research, it reduces your impact.

What are the key features of implications?

When writing your implications, ensure they have these key features: 

Clarity

Implications should be clear, concise, and easily understood by a broad audience. You'll want to avoid overly technical language or jargon. Clearly stating your implications increases their impact and accessibility. 

Relevance

Implications should link to specific results within your research to ensure they’re grounded in reality. You want them to demonstrate an impact on a particular field or research topic

Evidence-based

Give your implications a solid foundation of evidence. They need to be rational and based on data from your research, not conjecture. An evidence-based approach to implications will lend credibility and validity to your work.

Balanced

Implications should take a balanced approach, considering the research's potential positive and negative consequences. A balanced perspective acknowledges the challenges and limitations of research and their impact on stakeholders. 

Future-oriented

Don't confine your implications to their immediate outcomes. You can explore the long-term effects of the research, including the impact on future research, policy decisions, and societal changes. Looking beyond the immediate adds more relevance to your research. 

When your implications capture these key characteristics, your research becomes more meaningful, impactful, and engaging. 

Types of implications in research

The implications of your research will largely depend on what you are researching. 

However, we can broadly categorize the implications of research into two types: 

  • Practical: These implications focus on real-world applications and could improve policies and practices.

  • Theoretical: These implications are broader and might suggest changes to existing theories of models of the world. 

You'll first consider your research's implications in these two broad categories. Will your key findings have a real-world impact? Or are they challenging existing theories? 

Once you've established whether the implications are theoretical or practical, you can break your implication into more specific types. This might include: 

  • Political implications: How findings influence governance, policies, or political decisions

  • Social implications: Effects on societal norms, behaviors, or cultural practices

  • Technological implications: Impact on technological advancements or innovation

  • Clinical implications: Effects on healthcare, treatments, or medical practices

  • Commercial or business-relevant implications: Possible strategic paths or actions

  • Implications for future research: Guidance for future research, such as new avenues of study or refining the study methods

When thinking about the implications of your research, keep them clear and relevant. Consider the limitations and context of your research. 

For example, if your study focuses on a specific population in South America, you may not be able to claim the research has the same impact on the global population. The implication may be that we need further research on other population groups. 

Understanding recommendations vs. implications

While "recommendations" and "implications" may be interchangeable, they have distinct roles within research.

Recommendations suggest action. They are specific, actionable suggestions you could take based on the research. Recommendations may be a part of the larger implication. 

Implications explain consequences. They are broader statements about how the research impacts specific fields, industries, institutions, or societies. 

Within a paper, you should always identify your implications before making recommendations. 

While every good research paper will include implications of research, it's not always necessary to include recommendations. Some research could have an extraordinary impact without real-world recommendations. 

How to write implications in research

Including implications of research in your article or journal submission is essential. You need to clearly state your implications to tell the reviewer or reader why your research matters. 

Because implications are so important, writing them can feel overwhelming.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to make the process more manageable:

1. Summarize your key findings

Start by summarizing your research and highlighting the key discoveries or emerging patterns. This summary will become the foundation of your implications. 

2. Identify the implications

Think critically about the potential impact of your key findings. Consider how your research could influence practices, policies, theories, or societal norms. 

Address the positive and negative implications, and acknowledge the limitations and challenges of your research. 

If you still need to figure out the implications of your research, reread your introduction. Your introduction should include why you’re researching the subject and who might be interested in the results. This can help you consider the implications of your final research. 

3. Consider the larger impact

Go beyond the immediate impact and explore the implications on stakeholders outside your research group. You might include policymakers, practitioners, or other researchers.

4. Support with evidence

Cite specific findings from your research that support the implications. Connect them to your original thesis statement. 

You may have included why this research matters in your introduction, but now you'll want to support that implication with evidence from your research. 

Your evidence may result in implications that differ from the expected impact you cited in the introduction of your paper or your thesis statement. 

5. Review for clarity

Review your implications to ensure they are clear, concise, and jargon-free. Double-check that your implications link directly to your research findings and original thesis statement. 

Following these steps communicates your research implications effectively, boosting its long-term impact. 

Where do implications go in your research paper?

Implications often appear in the discussion section of a research paper between the presentation of findings and the conclusion. 

Putting them here allows you to naturally transition from the key findings to why the research matters. You'll be able to convey the larger impact of your research and transition to a conclusion.

Examples of research implications

Thinking about and writing research implications can be tricky. 

To spark your critical thinking skills and articulate implications for your research, here are a few hypothetical examples of research implications: 

Teaching strategies

A study investigating the effectiveness of a new teaching method might have practical implications for educators. 

The research might suggest modifying current teaching strategies or changing the curriculum’s design. 

There may be an implication for further research into effective teaching methods and their impact on student testing scores. 

Social media impact

A research paper examines the impact of social media on teen mental health. 

Researchers find that spending over an hour on social media daily has significantly worse mental health effects than 15 minutes. 

There could be theoretical implications around the relationship between technology and human behavior. There could also be practical implications in writing responsible social media usage guidelines. 

Disease prevalence

A study analyzes the prevalence of a particular disease in a specific population. 

The researchers find this disease occurs in higher numbers in mountain communities. This could have practical implications on policy for healthcare allocation and resource distribution. 

There may be an implication for further research into why the disease appears in higher numbers at higher altitudes.

These examples demonstrate the considerable range of implications that research can generate.

Clearly articulating the implications of research allows you to enhance the impact and visibility of your work as a researcher. It also enables you to contribute to societal advancements by sharing your knowledge.

The implications of your work could make positive changes in the world around us.

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