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Manuscripts that do not mention the implications of the study are often desk-rejected by journals. What constitutes the ‘implications’ of research, and why is it important to include research implications in your manuscript?
Research implications: An overview
Once you have laid out the key findings in your paper, you have to discuss how they will likely impact the world. What is the significance of your study to policymakers, the lay person, or other researchers? This speculation, made in good faith, constitutes your study’ implications.
A research paper that does not explain the study’s importance in light of its findings exists in a vacuum. The paper may be relevant to you, the author, and some of your co-workers. But it is unclear how others will benefit from reading it.
How can the findings of your study help create a better world? What can we infer from your conclusion about the current state of research in your field or the quality of methods you employed? These are all important implications of your study.
You cannot predict how your study will influence the world or research in the future. You can only make reasonable speculations. In order to ensure that the implications are reasonable, you have to be mindful of the limitations of your study.
In the research context, only speculations supported by data count as valid implications. If the implications you draw do not logically follow the key findings of your study, they may sound overblown or outright preposterous.
Suppose your study evaluated the effects of a new drug in the adult population. In that case, you could not honestly speculate on how the drug will impact paediatric care. Thus, the implications you draw from your study cannot exceed its scope.
Imagine that your study found a popular type of cognitive therapy to be ineffective in treating insomnia. Your findings imply that psychologists using this type of therapy were not seeing actual results but an expectancy effect. Studies that can potentially impact real-world problems by prompting policy change or change in treatments have practical implications.
It can be helpful to understand the difference between an implication of your study and a recommendation. Suppose your study compares two or more types of therapy, ranks them in the order of effectiveness, and explicitly asks clinicians to follow the most effective type. The suggestion made in the end constitutes a ‘recommendation’ and not an ‘implication’.
Are your findings in line with previous research? Did your results validate the methods used in previous research or invalidate them? Has your study discovered a new and helpful way to do experiments? Speculations on how your findings can potentially impact research in your field of study are theoretical implications.
The main difference between practical and theoretical implications is that theoretical implications may not be readily helpful to policymakers or the public.
How to Write Implications in Research
Implications usually form an essential part of the conclusion section of a research paper. As we have mentioned in a previous article, this section starts by summarising your work, but this time emphasises your work’s significance.
While writing the implications, it is helpful to ask, “who will benefit the most from reading my paper?”—policymakers, physicians, the public, or other researchers. Once you know your target population, explain how your findings can help them.
Think about how the findings in your study are similar or dissimilar to the findings of previous studies. Your study may reaffirm or disprove the results of other studies. This is an important implication.
Suggest future directions for research in the subject area in light of your findings or further research to confirm your findings. These are also crucial implications.
Do not try to exaggerate your results, and make sure your tone reflects the strength of your findings. If the implications mentioned in your paper are convincing, it can improve visibility for your work and spur similar studies in your field.
For more information on the importance of implications in research, and guidance on how to include them in your manuscript, visit Elsevier Author Services now!