Research Implications & Recommendations

A Plain-Language Explainer With Examples + FREE Template

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewers: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | May 2024

What are Implications and Recommendations in Research?

The research implications and recommendations are closely related but distinctly different concepts that often trip students up. Here, we’ll unpack them using plain language and loads of examples, so that you can approach your project with confidence.

Implications & Recommendations 101

Let’s start with the basics and define our terms.

At the simplest level, research implications refer to the possible effects or outcomes of a study’s findings. More specifically, they answer the question, “What do these findings mean?”. In other words, the implications section is where you discuss the broader impact of your study’s findings on theory, practice and future research.

This discussion leads us to the recommendations section, which is where you’ll propose specific actions based on your study’s findings and answer the question, “What should be done next?”. In other words, the recommendations are practical steps that stakeholders can take to address the key issues identified by your study.

In a nutshell, then, the research implications discuss the broader impact and significance of a study’s findings, while recommendations provide specific actions to take, based on those findings. So, while both of these components are deeply rooted in the findings of the study, they serve different functions within the write up.

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Examples: Implications & Recommendations

The distinction between research implications and research recommendations might still feel a bit conceptual, so let’s look at one or two practical examples:

Example 1:

Let’s assume that your study finds that interactive learning methods significantly improve student engagement compared to traditional lectures. In this case, one of your recommendations could be that schools incorporate more interactive learning techniques into their curriculums to enhance student engagement.

Example 2:

Let’s imagine that your study finds that patients who receive personalised care plans have better health outcomes than those with standard care plans. One of your recommendations might be that healthcare providers develop and implement personalised care plans for their patients.

Now, these are admittedly quite simplistic examples, but they demonstrate the difference (and connection) between the research implications and the recommendations. Simply put, the implications are about the impact of the findings, while the recommendations are about proposed actions, based on the findings.

The implications discuss the broader impact and significance of a study’s findings, while recommendations propose specific actions.

The “Big 3” Categories

Now that we’ve defined our terms, let’s dig a little deeper into the implications – specifically, the different types or categories of research implications that exist.

Broadly speaking, implications can be divided into three categories – theoretical implications, practical implications and implications for future research.

Theoretical implications relate to how your study’s findings contribute to or challenge existing theories. For example, if a study on social behaviour uncovers new patterns, it might suggest that modifications to current psychological theories are necessary.

Practical implications, on the other hand, focus on how your study’s findings can be applied in real-world settings. For example, if your study demonstrated the effectiveness of a new teaching method, this would imply that educators should consider adopting this method to improve learning outcomes.

Practical implications can also involve policy reconsiderations. For example, if a study reveals significant health benefits from a particular diet, an implication might be that public health guidelines be re-evaluated.

Last but not least, there are the implications for future research. As the name suggests, this category of implications highlights the research gaps or new questions raised by your study. For example, if your study finds mixed results regarding a relationship between two variables, it might imply the need for further investigation to clarify these findings.

To recap then, the three types of implications are the theoretical, the practical and the implications on future research. Regardless of the category, these implications feed into and shape the recommendations, laying the foundation for the actions you’ll propose.

Implications can be divided into three categories: theoretical implications, practical implications and implications for future research.

How To Write The Sections

Now that we’ve laid the foundations, it’s time to explore how to write up the implications and recommendations sections respectively.

Let’s start with the “where” before digging into the “how”. Typically, the implications will feature in the discussion section of your document, while the recommendations will be located in the conclusion. That said, layouts can vary between disciplines and institutions, so be sure to check with your university what their preferences are.

For the implications section, a common approach is to structure the write-up based on the three categories we looked at earlier – theoretical, practical and future research implications. In practical terms, this discussion will usually follow a fairly formulaic sentence structure – for example:

This research provides new insights into [theoretical aspect], indicating that…

The study’s outcomes highlight the potential benefits of adopting [specific practice] in..

This study raises several questions that warrant further investigation, such as…

Moving onto the recommendations section, you could again structure your recommendations using the three categories. Alternatively, you could structure the discussion per stakeholder group – for example, policymakers, organisations, researchers, etc.

Again, you’ll likely use a fairly formulaic sentence structure for this section. Here are some examples for your inspiration: 

Based on the findings, [specific group] should consider adopting [new method] to improve…

To address the issues identified, it is recommended that legislation should be introduced to…

Researchers should consider examining [specific variable] to build on the current study’s findings.

Remember, you can grab a copy of our tried and tested templates for both the discussion and conclusion sections over on the Grad Coach blog. You can find the links to those, as well as loads of other free resources, in the description 🙂

FAQs: Implications & Recommendations

Research Implications & Recommendations
How do I determine the implications of my study?

To do this, you’ll need to consider how your findings address gaps in the existing literature, how they could influence theory, practice, or policy, and the potential societal or economic impacts.

When thinking about your findings, it’s also a good idea to revisit your introduction chapter, where you would have discussed the potential significance of your study more broadly. This section can help spark some additional ideas about what your findings mean in relation to your original research aims. 

Should I discuss both positive and negative implications?

Absolutely. You’ll need to discuss both the positive and negative implications to provide a balanced view of how your findings affect the field and any limitations or potential downsides.

Can my research implications be speculative?

Yes and no. While implications are somewhat more speculative than recommendations and can suggest potential future outcomes, they should be grounded in your data and analysis. So, be careful to avoid overly speculative claims.

How do I formulate recommendations?

Ideally, you should base your recommendations on the limitations and implications of your study’s findings. So, consider what further research is needed, how policies could be adapted, or how practices could be improved – and make proposals in this respect.

How specific should my recommendations be?

Your recommendations should be as specific as possible, providing clear guidance on what actions or research should be taken next. As mentioned earlier, the implications can be relatively broad, but the recommendations should be very specific and actionable. Ideally, you should apply the SMART framework to your recommendations.

Can I recommend future research in my recommendations?

Absolutely. Highlighting areas where further research is needed is a key aspect of the recommendations section. Naturally, these recommendations should link to the respective section of your implications (i.e., implications for future research).

Wrapping Up: Key Takeaways

We’ve covered quite a bit of ground here, so let’s quickly recap.

  1. Research implications refer to the possible effects or outcomes of a study’s findings.
  2. The recommendations section, on the other hand, is where you’ll propose specific actions based on those findings.
  3. You can structure your implications section based on the three overarching categories – theoretical, practical and future research implications.
  4. You can carry this structure through to the recommendations as well, or you can group your recommendations by stakeholder.

Remember to grab a copy of our tried and tested free dissertation template, which covers both the implications and recommendations sections. If you’d like 1:1 help with your research project, be sure to check out our private coaching service, where we hold your hand throughout the research journey, step by step.

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