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Difference between Implications and Recommendations in a research paper

Authors report their findings objectively in the Results section of a paper, while they elaborate on the underlying meaning of their work in the Discussion section. The Discussion section provides the interpretation of the obtained results vis-à-vis previous studies and an overall future outlook. In addition, the Discussion section typically includes a sub-section for, or some account of, the authors’ implications and recommendations.

Implications and recommendations

Implications and recommendations are usually written after the study has been completed, and both appear at the end of the research paper, in the Discussion section. Note that the recommendations usually follow the implications. Let’s explore them in more detail.

A research paper usually has implications followed by recommendations

Implications of research

An implication in a research paper is a conclusion that can be inferred from the study findings. Implications may be theoretical or practical.

  • Theoretical implications constitute new additions to existing theories or form the basis for new theories.
  • Practical implications are potential ramifications of this study for practice. 

Recommendations from research

A recommendation is a suggestion or proposal for something that should be done, as derived from the findings. Recommendations can include:

  • Improvements in a study approach or methodology
  • Policy suggestions
  • Worthwhile directions for further research

For instance, a study may have uncovered new knowledge gaps. Recommendations would provide cues for future studies to address such problems.

Implication versus recommendation

As both are written in the Discussion section and have an element of ‘what next’, it is easy to confuse the two. So, let us examine how implications differ from recommendations.

  • Implied vs. proposed: Simply put, an implication is an implicit outcome of your study, while a recommendation is what you propose based on the outcome. 
  • Potential impact vs. specific actions: In a research paper, implications discuss how the findings of the study may be important or how your research impacts the study area or study subject(s). Meanwhile, recommendations are specific actions or subsequent steps that, in your opinion, need to be taken because your findings support them.

Implication versus recommendation: Example

Here is an example to explain the difference.

Suppose you investigated the use of millets in developing novel snack foods. You discovered certain under-utilised millet species with great nutrient profiles — far better than those of wheat and maize — and found that they yield nutritious and tasty food products. However, you also found that these millet species need extra pre-treatment steps to eliminate inhibitors and toxins, and to enhance flavours and increase nutrient bioavailability.

The implications from such a study would be as below.

Implication Type
‘Drought-prone areas can benefit from the production of millets.’ Practical
‘The demand of millets in the food industry will add economic value to these crops and encourage farmers to grow low-input millets rather than high-input, water-guzzling crops.’ Practical


Your recommendations based on your findings could be as below.

Recommendation Type
‘Explore a more diverse panel of millet genotypes and evaluate their inhibitor and toxin content before processing.’ Filling a knowledge gap
‘Devise innovative ways to minimise the pre-treatment steps in processing millets.’  For practice

[Given that you discovered that such foods have a better vitamin and mineral profile, another recommendation could be to:] 

‘Encourage and popularise millet-based snacks.’

For a policy (targeting health and nutrition)

Final notes

While writing the implications and recommendations, you should be mindful of the facts and avoid overstating or overgeneralising the findings. Both the implications and the recommendations must be rooted in evidence, as clearly demonstrated through the data, analysis, results and findings of the study itself.


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