6 – Follow the OHEDR structure for crystal-clear results paragraphs

6 – Follow the OHEDR structure for crystal-clear results paragraphs

Structure each result paragraph around 5 subparagraphs: Observation, Hypothesis, Experiment, Data, Result.


I have a confession to make – I love methodologies. They ease stress and doubt even for the most unexpected topics. For example, when I was a teenager, I was very shy with girls – typical fear of rejection. But one day I read that there was a way to tell if a girl might be interested in me...

The methodology went like this: you would reach out to touch the hair of the girl you were talking to, and comment on it (e.g. “It’s beautiful”, or “You have something in your hair”). If she recoiled, well, you knew she wasn’t interested. But if she didn’t, there was hope. 

That was a revelation for me! Looking back, I don’t remember if I ever used this methodology :-), but it gave me more confidence… And ever since, I've been looking for methodologies for every topic.


Today we’ll see a methodology to write clearer articles, faster. It is little known, although when you learn it, you will wonder why. It consists in systematically breaking down each result paragraph into 5 subparagraphs, which state your Observation, Hypothesis, Experiment, Data, Results (O.H.E.D.R.). First let’s see why this is helpful.


The OHEDR structure follows readers' expectations

How many times have you tried to read an article and not understood the authors’ approach, no matter how hard you tried? You’ll be relieved to know that it is never your fault – rather the paper probably did not follow the OHEDR structure.

For example, a result paragraph:

    - stated a hypothesis without explaining the observation it is based on;
    - dived right into experiments without explaining the hypothesis being tested;
    - provided data without explaining which experiment had been conducted;
    - stated results without backing them up with data;
    - presented data without explaining the result they support.


In contrast, following the 5-subparagraph OHEDR structure avoids these problems, since the paragraphs are prearranged in the optimal logical order and systematically include all the required content. But before we see how to design each subparagraph, let’s see why this structure helps you, in addition to readers.


The OHEDR structure helps you write papers much faster, stress-free

Breaking down each result paragraph into 5 subparagraphs greatly helps you too:

  •     No writer’s bloc– each paragraph is broken into short, manageable chunks.
  •     Easier, faster writing, because you know exactly what to write and in what order.
  •     Easy diagnosis of a paper’s clarity, since you know what to look for.

Ok, let’s see how to design the 5 subparagraphs. (NB: this format applies to results paragraphs that are based on testing a hypothesis. At the end of the post, we’ll see what to do for paragraphs in which no hypothesis is tested, i.e. descriptive ones).


1) Observation

At the beginning of each results paragraph, you should introduce the observation that forms the rationale for the hypothesis being tested.

- In the very first result paragraph, the Observation should briefly restate the rationale of the study, generally including a bibliographical reference. This helps the numerous readers who skip the Introduction on first reading. Here’s an example of observation that kicks off the first result paragraph. As you can see, it needn’t be long – one line is often enough:

      We recently discovered faint images in a Coptic manuscript (Smith et al, 2023).


- For all other result paragraphs, the Observation should instead be based on the result obtained in the previous paragraph, e.g.:

    Having shown that [result from the previous paragraph], we …


The Observation acts as a link with the result described in the previous paragraph, and thus contributes to the chain of evidence presented by the paper.

Once you've specified the observation that forms the basis for your hypothesis, it's time to state the hypothesis you tested.


2) Hypothesis

 Nadja Golitschek
State your hypothesis explicitly


Many authors forget to explain their hypothesis and start result paragraphs directly by describing the experiment:

      We measured the Psi-R and Ty2-cap levels of Rho784 in populations A and B.


I think you will agree that unless you’re an expert in the field, and no matter how smart you are, you have no idea why the experience was performed! That, in a nutshell, is why you should explicitly state your hypothesis. It should be introduced by words such as ‘tested’, ’hypothesized’, ‘asked’, ‘checked’... Again, the hypothesis needn’t be long:

      "We asked whether Rho784 was more abundant in population A than B"


Et voilà! Less than a line, but tremendously helpful for readers.

Now that you’ve specified the rationale for your experiment and which hypothesis you tested, it is time to introduce the experiment that you performed.


3) Experiment

In this subparagraph, instead of just stating the technique that you used, I recommend to also explain its added value, since a technique that you think is rather well-known might in fact be unknown to most readers. For example, instead of writing:

     We measured the lead content of the medieval manuscript using scintillo-R imaging



     We measured the lead content of the medieval manuscript using a robust, high-resolution technique, scintillo-R imaging.


Explaining the added value of the techniques you use greatly helps non-expert readers. (You can find more about writing clearly for non-experts in this short, free guide: Being clear without dumbing down).

Now it’s time to present the data collected by your experiment.


4) Data

The distinction between ‘data’ and ‘results’ is a very important one but often a source of confusion.

     - Data is the information you obtain from your experiments. Data are always presented as tables, figures, or numbers.

    - Results are what the data show.


The main mistake with data is called ‘Results without data’, and consists in stating a result without presenting any data for it. This mistake is easy to avoid: make sure to always refer to a table, figure or numbers when stating a result. [You might think this is obvious, but some junior researchers omit to do so].


However, things are not so obvious for the last subparagraph, the Result, which is where most mistakes happen.


5) Results

by Freepik
 Readers cannot be expected to guess the result supported by complex data


Data do not speak by themselves, except to expert readers. Therefore, you should always explicitly state the result supported by the data. Yet this step is frequently omitted: the paragraph ends right after having presented the data, but without having explained the result, i.e. what the data show. For example, consider a result paragraph that ends with:

     The psychological test had a score of 4.5 on the Zhang ranking and of 7.2 on the Mitsubishi ranking (Table 3).


No result is stated – only data (two numbers and a table). Most readers will have no idea what these data show! Instead, you should explicitly state the corresponding result:

     These data show that the psychological test is acceptable.


Which is much clearer, isn’t it?


Forgetting to explicitly state the result supported by your data is the most common mistake in result paragraphs, and one of the most confusing for readers. So be careful to always drive the point home, finishing your results paragraph by “These data show that…”


Finally, let’s see what to do for results paragraphs that do not test a hypothesis.


For descriptive paragraphs, follow the G.E.D.R structure

If the paragraph is descriptive, i.e. not based on a hypothesis, simply replace ‘Hypothesis’ and ‘Observation’ by the Goal of the study, i.e. G.E.D.R. instead of O.H.E.D.R. Here’s an example of goal:

     In order to determine the main factors that contribute to illiteracy…


 Et voilà! I hope you can see by now that systematically following the OHEDR structure will greatly clarify your paper, leading to happy reviewers and readers.


Actionable points     

--> Do your result paragraphs follow the OHEDR structure (or GEDR for descriptive paragraphs)? Write to me at david@moretime4research.com and let me know.

You will probably notice that some of your results paragraphs don’t, and that you you tend to omit the same type of subparagraph(s). For example, some authors dive straight into the experiments without stating the observation and hypothesis, others do not explicitly state the result supported by the data, etc.

Don't be discouraged – once you become aware of which subparagraphs you tend to omit, it will be easy to systematically include them. And to write a crystal-clear result section! :-)



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