Q: What is the difference between research/practical 'implications' and the 'significance' of the research?

Detailed Question -

As I understand, a research ‘implication’ basically means what is the value of your research, by drawing on the findings and conclusion[s], to a particular institution, for instance. Maybe I have understood it incorrectly. If that is what it actually means, then how does it differ from the ‘significance’ of the research?

1 Answer to this question

Hi Safaa. Firstly, welcome to the forum! We see you’ve posted quite a few questions – and we’re getting to them in the sequence you posted them. :-)

So, your question is interesting, and we can understand the conundrum. However, the thing is, sometimes, these various aspects of a paper, or the names of various sections and sub-sections, are more for academic intent. They are meant to help you structure and present the paper logically. For instance, a related example is the difference between the scope of a study and the delimitations of a study. They are often considered together and are sometimes even taken to be the same thing. You can find out more about these here: Scope vs/and Delimitations

Now, let’s get back to your query. Technically, there are some differences between ‘implications’ and ‘significance.’

To begin, significance is the overall importance of your study for either the broad research area or the specific field you are investigating. For instance, if you consider COVID-19, many researchers have been studying how the virus jumped from animals to humans, specifically, to find out which was the carrier species (with latest studies pointing toward the pangolin). If they are able to successfully pinpoint the species, or even if not, any study in this direction would have significance for other areas, for instance, by guiding how the jump could be curtailed or even prevented.

Structurally, the significance is written in the Introduction section and ‘leads into’ your research, as it is meant to show why your study is needed.

In contrast, implications ‘lead out from’ your research, and are written in the Discussion section. They are meant to show what your findings mean for not just other research but for policymaking. Going back to the example, a study on the animal-to-human jump might guide policymakers into initiating and funding more research not just into human health but also animal health.

Therefore, another difference would the temporal focus: significance is more about the immediate future, whereas implications are more about the long(er) term.

Hope that helps. For more insights, you may also refer to the following resources:

We, in the meanwhile, shall get to your other queries. :-)