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Structure of academic journal articles IMRAD

Structure of academic journal articles IMRAD

 

During the course of the twentieth century, the structure and layout of academic research papers has become more standardized. The format commonly referred to as IMRAD now predominates, particularly in biomedical disciplines. However, many scientific disciplines use the same structure.

 

What is IMRAD?

IMRAD is an acronym standing for:

Introduction

Methods (or, sometimes ‘Materials and Methods’)

Results

Discussion

It may be helpful to review the summary below of what these sections comprise within the context of a standard scientific article structure:

Section

Purpose

Title

Concisely describes contents/main finding

Authors

Ensures recognition for the writer(s)

Abstract

Describes paper, main findings, conclusion

Keywords

Ensure the article is correctly identified

Introduction

Defines problem and structure of paper

Methods

Explains how the data were collected

Results

Describes what was discovered

Discussion

Discusses the implications of the findings

Conclusion

Brings together question/hypothesis, findings, analysis, & discussion

References

Ensure previously published work is recognized

Appendices

Some journals ask for supplemental data (appendices are becoming less common now that journals publish supplemental data as separate elements)

Acknowledgements

Ensure those who helped in the research are recognized

 

 

When writing your paper, the IMRAD sections will compromise the main content and context of your article. You may find the following information helpful when writing your article:

 

1.  Results

Start writing up your Results first (even though they will actually be written up in the section that follows your Methods).

Doing this will enable you to focus on your main findings, which is your primary purpose for writing.

Your results guide your decision of journal to match.

They influence the structure of other sections that should relate to the results:

  • Introduction and discussion should put results in context of other research.
  • Your results will be more compelling when they are supported or contrasted with other research.

Also, be sure to:

  • Present your key results without interpretation.
  • Use graphs and tables (when possible, save words).
  • Highlight the answers to study questions or hypotheses.
  • Report important negative results.
  • Order the results from the most known to the unknown.
  • Include unequivocal statements of statistical significance.

Do not:

  • Re-state/repeat values from a figure or table in the text.
  • Present the same data in both a table and figure -- use format that best shows the results.
  • Inflate or over-report statistically insignificant differences.

 

2. Methods (or Materials and Methods)

In this section you should:

  • Provide sufficient information about where, when,and how your research experiments were carried out. You should include sufficient detail to enable another researcher to judge the experiment and even to be able to repeat the experiment itself.
  • This section is generally written in the past tense.
  • Check your journal guidelines, but in general this section should be written up in chronological order.
  • Include details of location (if relevant); design (procedures and replications); materials and subjects used (give specific details and numbers); interventions; outcome measures; analysis and statistical methods; and any ethical considerations.

Look out for further articles from The Charlesworth Group on Methods.

 

3. Discussion

This is the section in which you should include and consider the following:

  • Interpret your results:  what is new/novel, either different or not different from what was known previously?
  • Describe how results have moved knowledge of the problem ahead (related to Introduction).
  • Discuss relationship of new facts to theory or hypothesis.
  • Support conclusions with evidence.

 

4. Conclusions

This is not strictly part of the IMRAD structure, but Conclusions are an important and integral part of IMRAD-based articles. In this section:

Do:

  • look at other papers to determine if including implications, or giving suggestions for future research, is appropriate. Journals differ on what they want you to include in the conclusions.
  • read the instructions to authors carefully!

Do not:

  • repeat what you have previously stated, including over-summarizing.
  • over-reach with the conclusions.

 

Additional help and support

Any questions? The Charlesworth Group can help advise you and edit your paper to conform to IMRAD structure, depending on the requirements of your target journal. Please contact us at asktheeditors@charlesworth-group.com or helpdesk@charlesworth-group.com.