Using IMRaD to organize article content
In his presentation “Why Your Journal Articles Are Confusing, and How IMRaD Can Help”, Thomas Deetjen, author of Published, offered advice for tightening your articles’ structure around the IMRaD format as a method for getting jumbled thoughts into words that your readers will understand. Deetjen says, “If you know where things are supposed to go, then you can write your article that way in the first place, and you can edit your articles in a way that will move information around into the correct places.” He advises, quite simply, to put information where readers expect to see it. Commonly used article sections have the following goals:
- Introduction: prove the novelty of your project.
- Methods: defend a technique that creates the Results’ data.
- Results: present data that support the Discussion.
- Discussion: answer the research question.
The Introduction often includes motivation behind the research – why is the author doing this research project? It will also likely incorporate a review of existing literature focused on what other researchers in the field have done and what they have overlooked, closing with the weaknesses synthesized into a statement of the research gap near the end of the Introduction. Most important in the introduction is the definition of the research question which specifically talks about what question this project will answer and how finding that answer will help close the research gap.
The Methods section explains how we will answer the research question beginning with an explanation of the overall process and detailing the process. Limitations are often near the end of the Methods to outline the experiment’s weaknesses.
Results and Discussion (RaD):
The Discussion section generally begins with an overview of the main finding at the end of the first subsection. In other words, “What is the basic answer to the research question?” The main finding is the most important data for answering the research question and is often summarized in the first subtitle under Results & Discussion. Additional discussion of high points from the study are usually found in additional subsections and figures.
Finally, the Conclusion usually closes the article by emphasizing your main argument through repetition of the research question, its answer, and how it fills the research gap.
Using the IMRaD format helps answer the research question through a stacked model (shown below) whereby the research question uses data from Methods to produce Results whose findings are used to generate Discussion that answers the research question defined by the Introduction.
A lot of people will read your article in this order because they want to know:
- what your question is (Introduction),
- what the answer was (Discussion),
- how you came up with that answer (Results), and then
- how you came up with the data you used to come up with those findings (Methods).
According to Deetjen, “Good structure makes your article clear for people skimming the article and helps put information in context for those reading more thoroughly.”