When writing an academic paper, the entire process may appear to be a daunting task due to the complexities the process poses. Any good research paper encompasses several components that are organized succinctly. Having an outline aids the author to not only present ideas in a structure that can facilitate the readers to understand the key findings of the paper but also describe all the essential elements that a research paper must contain. Here, we attempt to help you in your compositions by listing a step-by-step process of how to write a scientific paper following the IMRaD format.
The first identifiable instance of IMRaD format being adopted can be traced back to the publication of Louis Pasteur’s Etudes sur la Biere (Studies on Fermentation). While specific headings were not used in his writings, however, this format began to be slowly recognized and accepted till it became a “standard” in scientific paper format from the 70s. With the rapid growth in the literature being produced in the science and social science disciplines, this format has also witnessed evolution and changes. Despite the definition of the four sections, the guidelines for how these sections need to be constructed are not rigid thus, leaving plenty of room for flexibility and creativity.
Once these strategies are understood and assimilated, writing an assignment, thesis, report, or paper will no longer appear to be an insurmountable challenge that had previously taken hours and days of your time. By placing a system in place, absorbing, and reproducing prior research or presenting new data will be a smooth process.
Integral to the pursuit of research in sciences and social sciences is the writing of academic or research papers that may require you to follow a particular formatting style one of which may be the IMRaD format. The name is an acronym for the Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion. This form of structure presents research findings to conform to a specific outline.
INTERESTING READ: APA REFERENCING: A QUICK GUIDE
Broadly, the IMRaD format consists of the following elements:
Significance of the research question
Background and literature review of the research topic
Research methods employed to collect information
Sources of information such as primary, secondary, qualitative, or quantitative
Research methodology or theoretical framework
Presentation of the data collected
Discuss the implications of the information obtained
Situate results within a theoretical framework and support thesis statement
Delineate limitation or gaps in the study
The introduction section is a significant section of any academic journal writing. In addition to a description of the research problem or objective, its context or background are also expounded.
Previous studies, findings, theoretical underpinnings are summarized in this part of the essay such that any “gaps” in the existing body of literature are highlighted to direct the need to “fill those gaps”. The aim of this exercise so to put forward the question of “what” from your research problem. Once a problem has been constituted, if deemed necessary, a hypothesis may be proposed based on a review of the literature and preliminary secondary data research.
The question of how the study was conducted is answered in this section of the study. In other words, the methods used to collect information about the population through various sampling tools and techniques such interview, questionnaire, case studies based etc. are communicated to the reader. The aim is to make known how scientifical, verifiable and value-neutral data has been collected for the study. Methodology or the procedure for how to approach the research problem and choose appropriate tools for data collection, analysis and presentation of results is also included in this section of the paper.
The data collected is presented under the heading of “results”. With the use of past tense and in the passive voice, only the information relevant to the study is objectively illustrated using tables and figures. However, commentary and further analysis of these findings are not portrayed here.
Once the data has been presented, the next task for a researcher is to connect the key findings with the research problem. Every question that had been raised keeping the research objective in perspective, are answered, and rationalized in this section. As responsible and ethical researchers, any limitations of the study also need to be depicted in a few lines under this section. This may also serve to chalk out the scope for further research in the future.
Results vs. Discussion
Researchers commonly get confounded when trying to distinguish between these two sections. But the misplacement of the information can result in disorganized writing, repetition, and lack of coherence when this order is not maintained. The results section only report the data collected. An objective description of the values and figures to demonstrate trends is demonstrated under this segment. On the other hand, when discussing the results, an evaluation needs to be forwarded while attempting to answer the research questions that were raised in the earlier sections. That is, trends need to be explained, contrasted against prior research such that you can support or contrast against the study’s hypothesis.
The abstract is indispensable to any research article where a succinct summary of the study is offered to the readers of not more than 250 words. Hence, it should be written only in the last stage. Due to the compact nature of the section, one must only highlight the key aspects that can convey what, why and how questions of the study. This overview should broadly consist of purpose, significance, major findings, and implications of the research to your field. Listing of 10-12 keywords is also often mandated by journals during submission.
MUST READ: MLA REFERENCING: A QUICK GUIDE
Finally, give a title to your paper. This has also been considered as one of the most challenging parts of academic writing. You need to not only encompass all the key elements of your study but also make it summative and engaging simultaneously. By following the title, abstract, keywords, introduction, methods, results and discussion formula, journal writing can be then systematically tackled in an organized manner.