The IMRAD Format

The IMRAD format mimics the scientific method.

How does each section work with the others to present your scientific activity?

Introduction

  • begins with a brief, concise literature review of the topic
  • mentions that the prior research is limited
  • mentions that the research you will present is responding to a gap in the field’s knowledge
  • contextualizes the argument being presented
  • identifies the question
  • formulates a testable hypothesis
  • states the purpose of the investigation
  • mentions briefly the general method used and why this method was selected over other methods
  • is usually not labeled as an “introduction”

Materials & Methods

  • describes the design and rationale of the experiment
  • lists equipment used
  • includes complete identification of equipment and reagents
  • identifies plant, microbe, or animal species used
  • reproduces informed consent statements for human subjects research
  • protects the identities of human subjects
  • describes chronologically the steps of the experiment
  • outlines the method of collecting data
  • details precisely each element of the experiment
  • describes statistical methods used
  • notes hazards and other safety considerations
  • enables the reader to reproduce the experiment
  • does not include results

Results

  • presents a clear overall description of the data
  • states what happened when the experiment or controlled observations were carried out
  • contains graphs of the data
  • summarizes the observations
  • logically supports or disproves the hypothesis
  • does not include conclusions

Discussion

  • presents an interpretation of the results
  • clearly states conclusions that can be drawn from your results (don’t assume)
  • relates the results to the original hypothesis
  • objectively discusses strengths and limitations of the work
  • explains the importance of your results in context of the overall research program of the discipline
  • is a framing section with the introduction
  • suggests further study or applications of your research

Now let’s see how these sections work together in a research paper:

“Shell Selection by Intertidal Hermit Crabs in the Gulf of California”

(Paper reproduced from Writing in the Disciplines Third Edition, Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1995).

Remember!

Most scientists don’t have the time to read whole articles. You must state everything in every part of your article in the most readable, understandable, clear way possible.

Online Resources

Chart of the IMRaD format

The organization of an argument according to classical rhetoric