Every research meets its logical end by its publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal. Though conducting a research is more of science, it’s unlike writing a paper, which is more of “art”. Every journal has its own guidelines for preparing manuscripts. However, most of the journals use what is known as the “IMRAD” format for publication of original research article [1
]. The format for case reports or brief communications is somewhat different, but a derivative of the “IMRAD”. In the major journals, it was observed that the IMRAD structure began to be used in the 1940s, in the 1970s it reached 80% and in 1980s, it was the only pattern adopted in original papers [1
The term “IMRAD” refers to “Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion”, something that is commonly seen in many journals. Though some journals use other formats, most journals prefer “IMRAD” for publication. The format is based on the logical sequence of conducting research wherein one first does a background search of the known information and finds the lacunae, progressing on to use materials to find the results and explain them in context of the known findings along with the reason for the same.
The title forms one of the most important aspects of a paper. The readership of the article depends on it to a large extent as it gives an idea as to what the study is all about. The title should be crisp, clear and informative. It should not look like an objective of the study and also should not be too long. The importance of the study or the hypothesis tested should be clearly evident from the title. Sometimes negative findings that are unusual can also be highlighted in the title so as to impress upon the novelty of the finding.
The Introduction is the beginning of the research article and lays down the foundation on which the entire paper is based. The introduction should be concise and include the background for the study indicating what is already known and what lacunae exist in the information. It should include the hypothesis being tested or the specific purpose of doing the research. A common mistake done in writing the introduction is including a large number of references. The introduction should include only those references that are related to the topic under investigation and not all that exist on that topic. Also it is important to include the recent references on the topic, which can easily be obtained in today’s world using PUBMED or other search engines [2
This section deals with the methodology of the study or the materials and equipments used in the research. The study group, be it animals, subjects or patients are also covered in this section. This section deals in detail with the protocol used in the study including the basis of exclusion and inclusion of the subjects in the study. All the procedures used and techniques implemented have to be described in detail so that anyone else trying to do similar work is able to replicate it. If the procedures or techniques used are those that have been used in earlier studies, then appropriate references should be cited. For the equipments, details of the manufacturer, calibration criteria and recording settings should be specified.
It is important to declare if the study was approved by the Institutional Ethical Committee for research on animals and humans and if the clearance was not obtained, the reasons thereof. Also, in case of studies involving human volunteers, it’s important to specify if written informed consent wastaken prior to inclusion in to the study.
The statistical analysis also forms a part of this section. The tests used for the analysis of the data along with the confidence intervals should be specified. Also the statistical software along with its version used for the analysis should be specified.
The results section deals with only the presentation of the analysed data without any discussion or conclusion about the data. It is important to arrange the results in the order of importance. The data can be presented as a paragraph, in tables or in figures. Duplication of the data in words with that presented in figures and tables should be avoided to the extent possible. It is good to present important results in the form of graphs. The data should be reported as Mean ± SD or Mean ± SE along with the levels of significance [3
The discussion is a vital part of the paper and begins with the summary of the research problem that has been addressed in the article. There should not be a repetition of the results in discussion. This section describes the possible reason or hypothesis of the study and compares it to that of the studies done previously. It explains how the present study addressed the lacunae in knowledge and what additional information has been gained by the work done. The negative findings should also be described along with the possible reasons. It’s a misconception that only positive findings are important. The negative findings too are important as they may reveal something that had not been reported earlier.
Every scientific work has its limitations. Hence it’s a good idea to include the limitations of the study in the discussion. The discussion should end with the conclusion of the study in one or two sentences. After the discussion, it is important to mention the articles which have been referenced under the heading of “References”. There is a specific pattern of referencing, and two patterns are commonly used. The Harvard system of referencing and the Vancouver style; the latter is more commonly used these days and is the one recommended for use in the ICMJE Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts [3
The “IMRAD” format basically lays down the guidelines for reporting any research work. However, before submitting any article to a journal, it’s advisable to go through the “Guidelines for Authors” specific for that journal which may vary to some extent from journal to journal.
- Sollaci LB, Pereira MG. The introduction, methods, results, and discussion (IMRAD) structure: a fifty-year survey. J Med Libr Assoc 2004;92:364-371.[PUBMED]
- Pal GK. Submitting a good research paper to IJPP. Indian J Physiol Pharma col 2010;54:193-6.[PUBMED]
- International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals: Writing and editing for biomedical publication. www.icmje.org. Updated April 2010. Accessed on 9th Sep 2011.