How to structure your scientific research paper

The “IMRaD” structure

Scientific research papers follow the structure (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion), abbreviated as IMRaD structure. The IMRaD structure has evolved in the course of twentieth century and is currently the common structure of articles published in scientific journals. However, the arrangement of the IMRaD structure is rarely substituted in some journals as Nature publishing group.

Scientific publications that do not follow the IMRaD structure

– Literature reviews*
– Expert opinion
– Piece of my mind
– Editorials
– Letters to Editor
– Case reports/Case series

*NB: Systematic but not traditional reviews are reported according to the IMRaD structure.

Introduction

  • The importance of introduction is to provide sufficient basic knowledge about the topic to help getting the readers into the scope of your article
  • The introduction shows the scientific rational of conducting your research study in continuous flow and in a reasonable sequance
  • The last paragraph of the introduction should include the aim of your research study
  • The introduction is composed of the following paragraphs: [1] a paragraph showing overview about the study condition/disease; [2] a more specific pargraph about the subject of the study (drug/gene/…); [3] gap of knowledge; and [4] aim of the work.

Methods

  • This is the most important section in your paper
  • Methods and materials should be adequantly discribed to an extent that allows replication and validation of your work
  • Unlike other sections of the paper, errors in the methods section might not be changeable and usually lead to the rejection of your manuscript
  • Methods section accounts for about 80% of rejections of scientific research papers
  • Methods section is usually written in the past tense (work has been already done) while if you are writing a study protocol, the methods will be in the future
  • Whenever possible, consider reporting the population definition, disease/condition definition, and outcome measures according to the recent guidelines.

Results

  • In this section, you present the findings of your study
  • Methods of displaying the results are: (1) narrative paragraphs, (2) tables, and (3) charts and figures
  • Data reported in table should not be repeated in the text or displayed as figure
  • Results are displayed in a reasonable flow from simple to complex (univariate analysis, bivariate analysis, then multivariate analysis)
  • Study outcomes even if not-statistically significant should be reported in the results
  • Do not interpret results or commen on their significance in practice

Discussion

  • The aim of this section is to discuss the findings of your study
  • In this section, you discuss the statistical and clinical significance of your study results
  • Avoid repeating the results again
  • This section should not contain new results
  • The main parts of the discussion section are: [1] summary of findings of this study, [2] justification of study results whenever possible, [3] previous studies, [4] agreement/disagreement with previous studies, [5]study strengths and limitations, and [6] authors’ conclusion.
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