Understanding the IMRAD Model
Scholars and researchers conduct their research not only to learn for their own sake but also to participate in a continuing discussion with other scholars about the ideas, perspectives, and information in their disciplines. Thus, when they engage in their research and write arguments about it, they are arguing to inquire, investigating and question what is known and unknown in their field of research in order to dispute that information and ideas with other scholars and enhance what is known about it.
Often, scholars written inquiry takes a very specific shape. When scholars and researchers conduct primary research (observations, interviews, surveys, etc.) in order to answer a research question, they will usually write about and publish the results of that research for other scholars or researchers to read. Generally, such scholars and researchers publish their writing in professional journals, periodicals edited and managed by experts in a field. The primary audience for these research articles are other scholars and researchers. But as college students, you are also often expected to locate the scholarly articles published in professional journals, read and understand the arguments these scholars are making in order to inquire about their subject, and use the information and ideas therein to make your own arguments.
Because you may be expected to read scholarly articles in various settings, it is beneficial for you to understand the model scholars often use to report the results of their primary research. IMRAD is an acronym for the standard parts of such an article a scholar or researcher might write in order to report the results of their primary research. Below is each letter of the acronym, what it stands for, and what is usually included in each part. Knowing what each section of an article following the IMRAD model may contain will help you better understand the main idea of such articles as well as how to make use of the information being reported.
I – Introduction
In the IMRAD model,the introduction is often quite lengthy because it does much more than a standard introduction. An IMRAD introduction must do the following:
- Engage the audience’s interest in the subject matter.
- Present the research question (or hypothesis).
- Present a literature review of secondary research on the topic. This literature review accomplishes the following:
- It helps justify why the subject matter is important to research, and why the research question is important to study, by demonstrating, through discussion of secondary research, that the research question has not been adequately addressed by other researchers
- It demonstrates how the field of study stands to benefit from this research.
- It give all necessary background knowledge (from secondary research) for readers to understand the subject matter and the research question.
It is important to know that though the researcher may make arguments in the introduction about why their research is important, they do not generally present new information on their subject in this section. If you are reading an article following the IMRAD model and find some interesting information that you’d like to use in your own compositions, it likely comes from another secondary source, and you may be better off tracking down the article or source the researcher cited. This helps to ensure that you have an accurate understanding of the information cited in the researcher’s literature review.
M – Method
The method section is where a researcher lays out exactly how they conducted their research. This includes…
- identifying the primary research method used and explaining why it was used;
- describing the specific population or phenomena being researched;
- explaining how participants were found and why they chose those participants;
- discussing any complications that were encountered in conducting the primary research;
- and displaying and justifying the survey questions, interview questions, or observation criteria used.
Readers need to see all this information in detail because it is the only way for them to ensure that the research conducted is valid, reliable, and credible.
Since this section is usually just setting up how the researcher’s data was discovered and collected. Thus, if you are using an article that follows the IMRAD model in your own composition, you probably will not cite information from this section unless you think describing how the research was conducted will make the research data more convincing to your readers.
R – Results
This section is used to display and describe the results of the primary research conducted. This may include percentages or averages for each survey question; an outline or summary of interview results; description of observational data; statistical calculations that help establish that the results are significant and not simply random, even tables or charts displaying answers, totals, percentages, or points of observation. As in the methods section, it is important that the researcher is as detailed as possible, providing all the results of the primary research that has any sort of relevance to answering the research question. Sometimes, this section can be rather short; it all depends on what the researcher has to explain and describe in order to display the results of their primary research.
In your own writing, this may be a key place to go to use and cite data and information as evidence for your own arguments.
A – Analysis
In this section, the researcher presents an answer to their research question and justifies that answer based on the primary research data. The researcher examines what all the primary research results mean, analyzing the data (in particular the data most relevant to answering the research question or assessing the hypothesis) and pointing out how it all goes together in order to support this answer or conclusion. In this section, the researcher lays out the central reasons in support of that answer, even bringing in additional secondary research to compare to the primary research data, all in order to confirm that the researcher’s answer is accurate.
For a reader, this section may be the most critical part of a scholarly research article because this is the section in which a scholar or researcher actually proposes an answer to the research question and justifies that answer. It’s where the scholar explains to readers the meaning and significance of their research results. If you are using such an article in your secondary research, you will certainly need to look at this section to understand what all this primary research amounted to. Paraphrasing and citing a researcher’s conclusions in the analysis section may be what you need to convincing prove your own arguments.
D – Discussion
Like the introduction, the discussion section does a little bit more than a standard conclusion. The researcher should summarize the content of his or her article, wrap up any loose ends, etc. But a researcher also uses this space to make a final plea for why their answer is both accurate and why it is important. Meanwhile, in this section, a researcher may discuss limitations in their research that may have affected its results and speculate about what additional research should be conducted on the subject in the future.
Note that these sections can vary significantly in length, depending on what a scholar or researcher may need write about in order to fully and successfully report on their primary research results. As well, a researcher may combine sections (especially if one is particularly short) if it makes sense to do so.
While the acronym IMRAD represents the common sections included in scholarly articles that report on primary research, such scholars may also have latitude about what headers they use to identify each of these sections, or even whether they provide headers for each section at all. Sometimes a scholar might combine a couple of these sections together or title a section something other than the sections names listed above. So as a reader of scholarly research, you may have to identify these sections on your own in order to fully understand the contents of the article.