Understanding the IMRAD Model
When scholars and researchers conduct primary research (observations, interviews, surveys, etc.) in order to answer a research question, they usually do so in order to write about and publish the results of that research. Generally, such scholars and researchers publish their writing in professional journals, periodicals edited and managed by experts in a field. 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.
The primary audience for these research articles are other scholars and researchers. But as college students, you are also often expected to locate, read, understand, and use the scholarly articles published in professional journals. This is the case in a writing class like this, where your writing teacher may call upon you to use these sources in your compositions. But professors in other fields may also assign their students to read and study scholarly articles that report on primary research. 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.
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.
- Justify why the subject matter is important to research, and why the research question is important to study. This includes demonstrating, through discussion of secondary research, that this research question has not been adequately addressed by other researchers but also demonstrating how the field of study stands to benefit from this research.
- Give all necessary background knowledge (from secondary research) for readers to understand the subject matter and the research question.
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.
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; 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.
A – Analysis
In this section, the researcher presents an answer to the 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), 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 report 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.
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. Authors 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. So sometimes readers will have to identify these sections on their own (in order to effectively read such an article) based on the content in each.