Chapter 50: IMRaD Report & Proposal
How does this paper work in the sciences and
An IMRaD Paper
IMRaD Sample Papers
An IMRaD Paper
This chapter is a very brief introduction to the "IMRaD"
science paper. Students often first encounter it in an introductory college
laboratory course, where reporting a lab experiment is required using this
format. However, IMRaD is also used throughout the sciences in its basic
format or in related formats in some of the most complex and lengthy scientific
reports, proposals, and many other types of papers, as well. "IMRaD"
The purpose of an IMRaD paper is to show whether or
not a set of data supports--or does not support--an idea, opinion, or other
possibility that is formed into a "hypothesis." A
"hypothesis" is a scientific question formed as a tentative statement--an idea
that has not yet been proven or supported by accurate scientific data.
For example, here is a scientific hypothesis: "The pitch of the
mating call of a bullfrog changes according to the type and amount of pesticides
in its environment." This statement has not, at the writing of this
textbook chapter, been shown to be supported--or unsupported--by sufficient
scientific data. For this reason, it might be a good hypothesis for conducting
research and writing an IMRaD report. Likewise, here is a social sciences
hypothesis: "People who walk to work, ride bicycles to work, and drive cars to
work each have different voting habits in state elections." At the writing
of this textbook chapter, this statement has not been tested to be supported--or
unsupported--by scientific data.
A hypothesis is formed somewhat like a proposal of an
idea. In fact, some hypotheses are used for repeated experiments, with
different scientists sometimes reaching different results. This is because
the data applied to the hypothesis can differ, as can locations, subjects, and
other background facts. These possible differing results from applying
data to one hypothesis is why in most cases, the results do not "prove" the
hypothesis true or false, but rather the data either "supports" or "does not
support" the data. This is true even--and especially--in the most
important scientific, social, and psychological testing: the more important and
general the hypothesis, the more data, confirmation, and reconfirmation of the
results is needed before the hypothesis can move from the realm of opinion or
possibility to proven fact.
It also is important to understand that in the world
of pure scientific method, discovering data does not support a hypothesis
is considered just as important as discovering that data does support a
hypothesis: the goal of scientific research is to aid in the discovery of what
is true (just as in medical practice the goal is to heal, no matter who or what
the patient). A result, whether proven supported or not supported, is
valuable either way.
The result is new knowledge that helps us better understand the relationships
between true cause and effect. Science then can then proceed to build on previous experiments
by using new data and/or new hypotheses.
Below is an expanded visual map of what an
IMRaD paper looks like. The first major section, the "Introduction," is very
different from the brief, one-paragraph intro to the entire paper.
The "Introduction" body section instead provides several paragraphs
of related research or problems, and sometimes many quotations or
SCIENCE PAPER (USING IMRaD)
paragraph with a sentence summarizing each of the four IMRaD
sections. Sometimes this introduction is not separate, but
rather is at the very beginning of the "Introduction"
The issue, needs,
specific problem, and way of addressing it in this experiment or
study, often described in several paragraphs
Description of the
specific materials and/or methods used to carry out the research
in several paragraphs
Description of the
results or findings in several paragraphs
Extended discussion of
the results--what they mean, what will or can happen next, what
other experiments might be fruitful, etc.
A brief paragraph
summarizing the "Discussion" section, sometimes with a
sentence suggesting future directions. This conclusion may not
be separate but rather a final paragraph in "Discussion"
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IMRaD Sample Papers
This chapter does not have a sample lab report.
However, In this section of
WritingforCollege.org are two examples of a slightly different form of
the IMRaD paper. These two examples use a form of IMRaD that is more
popular in the social sciences and related sub-disciplines of the medical
sciences. For these two samples, see "Case
Study Samples." For additional lessons about--and several samples
of--IMRaD papers, see
OnlineGrammar.org's part in Chapter 20 called "Science."
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Using the IMRaD structure and method, you can also write a scientific proposal.
Here are details about each major section:
(1) Abstract: This serves as the
introduction. Write one paragraph which contains (1) the purpose of the paper
(i.e., to propose a project), and one or two sentences from each of the IMRaD
sections, "2"-"5" below,--usually the beginning content- topic sentence of the
section and possibly one other useful sentence. Remember to keep the abstract
brief: it is not a place to describe and detail, but rather a place to give the
reader a brief but whole taste of each important section to come. In
scientific writing, it also serves as a brief summary for science readers who
need to know what your proposed experiment is, how you will conduct it, and what
its outcomes may be.
(2) Introduction: The introduction to
a scientific proposal should contain much the same pattern as does a final
scientific paper itself: i.e., an overview of the project and a good deal of
background information explaining the project's need, value, and/or place in its
field. This section requires a thorough, thoughtful, and concise overview
and background of what has led to your proposed project and why it will be
helpful or necessary. As you start this section, Be sure to include brief
statements about the type of paper you are writing (a proposal), the subject
(what you are proposing), and the reason (why you are proposing the project). Be
sure to fully describe the nature and scope of the need or problem. In addition,
you should present a thorough review of the relevant literature: it can be
extremely important to justify the need for your proposal by research. A
scientific proposal often may be, in this regard, a
paper. Some people to whom you are making an application or proposal may also
wish to you complete the other parts of an Introduction to a
scientific paper: the method of examination and why you have chosen it, the
results you hope to obtain, and the conclusions which the results may imply.
However, in a briefer and therefore more efficient proposal, you may discuss
these elements in the remaining proposal sections, #3-#6 below.
In short, your introduction needs, at a minimum,
(a) Type of paper,
(b) what you are proposing, and
(c) why you are proposing it.
(d) Nature and scope of need or problem.
(e) Thorough review of literature, including proper citation of sources.
(3) Methods (or Materials
and Methods): In this
section you will need many specific details organized in several sub-sections. These include the
methods and/or materials you plan to use, and three items from a standard proposal--BUDGET
COSTS, SCHEDULE or TIMELINES, and the PERSONNEL (including their job
descriptions; who will experiment and who will tabulate results; how many hours, days, or weeks each will
work; and the
credentials of the primary experimenters). Usually, each of these several
subsections is required. Any or all may require substantial development
using descriptions, lists, charts, and/or diagrams, as required. Be sure
to look at a sample scientific proposal, especially
one that your instructor or lab supervisor can provide for your particular
professional sub-discipline or course. If you wish, you may use sub-subtitles for the items; however, make
them less noticeable than the primary subtitles: e.g., you can printing them
in bold or in caps with no underlining. Each sub-subtitle
may be printed on a line of its own, like a subtitle (e.g., "BUDGET"
or "Budget") or printed as the first word on a line that starts
the content, along with a colon (.e.g., "BUDGET: The following items and
amounts...." or "Budget: The following items and amounts....").
In the scientific world, grant proposals are
what fund most scientists with major projects. Such proposals are notorious for requiring
a time-consuming and even maddening amount of details, which include costs, times,
dates, numbers, and amounts. A good scientific proposal predicts exactly the
technical and physical needs to complete, record, and report the experiment.
Therefore, you should be as
complete and thorough as you can--so there will be no unpleasant surprises
concerning additional materials and/or costs. A well-planned Methods section
gains respect and acceptance; a poorly planned one is an immediate indication to
a reader that the author of the proposal is not sufficiently prepared to receive funding for
the project. For any methods peculiar to specific researchers--methods not
considered universal or standard--cite your sources.
(4) Results: What results are possible from this
experiment? Because you have not yet carried out the experiment, there are both
positive and negative results to consider. Both usually are important because
both have important and valuable implications. Because you are writing a
proposal, it is appropriate to develop your Results section by fully
describing both the possible positive and possible negative results. Give
sufficient details such that your reader will understand how both (or all) variants
of results might occur. You may begin to mention the implications of both
types of results; however, save your full discussion of the implications for the
(5) Discussion: Plainly and efficiently discuss
the meanings of the possible results, both positive and negative. Be clear and
to the point, but also develop this section sufficiently. Remember that you
have implications to discuss for at least two different sets of results:
positive and negative. Tie possible results to previously published materials
and current experiments or projects by comparing and/or contrasting. Express the
need or possibility for future experiments. Explain theoretical implications in
your field for both (or all) possible results. You also may consider and discuss
a variety of important implications for related professional fields and/or for
the public sphere. This section may involve research as does section #2: in this
section, your research ties your possible results and implications to the
results and/or implications of other research studies.
(6) Conclusion: a brief paragraph restating the
project proposal and its value.
(7) Bibliography of cited sources (see
the "Research" section of
this Web site or the
OnlineGrammar.org for methods of citation and documentation).
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