The IMRAD Research Paper Format
ENGA14 Finnish Institutions Research Paper (Hopkins)
When discussing academic writing, one often hears about the "IMRAD format."
What is this format?
IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Research [and] Discussion) is a mnemonic for a common
format used for academic ['scientific'] research papers. While used
primarily in the hard sciences, like physics and biology, it is also
widely used in the social and behavioral sciences. The IMRAD format is
also known as the APA format, as the American Psychological
Association uses the IMRAD headings in its APA stylesheet. IMRAD is
simply a more 'defined' version of the "IBC" [Introduction, Body, Conclusion] format used for all
Research in the Humanities normally uses a style which is
similar to IMRAD, in the sense that academic research in all fields
follows common explication principles. However, the focus in Humanities
research is more on readability and the clarification of nuances
in the topic, with a less-distinct separation of topic explication
and 'exact' data collection procedures than would be appropriate for
research in the hard sciences.
Further, in the Humanities generally, as well as in the ETI Section,
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is preferred over APA. There may
also be 'house styles' employed by institutions (or university
departments/programs) for publication consistency. The format used for
the ENGA14 paper is a Humanities-oriented 'house style' enhanced for
readabililty and clarity of presentation in the HTML format in which the
papers will be published.
A Brief IMRAD Research Example
Following is an example of using the IMRAD format for a report based on
field research concerning the annual September "car-free day" events at
The research question is: How did students at Tampere University feel
about the car-free day? Your research based on observation,
interviews and/or surveys will provide the data to answer the
question. Your answer will be a hypothesis (proposed thesis) that you will
attempt to prove. Your data will be the evidence for your 'proof'.
The IMRAD format would include the following basic sections, as modified
to fit the ENGA14 HTML publication standard. (NB: Some other sections,
such as the paper's Conclusion, are not included in the "IMRAD" mnemonic.)
Introduction (including a title)
The title is centered at the top of the first page.
Below the title, but without a heading of its own, is the
introductory section. This comprises one or several paragraphs which
outline the research question and its significance within the topic being
discussed, making it clear what the relevance of the question and topic
are for readers of the paper.
[*Review of Background, 'Known Information']
[*This section is not part of the 'IMRAD' mnemonic, as it is considered to
What is the history of the car-free day? Who sponsors it, and why?
Who/what are these organizations? How long have there been 'car-free
days'? How widespread is the concept in Tampere or Finland (perhaps as
opposed to other cities or countries)? How 'successful' have past events
been (as defined by what criteria)? In what sense might the event or its
concept be controversial (in whose eyes, and why)? (etc.)
Describe how you gathered the information. What events did you observe
involving university students, teachers and staff during the car-free day?
Who did you interview? Why did you interview these particular people?
What sort of information did you expect to get from them? If you
interviewed people who didn't observe the car-free day, where did you find
them? What did you expect they'd tell you? Were attitudes of university
students, teachers and staff different from those of other residents of
Tampere? In what ways? How do you know? If your paper includes
interviews or surveys, here is where you would describe their design and
What did you find out from the method you had employed? Here's where you
would include your description of the recent car-free day, and the various
opinions received by different means from different respondents. This is
the main section of your paper.
What do the findings presented under "Results" above mean? Specifically,
how do your findings prove your thesis? What patterns do you see in the
data? How do they correlate with what had been 'known' about the event,
and/or what you had expected to find? Did you find what you had expected
to, or were you surprised? (Often the parts that surprised you are the
most significant, and the most interesting.) Is further research
desirable? If so, what, and how? Researchers often use this section to
promote interest (and funding) for their next research project.
Limitations on the Research Design and Material
Often a separate subdivision of the research discussion is a description
of the limitations inherent in your research method, the material
available for the research, or other such factors. Viewed after the fact,
what would you have done differently (if you had been able to) to obtain
more objective and 'reliable' results?
All research projects will have such "limitations": this does not
diminish the findings of what was discovered, confirmed or
disproved with the plan and material which was used; it simply recognizes
that, had it been possible to conduct the project differently (with more
complete material, a longer time frame, etc.) the results could or would
have been different.
Conclusion, Notes, Works Cited and Appendices
While the IMRAD format presumes the paper's conclusion to be a subsection
of the Discussion, there should be a distinct closing to the paper of
several paragraphs that briefly summarize what the paper has proposed,
discussed and concluded. Following this would be (in MLA format) possible
[author] Notes, the paper's Works Cited, and possible Appendices.
FIN-1 Examples of the Optional Research Component
As examples of how past FIN-1 students have incorporated research
components into their papers, using the conceptional development
illustrated above, see (among others) Tove Jansson, The
Moomin Business and Finnish Children (Räihä 2005), Media
Education in Finnish Upper Secondary Schools (Silvennoinen 2005),
Hunting and Elk Hunters in Finland (Turunen 2006), and The
Prospective Difficulty of Integrating Islamic Immigrant Labor Into Finnish
Society (Karra 2007).
FIN-1 Research & Academic Writing
FIN-1 Class Schedule
FIN-1 Papers Archive