Outlining: IMRAD

In many of your courses in the sciences and social sciences, such as sociology, psychology, and biology, you may be required to write a research paper using the IMRAD format. IMRAD stands for Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. In this format, you present your research and discuss your methods for gathering research. Each section of the IMRAD structure can take several paragraphs to develop.

This structure is also sometimes referred to as the APA format, but be sure not to confuse this with the APA format for documentation of your research.

IMRAD Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. provide research question
    2. explain the significance
    3. review of background or known information on your topic
  2. Methods
    1. describe your methods for gathering information
    2. explain your sources of information, both primary and secondary
  3. Results
    1. describe what you found out from your research.
    2. develop each point thoroughly, as this is the main section of your research paper
  4. Discussion
    1. explain the significance of your findings
    2. describe how they support your thesis
    3. discuss limitations of your research

NOTE: APA does not recommend or require any particular outline for your papers. If you’ve seen sample papers in following APA format, you may have seen the IMRAD format used, but this is not an official APA requirement. Your assignment should always dictate outline structure, not a formatting style.

So you might have an assignment that requires APA format for documentation but a very different organizational pattern. In fact, you may use the traditional outline for some projects written in APA format.

Select the image to the right to view a larger image of the IMRAD outline format.

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