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AMA Writing Guide: Structured Abstract- IMRAD

This research guide provides a brief introduction to the AMA 11th edition.

What is IMRAD?

When writing reports that require a structured abstract, your work will contain the following headings, at minimum, to organize your work: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. While you will likely utilize additional headings and subheadings, these aforementioned headings should provide the overarching structure of your work. The IMRAD format is commonly used for reports written in the medical, health, biological, chemical, engineering, and computer sciences. 

As you read journal articles, notice that scientific publications also follow the IMRAD format. In this example, the authors structure their work around the headings: background, methods, results, conclusions. 


Introduction- Why is this research important?

  • The introduction of your paper should provide the reader with context for your work.  Additionally, the introduction should state your study's objective(s), hypothesis, or research questions. To this end, you should describe how and why your objective(s), hypothesis, or research questions were developed and why your research is important. If your research addresses a "gap" in the literature, discuss the current state of scholarship available and how your research is a solution or aid to this gap. The introduction is usually 2-3 paragraphs in length, or 150 words. See section 2.8 the AMA Manual for more information about developing an introduction. 

Methods- How did you conduct your research? 

  • The methods section informs readers of how you conducted your research. As section 2.8 of the AMA Manual describes, methods sections should contain a description of your study design or type of analysis, sample, methods, equipment, interventions or exposures, and statistical analysis methods, among others. A "gold standard" methods section provides enough detail and specificity that it would enable readers to duplicate your study. 

Results- What are the results of your research? 

  • Present only the findings from your research study. As section 2.8 of the AMA Manual enumerates, the results section should explicitly address the data and information collected that relates to your research hypothesis or study question. Results sections are commonly written in the past tense. If your study contains any tables or figures, include these data sources here. Figures and tables are numbered separately. Captions are provided above tables and beneath figures. 

Discussion- What do your research findings mean? 

  • Now that you have presented your "raw" data, research, and findings in the results section, contextualize your findings for the reader. As the AMA Manual encourages, the discussion section should be a formal consideration, critical examination, and critique of your study and collected data. You should discuss your research question and hypothesis in light of your study's results, and in conversation with the larger body of literature that relates to your area of study. 

Abstract- Summarize your entire research study. 

  • While abstracts are provided at the beginning of your research paper, they are best written after drafting the full report. Abstracts for papers written at Liberty University should contain the following sections, as outlined in the Sample Class paper with a Structured Abstract, and abstracts should be no longer than 350 words: 
    • Importance
    • Objective
    • Design, Setting, Participants
    • Main Outcome and Measures 
    • Results 
    • Conclusion 
  • Section 2.5 of AMA Manual provides additional details on structured abstracts. Further instructions on structured abstracts for reports of original data are provided in section of the AMA Manual. 

Common Weaknesses in IMRAD Reports

Weak Abstract

  • Does not provide a clear statement of the study's importance, objectives, main outcome, or results. 

Unclear Introduction

  • Does not provide context for the research study, nor is the study's objective(s), aim(s), hypothesis, or research question clearly stated. 

Wanting Methods Section

  • Methods section lacks detail or is disorganized. 

Unfocused Results Section 

  • Results section contains comments, explanations, and other digressions rather than only reporting results.