Three versions of the RA
The Experimental RA (IMRAD or IMRD)
The common structures of an experimental RAEven though the typical IMRD article consists of four parts, there exist a couple of different alternatives for how to structure it. Glasman-Deal (2010) suggests the following alternations:
Discussion and Conclusion
Table based on Glasman-Deal (2010)As can be seen in the table, the first two sections, Introduction and Methods, are seen as fixed elements, whereas there is a choice with regard to which structure to use after that. This is illustrated by the four columns, each indicating an alternative structure that can be used. It is worth pointing out that a specific Conclusion section is sometimes featured in an IMRD article, and sometimes it is part of a joint section together with Discussion. In some cases, it is difficult to make a distinction between the contents and function of a Discussion and a Conclusion section.
In most cases, an IMRD research article starts off with an abstract. Please see the subsection on abstracts in the AWELU material.
IntroductionIntroductions are as important as they are problematic. When writing an introduction, an author has to make a number of difficult decisions about, for instance, how much background knowledge can be assumed on the part of the readers, and how quickly to move towards the more detailed problem or question that the paper will address. In an influential piece of work on how research articles are structured, Swales (1990) argues that introductions typically follow certain rhetorical movements. Swales calls his model CARS, which stands for Create a Research Space. As the name implies, an introduction can be characterised by its purpose of persuading a reader that the research field is important and significant. The CARS model can be seen here:
Step 1 Claiming centralityMOVE 2 Establishing a nicheStep 2 Making topic generalization(s)and/orStep 3 Reviewing items of previous researchand/or
Step 1A Counter-claiming
Step 1B Indicating a gapMOVE 3 Occupying the nicheorStep 1C Question-raisingorStep 1D Continuing a tradition
Step 1A Outlining purposes
Step 1B Announcing present research Step 2 Announcing principal findings Step 3 Indicating RA structure
(Swales 1990: 141)
MethodsThe methodology section is where authors describe what they did and/or what they used. As pointed out by Glasman-Deal (2010), there are several alternative names for this section, inter alia, Materials and Methods, Procedure, Experiments, Experimental, Simulation, Methodology or Model. In terms of generalisation, a number of building blocks can be argued to make up the methods section. Glasman-Deal (2010) proposes the following menu from which writers can select appropriate items:
quantities, temperatures, duration, sequence, conditions, locations,
sizes) Justify choices made Indicate that appropriate care was taken 3 Relate materials/methods to other studies 4 Indicate where problems occurred
(Glasman-Deal 2010: 67)
ResultsIn the results section, the authors of the research article present what they found or observed. Often, the results are presented in tables, charts, diagrams, images, equations or graphs. However, it is customary also to present, describe and comment on these in proper running text passages. The main reason for these running text passages is that authors want to highlight and single out certain parts of the results as being particularly important. Alternatively, they want to draw some initial conclusions or they want to render their interpretation of some elements of the results. Thus, it is in most cases beneficial to have a written results section as results do not speak for themselves.
Glasman-Deal (2010: 123)
DiscussionIn the discussion section of an experimental research article, authors typically discuss the findings presented in the results section. The discussion section is also where the fairly narrow scope of the methods and results sections again is widened in that the results are linked to and benchmarked with earlier research findings in the field. This mirrors the outward movement in the model of the hour-glass structure of RAs, previously accounted for in the initial section on RAs. In the words of Kanoksilapatham (2005: 283), the discussion section "contextualizes the reported study and relates it to previous work in the field, reflecting a sense of membership in the larger scientific community". As argued by Swales (2004), in discussion sections it is the present study and its results that receive primary rhetorical focus and are foregrounded, as opposed to how it seems to be in introduction sections, where the work of others is typically placed centre stage, at least up until the very end of the section. In terms of internal structure, Glasman-Deal (2010) proposes the following model for what components are typically utilised in discussion sections:
Summarising/revisiting general or key results
2 Mapping (relationship to existing research)
Refining the implications
Current and future work
Glasman-Deal (2010: 179-180)
By way of illustration, consider the following sentences: (a) The results show that free fatty acids have an significant effect on insulin receptor-beta (IR-β).
(b) The results show that free fatty acids may have an significant effect on insulin receptor-beta (IR-β).
In sentence (a), the claim that free fatty acids have an effect is made without reservations. In sentence (b), however, the insertion of the modal auxiliary verb may clearly introduces a level of uncertainty in the claim. For example, it could be the case that the free fatty acids could have a significant effect under certain conditions. Thus, modal verbs can be effectively used when there is a need to express different levels of uncertainty of claims made.
Please go to the AWELU section on English grammar and words if you want to learn more about the use of modal auxiliary verbs.
The Logical Argument RA
The Essay Style RA
- The essay format