Structuring your manuscript

A well-structured article helps readers find the information it communicates and to easily follow the authors’ methodologies and arguments. To help do this, most articles follow a common pattern and structure called IMRaD. In this section, we’ll discuss what this means, how to do it, and how it will help your manuscript. 

Overview of IMRaD structure

IMRaD refers to the standard structure of the body of research manuscripts (after the Title and Abstract). This consists of: 

  • Introduction
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion and Conclusions

Not all journals use these section titles in this order, but most published articles have a structure similar to IMRaD. This standard structure:

  • Gives a logical flow to the content
  • Makes journal manuscripts consistent and easy to read
  • Provides a “map” so that readers can quickly find content of interest in any manuscript
  • Reminds authors what content should be included in an article
  • Provides all content needed for the work to be replicated and reproduced

Although the sections of the journal manuscript are published in the order: Title, Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion, this is not the best order for writing the sections of a manuscript. One recommended strategy is to write your manuscript in the following order:

  1. Materials and Methods
  2. Results 
    1. You can write these first, as you are doing your experiments and collecting the results.
  3. Introduction
  4. Discussion
  5. Conclusion 
    1. Write these sections next, once you have had a chance to analyse your results, have a sense of their impact and have decided on the journal you think best suits the work.
  6. Title
  7. Abstract

Write your Title and Abstract last as these are based on all the other sections. Following this order will help you write a logical and consistent manuscript. Use the different sections of a manuscript to ‘tell a story’ about your research and its implications.

Next: References & Article Types

For further support

We hope that with this tutorial you have a clearer idea of how the publication process works and feel confident in responding to editor and reviewers. Good luck with publishing your work!

If you feel that you would like some further support with writing your paper and understanding the peer review process, Springer Nature offer some services which may be of help.

  • Nature Research Editing Service offers high quality  English language and scientific editing. During language editing, Editors will improve the English in your manuscript to ensure the meaning is clear and identify problems that require your review. With Scientific Editing experienced development editors will improve the scientific presentation of your research in your manuscript and cover letter, if supplied. They will also provide you with a report containing feedback on the most important issues identified during the edit, as well as journal recommendations.
  • Our affiliates American Journal Experts also provide English language editing* as well as other author services that may support you in preparing your manuscript.
  • We provide both online and face-to-face training for researchers on all aspects of the manuscript writing process.

* Please note, using an editing service is neither a requirement nor a guarantee of acceptance for publication.