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IMRaD (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion) seems to be the standard structure of scholarly journal papers.

Are there also alternative standardized paper formats that are known to obtain widespread acceptance among scholarly journals?

(Not counting minor IMRaD-modifications, such as the addition of a "concluding" section after the usual IMRAD-structure.)

The background to my question is the following: I teach academic writing to students from a variety of disciplines, mostly from chemistry, computer science, physics, engineering, but also social scientists and even a few from the humanities. It is quite a mix. I use IMRaD, and while most students quickly embrace that structure, some students express their concern that IMRaD is not apt to their purposes; usually, by the end of the semester, they do acknowledge, however, that IMRaD eventually helped them. I am nevertheless wondering whether I can accomodate to such students in the future by allowing them to use a paper structure other than IMRaD, but the format should still be one that finds conventional use in the system of science.

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  • @Wrzlprmft♦, thanks for the hint. I added the disciplines, though I wanted to stay discipline-agnostic to see the variety of possibilities.
    – anpami
    May 7 at 16:05
  • What is IMRaD ?
    – astronat
    May 7 at 16:49
  • @anpami You can make this discipline-agnostic if you tell us what IMRaD stands for. I can guess most of it, but what is the lower-case 'a' doing there? May 7 at 17:00
  • Some papers do IRDM, does that work for what you're thinking of? May 7 at 17:04
  • You could ask your students to point you to sample good/standard papers in their disciplines. May 7 at 18:04
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I will first list some alternatives I have encountered. I will leave it up to you whether they are true alternatives or just riffs on IMRaD and whether they are actually formalised structures:

  • Particularly in the life sciences journals request the structure Introduction – Results – Discussion – Methods, where the latter is kind of an appendix. However, this never works as labelled. At the very least, everything about the methods that is relevant to understand the paper is described in the results section, while the methods section contains mostly technical details.

  • Pure mathematics has Introduction – Definition(s) – Theorem/Lemma – Proof – Definition(s) – Theorem/Lemma – Proof – … (usually without conclusion or similar). This obviously cannot be translated to other fields.

  • Most simulation papers I know follow the structure Introduction – Model – First Results – Analysis Method – Result – Analysis Method – Result – … – Discussion/Conclusion, but I have never seen it formalised.

I don’t think that there is an alternative to IMRaD as you are looking for: If you put the elements of IMRaD in any order, it’s obviously this one. Any deviation from this has to happen on a lower level, such as:

  • Methods and results alternate, because the reader can only appreciate some methods after the first results.
  • A short preliminary discussion in the middle of the paper that motivates the second half.
  • Minor stuff is moved to the appendix.

While all of this may be very justified, it’s also individual and doesn’t lead to a short acronym that can be blindly applied by those who want this kind of thing. With other words: If you want a rigid recipe that does not contain any conditional clauses or exceptions, it can only be IMRaD.

Now, of course a rigid recipe is the wrong thing to wish for in the first place: There is no structure that is appropriate for every paper, even if we focus on a single field and exclude such things as method papers, case studies, etc. Instead, I suggest that you teach IMRaD as a basic recipe that works for many papers and needs to be adapted for others.

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