What is a scientific article? IMRaD and JARS: Components and meaning [pdf presentation]

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Components and meaning of IMRaD and JARS (APA Style). This presentation examines the structure and elements of IMRaD as well as those of the Journal Article Reporting Standards (JARS). The aim is to help young researchers, especially pre-doctoral researchers, to prepare better manuscripts for academic journals.


IMRaD, JARS, APA Style, academic articles, academic journals


The main recommended structure of an academic paper is IMRaD:

  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results and Discussion

IMRaD provides the structure that editors and reviewers expect to find when they receive a manuscript.


  • It forces to make explicit the critical components that affirm (or deny) the validity of an investigation.
  • Meaning: it makes the manuscript vulnerable to reviews.
  • Key idea: if a manuscript does not offer evaluation points (vulnerabilities), instead of being automatically accepted, it will be rejected without even an evaluation.


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Finding a journal

  • How do you decide which is the best journal for your research?
    • Examining the sections of aims and scope in the journal web page, and checking any other the journal information in databases such as Scopus, WoS, SJR or MIAR . | Resource |
  • How do I find CFP that might be relevant for my research?
    • By newsletters, mail lists, twitter accounts, journal subscription mail, etc. In general, by content curation activities like this.
  • During a PhD, is it best to aim for higher-ranked journals even though I might get rejected or aim at lower-ranked journals and have better chances to get published?
    • In a doctoral thesis process, it is very important to optimize time, so it is better to choose the journal that is more focused on the subject and at the same time is reasonably accessible. The journals of the databases and repertoires accepted for the thesis are all of high quality. They have different impact ratios, but all journals have passed demanding quality reviews. A possible strategy, in the case of a thesis, is that once at least two of the three or four publications have been secured, it is to try at least one high-impact journal. In this case, running two articles at the same time in two journals would be ideal.
  • Languages: should I publish in English or Spanish? (Or any other language)
    • What doesn’t work is not publishing. Publishing always pays off, in your national language or in English. Publishing in the national language also has significant economies of scale, and visibility beneficies. That said, publishing also in English, at least a significant part of the production, is mandatory. For both international impact and accreditation reasons. In our department, in a doctoral thesis per compendium, at least one of the articles must be published in English. In general, I think that national science is very important. So, it is valuable to publish in languages ​​other than English. Especially in languages ​​with broad demographic and multinational base. Finally: publishing only in English is perfectly valid, but I do not recommend it if your national language is not English. The reason is that publishing in your national language does not prevent you from also publishing in English, and publishing in your own language always pays social benefits.
  • If I don’t have a native-speaking level of English, how important is it to send it to a professional to proofread the articles?
    • This is of utmost importance. If you are not a native English speaker (or not bilingual), you should have your manuscript reviewed by a professional before sending it to a journal.
  • Publishing in journals, books, special issues. What are the advantages or disadvantages?
    • In general, publishing in journals is more important for academic careers. The essential idea is that scientific advances are communicated through journal articles, although in the humanities and social sciences this is not always the case. For doctoral dissertations, at least two journal articles are required. The other two items can be book chapters or communications. Special issues (or no) is not specially important in my opinion.
  • Publishing in Open Access
    • In short: it is the future of academic communication. Researchers who receive public funds are required to follow the principles of open science. In the case of articles, they must be published in open access journals or in journals that allow immediate self-archiving.

Process of writing

  • How do you start to write a paper? Do you have a specific order?
    • First, you must carry out a true research (,this implies a data collection process) and then, write the research report using the IMRaD structure. | Resource |
  • Co-writing a paper: what’s the best way to organize and distribute the work?
    • As a practical rule, in our group, after designing and planning the research as a team, and after the data collection process, one of the team members is in charge of making the first complete version of the manuscript, which is then passed on to the different co-authors, in a star structure. In a doctoral thesis, the research is designed with the supervision of the director, and the person in charge of collecting the data and the first version of the manuscript is the PhD candidate, who will also be the first signatory. The thesis supervisor will supervise the entire process, and will make substantial contributions to the manuscript and will sign the last one.
  • Co-authorships: who gets to be first/second/… author? How do you determine the order? What is expected of each author in relation to their position? And with your PhD supervisor?
    • The author of the thesis must be ever the first author. The PhD supervisor must be ever the last author.
    • There are to main orders: (1) First/Last author same importance, according the author/supervisor relation. (2) Order denotes importance. | Resource |

Publishing your PhD results

  • Salami slicing: is it ethical to “slice the results of a research to publish more papers? How do we know if we are doing salami slicing or not?
    • I think this is a cliché. I think it is not a real problem that should be of concern to an honest researcher. Journals, on the other hand, have experienced editors and reviewers who do not accept incomplete or ridiculously interesting papers. It is not a real problem. At least not how I understand it..
  • How could I turn my monograph thesis into academic papers? When is the best moment to start doing so?
    • As soon as possible, and the sooner the better. I do not think it is necessary to wait for the defense of the thesis to try to publish results in whatever format. If it can be a book, perfect. But if there are other possibilities, go ahead.

Peer review process and dealing with rejection:

  • What do you recommend to do if they reject your paper?
    • Never, but never, never, leave the paper in a drawer. You have to apply all the possible changes proposed by the reviewers, add other improvements if necessary, and with an improved version of the article, you have to try another journal. Even Nobel laureates have sometimes had to submit their work to a second or third journal before seeing it published.
  • How do we answer peer-reviewers (e.g. writing a response letter)?
    • The best system that I know of is to make a table with each and every one of the observations or criticisms, and answer them one by one. Improvement changes that do not involve new research must be accepted and applied. And we can reject, in an argumentative way, all the proposals that are erroneous or that imply new investigations.. | Resource |
  • What to do when the peer-reviewers’ comments are conflicting with each other and the editors do not intervene?
    • That circumstance should be pointed out to the editor in our response and require their intervention.

Publish or perish culture

  • How does it affect you? Dealing with stress, anxiety, pressure…
    • In my humble opinion, it is a cliché. Is not a real problem. All jobs have pressures. In all contexts you have to know how to live with some kind of pressure. There are much worse jobs, I think.
  • How do you balance doing your PhD, teaching, researching, etc. with the urge/need to publish?
    • Everything is related, there is no special conflict. It all depends on your organizational skills. It is no different from other jobs.
  • Timing: peer reviewing and publishing timings can be very long & many periods without having a definitive answer. How do you handle these “waiting” times?
    • If possible, you have to send two articles, more or less in parallel. Or work on a second article, while the first is under review, etc.

My special thanks to Júlia Vilasís-Pamos, Tugçe Ataci and Ona Anglada for their invitation and their initiative of the MEDIUM webinar and also for the questions pool. Thanks to Mar Guerrero and Marta Lopera for sharing the webinar.

References (IMRaD)

References (academic communication)

  • Abadal, Ernest  (ed.) (2017). Revistas científicas: situación actual y retos de futuro. Barcelona: Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona. (978-84-9168-8 | 978-84-9168-038-3).
  • Anderson, Rick (2018). Scholarly Communication. What everyone needs to know. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Baiget, Tomàs (2020). Manual SCImago de revistas científicas. Creación, gestión y publicación. EPI, 2020 (http://profesionaldelainformacion.com/manual-revistas.html)
  • Cantu-Ortiz, Francisco J. (Ed.) (2018). Research Analytics: Boosting University Productivity and Competitiveness through Scientometrics. New York: Auerbach Publications, 2018.
  • Hames, Irene (2007).  Peer Review and Manuscript Management in Scientific Journals: Guidelines for Good Practice. London: Blackwell.
  • Nicholas, D., Watkinson, A., Volentine, R., Allard, S., Levine, K., Tenopir, C., & Herman, E. (2014). “Trust and Authority in Scholarly Communications in the Light of the Digital Transition: setting the scene for a major study”. Learned Publishing, 27, 121–134. doi:10.1087/20140206
  • Vesnic-Alujevic, L. (2014). “Peer review and scientific publishing in times of web 2.0. Publishing” Research Quarterly. doi:10.1007/s12109-014-9345-8.