Academic texts, part 6: Contents and form

The research’s scientific attitude and how the researchers have reached the results should be made visibile by the contents of the academic text. The author/authors should be very clear which perspective is set on the text and be critical of other’s texts and even one’s own analysis. It is important for the reader to udnerstand what the researcher has done and how it is done no matter what kind of research it is. What kind of ground is there to draw the conclusions? Which interpretations and analysis are made? Transparancy is important when it comes to the ground the research lays on and the methods used. There are of course scientific texts which in one way or another challenges this, either consciously or uncounsciously.

Within many research areas it is important to express yourself clearly, precisely and to use the vocabulary which is standard in the area.

Many articles in scientific journals, conference papers and in some cases even book chapters describe an (more or less experimental) empirical study which is then  interpretated and put in context with other studies. A classic structure for such a text within e.g. Sciences or some Social Sciences is from IMRD-model:

  • Introduction (problem formulation, aim, research questions, previous research, theory)
  • Method (description of method(s) and possible ethical considerations)
  • Results (account for results and analysed results)
  • Discussions (connecting results to previous research and theory, conlusions and possible suggestions for future research)

What actually is written differs from research area to research area – it might be method, theory or to discuss the analysis in connection to previous research. The above is also a model used in doctoral dissertations and in monographs when presenting a larger empirical study (or part studies). One alternative is that each chapter shows an example of a theme which is then discussed in the concluding chapter although a lot of the analyis is written in the chapters through out the book.

Doctoral dissertations are often formed as so called complation thesis (article thesis, thesis by publication). This means that the thesis contains of a number of scientific articles published in scientific journals or conference publications. The articles are  preceded by an introductory or summary chapters where the author has the possibility to discuss the research questions, methods and theory, write a short summary of the articles and then relate them to the research questions and each other and also the draw some conclusions from the results of all of the articles.

Of course there are many ways to structure scientific articles. Scientific publiations may include more that just text, e.g. video, image and diagrams. Try to understand what is normal and usual, and also try to identify what is allowed within your area or studies by using examples that you find.

//Helena Francke, lector at BHS

Blog posts are translated from Swedish by Pieta Eklund.