Basic Composition of a Biomedical Research Paper

The basic format of a biomedical research paper (sometimes called the IMRAD format) is: title, abstract, Introduction, Materials and methods, Results, And Discussion, and references.

However, some journals follow a different order. For example, in Nature the methods are placed at the end of the paper. If you have a target journal in mind, get a copy of a few articles from that journal. Check the order of the article, also check the length of each section.

A rough guide might be:

Introduction: 1 page
Materials and Methods: 3 pages
Results: 4 pages
Discussion: 3 to 4 pages
References: about 30

Keep this in mind as you write.

Order of writing a paper

Although the IMRAD order is the way most papers are published, it is not the best way to write a paper. I advocate a results-based approach to writing, because the results are the foundations of any study.

The results are the nucleus of any paper, around which all other sections are built. Therefore the Results section should be written first.

Remember that although all the results are probably clear and well known to you, the reader will be trying to understand them for the first time.

Spend a lot of time and care to make the Results section clear, logical and convincing.
Draw a very careful outline of this section, and organize all of your data into tables and figures before you start writing. Describe the results in a logical, not chronological, order.

Then write the Discussion section. Finally, write an introduction in which everything relates directly to the results or discussion. Do not provide any introductory material that is not clearly relevant to the results and discussion.

However, it can be very hard to start writing when you have a blank screen in front of you. Writing is always easier once you have something, anything, written. If you cannot get started on the Results section, warm up on the Materials and Methods section. This is an easy, descriptive section that will help get the blood flowing to the brain.