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Formatting for journal publications

This is an excerpt from Research Methods in Physical Activity 7th Edition eBook by Jerry R. Thomas,Jack K. Nelson & Stephen J. Silverman.

Structure of the Journal Format


To develop a better model for theses and dissertations, we must overcome the limitations of the chapter format for reporting while maintaining the contents of a complete research report. The format that we suggest has three major parts. Preliminary materials include such items as the title page, table of contents, acknowledgments, and abstract. The body of the thesis and dissertation is a complete manuscript prepared in journal form. Included are the standard parts of a research report, such as the introduction, methods, results, discussion, references, figures, and tables. The appendixes often include a more thorough literature review, additional detail about methods, and additional results not placed in the body of the thesis or dissertation.


Journal style (IMRD) in theses and dissertations is appropriate when the goal is publication as an article in a journal, which should be the goal for all scientific studies. There are exceptions, however; the traditional chapter format may be appropriate for studies of the history or philosophy of sport because the likely publication would be in book form. Also, some modification of the IMRD format may be best for areas such as the sociology of sport.


Following are the parts of the thesis and dissertation for quantitative studies using the journal format:


1.0 Preliminary materials

  • 1.1     Title Page
  • 1.2     Acknowledgments
  • 1.3     Abstract
  • 1.4     Table of contents
  • 1.5     List of tables
  • 1.6     List of figures

2.0 Body of the thesis or dissertation (IMRD)

  • 2.1     Introduction
  • 2.2     Methods
  • 2.3     Results
  • 2.4     Discussion
  • 2.5     References
  • 2.6     Tables
  • 2.7     Figures

3.0 Appendixes

  • 3.1     Extended literature review
  • 3.2     Additional methodology
  • 3.3     Additional results
  • 3.4     Other additional materials

4.0 One-page curriculum vitae


How can this format overcome the limitations of the chapter style? For both master's and doctoral students, a manuscript (body of the thesis or dissertation, IMRD) is developed that is ready for journal submission. All that remains is to add the title page and abstract, and the paper can be sent to a suitable journal.


The advantage of the journal format for doctoral students should be apparent. Because PhD recipients who fail to publish their dissertations within two years are unlikely to publish afterward, a more functional format encourages publication. Especially when we consider that dissertations appear to make important contributions to knowledge, the evaluation and subsequent publication of that knowledge through refereed journals is an important step. Although master's theses are not as likely as dissertations to be published, any format that encourages the publication of quality thesis work is desirable.


We want to make one final point before proceeding to the structure of the journal format: Your graduate school probably requires that the thesis or dissertation follow a standard style manual (or at least the style of a journal). The three most common are the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association, 2010),American Physiological Society style(Curran-Everett & Benos, 2004), and The Chicago Manual of Style (University of Chicago Press, 2010).The journal format adapts nicely to any of these styles. University regulations usually do not specify a particular style, but frequently, an academic department may adopt one or two styles. If the journal format is to be used, a department might want to allow more than one style. For example, many journals reporting exercise physiology and biomechanical studies use the American Physiological Society style. Journals publishing articles in motor behavior, sport psychology and sociology, and professional preparation frequently use the APA manual. Journals that publish articles on the history and philosophy of sport frequently use The Chicago Manual of Style. Graduate students benefit considerably by having the flexibility to choose the style recommended by the journal to which the paper will be submitted.

Learn more about Research Methods in Physical Activity.