AMA Manual of Style - Stacy L. Christiansen, Cheryl Iverson 2020
Parts of a Manuscript, Headings, Subheadings, and Side Headings
Manuscript Preparation for Submission and Publication
A consistent pattern of organization and a logical hierarchy for all headings should be used for original research articles (see 19.1, The Manuscript: Presenting Study Design, Rationale, and Statistical Analysis). Many research articles follow the IMRAD pattern (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion). However, not all articles will conform to a single pattern format, and section headings vary with the type of article (see 21.0, Editing, Proofreading, Tagging, and Display).
Introduction: The introduction should provide the context for the article and state the objective of the study, the hypothesis or research question (purpose statement), how and why the hypothesis was developed, and why it is important. It should demonstrate to the expert that the authors know the subject and should fill in gaps for the novice. It should generally not exceed 2 or 3 paragraphs or 150 words.
Methods: The Methods section should include, as appropriate, a detailed description of the following features of the study:
1.study design or type of analysis
2.dates and period of study and follow-up and dates of subsequent analysis for older data (eg, older than 3 years)
3.institutional review board or ethics committee review and approval or waiver or exemption and informed consent (see 5.8, Protecting Research Participants’ and Patients’ Rights in Scientific Publication)
4.condition, factors, or disease studied
5.details of sample (eg, study participants and the setting from which they were drawn, inclusion and exclusion criteria)
6.intervention(s) or exposure(s), if any
7.primary outcomes and measures or observations, followed by secondary outcomes and measures
8.statistical analysis (for complicated statistical analyses, explain them for the average reader or provide a reference)
9.for all RCTs, a detailed power statement addressing the number of patients in each group needed to obtain a prespecified outcome
10.for reviews, exact search strategy, date run, and the name of the database or retrieval system used
Enough information should be provided to enable an informed reader to replicate the study. If a related methods article has already been published, that article should be cited and its important points summarized.
Results: The results reported in the manuscript should be specific and relevant to the research hypothesis or study question. The numbers and characteristics of the study participants should be described or summarized and followed by presentation of the results, which should list prespecified primary outcomes, followed by secondary and other outcomes. The Results section should not discuss implications or weaknesses of the study but should name any validation measures conducted as part of the study. Similarly, the Results section should not include or introduce additional description of methods; all methods should have been described thoroughly in the Methods section. The Results section should not discuss the rationale for the statistical procedures used. All primary outcomes/findings should be reported in the text and/or tables and not only represented graphically in figures. Otherwise, data shown in tables and figures usually should not be duplicated in the text unless the selected data are crucial for the reader (see 4.0, Tables, Figures, and Multimedia). It is important that absolute numbers for primary/main outcomes be presented in the text or in tables (and in the abstract) because figures generally show relative values, not absolute values.
Discussion: The Discussion section should be a formal consideration and critical examination of the study (ie, a discussion of the results in relation to the literature). The research question or hypothesis should be addressed in this section, and the results should be compared with the findings of other studies. Note: A lengthy reiteration of the results should be avoided. The study’s limitations and the generalizability of the results should be discussed and unexpected findings with suggested explanations mentioned. If appropriate, the type of future studies needed should be mentioned.
Conclusions and Relevance: The article should end with a clear, concise conclusion that does not go beyond the findings of the study and a statement of relevance of the findings.
2.8.1 Levels of Headings.
A consistent style or typeface should be used for each level of heading throughout a manuscript so that the reader may visually distinguish between primary and secondary headings.
The styles used for the various levels of headings will vary from publisher to publisher, from publication to publication, and in print and online versions, even within the same publishing house. They may also vary within a single publication, from one category of article to another (see 21.0, Editing, Proofreading, Tagging, and Display). To prevent confusion, headings should be used, formatted, tagged, and displayed consistently.
Headings are often used as navigational links for online articles. Consideration should be given to their appropriateness for online use (eg, avoid long headings and avoid citing images and references within headings).
2.8.2 Number of Headings.
There is no requisite number of headings. However, because headings are meant to divide a primary part into secondary parts, and so on, there should usually be a minimum of 2. Exceptions may be made in specific cases, such as the inclusion of a single subheading, such as Limitations or Conclusions, under the main heading Discussion.
Headings reflect the progression of logic or the flow of thought in an article and thereby guide the reader. Headings also help break up the copy, making the article more approachable. Headings may be used even in articles such as editorials and reviews, which usually do not follow the organization described above for research articles. (Other typographic and design elements, such as pullout quotations, bullets [•], enumerations, tabulations, figures, and tables, may also be used to break up copy and reflect the progression of logic in the manuscript [see 21.0, Editing, Proofreading, Tagging, and Display].)
2.8.3 Some Cautions About Headings.
■Use a single abbreviation as a heading judiciously. If the abbreviation has been introduced earlier, it may be used as a heading. Avoid use of an abbreviation as a heading if it might be misread as a word (eg, AHA) (see 13.11, Clinical, Technical, and Other Common Terms).
■Do not introduce abbreviations for the first time in a heading. Spell the term out in the heading if that is its first appearance and introduce the abbreviation, if appropriate, at the next appearance of the term (see also 13.11, Clinical, Technical, and Other Common Terms).
■Do not cite figures or tables in headings. Cite them in the appropriate place in the text that follows the heading.
■Do not cite references in headings.