This type of document is one of the main sources of information in the academic world.
It is likely that throughout our lives we need to document more or less extensively on a specific topic, either in order to carry out some type of academic or work task or to solve a problem about which we have limited knowledge, or because of just curiosity. For this we can resort to a large number of information sources.
In fact, there are so many possible sources that speak of the same topic and describe different aspects of it, sometimes in such a way that they seem to refer to different elements, that it would be possible for us to get lost in an infinity of articles, documents or various files. Fortunately we can resort to monographs, a type of text that systematically collects information on the same subject. What are they? What are the characteristics of a monograph? We will see it throughout this article.
What is a monograph?
In order to see the main characteristics of the monographs, it is first relevant to define what they are, since many of their most distinctive features are already visible in their definition.
We understand by monograph to all that text or document that collects and synthesizes the available information regarding a specific topic.
It is a synthesis that can be more or less extensive and that is usually made by one or a few authors from the compilation of information obtained from various sources, establishing itself as a specialized document on the subject discussed and that generally It is intended to serve as an investigation of the “state of the art” or the state of knowledge on said subject. Its objective is usually to collect and synthesize existing information as well as add new information or points of view on the subject.
Monographs are not made at random, but have a specific and logical structure in which they present the available information, organize it and discuss it without the personal opinion of the author mediating (although what is written may be biased by said opinion).
They exist of very diverse types, although in general they tend to be either compiled from other sources or research to provide new information. There are also analysis of experiences, although these tend to be somewhat more subjective.
Although the term monograph may seem unusual, the truth is that in the academic field these documents are frequently produced, such as in final degree or master’s degree projects or doctoral theses, and even in simpler works prepared as homework during studies. Of course, the work must be based on existing knowledge and carried out with a critical spirit, not being a mere personal opinion with nothing to support it.
Main characteristics of the monograph
Although most of the main characteristics of the monographs have been seen in the previous point, below we will make them more explicit by commenting on them separately.
1. Requires choosing a topic or problem
As we have said, the monograph is a text focused on a specific topic, on which the entire document is based. In fact, that is why we speak properly of monograph. By this we mean that it is necessary to delimit a topic or problem that the monograph in question is going to deal with, since otherwise we could find wanderings that do not lead to a better understanding of the phenomenon or element treated and could lead to errors or interpretations .
2. Variable design and extension
The length of a monograph does not depend on the fact that it is such, but on the type of monograph we make, the number of sources consulted, what is intended with its realization or even on the characteristics of the subject itself. Of course, in general it is intended to make a synthesis of knowledge, not a reproduction of it as is.
In any case, it is something that must be designed and delimited in advance, not leaving it to chance but premeditating it and defining in advance what we intend to do. Thus, one of the first steps will be to design and propose how we want the monograph in question to be.
3. Systematization of existing knowledge
The content of the monograph is not based on assumptions or opinions, and it is necessary in the first place to take into account that a large amount of information will have to be collected beforehand, always seeking to be as reliable as possible. We should ensure that at least part of our sources are from authors and magazines of high prestige and recognition in their sector (since it is assumed that the articles written in them have had to go through a tough screening to be published in it). For example, we can search for magazines with a very high impact factor.
4. It pretends to be objective and impartial
One of the main characteristics of a monograph is that it aims to gather the existing information on a subject, reflecting it objectively and without making value judgments regarding its content.
Likewise, it is not only about being objective but also about being impartial: a good monograph should reflect all or most of the information available from among the collected sources, regardless of one’s position or opinion. We must also collect what we do not agree with, or in case of dealing with a controversial phenomenon, reflect the different existing points of view.
Unfortunately and despite this, it is frequent that there may be biases based on the training, orientation or intention of the author at the time of writing the monograph (and even the information that is collected and that which may not have to do with what the author claims), these may be intentional or even unconscious.
5. Clarity and without ambivalence
It is important to bear in mind that we are making a synthesis of the existing information on a specific topic, and it is necessary that its wording be clear and understandable. So we must reduce ambivalence and use language appropriate to the target audience of the monograph in question.
6. They have a basic structure and a determined internal organization
Monographs have a specific structure through which the information to be presented is organized. Of course, we are talking about a basic structure, and some monographs may be complicated or vary depending on the type of monograph that is being carried out.
In general, we find throughout the monograph a brief initial summary regarding the content (as well as keywords), an introduction or presentation of the data and the framework used, a body or development of the data (in which In the case of experiments or research processes, the methodology and results found will also be referred to), a discussion or elaboration of the meaning of the set of information provided previously, some conclusions and finally a section dedicated to mentioning the bibliography used for its elaboration. Optionally we could also find annexes.
7. They mostly try to contribute
It is true that there are compilation monographs whose objective is only to systematize existing knowledge, but as a general rule, research monographs are the most frequent type of monograph. In this case, it is important to bear in mind that it will not only be a matter of explaining what is known about a topic, but that it should also try to contribute something to that knowledge, with a critical vision, or by incorporating new knowledge derived from experimentation .
8. References and citations
An important part of our work when preparing a monograph is to take into account the importance of evaluating and reflecting the sources from which we start. This allows a recognition of the ideas and concepts of the original authors of the information from which we start, and secondarily also allows to give more credibility to the monograph in question.
For this it is essential to use bibliographic references, as well as to cite the authors when mentioning their theories. When copying its content verbatim, it will be necessary to quote the fragment and put it in italics in addition to citing it.
- De Cores, S. and Valenzuela, C. (2015). Guide for the presentation of postgraduate monographs: a contribution from the library of ´Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de La República. National Center for Documentation and Information in Medicine and Health Sciences; Montevideo.
- Espinoza, N. and Rincón, A. (2006). Instructions for the preparation and presentation of monographs: the vision of the Faculty of Dentistry of the Universidad de los Andes. Acta Odontológica Venezolana, 44 (3). Caracas.