It is probable that throughout our lives we need to document ourselves more or less extensively on a specific subject, either in order to carry out some kind of academic or work task or to solve a problem about which we have limited knowledge, or simply out of curiosity. To do this we can resort to a large number of sources of information .

In fact, there are so many possible sources that speak of the same subject 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 infinite number of articles, documents or various archives. Fortunately, we can resort to monographs, a type of text that collects information on the same subject in a systematized way. What are they? What are the characteristics of a monograph? We will see this throughout this article.

What is a monograph?

In order to see the main characteristics of the monographs, it is first of all important to define what they are, since many of their most distinctive features are already visible in their definition.

We understand a monograph to be any text or document that collects and synthesizes available information on a particular topic.

It is a synthesis that can be more or less extensive and that is generally made by one or a few authors from the compilation of the information obtained from different sources , establishing itself as a document specialized in the treated subject and that generally tries to serve as an investigation of the “state of the art” or the situation of the knowledge on this subject. Its objective is usually to compile and synthesize existing information as well as to add new information or points of view on the subject.

The monographs are not 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 (even though what is written may be biased by that opinion).

There are many different types, but they are usually either compiled from other sources or researched to provide new information. There are also analyses of experience, although these are usually somewhat more subjective.

Although the term monograph may seem unusual, the truth is that in the academic field these documents are often produced , as for example in the final degree or master’s work or doctoral theses, and even in simpler works produced as a task during the studies. However, the work must be based on existing knowledge and carried out with a critical spirit, not being a mere personal opinion without anything to support it.

Main features of the monograph

Although most of the main characteristics of the monographs have been seen in the previous point, we will now make them more explicit by commenting on them separately.

1. Demands to choose a topic or problem

As we have said, the monograph is a text focused on a specific topic, on which the whole document is based. In fact, this is why we speak of a monograph. By this we mean that it is necessary to delimit a theme or problem that the monograph in question is going to deal with, since otherwise we could find ourselves with digressions that do not lead to a better understanding of the phenomenon or element being dealt with and could lead us to errors or interpretations.

2. Variable design and extension

The length of a monograph does not depend on the fact that it is a monograph, but rather on the type of monograph we produce, the number of sources consulted, what is intended by its production or even the characteristics of the subject itself. In general, however, the aim is to summarise knowledge, not to reproduce it as it stands.

In any case, it is something that must be designed and delimited previously , not leaving it to chance but premeditating it and delimiting 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 first of all to take into account that a great deal of information will have to be collected beforehand, always seeking to be as reliable as possible. We should try to ensure that at least part of our sources are from authors and journals of high prestige and recognition in their sector (given that it is assumed that the articles written in them have had to pass a tough screening in order to be published in it). For example, we can look for journals with a very high impact factor.

4. Aims to be objective and impartial

One of the main characteristics of a monograph is that it aims to bring together existing information on a subject by reflecting it objectively and without making value judgements about its content.

Likewise, it is not only a matter of being objective but also of being impartial: a good monograph must reflect all or most of the information available from the sources collected, regardless of one’s own position or opinion. What we do not agree with should also be collected , in the case of dealing with a controversial phenomenon, to reflect the different existing points of view.

Unfortunately, despite this, it is frequent that there can be biases based on the training, orientation or pretension of the author when carrying out the monograph (and even the information that is collected and that cannot have to do with what the author pretends), and these can be intentional or even unintentional.

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 subject, being necessary that the writing of the same one is clear and understandable . We must therefore reduce ambivalence and use language that is appropriate for the target audience of the monograph in question.

6. They have a certain basic structure and internal organization

Monographs have a certain structure through which they organize the information to be presented. However, we are talking about a basic structure, and some monographs can be complicated or vary depending on the type of monograph being carried out.

In general, throughout the monograph we find a brief initial summary of the content (as well as key words), an introduction or presentation of the data and of the frame of reference 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. Mostly they try to provide

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 is not only a question of explaining what is known about a subject, but also that one should try to contribute something to this knowledge , with a critical vision, or by incorporating new knowledge derived from experimentation.

8. References and quotations

An important part of our work when preparing a monograph is to take into account the importance of valuing and reflecting the sources from which we start. This allows for recognition of the ideas and concepts of the original authors of the information from which we start, and secondarily it allows for more credibility to be given to the monograph in question.

To this end, it is essential to use the bibliographical references, as well as to cite the authors when their theories are mentioned . When the content is copied literally, it is necessary to put the fragment in quotation marks and put it in italics in addition to citing it.

Bibliographic references:

  • De Cores, S. and Valenzuela, C. (2015). Guidelines for the presentation of postgraduate monographs: a contribution from the library of the ‘Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de La República. entro Nacional de Documentación e Información en Medicina y Ciencias de la Salud; Montevideo.
  • Espinoza, N. and Rincón, A. (2006). Instructions for the preparation and presentation of monographs: the vision of the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of the Andes. Acta Odontológica Venezolana, 44 (3). Caracas.