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How to Make a Research Paper Title with Examples
What is a research paper title and why does it matter?
A research paper title summarizes the aim and purpose of your research study. Making a title for your research is one of the most important decisions when writing an article to publish in journals. The research title is the first thing that journal editors and reviewers see when they look at your paper and the only piece of information that fellow researchers will see in a database or search engine query. Good titles that are concise and contain all the relevant terms have been shown to increase citation counts and Altmetric scores .
Therefore, when you title research work, make sure it captures all of the relevant aspects of your study, including the specific topic and problem being investigated. It also should present these elements in a way that is accessible and will captivate readers. Follow these steps to learn how to make a good research title for your work.
How to Make a Research Paper Title in 5 Steps
You might wonder how you are supposed to pick a title from all the content that your manuscript contains—how are you supposed to choose? What will make your research paper title come up in search engines and what will make the people in your field read it?
In a nutshell, your research title should accurately capture what you have done, it should sound interesting to the people who work on the same or a similar topic, and it should contain the important title keywords that other researchers use when looking for literature in databases. To make the title writing process as simple as possible, we have broken it down into 5 simple steps.
Step 1: Answer some key questions about your research paper
What does your paper seek to answer and what does it accomplish? Try to answer these questions as briefly as possible. You can create these questions by going through each section of your paper and finding the MOST relevant information to make a research title.
Step 2: Identify research study keywords
Now that you have answers to your research questions, find the most important parts of these responses and make these your study keywords. Note that you should only choose the most important terms for your keywords–journals usually request anywhere from 3 to 8 keywords maximum.
Step 3: Research title writing: use these keywords
“We employed a case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years to assess how waiting list volume affects the outcomes of liver transplantation in patients; results indicate a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and negative prognosis after the transplant procedure.”
The sentence above is clearly much too long for a research paper title. This is why you will trim and polish your title in the next two steps.
Step 4: Create a working research paper title
To create a working title, remove elements that make it a complete “sentence” but keep everything that is important to what the study is about. Delete all unnecessary and redundant words that are not central to the study or that researchers would most likely not use in a database search.
“ We employed a case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years to assess how the waiting list volume affects the outcome of liver transplantation in patients ; results indicate a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and a negative prognosis after transplant procedure ”
Now shift some words around for proper syntax and rephrase it a bit to shorten the length and make it leaner and more natural. What you are left with is:
“A case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years assessing the impact of waiting list volume on outcome of transplantation and showing a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and a negative prognosis” (Word Count: 38)
This text is getting closer to what we want in a research title, which is just the most important information. But note that the word count for this working title is still 38 words, whereas the average length of published journal article titles is 16 words or fewer. Therefore, we should eliminate some words and phrases that are not essential to this title.
Step 5: Remove any nonessential words and phrases from your title
Because the number of patients studied and the exact outcome are not the most essential parts of this paper, remove these elements first:
“A case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years assessing the impact of waiting list volume on outcomes of transplantation and showing a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and a negative prognosis” (Word Count: 19)
In addition, the methods used in a study are not usually the most searched-for keywords in databases and represent additional details that you may want to remove to make your title leaner. So what is left is:
“Assessing the impact of waiting list volume on outcome and prognosis in liver transplantation patients” (Word Count: 15)
In this final version of the title, one can immediately recognize the subject and what objectives the study aims to achieve. Note that the most important terms appear at the beginning and end of the title: “Assessing,” which is the main action of the study, is placed at the beginning; and “liver transplantation patients,” the specific subject of the study, is placed at the end.
This will aid significantly in your research paper title being found in search engines and database queries, which means that a lot more researchers will be able to locate your article once it is published. In fact, a 2014 review of more than 150,000 papers submitted to the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) database found the style of a paper’s title impacted the number of citations it would typically receive. In most disciplines, articles with shorter, more concise titles yielded more citations.
Adding a Research Paper Subtitle
If your title might require a subtitle to provide more immediate details about your methodology or sample, you can do this by adding this information after a colon:
“ : a case study of US adult patients ages 20-25”
If we abide strictly by our word count rule this may not be necessary or recommended. But every journal has its own standard formatting and style guidelines for research paper titles, so it is a good idea to be aware of the specific journal author instructions , not just when you write the manuscript but also to decide how to create a good title for it.
Research Paper Title Examples
The title examples in the following table illustrate how a title can be interesting but incomplete, complete by uninteresting, complete and interesting but too informal in tone, or some other combination of these. A good research paper title should meet all the requirements in the four columns below.
Tips on Formulating a Good Research Paper Title
In addition to the steps given above, there are a few other important things you want to keep in mind when it comes to how to write a research paper title, regarding formatting, word count, and content:
- Write the title after you’ve written your paper and abstract
- Include all of the essential terms in your paper
- Keep it short and to the point (~16 words or fewer)
- Avoid unnecessary jargon and abbreviations
- Use keywords that capture the content of your paper
- Never include a period at the end—your title is NOT a sentence
Research Paper Writing Resources
We hope this article has been helpful in teaching you how to craft your research paper title. But you might still want to dig deeper into different journal title formats and categories that might be more suitable for specific article types or need help with writing a cover letter for your manuscript submission.
In addition to getting English proofreading services , including paper editing services , before submission to journals, be sure to visit our academic resources papers. Here you can find dozens of articles on manuscript writing, from drafting an outline to finding a target journal to submit to.
Organizing Academic Research Papers: Choosing a Title
- Purpose of Guide
- Design Flaws to Avoid
- Glossary of Research Terms
- Narrowing a Topic Idea
- Broadening a Topic Idea
- Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
- Academic Writing Style
- Choosing a Title
- Making an Outline
- Paragraph Development
- Executive Summary
- Background Information
- The Research Problem/Question
- Theoretical Framework
- Citation Tracking
- Content Alert Services
- Evaluating Sources
- Primary Sources
- Secondary Sources
- Tertiary Sources
- What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
- Qualitative Methods
- Quantitative Methods
- Using Non-Textual Elements
- Limitations of the Study
- Common Grammar Mistakes
- Avoiding Plagiarism
- Footnotes or Endnotes?
- Further Readings
- Annotated Bibliography
- Dealing with Nervousness
- Using Visual Aids
- Grading Someone Else's Paper
- How to Manage Group Projects
- Multiple Book Review Essay
- Reviewing Collected Essays
- About Informed Consent
- Writing Field Notes
- Writing a Policy Memo
- Writing a Research Proposal
The title summarizes the main idea or ideas of your study. A good title contains the fewest possible words that adequately describe the contents and/or purpose of your research paper.
The title is without doubt the part of a paper that is read the most, and it is usually read first . If the title is too long it usually contains too many unnecessary words, e.g., "A Study to Investigate the...." On the other hand, a title which is too short often uses words which are too general. For example, "African Politics" could be the title of a book, but it does not provide any information on the focus of a research paper.
Structure and Writing Style
The following parameters can be used to help you formulate a suitable research paper title:
- The purpose of the research
- The narrative tone of the paper [typically defined by the type of the research]
- The methods used
The initial aim of a title is to capture the reader’s attention and to draw his or her attention to the research problem being investigated.
Create a Working Title Typically, the final title you submit to your professor is created after the research is complete so that the title accurately captures what was done . The working title should be developed early in the research process because it can help anchor the focus of the study in much the same way the research problem does. Referring back to the working title can help you reorient yourself back to the main purpose of the study if you feel yourself drifting off on a tangent while writing. The Final Title Effective titles in academic research papers have several characteristics.
- Indicate accurately the subject and scope of the study.
- Avoid using abbreviations.
- Use words that create a positive impression and stimulate reader interest.
- Use current nomenclature from the field of study.
- Identify key variables, both dependent and independent.
- May reveal how the paper will be organized.
- Suggest a relationship between variables which supports the major hypothesis.
- Is limited to 10 to 15 substantive words.
- Do not include "study of," "analysis of" or similar constructions.
- Titles are usually in the form of a phrase, but can also be in the form of a question.
- Use correct grammar and capitalization with all first words and last words capitalized, including the first word of a subtitle. All nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs that appear between the first and last words of the title are also capitalized.
- In academic papers, rarely is a title followed by an exclamation mark. However, a title or subtitle can be in the form of a question.
The Subtitle Subtitles are quite common in social science research papers. Examples of why you may include a subtitle:
- Explains or provides additional context , e.g., "Linguistic Ethnography and the Study of Welfare Institutions as a Flow of Social Practices: The Case of Residential Child Care Institutions as Paradoxical Institutions."
- Adds substance to a literary, provocative, or imaginative title , e.g., "Listen to What I Say, Not How I Vote: Congressional Support for the President in Washington and at Home."
- Qualifies the geographic scope of the research , e.g., "The Geopolitics of the Eastern Border of the European Union: The Case of Romania-Moldova-Ukraine."
- Qualifies the temporal scope of the research , e.g., "A Comparison of the Progressive Era and the Depression Years: Societal Influences on Predictions of the Future of the Library, 1895-1940."
- Focuses on investigating the ideas, theories, or work of a particular individual , e.g., "A Deliberative Conception of Politics: How Francesco Saverio Merlino Related Anarchy and Democracy."
Balch, Tucker. How to Compose a Title for Your Research Paper . Augmented Trader blog. School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Tech University; Choosing the Proper Research Paper Titles . AplusReports.com, 2007-2012; General Format. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.
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Writing the title and abstract for a research paper: Being concise, precise, and meticulous is the key
Milind s. tullu.
Department of Pediatrics, Seth G.S. Medical College and KEM Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
This article deals with formulating a suitable title and an appropriate abstract for an original research paper. The “title” and the “abstract” are the “initial impressions” of a research article, and hence they need to be drafted correctly, accurately, carefully, and meticulously. Often both of these are drafted after the full manuscript is ready. Most readers read only the title and the abstract of a research paper and very few will go on to read the full paper. The title and the abstract are the most important parts of a research paper and should be pleasant to read. The “title” should be descriptive, direct, accurate, appropriate, interesting, concise, precise, unique, and should not be misleading. The “abstract” needs to be simple, specific, clear, unbiased, honest, concise, precise, stand-alone, complete, scholarly, (preferably) structured, and should not be misrepresentative. The abstract should be consistent with the main text of the paper, especially after a revision is made to the paper and should include the key message prominently. It is very important to include the most important words and terms (the “keywords”) in the title and the abstract for appropriate indexing purpose and for retrieval from the search engines and scientific databases. Such keywords should be listed after the abstract. One must adhere to the instructions laid down by the target journal with regard to the style and number of words permitted for the title and the abstract.
This article deals with drafting a suitable “title” and an appropriate “abstract” for an original research paper. Because the “title” and the “abstract” are the “initial impressions” or the “face” of a research article, they need to be drafted correctly, accurately, carefully, meticulously, and consume time and energy.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 ] Often, these are drafted after the complete manuscript draft is ready.[ 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 9 , 10 , 11 ] Most readers will read only the title and the abstract of a published research paper, and very few “interested ones” (especially, if the paper is of use to them) will go on to read the full paper.[ 1 , 2 ] One must remember to adhere to the instructions laid down by the “target journal” (the journal for which the author is writing) regarding the style and number of words permitted for the title and the abstract.[ 2 , 4 , 5 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 12 ] Both the title and the abstract are the most important parts of a research paper – for editors (to decide whether to process the paper for further review), for reviewers (to get an initial impression of the paper), and for the readers (as these may be the only parts of the paper available freely and hence, read widely).[ 4 , 8 , 12 ] It may be worth for the novice author to browse through titles and abstracts of several prominent journals (and their target journal as well) to learn more about the wording and styles of the titles and abstracts, as well as the aims and scope of the particular journal.[ 5 , 7 , 9 , 13 ]
The details of the title are discussed under the subheadings of importance, types, drafting, and checklist.
Importance of the title
When a reader browses through the table of contents of a journal issue (hard copy or on website), the title is the “ first detail” or “face” of the paper that is read.[ 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 13 ] Hence, it needs to be simple, direct, accurate, appropriate, specific, functional, interesting, attractive/appealing, concise/brief, precise/focused, unambiguous, memorable, captivating, informative (enough to encourage the reader to read further), unique, catchy, and it should not be misleading.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 9 , 12 ] It should have “just enough details” to arouse the interest and curiosity of the reader so that the reader then goes ahead with studying the abstract and then (if still interested) the full paper.[ 1 , 2 , 4 , 13 ] Journal websites, electronic databases, and search engines use the words in the title and abstract (the “keywords”) to retrieve a particular paper during a search; hence, the importance of these words in accessing the paper by the readers has been emphasized.[ 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 12 , 14 ] Such important words (or keywords) should be arranged in appropriate order of importance as per the context of the paper and should be placed at the beginning of the title (rather than the later part of the title, as some search engines like Google may just display only the first six to seven words of the title).[ 3 , 5 , 12 ] Whimsical, amusing, or clever titles, though initially appealing, may be missed or misread by the busy reader and very short titles may miss the essential scientific words (the “keywords”) used by the indexing agencies to catch and categorize the paper.[ 1 , 3 , 4 , 9 ] Also, amusing or hilarious titles may be taken less seriously by the readers and may be cited less often.[ 4 , 15 ] An excessively long or complicated title may put off the readers.[ 3 , 9 ] It may be a good idea to draft the title after the main body of the text and the abstract are drafted.[ 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ]
Types of titles
Titles can be descriptive, declarative, or interrogative. They can also be classified as nominal, compound, or full-sentence titles.
Descriptive or neutral title
This has the essential elements of the research theme, that is, the patients/subjects, design, interventions, comparisons/control, and outcome, but does not reveal the main result or the conclusion.[ 3 , 4 , 12 , 16 ] Such a title allows the reader to interpret the findings of the research paper in an impartial manner and with an open mind.[ 3 ] These titles also give complete information about the contents of the article, have several keywords (thus increasing the visibility of the article in search engines), and have increased chances of being read and (then) being cited as well.[ 4 ] Hence, such descriptive titles giving a glimpse of the paper are generally preferred.[ 4 , 16 ]
This title states the main finding of the study in the title itself; it reduces the curiosity of the reader, may point toward a bias on the part of the author, and hence is best avoided.[ 3 , 4 , 12 , 16 ]
This is the one which has a query or the research question in the title.[ 3 , 4 , 16 ] Though a query in the title has the ability to sensationalize the topic, and has more downloads (but less citations), it can be distracting to the reader and is again best avoided for a research article (but can, at times, be used for a review article).[ 3 , 6 , 16 , 17 ]
From a sentence construct point of view, titles may be nominal (capturing only the main theme of the study), compound (with subtitles to provide additional relevant information such as context, design, location/country, temporal aspect, sample size, importance, and a provocative or a literary; for example, see the title of this review), or full-sentence titles (which are longer and indicate an added degree of certainty of the results).[ 4 , 6 , 9 , 16 ] Any of these constructs may be used depending on the type of article, the key message, and the author's preference or judgement.[ 4 ]
Drafting a suitable title
A stepwise process can be followed to draft the appropriate title. The author should describe the paper in about three sentences, avoiding the results and ensuring that these sentences contain important scientific words/keywords that describe the main contents and subject of the paper.[ 1 , 4 , 6 , 12 ] Then the author should join the sentences to form a single sentence, shorten the length (by removing redundant words or adjectives or phrases), and finally edit the title (thus drafted) to make it more accurate, concise (about 10–15 words), and precise.[ 1 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 9 ] Some journals require that the study design be included in the title, and this may be placed (using a colon) after the primary title.[ 2 , 3 , 4 , 14 ] The title should try to incorporate the Patients, Interventions, Comparisons and Outcome (PICO).[ 3 ] The place of the study may be included in the title (if absolutely necessary), that is, if the patient characteristics (such as study population, socioeconomic conditions, or cultural practices) are expected to vary as per the country (or the place of the study) and have a bearing on the possible outcomes.[ 3 , 6 ] Lengthy titles can be boring and appear unfocused, whereas very short titles may not be representative of the contents of the article; hence, optimum length is required to ensure that the title explains the main theme and content of the manuscript.[ 4 , 5 , 9 ] Abbreviations (except the standard or commonly interpreted ones such as HIV, AIDS, DNA, RNA, CDC, FDA, ECG, and EEG) or acronyms should be avoided in the title, as a reader not familiar with them may skip such an article and nonstandard abbreviations may create problems in indexing the article.[ 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 9 , 12 ] Also, too much of technical jargon or chemical formulas in the title may confuse the readers and the article may be skipped by them.[ 4 , 9 ] Numerical values of various parameters (stating study period or sample size) should also be avoided in the titles (unless deemed extremely essential).[ 4 ] It may be worthwhile to take an opinion from a impartial colleague before finalizing the title.[ 4 , 5 , 6 ] Thus, multiple factors (which are, at times, a bit conflicting or contrasting) need to be considered while formulating a title, and hence this should not be done in a hurry.[ 4 , 6 ] Many journals ask the authors to draft a “short title” or “running head” or “running title” for printing in the header or footer of the printed paper.[ 3 , 12 ] This is an abridged version of the main title of up to 40–50 characters, may have standard abbreviations, and helps the reader to navigate through the paper.[ 3 , 12 , 14 ]
Checklist for a good title
Table 1 gives a checklist/useful tips for drafting a good title for a research paper.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 12 ] Table 2 presents some of the titles used by the author of this article in his earlier research papers, and the appropriateness of the titles has been commented upon. As an individual exercise, the reader may try to improvise upon the titles (further) after reading the corresponding abstract and full paper.
Checklist/useful tips for drafting a good title for a research paper
Some titles used by author of this article in his earlier publications and remark/comment on their appropriateness
The details of the abstract are discussed under the subheadings of importance, types, drafting, and checklist.
Importance of the abstract
The abstract is a summary or synopsis of the full research paper and also needs to have similar characteristics like the title. It needs to be simple, direct, specific, functional, clear, unbiased, honest, concise, precise, self-sufficient, complete, comprehensive, scholarly, balanced, and should not be misleading.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 13 , 17 ] Writing an abstract is to extract and summarize (AB – absolutely, STR – straightforward, ACT – actual data presentation and interpretation).[ 17 ] The title and abstracts are the only sections of the research paper that are often freely available to the readers on the journal websites, search engines, and in many abstracting agencies/databases, whereas the full paper may attract a payment per view or a fee for downloading the pdf copy.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 7 , 8 , 10 , 11 , 13 , 14 ] The abstract is an independent and stand-alone (that is, well understood without reading the full paper) section of the manuscript and is used by the editor to decide the fate of the article and to choose appropriate reviewers.[ 2 , 7 , 10 , 12 , 13 ] Even the reviewers are initially supplied only with the title and the abstract before they agree to review the full manuscript.[ 7 , 13 ] This is the second most commonly read part of the manuscript, and therefore it should reflect the contents of the main text of the paper accurately and thus act as a “real trailer” of the full article.[ 2 , 7 , 11 ] The readers will go through the full paper only if they find the abstract interesting and relevant to their practice; else they may skip the paper if the abstract is unimpressive.[ 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 13 ] The abstract needs to highlight the selling point of the manuscript and succeed in luring the reader to read the complete paper.[ 3 , 7 ] The title and the abstract should be constructed using keywords (key terms/important words) from all the sections of the main text.[ 12 ] Abstracts are also used for submitting research papers to a conference for consideration for presentation (as oral paper or poster).[ 9 , 13 , 17 ] Grammatical and typographic errors reflect poorly on the quality of the abstract, may indicate carelessness/casual attitude on part of the author, and hence should be avoided at all times.[ 9 ]
Types of abstracts
The abstracts can be structured or unstructured. They can also be classified as descriptive or informative abstracts.
Structured and unstructured abstracts
Structured abstracts are followed by most journals, are more informative, and include specific subheadings/subsections under which the abstract needs to be composed.[ 1 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 13 , 17 , 18 ] These subheadings usually include context/background, objectives, design, setting, participants, interventions, main outcome measures, results, and conclusions.[ 1 ] Some journals stick to the standard IMRAD format for the structure of the abstracts, and the subheadings would include Introduction/Background, Methods, Results, And (instead of Discussion) the Conclusion/s.[ 1 , 2 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 17 , 18 ] Structured abstracts are more elaborate, informative, easy to read, recall, and peer-review, and hence are preferred; however, they consume more space and can have same limitations as an unstructured abstract.[ 7 , 9 , 18 ] The structured abstracts are (possibly) better understood by the reviewers and readers. Anyway, the choice of the type of the abstract and the subheadings of a structured abstract depend on the particular journal style and is not left to the author's wish.[ 7 , 10 , 12 ] Separate subheadings may be necessary for reporting meta-analysis, educational research, quality improvement work, review, or case study.[ 1 ] Clinical trial abstracts need to include the essential items mentioned in the CONSORT (Consolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials) guidelines.[ 7 , 9 , 14 , 19 ] Similar guidelines exist for various other types of studies, including observational studies and for studies of diagnostic accuracy.[ 20 , 21 ] A useful resource for the above guidelines is available at www.equator-network.org (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research). Unstructured (or non-structured) abstracts are free-flowing, do not have predefined subheadings, and are commonly used for papers that (usually) do not describe original research.[ 1 , 7 , 9 , 10 ]
The four-point structured abstract: This has the following elements which need to be properly balanced with regard to the content/matter under each subheading:[ 9 ]
Background and/or Objectives: This states why the work was undertaken and is usually written in just a couple of sentences.[ 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 12 , 13 ] The hypothesis/study question and the major objectives are also stated under this subheading.[ 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 12 , 13 ]
Methods: This subsection is the longest, states what was done, and gives essential details of the study design, setting, participants, blinding, sample size, sampling method, intervention/s, duration and follow-up, research instruments, main outcome measures, parameters evaluated, and how the outcomes were assessed or analyzed.[ 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 17 ]
Results/Observations/Findings: This subheading states what was found, is longer, is difficult to draft, and needs to mention important details including the number of study participants, results of analysis (of primary and secondary objectives), and include actual data (numbers, mean, median, standard deviation, “P” values, 95% confidence intervals, effect sizes, relative risks, odds ratio, etc.).[ 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 17 ]
Conclusions: The take-home message (the “so what” of the paper) and other significant/important findings should be stated here, considering the interpretation of the research question/hypothesis and results put together (without overinterpreting the findings) and may also include the author's views on the implications of the study.[ 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 17 ]
The eight-point structured abstract: This has the following eight subheadings – Objectives, Study Design, Study Setting, Participants/Patients, Methods/Intervention, Outcome Measures, Results, and Conclusions.[ 3 , 9 , 18 ] The instructions to authors given by the particular journal state whether they use the four- or eight-point abstract or variants thereof.[ 3 , 14 ]
Descriptive and Informative abstracts
Descriptive abstracts are short (75–150 words), only portray what the paper contains without providing any more details; the reader has to read the full paper to know about its contents and are rarely used for original research papers.[ 7 , 10 ] These are used for case reports, reviews, opinions, and so on.[ 7 , 10 ] Informative abstracts (which may be structured or unstructured as described above) give a complete detailed summary of the article contents and truly reflect the actual research done.[ 7 , 10 ]
Drafting a suitable abstract
It is important to religiously stick to the instructions to authors (format, word limit, font size/style, and subheadings) provided by the journal for which the abstract and the paper are being written.[ 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 13 ] Most journals allow 200–300 words for formulating the abstract and it is wise to restrict oneself to this word limit.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 22 ] Though some authors prefer to draft the abstract initially, followed by the main text of the paper, it is recommended to draft the abstract in the end to maintain accuracy and conformity with the main text of the paper (thus maintaining an easy linkage/alignment with title, on one hand, and the introduction section of the main text, on the other hand).[ 2 , 7 , 9 , 10 , 11 ] The authors should check the subheadings (of the structured abstract) permitted by the target journal, use phrases rather than sentences to draft the content of the abstract, and avoid passive voice.[ 1 , 7 , 9 , 12 ] Next, the authors need to get rid of redundant words and edit the abstract (extensively) to the correct word count permitted (every word in the abstract “counts”!).[ 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 13 ] It is important to ensure that the key message, focus, and novelty of the paper are not compromised; the rationale of the study and the basis of the conclusions are clear; and that the abstract is consistent with the main text of the paper.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 7 , 9 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 17 , 22 ] This is especially important while submitting a revision of the paper (modified after addressing the reviewer's comments), as the changes made in the main (revised) text of the paper need to be reflected in the (revised) abstract as well.[ 2 , 10 , 12 , 14 , 22 ] Abbreviations should be avoided in an abstract, unless they are conventionally accepted or standard; references, tables, or figures should not be cited in the abstract.[ 7 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 13 ] It may be worthwhile not to rush with the abstract and to get an opinion by an impartial colleague on the content of the abstract; and if possible, the full paper (an “informal” peer-review).[ 1 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 11 , 17 ] Appropriate “Keywords” (three to ten words or phrases) should follow the abstract and should be preferably chosen from the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) list of the U.S. National Library of Medicine ( https://meshb.nlm.nih.gov/search ) and are used for indexing purposes.[ 2 , 3 , 11 , 12 ] These keywords need to be different from the words in the main title (the title words are automatically used for indexing the article) and can be variants of the terms/phrases used in the title, or words from the abstract and the main text.[ 3 , 12 ] The ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors; http://www.icmje.org/ ) also recommends publishing the clinical trial registration number at the end of the abstract.[ 7 , 14 ]
Checklist for a good abstract
Table 3 gives a checklist/useful tips for formulating a good abstract for a research paper.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 17 , 22 ]
Checklist/useful tips for formulating a good abstract for a research paper
This review article has given a detailed account of the importance and types of titles and abstracts. It has also attempted to give useful hints for drafting an appropriate title and a complete abstract for a research paper. It is hoped that this review will help the authors in their career in medical writing.
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Conflicts of interest.
There are no conflicts of interest.
The author thanks Dr. Hemant Deshmukh - Dean, Seth G.S. Medical College & KEM Hospital, for granting permission to publish this manuscript.
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Writing Effective Research Paper Titles: Advice and Examples
Are you ready to submit your research paper for publication but haven't settled on a title yet? Do you have a title but aren't sure if it will be the right one for the journal editor or research database search engines? This article will help you fine tune or create an effective research paper title for your work.
Now that you have finished your research and analysis, and you're ready to take the final step before sending your work to journal editors and reviewers. The first thing journal editors and search engine results will see and show is your research paper title. Creating an effective research paper title is highly important to getting your paper in front of the right people. It is also going to be the only part of your paper that is available to everyone for free, and it will be what search engines use to index and show your work in search results. You therefore must design a clear and persuasive title that accurately represents your work.
When writing an effective research paper title, you want to ensure that the title includes all the relevant aspects of your work. Showcase those aspects in a way that entices the audience to read more. Be sure to use the nomenclature common in your field of study, because that will help your work show up in more search results and it will grab the attention of journal editors looking for articles that clearly represent the industry. If you are studying landslides, for example, you will want to include keywords relating to soil composition or grain size; if you are working on a study about organ transplants, then include the specific feature or procedure that affected successful transplants. Identify what parts of your research are going to interest your intended audience.
There are two key pieces of information that people will need to see in your paper title: the subject and the objective. Because you are already familiar with your study and its purpose, creating an effective research paper title is simply a matter of whittling down the words that describe the important aspects of your paper. The advice below will help you take steps to identify key areas of your research, organize the information, and trim it down to the right size for a title.
Develop a topic statement
To get started, consider a topic statement of your paper that includes the subject and scope of the study. The first step in building a topic statement is to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your research paper about? "My paper is about gene therapy and how it can improve cognitive function in dementia patients."
- What was the subject of your study? "I used data from 40 dementia patients from 10 states in the US."
- What method did you use to perform your research? "I performed a randomized trial."
- What were the results? "My study showed that gene therapy improved cognitive function in those who received the treatment."
Once you have answered those questions (such as in the example answers above), make a list of the keywords you used. For this example, those keywords would include the following:
- gene therapy
- cognitive function
- 40 dementia patients
- improved cognitive function
- 10 states in the US
- randomized trial
Then, create your topic statement using those keywords. It might read something like this:
"This study is a randomized trial that investigates whether gene therapy improved cognitive function in 40 dementia patients from 10 states in the US. The results show improved cognitive function in those who received the treatment."
This statement has 36 words — too long for a title. However, it does contain the main required elements: the subject and the objective. It also includes a summary of the results, which can be used to increase the persuasive nature of the title. If you are writing this down on paper, it may be helpful to underline or circle the keywords you used in the statement, as this will help you visually see how the keywords work together in your statement.
Trim the statement
The next step is to remove all unnecessary words to create a working title. Unnecessary words include elements that make the sentences complete sentences. Also remove words that are not central to your study or that would not be used in a research database search.
" This study is a randomized trial that investigates whether gene therapy improved cognitive function in 40 dementia patients from 10 states in the US. The results show improved cognitive function in those who received the treatment ."
Next, take those words and move them around to form a new phrase. This may take a few tries to get it right, but it is worth the time.
"A randomized trial investigating whether gene therapy improved cognitive function in 40 dementia patients from 10 states in the US showed improved cognitive function."
This sample now has 24 words. We still need to get it down to the ideal 15 or fewer total words, with just the exact information journal editors will want. One way to do this is to use the keywords at the beginning and end of your title. Remove any irrelevant facts that other researchers will not be searching for. For example, the method you used is not usually the most searched-for keyword.
" A randomized trial investigating whether gene therapy improved cognitive function in 40 dementia patients from 10 states in the US showed improved cognitive function. "
The final result may be something like this:
"Investigating the impact of gene therapy on cognitive function in dementia patients"
The resulting title has 13 words, had the main action at the beginning, and the main subject of the study at the end. This is a good example of how to create an effective research paper title that will increase journal editors' and reviewers' interest, and it may even help your paper receive more citations down the road.
Main tips to remember
If you are working on your first research paper title, the process can seem intimidating. Even with the process outlined above, creating the best research paper title possible for your work can be difficult and time consuming. Be sure to set aside a good amount of time to developing your title so that you don't feel rushed. Some writers go through 20 or more iterations before they arrive at a title that achieves effectiveness, persuasiveness, and clarity of purpose all in one.
In addition to the above process, keep the following main tips in mind when writing an effective research paper title:
- Write your paper and abstract first, then work on your title. This will make the process much easier than trying to nail a title down without a full, finished paper to start from.
- Keep your title short! Do not include more than 15 words.
- Do not use a period at the end of your title.
- Be sure that the keywords you use truly represent the content of your paper.
- Do not use abbreviations in your title.
- Include all essential key terms from your paper. This ensures your paper will be indexed properly in research databases and search engines. If you are unsure of the best keywords to use, talk to an academic librarian at your institution. They can help you identify keyword and search trends in your research field.
Examples of research paper titles
The lists below illustrate what effective and ineffective research paper titles look like. Use these examples to help guide your research paper title.
- Nurses on the Move: A Quantitative Report on How Meditation Can Improve Nurse Performance
- Correction of the ion transport defect in cystic fibrosis transgenic mice by gene therapy
- Landslide mapping techniques and their use in the assessment of the landslide hazard
- HLA compatibility and organ transplant survival: Collaborative Transplant Study
- Meditation Gurus
- The landslide story
- Landslide hazard and risk assessment
- Pharmacodynamics of oral ganciclovir and valganciclovir in solid organ transplant recipients
No matter what kind of field you are doing research in, you have the opportunity to create an amazing and effective research paper title that will engage your readers and get your paper in front of the journal editors and reviewers you want. By taking the time to go through the title development process, you will finish your work with a title that matches the work outlined in your research paper.
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How to write a research paper title
Knowing how to write a research paper title is an art that not every researcher possesses, and researchers often spend a lot of time skimming through articles to find the right research paper title.
According to an interesting estimate, researchers read more than 100 publications every year and spend long hours, weeks and months searching for and reading articles relevant to their field of study. 1 While open access publishing and online repositories have made it easier to find articles, researchers still need to browse through a sea of research, often using research paper titles, to find relevant information for their research study. Researchers also face the challenge of ensuring their work reaches a broader audience in order to get more citations. This is where the importance of a good title for a research paper becomes evident.
Your research paper title is one of the first things readers in your research paper and plays an important role in influencing whether they will actually go through the entire article. This makes it critical to have a good research paper title that captures the reader’s attention. In this article, we look at the key characteristics of a good research title and what to keep in mind to create a research title that works for you.
What to keep in mind when writing a research paper title
- Convey the key research findings: Before writing a research paper title, list down what your study is about, what you have achieved or discovered, and the methodology used. Try and identify the one or two key elements that make your study novel or significant in your subject area. Combine these elements to create the best research title that showcases your article accurately and effectively.
- Choose a declarative research paper title : Declarative titles are more informative and help readers to quickly grasp what the body of the article may contain. Therefore, it is considered to be more impactful and more likely to attract the reader’s attention. Additionally, most editors agree that papers with declarative titles are more likely to be shared online, allowing researchers to reach a far wider audience. 2
- A good research title must pique reader interest : Researchers browsing through online platforms during their literature search often spend only a few seconds to read the title and evaluate an article’s relevance. This makes it important to create a catchy title for your research paper that will spark curiosity in the minds of your audience, which may prompt them pause, read, share, and discuss your research paper.
- Avoid making any unsubstantiated claims: This is an important aspect to keep in mind when creating research paper titles. While it may be tempting to write titles with claims that will immediately attract reader attention and get you more citations, your research should be able to back-up these claims with substantive, studied evidence. Failing to do so can create mistrust about the research and even hurt your reputation.
- Keep it simple and avoid jargon: It’s tempting to use technical words in a research paper title when you know that your primary audience is most likely to be other researchers working in the same field. However, this can prove counter-productive as readers who are not familiar with these complicated words may end up skipping your article. Some early career researchers might also give your paper a pass as they may feel that it is too technical for them so avoid using jargon.
- Use phrases to keep your research title concise: One mistake early career researchers make is using full sentences to write the research paper title. Avoid complex phrases and unnecessary details as it makes the title unnecessarily lengthy. Remember to ensure proper syntax when trying to rephrase the title to make it leaner. A good research paper title offers a concise summary of the paper’s content; keep your title to under 12 words as lengthy titles can be hard to understand and may seem unfocused and uninteresting.
- Include keywords to make your article discoverable: Today most researchers turn to online databases and search engines like Google Scholar to find the right research. This makes it critical to identify and use the best keywords for your research subject/topic when creating a research title. The best research paper title is one that is easily discoverable, making it easy for your readers to find and read your article.
A review of more than 150,000 papers submitted to UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) database found that the style of a research paper’s title impacted the number of citations it would typically receive. 3 Writing a good research paper title is worth the time and effort, and we’re sure the points listed above will help!
- How Scientists Retrieve Publications: An Empirical Study of How the Internet Is Overtaking Paper Media. Journal of Electronic Publishing, December 2000. [Accessed November 3, 2022] Available at https://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jep/3336451.0006.202?view=text;rgn=main
- Di Girolamo, N. Health care articles with simple and declarative titles were more likely to be in the Altmetric Top 100. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, December 2016. [Accessed November 3, 2022] Available at https://www.jclinepi.com/article/S0895-4356(16)30853-8/fulltext
- Hudson, J. An analysis of the titles of papers submitted to the UK REF in 2014: authors, disciplines, and stylistic details. Scientometrics, July 2016. [Accessed November 3, 2022] Available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11192-016-2081-4
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
It is generally recommended to avoid using a question to write a good research paper title. Titles should be concise and informative, conveying the main focus of the study. While questions can be used in the introduction or research objectives, a clear and declarative title is preferred to accurately represent the content and purpose of the research.
A research paper title should be concise and to the point. Ideally, it should be around 10 to 12 words or less. A shorter title is more effective in grabbing readers’ attention and conveying the main idea succinctly. However, it’s important to ensure that the title still accurately represents the research and provides enough information for readers to understand the scope of the study.
Including specific keywords related to the research topic can be beneficial. Keywords help in indexing and searching for relevant papers. However, it is not necessary to include all keywords in the title. Instead, focus on incorporating essential and relevant keywords that reflect the core aspects of the study. Use keywords that are commonly used and recognized in the field to increase the discoverability and relevance of your research.
Abbreviations or acronyms should generally be avoided in the research paper title. The title should be clear and easily understandable to a broad audience. If an abbreviation is commonly used in the field and is essential to convey the research focus, it can be included, but it’s important to provide the full term upon its first mention in the paper for clarity.
Whether you can change the research paper title after submission depends on the specific guidelines and policies of the journal or conference. Some publications allow minor revisions, including title changes, during the review process. However, it is best to ensure that the title is carefully chosen and reviewed before submission. If a change is necessary, it is recommended to contact the editor or conference organizers for guidance on whether it’s permissible to modify the title.
The preferred formatting style for research paper titles varies depending on the specific guidelines of the target journal or conference. Generally, sentence case is commonly used, where only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. However, some publications may prefer title case, where the first letter of each major word is capitalized. It is important to carefully review the submission guidelines or consult the specific style guide recommended by the publication to ensure consistency with their preferred formatting style.
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6 Important Tips on Writing a Research Paper Title
When you are searching for a research study on a particular topic, you probably notice that articles with interesting, descriptive research titles draw you in. By contrast, research paper titles that are not descriptive are usually passed over, even though you may write a good research paper with interesting contents. This shows the importance of coming up with a good title for your research paper when drafting your own manuscript.
Why do Research Titles Matter?
Before we look at how to title a research paper, let’s look at a research title example that illustrates why a good research paper should have a strong title.
Imagine that you are researching meditation and nursing, and you want to find out if any studies have shown that meditation makes nurses better communicators. You conduct a keyword search using the keywords “nursing”, “communication”, and “meditation.” You come up with results that have the following titles:
- Benefits of Meditation for the Nursing Profession: A Quantitative Investigation
- Why Mindful Nurses Make the Best Communicators
- Meditation Gurus
- Nurses on the Move: A Quantitative Report on How Meditation Can Improve Nurse Performance
All four of these titles may describe very similar studies—they could even be titles for the same study! As you can see, they give very different impressions.
- Title 1 describes the topic and the method of the study but is not particularly catchy.
- Title 2 partly describes the topic, but does not give any information about the method of the study—it could simply be a theoretical or opinion piece.
- Title 3 is somewhat catchier but gives almost no information at all about the article.
- Title 4 begins with a catchy main title and is followed by a subtitle that gives information about the content and method of the study.
As we will see, Title 4 has all the characteristics of a good research title.
Characteristics of a Good Research Title
According to rhetoric scholars Hairston and Keene, making a good title for a paper involves ensuring that the title of the research accomplishes four goals as mentioned below:
- It should predict the content of the research paper .
- It should be interesting to the reader .
- It should reflect the tone of the writing .
- It should contain important keywords that will make it easier to be located during a keyword search.
Let’s return to the examples in the previous section to see if they meet these four criteria.
As you can see in the table above, only one of the four example titles fulfills all of the criteria of a suitable research paper title.
Related: You’ve chosen your study topic, but having trouble deciding where to publish it? Here’s a comprehensive course to help you identify the right journal .
Tips for Writing an Effective Research Paper Title
When writing a research title , you can use the four criteria listed above as a guide. Here are a few other tips you can use to make sure your title will be part of the recipe for an effective research paper :
- Make sure your research title describes (a) the topic, (b) the method, (c) the sample, and (d) the results of your study. You can use the following formula:
[ Result ]: A [ method ] study of [ topic ] among [ sample ] Example : Meditation makes nurses perform better: a qualitative study of mindfulness meditation among German nursing students
- Avoid unnecessary words and jargons. Keep the title statement as concise as possible. You want a title that will be comprehensible even to people who are not experts in your field. Check our article for a detailed list of things to avoid when writing an effective research title .
- Make sure your title is between 5 and 15 words in length.
- If you are writing a title for a university assignment or for a particular academic journal, verify that your title conforms to the standards and requirements for that outlet. For example, many journals require that titles fall under a character limit, including spaces. Many universities require that titles take a very specific form, limiting your creativity.
- Use a descriptive phrase to convey the purpose of your research efficiently.
- Most importantly, use critical keywords in the title to increase the discoverability of your article.
Resources for Further Reading
In addition to the tips above, there are many resources online that you can use to help write your research title. Here is a list of links that you may find useful as you work on creating an excellent research title:
- The University of Southern California has a guide specific to social science research papers: http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/title
- The Journal of European Psychology Students has a blog article focusing on APA-compliant research paper titles: http://blog.efpsa.org/2012/09/01/how-to-write-a-good-title-for-journal-articles/
- This article by Kristen Hamlin contains a step-by-step approach to writing titles: http://classroom.synonym.com/choose-title-research-paper-4332.html
Are there any tips or tricks you find useful in crafting research titles? Which tip did you find most useful in this article? Leave a comment to let us know!
- Hairston, M., & Keene, M. 2003. Successful writing . 5th ed. New York: Norton.
- University of Southern California. 2017. Organizing your social sciences research paper: choosing a title . [Online] Available at: http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/title
Thank you so much:) Have a nice day!
Thank you so much, it helped me.. God bless..
Thank you for the excellent article and tips for creating a research work, because I always forget about such an essential element as the keywords when forming topics. In particular, I have found a rapid help with the formation of informative and sound titles that also conforms to the standards and requirements.
I am doing a research work on sales girls or shop girls using qualititative method. Basicly I am from Pakistan and writing on the scenario of mycountry. I am really confused about my research title can you kindly give some suggestions and give me an approperaite tilte
Hi Zubair, Thank you for your question. However, the information you have provided is insufficient for drafting an appropriate title. Information on what exactly you intend to study would be needed in order to draft a meaningful title. Meanwhile, you can try drafting your own title after going through the following articles our website: https://www.enago.com/academy/top-10-tips-on-choosing-an-attractive-research-title/ , https://www.enago.com/academy/writing-a-good-research-title-things-to-avoid/ , https://www.enago.com/academy/write-irresistible-research-paper-title/ We would be happy to give you feedback and suggest changes if required. Did you get a chance to install our free Mobile App? https://www.enago.com/academy/mobile-app/ . Make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter https://www.enago.com/academy/subscribe-now/ .
thanks for helping me like this!!
Thank you for this. It helped me improve my research title. I just want to verify to you the title I have just made. “Ensuring the safety: A Quantitative Study of Radio Frequency Identification system among the selected students of ( school’s name ).
(I need your reply asap coz we will be doing the chap. 1 tomorrow. Thank u in advance. 🙂 )
I am actually doing a research paper title. I want to know more further in doing research title. Can you give me some tips on doing a research paper?
Hi Joan, Thank you for your question. We are glad to know that you found our resources useful. Your feedback is very valuable to us. You can try drafting your own title after going through the following articles on our website: https://www.enago.com/academy/top-10-tips-on-choosing-an-attractive-research-title/ , https://www.enago.com/academy/writing-a-good-research-title-things-to-avoid/ , https://www.enago.com/academy/write-irresistible-research-paper-title/
We would be happy to give you feedback and suggest changes if required. Did you get a chance to install our free Mobile App? https://www.enago.com/academy/mobile-app/ . Make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter https://www.enago.com/academy/subscribe-now/ .
That really helpful. Thanks alot
Thank you so much. It’s really help me.
Thanks for sharing this tips. Title matters a lot for any article because it contents Keywords of article. It should be eye-catchy. Your article is helpful to select title of any article.
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This blog is very informative for me. Thanks for sharing.
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i’m found in selecting my ma thesis title ,so i’m going to do my final research after the proposal approved. Your post help me find good title.
I need help. I need a research title for my study about early mobilization of the mechanically ventilated patients in the ICU. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated.
Thank you for posting your query on the website. When writing manuscripts, too many scholars neglect the research title. This phrase, along with the abstract, is what people will mostly see and read online. Title research of publications shows that the research paper title does matter a lot. Both bibliometrics and altmetrics tracking of citations are now, for better or worse, used to gauge a paper’s “success” for its author(s) and the journal publishing it. Interesting research topics coupled with good or clever yet accurate research titles can draw more attention to your work from peers and the public alike. You can check through the following search results for titles on similar topics: https://www.google.com/search?q=early+mobilization+of+the+mechanically+ventilated+patients+in+the+icu&rlz=1C1GCEU_enIN907IN907&oq=&aqs=chrome.0.69i59.4920093j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 .
We hope this would be helpful in drafting an attractive title for your research paper.
Please let us know in case of any other queries.
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Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say fantastic blog!
In case the topic is new research before you’re writing. And then to stand out, you end up being different.and be inclined to highlight yourself.
There are many free directories, and more paid lists.
To be honest your article is informative. I search many site to know about writing but I didn’t get the information I needed. I saw your site and I read it. I got some new information from here. I think some of your tips can be applied to those too! Thank you so very much for such informative and useful content.
Nice and well written content you have shared with us. thanks a lot!
Thanks for sharing these tips… Rockwide
Its helpful. a person can grab knowledge through it.
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Picking The Best Title For A Research Paper: 25 Great Suggestions
It doesn’t matter what stage of your academic career you are at, choosing the best title for your research paper is paramount not only to your confidence and ability to write the paper but also as to how it will be interpreted and perceived by your readership. Choosing a lame title could easily result in the paper falling flat on its face. If picking your title for your research paper is enough to make you start biting your nails in desperation, fear not, for here’re are 25 great suggestions:
- Witchcraft in America: examine the impact of The Salem Witch Trials on communities across America.
- Explore the parallels between the Ancient Olympians and modern day Olympic athletes.
- The Global Financial crisis: was it caused by greedy bankers or an over reliance on cheap credit by consumers?
- Are there any parallels to be drawn between the Suffragettes and the women’s rights movements of today?
- How to break voter apathy and increase turnout at elections: would forcing first time voters to vote make a difference?
- Hackers like “Anonymous” claim to be orchestrating huge hacks for ethical reasons. Is hacking ever justified?
- Suppressing whistleblowers the Snowden effect: prosecuting, indeed persecuting people who wish to blow the whistle on wrongdoing has become the norm. Should we be taking the opposite approach to whistleblowing?
- Life in a monastery: is this the answer to reversing the modern trend of promiscuity.
- Evolution of our species: examine evolutionary patterns in humans over the years and consider what the next stages in our evolutionary cycle might be.
- Algorithms and search engines: a necessary means of predicting consumer’s needs or a gross intrusion into our privacy?
- Global pandemics: are mass extinctions a thing of the past. Or, could something like Ebola wipe out vast swathes of the planet.
- Meteorites: are they are threat to our survival?
- Who owns outer space: is there a benefit to the wider population to businesses investing in and profiting out of deep space mining etc.
- Optical illusions: what are they and are what the root causes behind them?
- Corruption within the Vatican: provide a historical account of Vatican cover ups.
- Amelia Earhart: unravel the mystery around what happened to her
- The Bermuda Triangle: explore the science behind the myths
- Atlantis: an investigation into the likely places for it
- The gender gap: why do some companies still think it is acceptable to pay women less for doing the same job as their male counterparts? What steps can governments take to address this?
- Wuthering Heights: Was it really written by Emily Bronte?
- Bram Stoker: how was he able to create “Dracula”
- Boudicca: heroine or Roman Puppet?
- The Gunpowder plot: consider an alternate reality in which the plot had been successful
- End of the “Welfare State” – Are the Dutch right to abolish this?
- Compare and contrast the Scandinavian childcare model to the British model.
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How to write good research paper titles
Your title is the first and most important step in engaging your reader. It should be concise, interesting and summarise the essential content of the document. Any title that is lengthy, overly complex, ambiguous or misleading can turn away prospective readers. This writing guide gives an overview of the different types of titles and explains the essential steps in designing your title.
Titles can be sentence fragments, complete sentences or compound sentences with the second sentence typically following a colon.
To help the paper appear in search results, it is common practice to place keywords in the title. Keywords used in the title should be placed in the beginning in case only a fragment of the title appears in the search results.
Terms used to describe types of titles
Common terms used to describe different types of research paper titles are Descriptive, declarative, interrogative, suggestive, humorous and combination titles.
Descriptive titles or indicative titles
Descriptive titles state the subject, topic, design, purpose or methods of the project. For example:
- ‘Effects of natural forest and tree plantations on leaf-litter frog assemblages in Southern Brazil.’ ( Cicheleiro et al. 2021 ).
- ‘An efficient incremental learning mechanism for tracking concept drift in spam filtering.’ ( Jyh-Jian et al. 2017 ).
Declarative or Informative titles
These titles give the main findings or result of the study. For example:
- ‘Novel flight style and light wings boost flight performance of tiny beetles.’ ( Farisenkov et al 2022 ).
- ‘Cause of hypereosinophilia shows itself after 6 years: Loa loa.’ ( Hicks et al. 2022 ).
There is some concern that presenting the results or conclusions in the title of a paper will appear presumptive: that titles containing a definitive statement or final conclusion of a study, might prove problematic if that finding is later disproved.
Some journals prefer informative titles. For example, the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology has “… an editorial policy of “more informative titles” (MITs) that crisply and concisely tell our readers what our authors found in their research. A MIT states the study type and summarizes its key findings, using the past tense for individual studies and the present tense for systematic reviews .” The idea is that titles for small individual studies should be written in past tense to allow future studies to overrule or disagree with their findings, while titles should be written in present tense for studies that are unlikely to be over-ruled by later studies: i.e. literature reviews. Some research has also demonstrated that “articles with short titles describing the results are cited more often.” ( Paiva et al. 2012 ).
Interrogative titles or titles phrased as a question. The use of questions in titles can create interest by making the reader immediately wonder what the answer might be. It is also a concise way of presenting the research topic.
- ‘Does adding video and subtitles to an audio lesson facilitate its comprehension?’ ( Zheng et al. 2022 ).
- ‘Microbial defenses against mobile genetic elements and viruses: Who defends whom from what?’ ( Eduardo et al. 2022 ).
These are titles that are slightly ambiguous or overly brief to hint or suggest what the findings might be, presumably to create suspense to entice the reader to find out what the answer is. For example:
- ‘Drawing to improve metacomprehension accuracy’. ( Thiede et al. 2022 ).
- ‘The puzzle of high temperature superconductivity in layered iron pnictides and chalcogenides.’ ( Johnston 2010 ).
Humorous or colloquial title
These are titles that hope to attract interest through humour or common-use sayings, colloquialism or metaphors. These types of titles can be used to good effect. However, be mindful that colloquialisms might not make sense to readers from different language or cultural backgrounds.
- ‘miR miR on the wall, who's the most malignant medulloblastoma miR of them all?’ ( Wang et al 2018 ).
- ‘One ring to multiplex them all’ ( Torres-Company 2017 ).
- ‘Sauropod farts warmed the planet.’ ( Marshall 2012 ).
Combination titles are those that include a combination of different types listed above.
The following example uses a colloquialism in the key title with the findings mentioned in the sub-title:
- ‘Standing out in a crowd: Intraspecific variability in dorsal patterning allows for photo-identification of a threatened anuran.’ ( Gould et al. 2021 ).
The following example has the following structure: ‘Topic: results of study’
- Plastic Pollution in the World's Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea ( Eriksen et al. 2014 ).
Which type is better?
There are conflicting views which type of title is better. There are arguments for and against different types, with research findings presenting the pros and cons of different types of title. Before you decide which is best, first look at how titles are commonly structured in recently published journals within your discipline.
Essential steps in designing your title
The following steps will help you design your document title.
1. Read the Instructions to Authors
Once you have selected a journal, review the types of titles recently published and read the Instructions to Authors to learn what the journal requires for paper titles. Instructions regarding titles are often brief. For example:
- Elsevier’s Guide for Authors “Title - Concise and informative. Titles are often used in information-retrieval systems. Avoid abbreviations and formulae where possible.”
- Plos One Submission Guidelines state that titles should be “…Specific, descriptive, concise, and comprehensible to readers outside the field.” and “…written in sentence case (only the first word of the text, proper nouns, and genus names are capitalized). Avoid specialist abbreviations if possible. For clinical trials, systematic reviews, or meta-analyses, the subtitle should include the study design.”
2. Consider your audience
Although the expected audience is broadly set by the scope of the journal, you still need to identify who will be interested in your paper. Who is your target audience? Are they scientists who mostly work in your field or will they include researchers from other disciplines? Consider what aspects of your project would attract your target audience and whether or not you can include these in your title.
3. Decide what aspects of your study to include in your title
As outlined above (Types of titles) decide whether you want to describe the process (descriptive) the result (informative) the research question or problem (integrative) or a combination of these factors.
Description of methods and study design
Titles of research papers, reports and conference proceedings often contain standard research methods. For example:
- ‘Plant-based diets and incident cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in African Americans: A cohort study.’ ( Weston et al. 2022 ).
- ‘Using scale modelling to assess the prehistoric acoustics of Stonehenge.’ ( Cox et al. 2020 ).
- ‘The use of chronosequences in studies of ecological succession and soil development.’ ( Walker et al 2010 ).
Description of study subjects and location
Titles often just describe the key study subject, and also often including habitat or location. For example:
- ‘Making (remote) sense of lianas.’ ( van der Heijden 2022 ).
- ‘The vulnerability of native rangeland plant species to global climate change in the West Asia and North African regions’ ( Ouled Belgacem & Louhaichi 2013 ).
How specific or general should your title be?
Your title should be unique to your project. Hopefully, no one else is writing a paper exactly the same as you, and your title should reflect this. If your title is too broad or general, then you may give the impression that the study is larger than it is or that it is a literature review. This is when it is important to make a distinction between ‘topic’ (general) and ‘title’ (specific). Unless you are writing a literature review or presenting a large-scale study, don’t give your research topic as your title.
Including information on the scope of the study will also help the reader understand the magnitude of your study and from this, the importance and implications of the findings. In the following example, “in highway bridges” gives the scope of the study:
- ‘Finite element based fatigue assessment of corrugated steel web beams in highway bridges.’ ( Wang & Wang 2015 ).
Avoid making your title too long with too much specific detail. For example, perhaps this title is too long:
- ‘Use of open-text responses to recode categorical survey data on postpartum contraception use among women in the United States: A mixed-methods inquiry of Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System data.’ ( Richards et al, 2022 ).
4. Consider your reader’s behaviour
Assume your reader only has a short time to decide if your title is relevant and that they will only review the abstract if the title interests them. Titles that include standard procedures, common cause-effect scenarios or well-known research topics, might be overlooked in preference for titles describing unique approaches or interesting findings.
5. Check that your title is clear and easy to read
Your main message must be clear. Your titles don’t have to be grammatically-complete sentences, but make sure they make sense, especially if you have tried to shorten them by cutting out words. Don’t sacrifice clarity for brevity by making your title obscure.
Beware of using adjectival-noun strings in your titles. This is when authors try and be more concise by placing too many adjectives in front a single noun making it difficult to decipher whether each adjective is actually modifying the root noun or another word in the adjectival-noun string. Take an example from a student report: ‘ Australian insecticide control failure .’ (Anon.) This might be interpreted as:
- The failure of insecticide to control something in Australia.
- The failure of Australian insecticide to control something somewhere else.
- The failure to control [the use of] Australian insecticide.
Another unclear example: ‘Post head emergence spring radiative frost damage of winter cereals.’ (Anon.) It could be made even longer: ‘Winter cereal post head emergence spring radiative frost damage.’
6. Check your title length
The shorter the title, the easier it will be to read but only to a certain point. Too short and you risk sacrificing your meaning. Also, If you leave out too much detail, the title may appear too general and mislead the reader. If the reader has to guess what the meaning, you increase the chance of losing them. Check that your title is not too ambiguous, cryptic or inadvertently misleading. An ambiguous media release example:
- ‘Lupins show healthy potential for increased human consumption.’ ( Australian Food News 2008 ).
7. Check that your title is concise
Titles can be made more concise by removing unnecessary repetition and detail. Common research phrases can be removed without affecting the meaning or structure of the title. Examples of these research phrases include ‘The influence of...’, ‘The role of..’, ‘Effects of..’, ‘Observations of..,’ ‘Studies on...’
For example: ‘Annual variation in the distribution of summer snowdrifts in the Kosciuszko alpine area, Australia, and its effect on the composition and structure of alpine vegetation.’ ( Edmonds et al. 2006 ) [25 words] could be reduced to: “Distribution of summer snowdrifts influences composition and structure of Kosciuszko alpine vegetation, Australia” [13 words].
8. Ways to make your title more interesting
Ask a question
By writing a title in the form of a question you are immediately inviting the reader to think. For example:
- ‘Whose shoulders is health research standing on? Determining the key actors and contents of the prevailing biomedical research agenda.’ ( Testoni et al. 2021 ).
Be humorous or focus on the unusual or unexpected
Mildly humorous titles immediately engage the reader while unusual or unexpected tiles create curiosity.
- ‘On human odour, malaria mosquitoes, and Limburger cheese.’ ( Knols 1996 ).
My key advice is, ensure your title is concise, easy to read (for your target audience), not too long and adequately reflects your study’s design or purpose (not too general or too specific).
- Is it hard to read?
- If it is a question, does it make your reader wonder what the answer is?
- If it is a summary of your methods, are these methods unique or reveal a fresh approach or are they just standard and well-known and therefore unlikely to stand-out?
- If it is the answer or conclusion to your problem, are you risking letting the reader think they now don’t need to read the paper? Or might your conclusion-title be a way to hook your reader into finding out more about your study?
- Does it create interest or curiosity?
© Dr Marina Hurley 2022 www.writingclearscience.com.au
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How to Write a Good Research Paper Title
11 Jan 2022
While working on a scientific academic paper, writing a good research paper title is probably the least of your concerns. However, it becomes an “issue” down the drain when it comes to combining all the necessary elements of a great-sounding title in one heading.
The PapersOwl team wanted to help you figure it out, so we’ve created this guide on writing a catchy, topic-relevant title. Here’s what you’ll learn after going through this guide:
- We will delve into the essential attributes that make a research paper title effective and attention-grabbing, helping you understand what constitutes a good title.
- Give you practical tips on how to optimize your research paper heading in alignment with established academic guidelines.
- We will walk you through a process outlining the steps you should take to create a heading.
- Real-world examples of research paper headings will show how you can successfully encapsulate the essence of their respective papers.
- Here, you will find strategies and considerations for phrasing your paper title to resonate with a specific research discipline.
Let’s take it one step at a time, so we’ll dive into the elements of a great heading to show you what your heading should sound like first.
Characteristics of a Good Title
To write a perfect research paper title, you’ll need to know about the different types of headings first:
- Humorous or colloquial
The key point for all these types is to make a catchy title that captures the tone and the essence of the topic with relevant keywords . If you decide to name a research paper with the interrogative approach, you can use the phrasing of a question-type heading to entice the readers to look for an answer.
Suggestive headings are a bit different as they indicate that a reader will have to keep reading to get an answer to the outlined thesis, only without phrasing it as a question. This is where things get interesting and start depending on the topic more because a humorous or colloquial title can’t always be used.
You should use these only if the title of the research topic allows it to be phrased in a common language and colloquial. Finally, the combined approach takes something from all these types and often makes the best option for general topics. You can take a look at our list to see what we mean by these characteristics:
Tips for Crafting the Perfect Title
If you are wondering about how to write a title for a research paper, you’ll find a lot of common knowledge tips for writing research paper titles. You may hear that it needs to be on-point, short, yet catchy and that it has to be interesting enough without compromising on keywords.
We also recommend that you keep in mind the formatting guidelines, including the APA format or another requested format. Still, we think it’s better to give you a more detailed set of tips to follow, so here’s our list of the most useful steps to take:
Start with a Working Title
The first tip we’ll give you is not to waste too much time wondering how to title a research paper. You should start with a working title that can be edited, revised and changed afterward.
Make sure to finish writing your paper first, and only then can you truly dedicate your time to creating a perfect title. By that time, you’ll already get a few ideas along the way, so try to think about how each new chapter may contribute as inspiration for the final title of the research project.
Prioritize Important Terms
It’s no secret that good research paper tiles simply need to include important and relevant terms in the paper. Since you won’t be able to make it a mile-long heading, it’s important to start with those terms first and try to build the rest around them.
We recommend writing down a few key terms for your research and topic in the heading first and then brainstorming ideas on how to make it sound catchy and fill up the gaps afterward.
Use Active Verbs
If you look at the good research paper title examples, you’ll notice a common denominator. Most of these headings have active verbs, which means you shouldn’t use verbs like “Study on” or “Analysis of”.
Instead, you can use active verbs like “Evaluating”, “Examining”, “Establishing”, “Interpreting”, and so on.
Avoid Clickbait Techniques
One of the most important things is not to make the title of the research paper sound like clickbait. Sure, it’s important to make it sound catchy and enticing, but avoid using the same format as clickbait news or journals.
The biggest difference between these two types of headings is that clickbait often doesn’t contain that much information on what seems to be the key thesis of the topic. It only serves to attract more readers and clicks.
However, your scientific paper’s title has to be on point with relevant topic keywords.
Keep It Short But Informative
This one is worth its weight in gold since there’s usually a certain word count limit for the research paper title. It may not be enforced strictly, but it’s still important to make the title short and concise to avoid topic confusion for the readers.
You can aim for around 10 to 12 words, just like with our example of a good title listed in the table above. Make sure to use a few relevant terms about your research first, and then fill in the gaps to create a title.
Limit Vague Statements
As we dive into the research paper title format more and more, you’ll notice that some titles feature vague statements. These are among the worst mistakes you can make, even though it initially may seem like vague titles are more enticing.
In reality, these are not news articles, so you’ll have to make a title catchy in another way and keep the heading specifically related to your research.
Mention the Study Design
If you have enough room in your title, you can also mention the study design. This means you can lay out a few details about the nature of your research methodology or variables used to explain certain scientific occurrences.
There’s no need to overdo it; you can simply create a catchy title and add something like “Using the (method name) method”, so it reveals something topic-related and represents your research.
When coming up with the research paper name, it’s crucial to avoid abbreviations. Of course, this doesn’t reflect on the measurement units or similar pieces of data, but it’s better to steer away from these titles for research papers altogether.
Things can get a bit complex here since abbreviations may not be considered wrong if previously defined, but that would also consume too much space. So, make it simple and avoid using any acronyms or abbreviations within the title itself, but rather in the content sections.
Check for Similiar Titles
Sadly, this happens a lot more often than you would imagine, especially if you are a student working on research that’s commonly used as a subject. You may run into a problem if previous generations of students have used too similar or possibly even the same titles.
So, it’s best to check all this beforehand, and it goes the same way for scientific studies outside the academic frame. Also, when looking for custom research papers for sale , it’s important to make sure that the headings aren’t copied in any way.
Don’t Be Too Technical and Forgetting Your Audience
Finally, we have to encourage you to always keep in mind the tone of your research when naming a research paper. If the tone allows, you can get into the technical details, but make sure not to overdo it if that doesn’t suit the tone of the paper.
Try to think about the audience and who will read the research. This is the best way to not only create catchy research paper titles but also to ensure the use of the right voice. It’s also important to use the right style, depending on whether you are required to use the MLA guidelines or another format.
Examples of Research Paper Titles
After going through the technicalities, it’s time to give you a sample of title headings to show you what we mean in practice. We’ll also be giving you good and bad research title examples with a focus on the mentioned tips and steps for crafting a great title.
Good and Bad Titles for a Research Paper
We know it’s difficult to come up with a title for a research paper at first, but looking at the examples might help differentiate between good titles for research papers and bad ones. For instance, differentiating between vague and solid titles gets easier when you look at these few examples:
Vague: “A Study On Birds”
Improved: “Analyzing Migration Patterns of North American Sparrows”
Here’s another example of a vague title - “A Study on Facebook,” so you can see it’s pretty vague and short. An improved version would be “The Effects of Social Media on Psychological Health and Well-Being.”
It also comes in handy to differentiate between overly technical titles and acceptable titles with a glimpse of technical details. For example, the title “The Effect of 2,4-Dinitrophenol on ATP Synthase Activity in Mitochondria” can be simplified for wider audiences if needed.
You can use something like “Understanding the Impact of 2,4-Dinitrophenol on Cellular Energy Production” to make the title a bit catchier and acceptable for a wider audience.
How to Title Research Paper in Your Field
If you are still having some doubts even after going through all these tips, we completely get you. It’s not so easy to form a title for a research paper in practice, so we’ll put some of our skills to use to give you a few creative examples to lean on when figuring out your heading:
Titles for psychology research papers :
- Natural Methods For Fighting Stress Quickly and Effectively
- How to Make People Do What You Want: 5 Most Effective Methods
- A Full Guide on How Not to Be Influenced by Society
- Correlation Between Aggressive Adult Behaviour And An Unhappy Childhood
- How to Change Your Attitude to Life: Natural Methods That Really Work
Education and related topics:
- How to Get As and Work at the Same Time: Time-Management Tips for Students
- A Guide on How to Craft a Good Essay if You Have Only 1 Hour
- You Mean Nothing to Society if You Don’t Have a Degree
- Steps that Should be Taken to Improve the System of Education
- Great Tricks for Motivating Students
Heading examples for business papers:
- How to Start Your Own Business Without a Large Investment
- Benefits of Being Self-Employed You Have Never Thought Of
- 10 Great Business Ideas for Those Who Have No Money
- The Most Common Mistakes Beginning Businessmen Do
- The Secret Behind a Successful Business
Ideas for papers from the technology sphere:
- The Greatest Innovations in Technology in the Last 5 Years
- The Most Useful Technologies in Medicine
- Original Technologies that Will Change the Future
- The Role of Information Technology in Everyday Life
- The Benefits of Living in a Highly-Technological World
You can also rely on a research paper proofreading service to help out with some minor details that could make a change both for the title and the paper itself.
If you are facing issues with the research paper title ideas, we recommend that you save it for last and finish your work first before crafting a title.
This usually helps as you’ll have more inspiration after you’ve gone in-depth with the topic, and the heading may come naturally to you. If not, you can always refer to the PapersOwl team and have it crafted by our experts.
Our Take on Crafting Research Paper Titles
To summarize, everyone can tell you how it is to make a title for a research paper by making it sound catchy and topic-relevant. However, we have outlined all the necessary details in-depth through this guide so you can truly craft an admirable title for a research project.
The key is to know your audience, avoid vague titles and short word forms, and keep an active voice with a focus on relevant terms. So, we hope that this guide will serve as a pathway toward a perfect scientific title for your project.
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Prof. Linda Mia
I’ve worked for the past eight years as a content editor, creative writer, and professional essay writer. Every day, I work hard to make sure my clients are satisfied with the projects and papers I write for them. My areas of expertise are wide, ranging from Psychology and Sociology to Political Science and World History.
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A catchy title for your paper
How do you search for scientific literature? Chances are, you start by entering keywords into a search engine and then scroll more or less mindlessly through the output list until you come across a title that grasps your attention. The readers of your articles do the same. So, if you want to attract readers to your papers, you’d better create titles that catch the little attention they have when they browse the web. In this post, you will learn how to do just that: You will discover practical advice for writing catchy scientific titles.
Talking about titles…
…makes me think about my Ph.D. supervisor, Denis Hilton , my doctor father as the Germans say.
The best titles promise an exciting journey, and Denis was a master at that craft. An Oxford-educated Englishman, he was the epitome of the Enlightenment intellectual, gifted with endless curiosity. From science to history, tennis, rock music, literature, economics, cheese, languages, wine, or politics, every aspect of culture interested him. And like the truly creative mind that he was, all his passions merged to generate research ideas and sometimes article titles such as the one below.
As a young Ph.D. student, I couldn’t imagine anything more inspiring! He passed away a year ago, and as I write these words, I realize that he showed me the joy and playfulness of research. I wish that his inspiration would accompany me every minute of my work; I wish that you would also experience it every minute of your work!
How to write a catchy title?
To be catchy, your title must have certain features.
A catchy title informs the reader about the content of the paper
The first function of a title is to allow the reader to identify at a glance the subject of the article. Concretely, how can you do that?
1. Describe in your title what the research is about
Are you looking for the effects of one variable on another? Are you trying to clarify a vague concept?
Your title should capture the essence of your research and state its purpose. For example, you can:
- Include your key variables (i.e., your dependent and independent variables) and their relation to each other (e.g., “ The effect of nutrition on blood pressure “)
- Specify the population or context to which your research applies (“ Applying ecological models to communities of genetic elements: The case of neutral theory “)
- Indicate the problem you are addressing (e.g., “ A universal Bayesian inference framework for complicated creep constitutive equations “)
- Mention the methods you have used (e.g., “ Investigating emotion with music: an fMRI study “).
2. Set the right expectation for the paper
Your title should give an accurate preview of the content of the paper . Do not overstate or exaggerate the achievements of your study . I know it may be tempting because you want to catch people’s attention. However, a disappointed reader (or reviewer) is worse than an uninterested one. Thus, focus your title on your research’s most central questions (or results), even if you wish they would be more exciting.
3. Specifies the type of your article
Scientific journal articles come in various formats: empirical studies, reviews, case reports, multistudy analyses, theoretical models, or opinions. You can use your title to inform the reader of the type of article your document falls under, especially if it is not standard (e.g., “ Socioeconomic status and obesity: a review of the literature” ).
A catchy title grabs the attention of the right readers
The second purpose of a title is to catch the attention of the readers for whom you wrote the article. Readers will come across your article in two ways: either by scrolling through the issue of the journal where it will be published or on search engines. In both cases, your article will be swimming in a sea of other papers. You want your readers to stop scrolling and click on your title.
A title quoting the Rolling Stones, like my supervisor’s, is great in this regard because it brings a smile and arouses curiosity. However, this does not mean that every article must be crowned with a sexy title. In some journals or fields of research, editors and readers would see a whimsical title as inappropriate and lacking seriousness . Furthermore, the purpose of your title is not to attract just any reader but those for whom your research is relevant. Talking about a research topic, a theory, or a method your readers care about can be more efficient than appealing to pop-culture classics.
There are several tricks to help you capture the attention of your readers.
1. Make your title easy to read
When your readers scroll through lists of articles, they quickly scan the screen. Thus, one glance should be enough for them to identify the subject of your paper. To make your title easy to read:
– Keep it short , i.e., no more than 15 words. Shorter titles get more citations (see here for correlational evidence).
– Remove all unnecessary words (e.g., “study of,” “analysis of,” or similar constructions).
– Avoid characters that are difficult to print , such as subscripts, superscripts, or mathematical characters.
– Use correct grammar and capitalization .
– Avoid jargon, complex technical terms, or rare abbreviations, especially if you want to reach a broad audience.
2. Tailor your title for your readers
In which journal do you want to publish your article? Who are your readers? Is it a broad audience or a specialized readership? What do they care about? What kind of vocabulary do they use? When writing a scientific article and its title, it is essential to know who you are writing for and adapt to that audience.
Adapting to your audience starts with conforming to the journal’s norms to which you intend to submit your article. Indeed, journal differs in the style of the titles they publish. Some journals have longer titles than others. In some journals, titles can be playful, while other outlets require serious titles. If you’re not sure of the type of titles you’re expected to create, look for examples in the journal where you would like to submit your paper.
Tailoring your title to your audience means using a language they can relate to. This is especially important if you are working on a topic where different communities use different terminologies. Let me give you an example from my field!
Scientists in different disciplines of psychology use different terms to refer to the ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes. Social psychologists call it “ empathy ,” developmental psychologists talk about “ theory of mind ,” neuroscientists use the word “ mentalizing ,” and cognitive psychologists “ perspective taking .” I know, it’s a mess! If you are working on a topic that can be designed with different terms, consider the community you want to address, use their nomenclature and stick to it (please don’t mix different terminologies, it’s too confusing!).
3. Use words that create a positive impression and stimulate reader interest.
The title creates a first impression of the article. So, you can use it to signal that you are an exciting thinker and an engaging writer.
A playful title is an excellent strategy to pump up your audience and make your article viral. If you’re inspired, and the journal you would like to submit your paper allows it, go for it! However, if you use pop culture or news references in your title, keep in mind that your article may still be read years from now, and your reference should still be relevant (and not too corny) at that time.
Always unblock Twitter Tweets
Another way to make a strong impression in your title consists in using power words (they’re super cool with a power breakfast and power poses ! 😃). The term “power words” is an internet expression to designate words that trigger emotional responses or curiosity. In science, power words can be nouns or adjectives that:
- Show extremity, such as billion (e.g., “ Billions of North American birds have vanished “), mass (e.g., “ Avoiding ocean mass extinction from climate warming” ), or extreme (e.g., “ Life at extreme limits: the anaerobic halophilic alkalithermophiles “).
- Carry novelty or surprise, such as discovery (e.g., “ Discovery of unusual dimeric piperazyl cyclopeptides encoded by a Lentzea flaviverrucosa DSM 44664 biosynthetic supercluster “), revolutionary (e.g., “ Revolutionary leaps in the development of agriculture “), or unconventional (e.g., “ Paracetamol: unconventional uses of a well-known drug “).
- Relate to emotions, such as fear , horror (e.g., “ Playing With Fear: A Field Study in Recreational Horror “), or threats (e.g., “ Climate change and ecosystems: threats, opportunities, and solutions “).
A catchy title is easily found on search engines
Nowadays, all researchers look for scientific literature on the web, whether it is on Google, Pubmed, or other databases. The problem is that if you type a keyword in one of these search engines, thousands of articles will appear. To ensure that your article will rank well, you can use search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. One of the most efficient of these strategies entails optimizing your title (see this post to learn more about SEO for scientific papers).
To optimize your title for search engines, you must include your main keywords. Don’t use synonyms, but instead focus on the keywords that your target readers might type into a search engine. If you have more than three keywords, include the most important ones in your title and add the others to your keyword list (the keyword list also influences your ranking).
Keywords in a title can refer to:
– The dependent variables.
– The independent variables.
– The method used.
– The theory behind the research.
– The question that the article addresses.
Which formulations can you use in your titles?
To help you develop precise ideas, I’ve put together a list of formulations that are typical for titles. Look at these formulations and pick those that inspire you the most.
1. Your title could be a phrase
A phrase is a group of words that does not convey a complete thought; it lacks a subject, a verb, or both. For example, your title can be a phrase describing:
- The research question , e.g., “The influence of X on Y” (see example here ). It’s not super sexy, but it has the advantage of being informative and precise.
- The proposal of the article , e.g., “A new model for representing X and Y” (see example here ).
2. Your title could be a sentence
A sentence refers to a group of words that expresses a complete thought and necessarily contains a subject and a verb. A sentence is easier to understand than a phrase and more dynamic but also longer.
Sentences in scientific titles usually describe the main result. For example: “ Illusory faces are more likely to be perceived as male than female “.
3. Your title could be followed by a subtitle
Subtitles are popular in some scientific disciplines. For example, you can use:
- The general topic area as the title and the paper’s contribution as the subtitle. Example: “ Keratinocytes: From passive targets to active mediators of systemic autoimmunity .”
- A catchy phrase as the title and the topic or contribution of the paper as the subtitle. Example: “ Dressed for success: soft gel cloaked in membrane can snap brick .”
- A new term as the title and its description as the subtitle. Example: “ IMP: a new method for health problem assessment .”
4. Your title could be a question
Questions are a great way to motivate readers to go further. So why not use them in your titles?
Example: “ What constitutes the prefrontal cortex? “
A good title can be tricky to pull off. In this post, you’ve learned concrete tips for making your titles informative, catchy, and findable on search engines. So how do you go on from there?
Don’t spend hours searching for the perfect title. Of course, the title is important, but if it’s understandable and informative, you’ve achieved what matters most. Rather, identify the keywords that should be in your title and take 25 minutes ( a Pomodoro ) to generate 15 titles that include those keywords. Write down anything that comes to mind. YES! ANYTHING! Once you have your list of 15 titles, choose the two or three you like best and propose them to your co-authors.
Does that sound like a good plan?
How to write your introduction + template
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- Pre-writing instructions
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- A checklist to make sure you have included all the important elements for your introduction.
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