How to intrigue and captivate your audience: the importance of the Title in your academic article
From Firenze University Press Journal
Alessandro Pierno, University of Florence
Duccio Tatini, University of Florence
‘Headlines twice the size of the events’
These provocative words were pronounced by the English novelist and Nobel Prize laureate John Galsworthy in his famous book “End of the Chapter” (1933). Although they refer to the common practice in newspaper to overemphasize the impact of an article in the title, the key concept behind them should be extended — in a positive way — to academic writing and, especially, scientific publications. Every day on the web, TV, social networks we drown in a sea of thunderous titles and slogans: the aim is to impress us and influence our habits. Well, as an academic author you should consider the title of your article like “the slogan” of your research work. The title is the most important element: it will be indexed and fully available in all the major search engines and databases. It must be clear, captivating and it must summarize the key aspects of your work. The fundamental, elementary principles behind an effective title can be summed up as follows:
- The title must be descriptive
- It must be closely related to the article content
- It must reflect the style and the essence of the article
- It must include the key words that will be likely used to search your paper in search engines
A large part of the academic community disregards the importance of the title, considering it the cherry on the top, or, even worse, a minor requirement prior to the final submission. Your title needs dedication, time and effort in order to be catchy and effective. To accomplish this task we suggest to organize your research answering these simple questions:
- Which is the focus of my research?
- Which are the instruments/methods I used?
- What do I analyze in my study?
- Which are the main results/outcomes?
Once you figure out all these aspects, you will have all the elements to write a great title. Try to outline a very first, tentative title, then progressively refine it by eliminating all the unnecessary words. According to several studies, articles with short titles are more often viewed and cited by others.1,2
We recap all the basic guidelines that will help you in writing your high-impact title:
- Write the title once the article is concluded
- Try to obtain a simple and concise title (8–15 words)
- Non-standard or uncommon abbreviations should be avoided, as well as too technical terms
- Place the key words at the beginning and/or the end of the title
- Question marks and exclamation points must be avoided
- Eliminate superfluous expressions, like “Study of…”, “Analysis of…”
- Try to disclose the structure of the article
- Check the titles of previously published article in the journal you selected for your research
Keep in mind these simple points, and don’t underestimate the importance of your article title. Dedicate time and effort to composing your title.
- Paiva, C. E., Lima, J. P. da S. N. & Paiva, B. S. R. Articles with short titles describing the results are cited more often. Clinics 67, 509–513 (2012).
- Deng, B. Papers with shorter titles get more citations. Nat. News (2015) doi:10.1038/nature.2015.18246.