[Itech] Fwd: TP Msg. #1276 Making Your Research Paper Discoverable: Title Plays the Winning Trick

Teresa Franklin franklit at ohio.edu
Sat Oct 5 03:38:38 EDT 2013

FYI...dr. Franklin

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: *Rick Reis*
Date: Saturday, October 5, 2013
Subject: TP Msg. #1276 Making Your Research Paper Discoverable: Title Plays
the Winning Trick
To: tomorrows-professor <tomorrows-professor at lists.stanford.edu>

In reality, it is the title of the paper which creates the first impression
and  studies suggest that researchers often decide to read a paper solely
based on the information in the title.


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The article below looks at the importance of getting your research paper
title right so that readers will read further. It is by Professor M.
Jagadesh Kumar, electrical engineering department, Indian Institute of
Technology, Delhi, Hauz Khas, New Delhi-110016  Home:
http://web.iitd.ac.in/~mamidala. Blog:http://mamidala.wordpress.com.
Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis
reis at stanford.edu <javascript:_e({}, 'cvml', 'reis at stanford.edu');>
UP NEXT: The Academic Leader As Conductor

Tomorrow's Research

----------------------------------------------- 1,665 words

Making Your Research Paper Discoverable: Title Plays the Winning Trick

When you write a research paper, it is not just to tell about your exciting
research results to the world but to describe how science works in all its
glory. Research papers help us to publicize and champion a scientific
argument. The first scientific papers appeared in press sometime in 1665 in
non-standardized form and style [1, 2]. This was later followed by the
introduction of structured papers and peer review process [3]. Since then,
a scientific paper in general contains (i) Title, (ii) Abstract (iii) Key
words, (iv) Introduction, (v) Theory/Experimental Method (vi) Results and
discussion, (vii) Conclusions and (viii) References.

Which research paper to read?

Before we begin to work in a new research area, we would like to know about
the past work done on the topic by other researchers. Since we cannot read
all those papers that have been published, we need to narrow them down to a
manageable number. During this process, the first contact a prospective
reader will make with a scientific paper is the title. Title scanning is an
everyday routine of any active scientist. We often flick through the titles
to decide on the suitability and the importance of a paper to our research.
In reality, it is the title of the paper which creates the first impression
and  studies suggest that researchers often decide to read a paper solely
based on the information in the title [4].

What is a title?

 The most important component of any textual document is its title.
Semantically speaking, a title should be captivating, informative and
should introduce the subject of the paper to the reader in a clear and
concise manner. From a syntactic point of view, a title “is metadata with a
structure that can be a word, phrase, expression, or sentence, that serves
to indicate a paper or one of its parts and give its subject” [5].
Consequently, a good title should provide reasonable answers to the
following questions [6]:

* Does the title of your manuscript, seen in isolation, give a full yet
concise and specific indication of the work reported?
* Would someone interested in the exact topic of your paper, reading this
title, be inclined to read the abstract?
* How are Titles used in digital libraries?

In today’s digital world, it is the web information retrieval by the
internet search engines which will decide the visibility of your paper [7].
They fail you if a good title is not chosen making your work obscure and
unreachable to the intended audience. There are now several standard
digital libraries such as

ACM Portal (http://portal.acm.org),
Microsoft’s Academic Search (http://academic.research.microsoft.com),
IEEExplorer (http://ieeexplore.ieee.org),
Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com),
PubMed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed) and
Science Direct (http://www.sciencedirect.com)

which can be used to search for scientific articles.  There are also web
based bookmarking services such as

CiteULike (www.CiteULike.org)
arXiv (http://arxiv.org)
BibSonomy (http://www.bibsonomy.org) and
CiteseerX (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/index)

for storing, organizing and sharing research papers. For search engines in
the above portals, the words in the title provide the clues for appropriate
indexing in the bibliographic databases. This will help the users to
retrieve scholarly data at a later time based on words or a combination of
words stored in the index. The title of your paper will become an important
element of the internet scientific repository and may be read by scores of
users for years to come. Therefore, the choice of words in the title is
vital to enhance the discoverability of your paper.

What are the common attributes of a title?

Titles are typically categorized into three groups – nominal titles,
compound titles and full sentence titles. A vast majority of titles are
“nominal titles” capturing the main theme of the paper e.g. Poly-silicon
Spacer Gate Technique to Reduce Gate Charge of a Trench Power MOSFET [8].
Titles with a colon are called compound titles or hanging titles. For
example, the title of this article (Making your research paper
discoverable: Title plays the winning trick) is a compound title consisting
of two phrases on either side of the colon.

Full sentence titles are not a common occurrence in engineering journals.
They are, however, used in some disciplines such as biology e.g. Activation
of Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AhR) by Tranilast, an Anti-allergy Drug,
Promotes miR-302 Expression and Cell Reprogramming [9]. Full sentence
titles tend to be longer and more assertive about the outcome of the study.

A title can contain commas, parenthesis and quotation marks but you should
never use semicolons (;) and slashes (/). Commas are used in the middle of
the title and quotation marks are used only for a part of the title, not
the entire title. Evidence also suggests that the presence of colon in the
title increases its discoverability [10] and the length of the title is
positively correlated to the number of citations.

Use of the articles (a, an and the) in titles is very common. The number of
words in a title may vary anywhere between 2 and 24 with the average number
of words being approximately nine [11]. Question marks are generally not
used in the titles of scientific articles e.g. How Metabolism Generates
Signals during Innate Immunity and Inflammation [12].

General procedure for writing a title:

When we write a research paper, first we think about its outline, we then
prepare a draft and revise it several times. For designing a good title, we
need to do a similar exercise by first choosing a working title for the
research paper and then refining it [13]. To choose a title, I usually
summarize the main theme of my paper in a few sentences. I then choose the
most important words of this summary and put them in a proper order. After
several revisions, the title is ready. For example, for one of my recent
papers, I have written the following:

My research work is on tunneling field effect transistors.
I have worked on an idea which makes it possible to realize these
transistors without doing any impurity doping.
I have designed this transistor and investigated its electrical

>From the above summary, I have carefully chosen the words and placed them
in a suitable order to form a sentence – The design and investigation of
tunnel field effect transistors without impurity doping. After reviewing
this working title several times, I was able to shorten it keeping the
essence. The result was – Doping-less Tunneling Field Effect Transistor:
Design and Investigation [14]. Peers in this area will immediately
recognize all the words in the title and it conveys the essence of the work
embodied in the research paper. Shorter titles are easy to read on mobile
devices and can be transmitted on communication platforms such as Twitter.
Short titles look good and take lesser time to read but do not try to make
them too short.

Do you now see that a title is not just a summary of the paper? Preparing a
title involves text compression by pruning removable words from the
summary. Titles of multi-author research papers may come out to be better
since each author will have a different level of appreciation of the
contents of the paper leading to various formulations of the title. The
best among the possibilities will get picked up.

Can we create a new acronym or a phrase in a title?

It is possible to use a new acronym or phrase only when the contents of
your paper substantiate it. Some time ago, during the course of our
research, we found that by creating a surface accumulation layer of
electrons in the emitter of a bipolar transistor, the current gain of the
transistor could be significantly increased. We tried to give a new phrase
and acronym to this phenomenon but could not succeed. A chance discussion
with a senior colleague about this led to a nice title – Surface
Accumulation Layer Transistor (SALTran): A New Bipolar Transistor for
Enhanced Current Gain and Reduced Hot-carrier Degradation [15]. Well,
sometimes, discussing with your colleagues about your problem can lead to
useful outcomes.

Are long titles bad?

You should not shy away from making the title longer, if necessary, since
the words in a title are often used for indexing by the search engines.
While short titles look good, it is not always possible and desirable to
write a short title. For one of my papers, I chose the following title –
Two-Dimensional Analytical Modeling of Fully Depleted Dual-Material Gate
(DMG) SOI MOSFET and Evidence for Diminished Short-Channel Effects [16].
Looks longer but contains many important key words. In fact, a longer title
may contain more key words improving its discoverability by the search
engines. A recent study on choosing a title has concluded that “A longer,
more comprehensive title is both more likely to contain any given search
term and, therefore, be identified, and also if the title provides a clear
description of the study or its findings, is also more likely to be
identified as relevant on the initial search screening process” [17].
Acronyms, such as SOI and MOSFET in the above title, will be useful for
indexing by the search engines. Acronyms, therefore, need not be completely
eliminated from titles.


Writing scientific titles is a challenging task and an art. However, there
is no general agreement “on the standard and good title writing practice in
different scientific disciplines and genres” [18]. During the short time
the reader spends looking at your title, he would also decide on the
relevance of your paper for his work. If the title does not convey this
message quickly, the reader will move on and there is every chance that
your work may be relegated to obscurity [19].

Titles play a critical role in making or breaking the visibility of your
paper. If you are a novice writer, next time when you sit down to write a
title for your paper, I am sure you will be more mindful of the
consequences of designing a bad title. Do you agree with me?


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