Making a good first impression: the importance of writing a good title
The title of your paper is a “hook” that attracts readers—it is your opportunity to “sell” your paper to readers browsing a table of contents or search results. Readers will overlook your paper if it has a poor title; it might even attract the wrong reader audience. By contrast, a good title will attract relevant researchers and increase the number of citations you receive. Therefore, it is important to get it right.
A good title should be as brief as possible, but still communicating your main finding(s). Avoid excessive detail and unnecessary use of field-specific jargon and abbreviations. Your title must be understandable by a broad scientific audience, some of whom may not have a detailed knowledge of your particular field. Consider the readership of your target journal and write a title that can be easily understood by all, not only those in your immediate field. The target journal’s instructions for authors should be consulted to ensure that character limits are complied with and to identify whether a running (short) title is required.
Good title checklist
- Communicates main findings
- Will attract readers
- Does not begin with the, a, or an
- Avoids use of non-standard abbreviations
Example of a poorly written title：
“The degeneration of neurons in the CA3 and DG following OA administration: involvement of a MAPK-dependent pathway in regional-specific neuronal degeneration”
- This title is too long, contains non-standard abbreviations and a redundancy, and is too specific in parts.
- Further, many journals do not want titles that begin with the, a, or an. A better alternative would be: “Region-specific neuronal degeneration after okadaic acid administration”.
- “MAP kinase-dependent neuronal degeneration after okadaic acid administration” would probably also be acceptable, depending on the target journal, because the abbreviation MAP is widely used and understood.