How to Choose the Best Title for Your Research Paper

Here we go over how to choose the best title for your research paper, providing tips and tricks.

The journal Publications can help scholars with its innovative research on the publication process itself. Much of its research is related not only to paper titles and formatting, but other elements that affect the production of papers, such as academic pressure and plagiarism. It is worth a look.

Choosing the best title for your research paper

From our 25 years of publishing open access papers, here are six things to keep in mind that you probably hadn’t thought of.

Describe rather than ask

Some authors feel that phrasing their paper’s title as a question can stir curiosity and inspire views. However, questions are also greatly limiting. They only list what you hope to achieve, rather than going into any specifics about your outcomes. You’re not able to add as much context and value.

Notably, the top five most viewed MDPI papers of all time have titles that accurately describe the experiment carried out in the text. For example, the most viewed MDPI paper is ‘Recent Trend in Hydroclimatic Conditions in the Senegal River Basin’ in Waters.

Include the key details

It’s important to arrange all the important points from your article into your title. Often, academics are obligated to explain their research in a couple of sentences to friends and family outside academia. From this description, it’s easier to arrive at a better title.

As explained in our 25 Ways to Improve Your Research paper article, titles that avoid technical terminology are more streamlined. They allow people outside of your field or newcomers to the field to access your research.

A perfect example of this is ‘Future Climate Change Impacts on Streamflows of Two Main West Africa River Basins: Senegal and Gambia’ in Hydrology. This title features all the key details of the paper in language that everyone can understand.

Be as concise as possible

Having said that, titles should not be long and rambling. Shorter titles are indicative of well-thought-out papers with simple yet effective conclusions.

As the research of Carlo Galli and Stefano Guizzardi points out, many academics have claimed that shorter titles can increase citations by making papers stand out amongst others. Their study found that titles with over 30 words had far fewer citations. Moreover, they outline that verbose or wordy titles had fewer citations.

The paper ‘Biodegradability of Plastics’ is a perfect example of keeping things short and sweet.

Use wordplay or humour

Some authors use clever phrases to attract attention to their papers. A funny title can make authors pause, smile, and laugh. They’re more likely to be drawn to the paper.

An example of this is ‘Beyond Meatless, the Health Effects of Vegan Diets: Findings from the Adventist Cohorts’. It’s a pun on the popular vegan meat substitute producer Beyond Meat.

However, consider whether this wordplay translates into other languages. Researchers come from all corners of the globe and the academic community is truly international. If an academic doesn’t understand a title, then they may decide not to read the paper.

Make it more searchable

Researchers in the field will search for papers based on keywords that they associate with their topic. Therefore, use keywords and acronyms that are used frequently in the field, and possibly outside of the field, to have a greater impact.

Many papers do this exceedingly well. Just look at ‘Identification and Expression Analysis of Zebrafish (Danio rerio) E-Selectin during Embryonic Development’, which uses both the common name for the zebrafish and its Latin name. This means that it will appear no matter which term the searcher uses.

However, remember that the keywords and acronyms must be related to your research findings and the content of your manuscript.

Have several options

Draft different versions of your title so that you have options to choose from. Then, you can share these with peers for different opinions.

Submit research to MDPI

We hope these tips help show you how to choose the best title for your research paper. We encourage all MDPI authors to publish innovative research. For more information about how to submit your manuscript, please click here.

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