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FAQs about writing a title

How long should my title be?

There is no set rule about how long a title should be, and standards vary across disciplines and even across journals. A rule of thumb is between 10 to 15 words, but this is not absolute and many titles go beyond or below this. It is best to stick to concise titles if possible, to make sure that the focus is on the most impactful part of the research. More important things to consider are that your title is informative and precise (avoiding abbreviations and acronyms if possible), and featuring keywords that will make your article discoverable by other researchers in your field through search engines and databases.

When should I decide on the title of my paper?

Your final title is best chosen once you’ve completed your study and written your entire paper. This is because the focus of the paper might change as you go along, and it is only when you're finished writing that you will be able to get the full picture. This way, your title can accurately capture the essence of your work. However, feel free to pick a working title as you are writing, as this can help narrow the focus of your paper.

Should titles be questions or declarative stances?

They can be either, depending on what you feel is best. It is often thought that questions make for more compelling titles, as readers will be prompted to seek the answer in the body of the text. However, it is also possible to make your paper compelling with a simple declarative stance highlighting the major finding of your paper. If that finding is surprising, counter-intuitive, or substantial, it will be enough to make people want to dive into your work.

What are subtitles and when should I use them?

Subtitles are additional phrases that are added after a colon. An example is ‘The glocalisation of English-medium instruction examined through the ROAD-MAPPING framework: A case study of teachers and students in a Vietnamese university’. (‘A case study of teachers and students in a Vietnamese university’ is the subtitle.) Subtitles tend to be more common in the arts, humanities and social sciences than in STEM. They serve to provide context to a noun phrase, narrow the scope of a broad noun phrase to focus on a more specific topic, or to add temporal or geographical markers. They can be an effective way of juxtaposing information in a few words.

Can I use abbreviations in my title?

It is best not to use abbreviations in your title. If you use abbreviations, you may confuse readers that are unfamiliar with them, which makes your title not so informative about the content of your paper. You might also make it more difficult for people to find your paper, if they search a database for the full keyword rather than the abbreviated version. Possible exceptions are when the abbreviation is standard enough in your discipline that it doesn’t need spelling out, or when it is too long to write out. Abbreviations in titles are more common in STEM than in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

What words should I capitalize in my title?

The first word of a title and all nouns are always capitalized. Articles (a, the), coordinating conjunctions (but, for, and), and prepositions (in, at, on) are not capitalized. Subordinate conjunctions (as, because, etc.) are generally capitalized.

For example:

  • Humans Are Visual Experts at Unfamiliar Face Recognition
  • Decrease in Mortality in Lynch Syndrome Families Because of Surveillance

Auto-generate your title

Try our Title Generator and let Writefull auto-generate titles based on your abstract! And read our blog post Choosing a title for your paper.

Writing a good title

The different types of titles and examples