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How to write a good title

Why finding a good title for your paper is so important

The title of your research paper is often the very first thing that people (including journal editors and reviewers) see when they come across your paper. Therefore, a strong title goes some way towards creating a good impression of your work.

When you submit a manuscript to a journal, your title is one of the things that will determine the editor’s decision to either discard it or pass it on for review (and if so, to which peer-reviewers).

In search engines, titles and Abstracts are normally the only two parts that are indexed. This means that a good title is one that actually makes it easier for people to find your paper in the first place. And who doesn’t want more people to find and read their papers? Anything that is likely to affect your view and citation count is surely worth spending time on.

But finding a good title for your paper is surprisingly hard, so we’ve rounded up some tips and examples for you.

Tips for a good research paper title

A good title for your paper should do three things: 1) capture attention, 2) inform on the content of your paper, and 3) make the paper easily discoverable in search engines.

To do these, we recommend the following tips:

Be informative

It is very important that your title accurately describes the subject and scope of your study. You want to provide as much context as necessary, so that readers know whether the paper will be of relevance and interest to them. If the title is vague or does not provide enough information, readers will most likely discard your paper, as they won’t know whether the time investment will be worth it. So do your readers (and yourself) a favor by making clear what your study is about.

Be precise

Always remember that a title is a key element of your paper for discoverability purposes. This means that the more precise you are in your choice of words, the more likely that other researchers will find your paper. Most people search for certain keywords, so you want those keywords to feature in your title. If your paper investigates a particular methodology, theory, organism, or disease, name these in your title. If your study focuses on a certain geographical area or temporal scope, also indicate this. If a factor is found to affect another, say how (i.e. don’t just say ‘x’ affects ‘y’).

Be enticing

As a way to compel people to read your work, an enticing title is worth thinking about. There are various ways to make a title interesting and compelling. Maybe you could make your title a question that people want to find answers to. Or maybe you want to highlight an important or striking finding from your study. You can also use wordplay or humor in your title to distinguish your paper from all the others. Just take a step back and reflect on the kind of title that would arouse your interest as a researcher, and draft your title along those lines.

Be concise

A title should be just that: a title. It is not meant to be a short Abstract, and although you want to make it informative and precise, it should keep to a reasonable length. If you can stick to a maximum of 10-15 words, your title will be within the average word length. Keeping to a concise title also shows a capacity for effectiveness and synthesis, both important writing qualities. Consider dropping function words like articles, using the active rather than passive voice, and using colons to juxtapose information. However, in certain disciplines (such as Medicine), titles can be on the longer side.

How do I find the perfect title for my research paper?

Based on the above tips, we propose asking yourself the following questions in turn:

  1. What is my study about?
  2. What methodology or protocol did I use in my study?
  3. What is the geographical and temporal context of my research (if any)?
  4. What is my main finding?
  5. What are the keywords that should feature?
  6. What redundant words can I remove from my working title?
  7. Would a subtitle be useful?
  8. Is my final title informative, precise, compelling, and concise enough?

Auto-generate your title with AI

Need help writing a good title? Try our Title Generator and let Writefull auto-generate titles based on your Abstract. Learn more here.

The different types of titles and examples

FAQs about writing a title