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Catchy (amusing) titles don’t help for article citations

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According a recent study, published in Research Trends.

The title of a paper acts as a gateway to its content. It’s the first thing potential readers of the paper see, before deciding to move on to the abstract or full text. As academic authors want to maximize the readership of their papers it is unsurprising that they usually take a lot of care in choosing an appropriate title. But what makes a title draw in citations? (…)

 Research Trends decided to conduct its own case study of scholarly papers published in Cell between 2006 and 2010, and their citations within the same window. (…)

Given that straightforwardly descriptive paper titles run the risk of being dull, some authors are tempted to spice them up with a touch of humour, which may be a pun, a play on words, or an amusing metaphor. (…)

In sum, the citation analysis of papers according to title characteristics is better at telling authors what to avoid than what to include. (…)

Our results, combined with others, suggest that a high-impact paper should be neither too short nor too long (somewhere between 30 and 40 characters appears to be the sweet spot for papers published in Cell).

It may also be advisable to avoid question marks and exclamation marks (though colons and commas do not seem to have a negative impact on subsequent citation). And even when you think you have a clever joke to work in to a title, it probably won’t help you gain citations.

Finally, while a catchy title can help get readers to look at your paper, it’s not going to turn a bad paper into a good one.

Huggett, Sarah.  Heading for success: or how not to title your paper. Research Trends, September 2011. Online:
http://www.researchtrends.com/issue24-september-2011/heading-for-success-or-how-not-to-title-your-paper/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by hbasset

September 28, 2011 at 7:02 pm

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