7 best tips on how to title a research paper
A good title for a research paper is as important as an Apple logo on the back a smartphone. It helps you «sell» your experiments, methods, and results to the readers. The title is the first thing they see when they find your paper, and if it’s dull, empty, and uninformative, the title is the only thing anyone will ever see of your work. To ensure your research is appreciated, let’s learn how to write a title for a research paper to make it perfect for peer-reviewed journals, the toughest professors, and your mom.
1. Start with a Working Research Paper Title
You will develop the final title for your paper after you finish it. However, it is helpful to create a draft or preliminary title to help you stay focused on the research problem. It serves the same purpose as a thesis statement in an essay. Refer to the initial title when your research hits a wall. This working title will help you keep the primary focus at the forefront of your mind and prevent you from veering too far away.
Use the working title when discussing the paper with your professors and advisers. You can also submit it as a preliminary title in your reports and correspondence with journal editors. You can apply the following tips to your first title though it’s unnecessary to waste extra time. Save it for developing the final version.
2. Choose the Title Type
If you learn about the major types of research paper titles, you can come up with more options. Three of the most common title formats are:
- Interrogative. These are the titles phrased like research questions. They grab the readers’ attention and provide enough information about the paper. While this format may be acceptable for college and university papers, it is rarely used in scientific journals.
- Descriptive. These titles report the research topic, but conceal the results, making readers curious about the study’s conclusions and discussion sections. Despite not being the most informative, this format is the most widely used in scientific circles.
- Declarative. This format reveals the study methods and results within one sentence. It includes the main conclusion and provides the most information for readers. Its only downside is that the clear conclusion can divert some readers’ attention.
3. Make Your Paper Easy to Find
Think about all the research you have conducted. Remember the key words and phrases you’ve typed into ResearchGate, Google Scholar or your university library’s search bar. Now consider your paper and think which words describe it best for readers who will be in your shoes and looking for your work. Use these keywords in your title to make it searchable for other researchers.
If you haven’t created a list of keywords for your paper before submission, do it now. The list should include the research method, the sample, the type of study. You don’t have to cram all of the keywords into the title, only the critical ones that define your research.
4. Keep It Short
According to APA guidelines, the title should be 12 words or less. However, some journals and professors allow up to 15 words. Some people exclude prepositions and articles from the count, so you should rely on your professor’s requirements. Shorter titles are easier to remember and the papers with concise titles are downloaded and reviewed more often.
Still, the title shouldn’t be too short. Two-word names usually use too broad terms that do not describe the essence of the paper. Average title length is 10-12 words. Don’t try to shorten the title by using acronyms, unless they are commonly accepted, like AI, EU, IoT. Instead, get rid of redundancies and filler words, keeping the most important phrases.
5. Establish Your Tone
Find the balance between catchy and informative when crafting a title of the paper. The irony, puns, set phrases, and phrasal verbs are hard to translate and understand for non-native English speakers. Some professors and journals allow wordplay, but you should consult them before settling on a humorous title. Another thing to consider is that your paper will appear less in search results if you substitute meaningful keywords with witty puns. Find other ways to attract readers’ attention, using quotes, paradoxes or questions. And remember that the title should reflect the tone of your paper. If it is lighthearted and humorous, your research should be too, and vice versa.
6. Model the Best Research Paper Title Examples
The conventional way to title research papers is by following this template: [Results]: A [method] study/research of [subject] among [sample]:
Mindfulness improves memory: a qualitative study of cognitive techniques among university students.
If that’s not good enough for you, note the titles of the best articles in peer-reviewed journals when researching for your paper. Use them as guidance for your own naming attempts. These journals take the quality of writing seriously, so you can rely on their expertise. If you want to be sneaky, check out your professor’s recent publications and use their titles as samples.
7. Experiment with Different Titles
New York Times writers submit 20 titles for each article and let the editor select the best among them. You need not go to the extreme, but drafting 3 or 5 tentative titles will help you get the feel of them. Experiment with different title types and formulations, add and delete keywords, divide the title into two parts using a colon. At this stage, you are free to let your creativity shine.
Once you get a couple of versions you like, consider combining them to use the best qualities or parts of both. In the end, you will have an informative, catchy and memorable title that will make you proud and bring you good grades.
Bonus Tip: You Are the Author
After many useful and practical tips we remind you are the author of the paper, so only you get to decide which title is best. Always keep your goals in mind.
If you aim to please the professor, review the papers he awarded the highest grades. If you dream of being published in a world-renowned journal, follow the editors’ guidelines to the letter. If you wish to inform the largest number of people about your research, go for the most outrageous and provocative title of all. Use only those of our tips that coincide with your goals, and you will find the perfect title for your research paper soon!