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How to Write a Great Title

Maximize search-ability and engage your readers from the very beginning

Your title is the first thing anyone who reads your article is going to see, and for many it will be where they stop reading. Learn how to write a title that helps readers find your article, draws your audience in and sets the stage for your research!

How your title impacts the success of your article

Researchers are busy and there will always be more articles to read than time to read them.  Good titles help readers find your research, and decide whether to keep reading. Search engines use titles to retrieve relevant articles based on users’ keyword searches. Once readers find your article, they’ll use the title as the first filter to decide whether your research is what they’re looking for. A strong and specific title is the first step toward citations, inclusion in meta-analyses, and influencing your field. 

What to include in a title

Include the most important information that will signal to your target audience that they should keep reading.

Key information about the study design

Important keywords

What you discovered

Writing tips

Getting the title right can be more difficult than it seems, and researchers refine their writing skills throughout their career. Some journals even help editors to re-write their titles during the publication process! 

Do

  1. Keep it concise and informative
    What’s appropriate for titles varies greatly across disciplines. Take a look at some articles published in your field, and check the journal guidelines for character limits. Aim for fewer than 12 words, and check for journal specific word limits.
  2. Write for your audience
    Consider who your primary audience is: are they specialists in your specific field, are they cross-disciplinary, are they non-specialists?
  3. Entice the reader
    Find a way to pique your readers’ interest, give them enough information to keep them reading.
  4. Incorporate important keywords
    Consider what about your article will be most interesting to your audience: Most readers come to an article from a search engine, so take some time and include the important ones in your title!
  5. Write in sentence case
    In scientific writing, titles are given in sentence case. Capitalize only the first word of the text, proper nouns, and genus names. See our examples below.

Don’t

  1. Write your title as a question
    In most cases, you shouldn’t need to frame your title as a question. You have the answers, you know what you found. Writing your title as a question might draw your readers in, but it’s more likely to put them off.
  2. Sensationalize your research
    Be honest with yourself about what you truly discovered. A sensationalized or dramatic title might make a few extra people read a bit further into your article, but you don’t want them disappointed when they get to the results.

Examples…

Format: Prevalence of [disease] in [population] in [location]

Example: Prevalence of tuberculosis in homeless women in San Francisco


Format: Risk factors for [condition] among [population] in [location]

Example: Risk factors for preterm births among low-income women in Mexico City


Format (systematic review/meta-analysis): Effectiveness of [treatment] for [disease] in [population] for [outcome]: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Example: Effectiveness of Hepatitis B treatment in HIV-infected adolescents in the prevention of liver disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis


Format (clinical trial): [Intervention] improved [symptoms] of [disease] in [population]: A randomized controlled clinical trial

Example: Using a sleep app lessened insomnia in post-menopausal women in southwest United States: A randomized controlled clinical trial


Format  (general molecular studies): Characterization/identification/evaluation of [molecule name] in/from [organism/tissue] (by [specific biological methods]

Example: Identification of putative Type-I sex pheromone biosynthesis-related genes expressed in the female pheromone gland of Streltzoviella insularis


Format  (general molecular studies): [specific methods/analysis] of organism/tissue reveal insights into [function/role] of [molecule name] in [biological process] 

Example: Transcriptome landscape of Rafflesia cantleyi floral buds reveals insights into the roles of transcription factors and phytohormones in flower development


Format  (software/method papers): [tool/method/software] for [what purpose] in [what research area]

Example: CRISPR-based tools for targeted transcriptional and epigenetic regulation in plants

Tip: How to edit your work

Editing is challenging, especially if you are acting as both a writer and an editor. Read our guidelines for advice on how to refine your work, including useful tips for setting your intentions, re-review, and consultation with colleagues.

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