Things to avoid to frame a good research paper title

Drafting a good research paper title needs serious thought. Researchers focus so much on their research findings that they tend to forget the important role played by the title of their paper. Though it seems a simple task, in reality the process of choosing a suitable title demands consistent thinking and attention. This step is a critical one because readers will search online and through databases and bibliographies based on the title. Therefore, it is imperative that you have a title that can drive your targeted audience/readers to your research paper. An interesting research topic combined with an accurate title will definitely draw more attention to your work from peers and the public.

There are many pre-set criteria that help researchers write a perfect research paper title. But it would also be helpful to have a list of what should never go into the title of a journal article. The following list can act as a useful reckoner about what to avoid in your research title in order to increase the impact of your research.

A Handy List of Don’ts

  • The period is generally not used in a title (even a declarative phrase can work without a period)
  • Any type of dashes to separate title elements or hyphens to link words is allowed.
  • Chemical formulae should be noted in their generic or common names. For example H2O, CH4, etc should be avoided.
  • The title should not include roman numerals (e.g., III, IX, etc.).
  • Try not to include semi-colons; however, the colon can be used to make two-part titles.
  • The taxonomic hierarchy of species of plants, animals, fungi, etc. is not needed.
  • Abbreviations confuse readers, so they should be avoided (except for RNA, DNA which is standard now and widely known).
  • Initials and acronyms should not be included as they create confusion. (e.g., “Ca” may get confused with CA, which denotes cancer).
  • It’s good to avoid query marks as they probably decrease the number of citations, but a query mark is useful in economics and philosophy papers or when the findings are undecided).
  • Too many offbeat words can influence the Altmetric Attention Score; using common words is better.
  • Avoid using numerical exponents or units (e.g. km-1 or km/hr).
  • Phrases should be direct and factual (e.g., “with” could be rewritten with the more specific verb “amongst”).
  • Complex drug names should be avoided (use the generic name if allowed to).
  • Do not include obvious or non-specific openings with a conjunction (e.g., “Report on,” “A Study of,” “Results of,” “An Experimental Investigation of,” etc. because they don’t contribute any meaning).
  • Italicize only species names of studied organisms.
  • Avoid using shortened scientific names (write Escherichia coli and not coli).
  • Try to wrap the title within 50 to 100 characters as shorter titles are cited more often.

These steps would help a researcher to form an effective and relevant title for their research paper. A title should be interesting predicts the content of the research paper and also reflect the tone of the writing.


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