How to write a good research paper title
With the influx of publications brought on by the pandemic, it’s become more challenging than ever for researchers to attract attention to their work.
Understanding which elements of a title will attract readers – or turn them away – has been proven to increase a paper’s citations and Altmetric score.
“In the era of information overload, most students and researchers do not have time to browse the entire text of a paper,” says Patrick Pu, a librarian at the National University of Singapore.
“The title of a paper, together with its abstract, become very important to capture and sustain the attention of readers.”
1. A good title avoids technical language
Since the primary audience of a paper is likely to be researchers working in the same field, using technical language in the title seems to make sense.
But this alienates the wider lay audience, which can bring valuable attention to your work. It can also alienate inexperienced researchers, or those who have recently entered the field.
“A good title does not use unnecessary jargon,” says Elisa De Ranieri, editor-in-chief at the Nature Communications journal (published by Springer Nature, which also publishes Nature Index.) “It communicates the main results in the study in a way that is clear and accessible, ideally to non-specialists or researchers new to the field.”
How-to: When crafting a title, says De Ranieri, write down the main result of the manuscript in a short paragraph. Shorten the text to make it more concise, while still remaining descriptive. Repeat this process until you have a title of fewer than 15 words.
2. A good title is easily searchable
Most readers today are accessing e-journals, which are indexed in scholarly databases such as Scopus and Google Scholar.
“Although these databases usually index the full text of papers, retrieval weightage for ‘Title’ is usually higher than other fields, such as ‘Results’,” Pu explains.
At the National University of Singapore, Pu and his colleagues run information literacy programmes for editors and authors. They give advice for publishing best practice, such as how to identify the most commonly used keywords in literature searches in a given field.
“A professor once told us how he discovered that industry experts were using a different term or keyword to describe his research area,” says Pu.
“He had written a seminal paper that did not include this ‘industry keyword’. He believes his paper, which was highly cited by academics, would have a higher citation count if he had included this keyword in the title. As librarians, we try to highlight this example to our students so that they will consider all possible keywords to use in their searches and paper titles.”
How-to: Authors should speak to an academic librarian at their institution to gain an understanding of keyword and search trends in their field of research. This should inform how the paper title is written.
3. A good title is substantiated by data
Authors should be cautious to not make any claims in the title that can’t be backed up by evidence.
“For instance, if you make a discovery with potential therapeutic relevance, the title should specify whether it was tested or studied in animals or humans/human samples,” says Irene Jarchum, senior editor at the journal Nature Biotechnology (also published by Springer Nature, which publishes the Nature Index.)
Jarchum adds that titles can be contentious because different authors have different views on the use of specific words, such as acronyms, or more fundamentally, what the main message of the title should be.
Some authors may over-interpret the significance of their preliminary findings, and want to reflect this in the title.
How-to: If you know your paper will be contentious within the scientific community, have the data ready to defend your decisions.
4. A good title sparks curiosity
A one-liner that sparks a reader’s interest can be very effective.
“A title has to pique the interest of the person searching for literature in a split-second – enough that they click on the title to read the abstract. Unread science is lost science,” says Christine Mayer, editor-in-chief of the journal Advanced Therapeutics.
Paper titles such as, “White and wonderful? Microplastics prevail in snow from the Alps to the Arctic” (2019 Science), and “Kids these days: Why the youth of today seem lacking” (2019 Science Advances) are good examples of this principle. Both papers have high Altmetric Attention scores, indicating that they have been widely read and discussed online.
How-to: Take note of the characteristics of paper titles that spark your own interest. Keep a record of these and apply the same principles to your own paper titles.
3 Basic tips on writing a good research paper title
Let us discuss the most basic and important aspect of a research paper—the title. Writing a research paper title may seem a simple task, but it requires some serious thought. It might come as a surprise to most people that an author, having successfully written a detailed account of his/her research study, experiences a block while attempting to title the research paper. However, most authors, by virtue of possessing comprehensive details of the research paper, are perplexed with regard to how to make their research paper title concise without sacrificing any relevant elements.
When writing a research paper title, authors should realize that despite being repeatedly warned against it, most people do indeed fall prey to “judging a book by its cover.” This cognitive bias tends to make readers considerably susceptible to allowing the research paper title to function as the sole factor influencing their decision of whether to read or skip a particular paper. Although seeking the professional assistance of a research paper writing service could help the cause, the author of the paper stands as the best judge for setting the right tone of his/her research paper.
Readers come across research paper titles in searches through databases and reference sections of research papers. They deduce what a paper is about and its relevance to them based on the title. Considering this, it is clear that the title of your paper is the most important determinant of how many people will read it.
A good research paper title:
- Condenses the paper’s content in a few words
- Captures the readers’ attention
- Differentiates the paper from other papers of the same subject area
Scroll to the end of the article for a 3-minute interactive video on tips for writing an effective research paper title
So here are three basic tips to keep in mind while writing a title:
1] Keep it simple, brief and attractive: The primary function of a title is to provide a precise summary of the paper’s content. So keep the title brief and clear. Use active verbs instead of complex noun-based phrases, and avoid unnecessary details. Moreover, a good title for a research paper is typically around 10 to 12 words long. A lengthy title may seem unfocused and take the readers’ attention away from an important point.
Avoid: Drug XYZ has an effect of muscular contraction for an hour in snails of Achatina fulcia species
Better: Drug XYZ induces muscular contraction in Achatina fulcia snails
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2] Use appropriate descriptive words: A good research paper title should contain key words used in the manuscript and should define the nature of the study. Think about terms people would use to search for your study and include them in your title.
Avoid: Effects of drug A on schizophrenia patients: study of a multicenter mixed group
Better: Psychosocial effects of drug A on schizophrenia patients: a multicenter randomized controlled trial
To submit a publication ready manuscript without errors and mistakes that commonly go unnoticed by authors, check out Editage’s professional editing services.
A checklist for getting your research paper title right_0.docx
Bonus takeaway exclusively for community members
3] Avoid abbreviations and jargon: Known abbreviations such as AIDS, NATO, and so on can be used in the title. However, other lesser-known or specific abbreviations and jargon that would not be immediately familiar to the readers should be left out.
Do you have any questions related to writing and publishing your research paper?
Avoid: MMP expression profiles cannot distinguish between normal and early osteoarthritic synovial fluid
Better: Matrix metalloproteinase protein expression profiles cannot distinguish between normal and early osteoarthritic synovial fluid
Always write down the hypothesis and then take into consideration these simple tips. This would help you in composing the best title for your research paper.
Here’s an quick 3-minute recap of the tips on writing an effective research paper title:
You might also like to read the following related articles:
Writing a Good Research Title: Things to Avoid
When writing manuscripts, too many scholars neglect the research title. This phrase, along with the abstract, is what people will mostly see and read online. Title research of publications shows that the research paper title does matter a lot. Both bibliometrics and altmetrics tracking of citations are now, for better or worse, used to gauge a paper’s “success” for its author(s) and the journal publishing it. Interesting research topics coupled with good or clever yet accurate research titles can draw more attention to your work from peers and the public alike.
It would be helpful to have a list of what should never go into the title of a journal article. With this “don’ts” list, authors could have a handy tool to maximize the impact of their research. Titles for research manuscripts need not be complex. It can even have style. They can state the main result or idea of the paper (i.e., declarative). Alternatively, they can indicate the subject covered by the paper (i.e., descriptive). A third form, which should be used sparingly, conveys the research in the form of an open question.
A Handy List of Don’ts
- The period generally has no place in a title (even a declarative phrase can work without a period)
- Likewise, any kind of dashes to separates title parts (however, hyphens to link words is fine)
- Chemical formula, like H2O, CH4, etc. (instead use their common or generic names)
- Avoid roman numerals (e.g., III, IX, etc.)
- Semi-colons, as in “;” (the colon, however, is very useful to make two-part titles)
- The taxonomic hierarchy of species of plants, animals, fungi, etc. is not needed
- Abbreviations (except for RNA, DNA which is standard now and widely known)
- Initialisms and acronyms (e.g., “Ca” may get confused with CA, which denotes cancer)
- Avoid question marks (this tends to decrease citations, but posing a question is useful in economics and philosophy papers or when the results are not so clear-cut as hoped for)
- Uncommon words (a few are okay, but too many can influence altmetric scoring)
- Numerical exponents, or units (e.g. km -1 or km/hr)
- Vague terms (e.g., “with” could be re-written with a more specific verb; “amongst” rectified by simpler word ordering)
- Cryptic/complex drug names (use the generic name if allowed to)
- Obvious or non-specific openings with a conjunction: e.g., “Report on”, “A Study of”, “Results of”, “An Experimental Investigation of”, etc. (these don’t contribute meaning!)
- Italics, unless it is used for the species names of studied organisms
- Shorten scientific names (not coli, but write instead Escherichia coli)
- Keep it short. Aim for 50 to 100 characters, but not more (shorter titles are cited more often) or less than 13 words
Related: Finished preparing your manuscript? Check out this post now for additional points to consider submitting your manuscript!
Use the List
Take some time out to look at a good research title example. It could be one that you liked or a recognized collection of best research titles. Discuss these with your colleagues and co-authors. Write several title drafts in various forms, either in the declarative or descriptive form, with or without a colon. Then use the list above as a guide to polish and winnow your sample research title down to an effective title for your manuscript.
A great title should interest the reader enough to make him/her want to download your paper and actually read it. Importantly, in selecting the words, aim to both pique the reader’s curiosity and sum up the research work done. Bear mind, too, that a good title should also ensure your publication is easily found. This is now crucial for digital indexing and archiving purposes.
Research Titles in the 21 st Century
Remember, a good research paper title is now essential. However, it is no substitute for good quality science and scholarship. Exaggerated or sensational titles, especially those that make unwarranted generalizations, may well get more attention from the media. Given the growing use of Twitter and other social media platforms, the research paper title is clearly gaining value and importance. Title research, therefore, is critical to understand what effect a given type or use of a research title has on its readership.
Did you like this post? Will it help you choose a good title for your next report/manuscript? Please share your comments in the section below.
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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!
4 Important Tips on Writing a Research Paper Title
When you are searching for a research study on a particular topic, you probably notice that articles with interesting, descriptive research titles draw you in. By contrast, research paper titles that are not descriptive are usually passed over, even though you may write a good research paper with interesting contents. This shows the importance of coming up with a good title for your research paper when drafting your own manuscript.
Why do Research Titles Matter?
Before we look at how to title a research paper, let’s look at a research title example that illustrates why a good research paper should have a strong title.
Imagine that you are researching meditation and nursing, and you want to find out if any studies have shown that meditation makes nurses better communicators. You conduct a keyword search using the keywords “nursing”, “communication”, and “meditation.” You come up with results that have the following titles:
- Benefits of Meditation for the Nursing Profession: A Quantitative Investigation
- Why Mindful Nurses Make the Best Communicators
- Meditation Gurus
- Nurses on the Move: A Quantitative Report on How Meditation Can Improve Nurse Performance
All four of these titles may describe very similar studies—they could even be titles for the same study! As you can see, they give very different impressions.
- Title 1 describes the topic and the method of the study but is not particularly catchy.
- Title 2 partly describes the topic, but does not give any information about the method of the study—it could simply be a theoretical or opinion piece.
- Title 3 is somewhat catchier but gives almost no information at all about the article.
- Title 4 begins with a catchy main title and is followed by a subtitle that gives information about the content and method of the study.
As we will see, Title 4 has all the characteristics of a good research title.
Characteristics of a Good Research Title
According to rhetoric scholars Hairston and Keene, making a good title for a paper involves ensuring that the title of the research accomplishes four goals as mentioned below:
- It should predict the content of the research paper.
- It should be interesting to the reader.
- It should reflect the tone of the writing.
- It should contain important keywords that will make it easier to be located during a keyword search.
Let’s return to the examples in the previous section to see if they meet these four criteria.
As you can see in the table above, only one of the four example titles fulfills all of the criteria of a suitable research paper title.
Tips for Writing an Effective Research Paper Title
When writing a research title, you can use the four criteria listed above as a guide. Here are a few other tips you can use to make sure your title will be part of the recipe for an effective research paper:
- Make sure your research title describes (a) the topic, (b) the method, (c) the sample, and (d) the results of your study. You can use the following formula:
[Result]: A [method] study of [topic] among [sample]
Example: Meditation makes nurses perform better: a qualitative study of mindfulness meditation among German nursing students
- Avoid unnecessary words and jargons. Keep the title statement as concise as possible. You want a title that will be comprehensible even to people who are not experts in your field. Check our article for a detailed list of things to avoid when writing an effective research title.
- Make sure your title is between 5 and 15 words in length.
- If you are writing a title for a university assignment or for a particular academic journal, verify that your title conforms to the standards and requirements for that outlet. For example, many journals require that titles fall under a character limit, including spaces. Many universities require that titles take a very specific form, limiting your creativity.
- Use a descriptive phrase to convey the purpose of your research efficiently.
- Most importantly, use critical keywords in the title to increase the discoverability of your article.
Resources for Further Reading
In addition to the tips above, there are many resources online that you can use to help write your research title. Here is a list of links that you may find useful as you work on creating an excellent research title:
- The University of Southern California has a guide specific to social science research papers: http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/title
- The Journal of European Psychology Students has a blog article focusing on APA-compliant research paper titles: http://blog.efpsa.org/2012/09/01/how-to-write-a-good-title-for-journal-articles/
- This article by Kristen Hamlin contains a step-by-step approach to writing titles: http://classroom.synonym.com/choose-title-research-paper-4332.html
Are there any tips or tricks you find useful in crafting research titles? Which tip did you find most useful in this article? Leave a comment to let us know!
Podcast: 3 Basic tips to write a great research paper title
One of the most important components of a research paper is its title. The title is the first thing readers, even the journal editor and reviewer, see when they come across a research paper. Not only should your title be attractive but it should also capture the essence of your research. This podcast will give you three great tips to help you write an excellent title for your research paper.
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3 Basic Tips on Writing an Effective Essay Title – PowerPoint PPT Presentation
3 Basic Tips on Writing an Effective Essay Title
Right title for your essay is very important, but sometimes it is difficult to choose it, check this presentation and discover 3 basic tips on writing an effective essay title. – PowerPoint PPT presentation
Title: 3 Basic Tips on Writing an Effective Essay Title
- Creating a catchy title could be the hardest part
of your essay. It helps your written piece to
stand out from others and gives the reader clues
about key points of your paper.
- It helps to understand
- Papers tone (Is your essay is going to be
serious or more neutral?)
- Structure (Is your written piece argumentative,
contrasting or expository?)
- Position (Are you support some position or
opinion or against it?)
- To compose an effective and creative title for
essay, you need to concentrate on the three
essential points the hook, the key words and the
source your paper is based on.
- 1. Come up with the hook
- The basic rule of an outstanding essay is to
catch your readers attention from the very
beginning. The hook is an eye-catching and
intriguing phrase which tells what your essay is
about. It can be a play on words, a bright quote
from your written piece or a great combination of
- 2. Include one or two key words
- Your title must be a brief one to two word
summary of your written piece. However, avoid too
generalized terms titles such as Paper on
American Revolution or Report on Charles
Dickens are generic and dont let the reader
understand what your papers angle is.
- 3. Keep in mind the tone of your essay
- Usually, the title sets the mood of the paper. A
strong, direct title suits for a persuasive
essay an informative and to the point title is
the best for narrative pieces less serious title
with fun wordplays prepares the reader to relax
and read a funny paper.
- OTHER HELPFUL TIPS
- Keep in mind what your intended audience is
- Knowing your audience helps to understand what
information you should include in your title to
make it more attractive and interesting.
- Be provocative
- It works when youre writing an argumentative or
persuasive essay. You should come up with a
provocative statement if your position is
opposite to the readers opinion, he/she will be
intrigued what arguments defense your position
and thus read your essay with a high interest.
- Dont worry if you cant come up with the title
- Many writers create titles to their work at the
end of the whole writing process. So, calm down
and compose your essay. A bright idea of a catchy
title will pop into your mind eventually.
Alternatively, test out title generator for
- Work on your title
- Quite often your title needs to be edited,
narrowed or expanded a few times. Stay
enthusiastic and make it informative, even if it
seems to be quite lengthy (titles to academic
papers are usually wordy so dont worry about
- Ask someone for help
- If you have problems with creating a decent
title, ask your friend or tutor to read your
written piece and summarize it in a few words.
Maybe a brilliant idea will pop into your mind.
Try this creative title maker to make your life a
- Look through magazines, newspapers, online
articles and find out what makes you want to read
a particular piece of information. It is a good
way to get inspired and come up with your own
- DONT MAKE THE FOLLOWING TITLE MISTAKES
- Too general language
- Stop trying to cover everything in your title. It
should be concise and informative. Try not to use
such generic words as society, culture,
humans, etc. Another option use a clever
essay titles generator.
- Too complex vocabulary
- Some writers want to sound intelligent and
sophisticated and thus add to each word
unnecessary syllables. Actually, the language of
your essay must be clear and accessible.
- Use puns accurately
- Some readers are not so good with puns and funny
wordplay so they can dont even understand a
supposedly clever title. To avoid this, test your
idea on friends or relatives to find out if it
- Clichés make each essay unremarkable and banal.
The impression when you have nothing original to
say is not something you want to get. So, be
unique and come up with original thoughts. If
its troublesome, use catchy essay title
- There is nothing worse than a title with errors.
It tells a lot about your writing abilities so
make sure youve written everything correctly.
Watch out words such as its and its,
accept and except, patient and patience,
etc. Try essay title generator if you have some
- Dont worry if your title is not so attractive at
first. You still have a chance to re-read and
edit it. You need to make a wonderful impression
on your readers so stay clever and show them that
your essay is truly worth to read. More useful
information you can find in this Google book.
- Want to know more?
- right away!
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How to write an effective title and abstract and choose appropriate keywords
More often than not, when researchers set about writing a paper, they spend the most time on the “meat” of the article (the Methods, Results, and Discussion sections). Little thought goes into the title and abstract, while keywords get even lesser attention, often being typed out on-the-spot in a journal’s submission system.
Ironically, these three elements—the title, abstract, and keywords —may well hold the key to publication success. A negligent or sloppy attitude towards these three vital elements in the research paper format would be almost equivalent to leaving the accessibility of the research paper up to chance and lucky guessing of target words, indirectly making the effort and time expended on the research and publication process almost null and void.
It could be said that the keywords, title, and abstract operate in a system analogous to a chain reaction. Once the keywords have helped people find the research paper and an effective title has successfully lassoed and drawn in the readers’ attention, it is up to the abstract of the research paper to further trigger the readers’ interest and maintain their curiosity. This functional advantage alone serves to make an abstract an indispensable component within the research paper format.
However, formulating the abstract of a research paper can be a tedious task, given that abstracts need to be fairly comprehensive, without giving too much away. This is mainly because if readers get all the details of the research paper in the abstract itself, they might be discouraged from reading the entire article.
The title, abstract, and keywords: Why it is important to get them right
The title, abstract, and keywords play a pivotal role in the communication of research. Without them, most papers may never be read or even found by interested readers 1-4 . Here’s why:
- Most electronic search engines, databases, or journal websites will use the words found in your title and abstract, and your list of keywords to decide whether and when to display your paper to interested readers. 1,2,5-8 Thus, these 3 elements enable the dissemination of your research; without them, readers would not be able to find or cite your paper.
- The title and abstract are often the only parts of a paper that are freely available online. 1,9 Hence, once readers find your paper, they will read through the title and abstract to determine whether or not to purchase a full copy of your paper/continue reading. 2-4
- Finally, the abstract is the first section of your paper that journal editors and reviewers read. While busy journal editors may use the abstract to decide whether to send a paper for peer review or reject it outright, reviewers will form their first impression about your paper on reading it. 10
Given the critical role that these 3 elements play in helping readers access your research, we offer a set of guidelines (compiled from instructions and resources on journals’ websites and academic writing guidelines, listed in the references) on writing effective titles and abstracts and choosing the right keywords.
How to write a good title for a research paper
Journal websites and search engines use the words in research paper titles to categorize and display articles to interested readers, while readers use the title as the first step to determining whether or not to read an article. This is why it is important to know how to write a good title for a research paper. Good research paper titles (typically 10–12 words long) 6,7 use descriptive terms and phrases that accurately highlight the core content of the paper (e.g., the species studied, the literary work evaluated, or the technology discussed). 1,5