May 25, 2022

How to Write a Research Paper Title

Wordvice HJ

Why Does the Research Title Matter?

How to title a research paper is perhaps the most important question when writing an article for publication. The research title is the first thing that journal editors and reviewers see when they look at your paper and the only piece of information that fellow researchers will see in a database or search engine query. Good titles that are concise and contain all the relevant terms have been shown to increase citation counts and Altmetric scores.

Therefore, when you write the title of an article, you want to make sure it captures all of the relevant aspects of your study. But it also should present them in a way that is accessible and captivating to readers. Follow these steps to create the best research paper titles for your work.

How to Write a Research Paper Title in 5 Steps

You might wonder how you are supposed to pick a title from all the content that your manuscript contains—how are you supposed to choose? What will make your research paper title come up in search engines and what will make the people in your field read it? 

In a nutshell, your research title should accurately capture what you have done, it should sound interesting to the people who work on the same or a similar topic, and it should contain the important keywords that other researchers use when looking for literature in databases. To make the title writing process as simple as possible, we have broken it down into 5 simple steps.

Step 1: Answer some key questions about your research paper

What does your paper seek to answer and what does it accomplish? Try to answer these questions as briefly as possible. You can create these questions by going through each section of your paper and finding the MOST relevant information.

Research questionOne-sentence answer
“What is my paper about?”  “My paper studies how program volume affects outcomes for liver transplant patients on waiting lists.”
“What methods/techniques did I use to perform my study?“It’s a case study.”
“What or who was the subject of my study?” “I studied 60 cases of liver transplant patients on a waiting list throughout the US aged 20-50 years.”
“What did I find?”“My study revealed a positive correlation between waitlist volume and negative prognosis of transplant procedure.”

Step 2: Identify title keywords and phrases 

One-sentence answerTitle keywords/phrases
“My paper studies how program volume affects outcomes for liver transplant patients on waiting lists.”-program volume
-liver transplant patients
-waiting lists
-outcomes
“This is a case study.”-case study
“I studied 60 cases of liver transplant patients on a waiting list throughout the US aged 20-50 years.”
-US/age 20-50
-60 cases
“My study revealed a positive correlation between waitlist volume and negative prognosis of transplant procedure.”
-positive correlation between waitlist volume and negative outcomes

Step 3: Title writing: use these keywords

“We employed a case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years to assess how waiting list volume affects the outcomes of liver transplantation in patients; results indicate a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and negative prognosis after the transplant procedure.”

This sentence is obviously much too long for a research paper title, which is why you will trim and polish it in the next two steps.

Step 4: Create a working research paper title

To create a working title, remove elements that make it a complete “sentence” but keep everything that is important to what the study is about. Delete all unnecessary and redundant words that are not central to the study or that researchers would most likely not use in a database search.

We employed a case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years to assess how the waiting list volume affects the outcome of liver transplantation in patients; results indicate a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and a negative prognosis after transplant procedure

Now shift some words around for proper syntax and rephrase it a bit to shorten the length and make it leaner and more natural. What you are left with is:

“A case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years assessing the impact of waiting list volume on outcome of transplantation and showing a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and a negative prognosis” (Word Count: 38)

This is getting closer to what we want in a research title, which is just the most important information. But note that the word count for this working title is still 38 words, whereas the average length of published journal article titles is 16 words or fewer. Therefore we need to eliminate some words and phrases that are not essential to this title.

Step 5: Eliminate unessential  words and phrases from the research title

Since the number of patients studied and the exact outcome are not the most essential parts of this paper, remove these elements first:

 “A case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years assessing the impact of waiting list volume on outcomes of transplantation and showing a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and a negative prognosis” (Word Count: 19)

In addition, the methods used in a study are not usually the most searched-for keywords in databases and represent additional details that you may want to remove to make your title leaner. So what is left is:

“Assessing the impact of waiting list volume on outcome and prognosis in liver transplantation patients” (Word Count: 15)

In this final version of the title, one can immediately recognize the subject and what objectives the study aims to achieve. Note that the most important terms appear at the beginning and end of the title: “Assessing,” which is the main action of the study, is placed at the beginning; and “liver transplantation patients,” the specific subject of the study, is placed at the end. This will aid significantly in your research paper title being found in search engine and database queries, which means that a lot more researchers will be able to locate your article once it is published.

Adding a Research Paper Subtitle

If you feel that a subtitle might be needed to give more immediate details about your methodology or sample, you can do this by adding this information after a colon:

“ : a case study of US adult patients ages 20-25”

If we abide strictly by our word count rule this may not be necessary or recommended. But every journal has its own standard formatting and style guidelines for research paper titles, so it is a good idea to be aware of the specific author instructions of the target journal, not just when you write the manuscript but also to decide how to create a good title for it.

Some Tips on How to Choose a Title

In addition to the steps given above, there are a few other important things you want to keep in mind when it comes to how to write a research paper title, regarding formatting, word count, and content:

  • Write the title after you’ve written your paper and abstract
  • Include all of the essential terms in your paper
  • Keep it short and to the point (~16 words or fewer)
  • Avoid unnecessary jargon and abbreviations
  • Use keywords that capture the content of your paper
  • Never include a period at the end—your title is not a sentence

We hope you find these tips helpful as you write all the parts of your research paper. And be sure to receive professional research paper editing services from Wordvice before you submit your article to your target journal.

Wordvice Research Paper Writing Resources

If you want to dig deeper into different journal-title formats and categories that might be more suitable for specific article types or need help with writing the cover letter for your manuscript submission, visit the Wordvice academic resources website where you find more articles on manuscript writing, from drafting an outline to finding a target journal to submit to.

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