Developing a Title - From a Research Project to a Journal Article - Conference Proposals and Article Types

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Developing a Title
From a Research Project to a Journal Article
Conference Proposals and Article Types

The proverb, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” (Annesley, 2010i, p. 359) can be applied to the title. It too provides the first impression of the manuscript to readers, reviewers, and/or editors. The words in the title need to describe the content in a clear, brief, informative, and relevant way that is appropriate to the target audience (Annesley). The title has accurate information to help readers determine the relevance of the study to their research and to guide electronic indexing services to rely on the description in the title to guide readers in searching for any literature related to their research. An appropriate title has “… the fewest possible words that adequately describe the contents of the paper” (Day & Sakaduski, 2011, p. 9). The American Psychological Association’s (APA, 2010) style manual sets a limit of 12 words on a title (not counting articles and prepositions). Titles need to be balanced; that is, they are not too long or too short. Lengthy titles generally have an unnecessary number of wasted words such as those that begin with “Investigations on …”. In contrast, short titles are extremely vague such as the title, “Writing Reports” gives the reader no information about the article. Consequently, each word in the title needs to be methodically selected, be related to other words, and properly placed in the title. Effective titles (a) define the manuscript’s main problem; (b) initiate its topic; (c) are specific, clear, precise, and complete; (d) avoid using abbreviations; and (e) are of interest to readers (Peat, Elliott, Baur, & Keena, 2002). Annesley proposes several guidelines in developing a title for a quantitative study:

· Be Concise. A title should include keywords that describe the content of the research report and be fewer than 12 words. Avoid words such as “a study of,” “investigation of,” “development of,” or “observations on” because they usually are unnecessary. Also avoid using terms such as “new,” “improved,” “novel,” “validated,” and “innovative” because they cause readers to think, “I’ll be the judge of that.”

· Use titles that suggest the type of study. For example, the word “relationships” suggests a correlational study, the word “effects” suggests an experimental or quasi-experimental study, and the word “factors” implies factor analysis.

· Be Informative. Titles need to provide sufficient information to briefly describe the research report. They should include the independent variable, the dependent variable, the observed effect, and the population studied.

· Use Keywords and Terms Wisely. Key words and terms need to focus on the content of the study to attract the readers’ interest. These are used throughout the article and will be used for indexing purposes as well. As you select keywords, consider the terminology that other scholars might use to search the literature rather than using terminology that is unfamiliar to most researchers.

· Focus on the Journal and Target Audience. Journals provide specific instructions on the number of words or characters in a title and the use of subtitles. Review back issues of the intended outlet to get a feel for the way that titles typically are written.

· Avoid Abbreviations. Abbreviations that are not well known may confuse readers and result in less effective dissemination of the work.

Readers usually read the title first, because it represents all of the sections of the study. Annesley (2010i) states that the title is “the face of the paper—the descriptor, the advertisement, the pitch. Like a billboard, it is your 10 s opportunity to connect with the passerby (the reader)” (p. 357). Many times, a working title that was used during the development of the research needs to be revisited and revised to be more precise after the research has been completed. Be certain to do this and to develop a clear, concise, and precise title that is your research “in a nutshell”.