Title, Abstract and Keywords

The Importance of Titles

The title of your manuscript is usually the first introduction readers (and reviewers) have to your work. Therefore, you must select a title that grabs attention, accurately describes the contents of your manuscript, and makes people want to read further.

An effective title should:

  • Convey the main topics of the study
  • Highlight the importance of the research
  • Be concise
  • Attract readers

Writing a good title for your manuscript can be challenging. First, list the topics covered by the manuscript. Try to put all of the topics together in the title using as few words as possible. A title that is too long will seem clumsy, annoy readers, and probably not meet journal requirements.


Example:

Does Vaccinating Children and Adolescents with Inactivated Influenza Virus Inhibit the Spread of Influenza in Unimmunized Residents of Rural Communities?

This title has too many unnecessary words.


Influenza Vaccination of Children: A Randomized Trial

This title doesn’t give enough information about what makes the manuscript interesting.

Effect of Child Influenza Vaccination on Infection Rates in Rural Communities: A Randomized Trial
This is an effective title. It is short, easy to understand, and conveys the important aspects of the research.


Think about why your research will be of interest to other scientists. This should be related to the reason you decided to study the topic. If your title makes this clear, it will likely attract more readers to your manuscript.
TIP: Write down a few possible titles, and then select the best to refine further. Ask your colleagues their opinion. Spending the time needed to do this will result in a better title.

Abstract and Keywords

The Abstract is:

  • summary of the content of the journal manuscript
  • A time-saving shortcut for busy researchers
  • A guide to the most important parts of your manuscript’s written content

Many readers will only read the Abstract of your manuscript. Therefore, it has to be able to stand alone. In most cases the abstract is the only part of your article that appears in indexing databases such as Web of Science or PubMed and so will be the most accessed part of your article; making a good impression will encourage researchers to read your full paper.

A well written abstract can also help speed up the peer-review process. During peer review, referees are usually only sent the abstract when invited to review the paper. Therefore, the abstract needs to contain enough information about the paper to allow referees to make a judgement as to whether they have enough expertise to review the paper and be engaging enough for them to want to review it.

Your Abstract should answer these questions about your manuscript:

  • What was done?
  • Why did you do it?
  • What did you find?
  • Why are these findings useful and important?

Answering these questions lets readers know the most important points about your study, and helps them decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. Make sure you follow the proper journal manuscript formatting guidelines when preparing your abstract.

TIP: Journals often set a maximum word count for Abstracts, often 250 words, and no citations. This is to ensure that the full Abstract appears in indexing services.


Keywords are a tool to help indexers and search engines find relevant papers. If database search engines can find your journal manuscript, readers will be able to find it too. This will increase the number of people reading your manuscript, and likely lead to more citations.

However, to be effective, Keywords must be chosen carefully. They should:

  • Represent the content of your manuscript
  • Be specific to your field or sub-field


Examples:

Manuscript title: Direct observation of nonlinear optics in an isolated carbon nanotube

Poor keywords: molecule, optics, lasers, energy lifetime

Better keywords: single-molecule interaction, Kerr effect, carbon nanotubes, energy level structure


Manuscript title: Region-specific neuronal degeneration after okadaic acid administration
Poor keywords: neuron, brain, OA (an abbreviation), regional-specific neuronal degeneration, signaling

Better keywords: neurodegenerative diseases; CA1 region, hippocampal; okadaic acid; neurotoxins; MAP kinase signaling system; cell death


Manuscript title: Increases in levels of sediment transport at former glacial-interglacial transitions

Poor keywords: climate change, erosion, plant effects
Better keywords: quaternary climate change, soil erosion, bioturbation


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