What Makes a Good Abstract?

June 11, 2015 Vikki Renwick

shutterstock_124814620_294738566_294738567_256224451.jpgThe Author Marketing Team is fresh from another successful webinar. What Makes a Good Abstract and More provided insights for authors on the structure, style and search engine optimization (SEO) of titles and abstracts for articles and books. Jamie Wielgus, Associate Editor and Kris Bishop, Marketing Manager, answered most of your questions along the way - on everything from the best number of words to have in a title, to the SEO differences between Google and Google Scholar - but there were a few questions that we didn’t have time for and have answered below, as promised.

If you missed this webinar or one of our previous ones, you can watch them all on demand via our Author Services Channel webpage. More information on writing “good” titles and abstracts is also available in our Journal Author Guide.

What about the use of external citations in the title? For example a sentence like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the title of a movie.

In general, it is best to stay away from citations in your title; more importantly, however, it is key that your title explains as clearly as possible the topic of your paper. A title such as “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” while catchy because it references a well-known film, does not tell readers (and citers!) enough about what to expect from the content of your manuscript. When crafting your title, you want to be sure to be descriptive, and to clearly communicate the subject of your manuscript; remember, too, as Kris discussed during our webinar, to use key words in your title, and to ensure that your title describes your manuscript’s main concept.

I'd like to begin the title of a manuscript with "When size matters:...". A search in Google Scholar returned 661 results. Therefore, is this a good or a bad beginning for my title?

’When size matters…’ is not a great start to a title in terms of discoverability because the likelihood is small that someone would search for that phrase when they’re looking for articles on a specific topic. Similarly, if someone is scanning a list of article titles quickly, starting your title with an ‘extra’ phrase before getting to the topic takes up valuable reader time. Remember discoverability - the job of the title and abstract is to help readers find the RIGHT content, not a LOT of content. Take a look at the search results that show up in Google Scholar for this phrase, and if they cover a wide range of topics or a topic that is not directly related to your article, consider cutting this phrase out of your title and using only your core key words in the title (see webinar for more on core key words). Yes, it means your article title will likely be more boring - but more effective.

Image Credit/Source:Goodluz/Shutterstock

About the Author

Vikki Renwick

Author Marketing, Wiley // Vikki works in the Author Marketing Team and is, among other tasks, responsible for the Author Workshop Program.

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