What Makes a Good Research Article Title?

November 16, 2017 Helen Eassom

Your title is your first opportunity to draw in readers, so you must ensure that it makes an impact. Compared to the work you put in to the full paper, the title may feel like an afterthought, but creating a good title is essential to maximizing the reach of your article.

The Basics


Your final title should do several things to draw readers into your article. Consider these basics of title creation to come up with a few ideas:

  • Limit yourself to 10 to 20 substantial words.
  • Devise a phrase or ask a question.
  • Make a positive impression of the article.
  • Use current terminology in your field of study.
  • Stimulate reader interest.

A good research article title offers a brief explanation of the article before you delve into specifics. Before you get to a final title, you can start with a working title that gives you a main idea of what to focus on throughout your piece. Then you can come back to revise the title when you finish the article.

The Writing Process

As you write your research article, it can be useful to make a list of the questions that your article answers. For a broad topic, your article may answer 20 questions. If your subject is very narrow, you might come up with two or three questions. You can then use these questions to inform your research title.

Your article subject or hypothesis may also give you an idea for the final title, but so can your conclusion. As you write your research article from beginning to end, you draw several conclusions before answering your main idea or hypothesis. There's nothing wrong with using your conclusion as a title because your readers want to know how you derived the solution. A good research article title may actually be a spoiler, but that's a good thing. Once you have a draft title, you’ll need to take care of a few details to keep it interesting.

The Details

Take out any unnecessary words (such as ‘A Study of’, or ‘An Investigation of’) which don’t contribute any real meaning or value to your title. Avoid words or phrases that don't help your readers understand the context of your work, and ensure that your title gets to the real point of your article.

Your title needs to grab readers’ interest, so don't fear putting a little style into your article title. You can still avoid a boring title while getting to the point.

Don't make your title too short. The words "South American Politics" are clearly much too broad and don’t say what your research article entails. Rather, expand a bit to include more detail. Examine the title "South American Politics and Venezuelan Oil Clash with Brazil's Rain Forest Conservation Efforts”. The second title has more substance, keywords and enough meat to build interest.

Final Thoughts

Ask yourself a few questions that get to the heart of your article. What is the purpose of the research? What's the narrative tone of the article? What methods do you use to write the article? The purpose of your article provides the perfect lead-in to your conclusion. Meanwhile, your narrative tone depends on the point you make, such as delivering results of a paradigm-shifting study, breaking news of some major story or making a startling conclusion that no one expected.

A good article title represents the first impression people see of your work, so make sure you give your research the title it deserves!

How do you determine the title of your research article? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image Credit: Niklebedev/Shutterstock

About the Author

Helen Eassom

Author Marketing, Wiley // Helen is a Marketing Coordinator working within the Author Marketing team for Wiley's Global Research division.

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