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How to title a research paper

The title is probably the most imperative single element of a research paper. It is the first thing reviewers and editors see when going through a research paper and an indication of what to expect from that paper. It is usually the main information that turns up in search engine queries or databases. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that the title captures all pertinent aspects of an individual’s research paper and presents it in a mature and attractive way. There are different steps to follow while writing a compelling research paper title, as discussed below.

Steps on how to construct research title

Step 1: Question yourself about your research paper and note the answers

Consider what the document is intended to answer and what it is meant to achieve. One can answer those questions briefly with one or two sentences. The questions can be created by going through each part of the paper and finding the most critical information. The following are some examples of questions that can be asked and their relevant answers.

What is the paper about?

Example: The paper focuses on how to title a research paper.

What are the methods used to perform research?

Example: I used a case study.

Who or what was the subject of the study?

Example: I studied several articles and journals on how to title a research paper.

What were the results?

The study identified significant factors that improved performance for the studied phenomenon “X”.

Step 2: Identify the keywords and phrases from those responses


  • Title a research paper
  • Case study
  • Journals
  • Significant factors
  • Articles

Step 3: Use keywords in creating a long sentence

For example: The study was based on a case study of the fast food industry and investigated the nutritional content of several fast food items in North America.

If the sentence seems to be long, you can trim and polish it to the required title length.

Step 4: Creating a tentative or working title

The working or tentative title is created early during research progression as it helps to anchor the study’s focus, in the same manner the research problem does. The working title can also help reorient the researcher back to the study’s key focus if he finds himself drifting off while writing. The final title to be submitted is created after completing the research to capture what has been done.

When creating a working title, you have to remove some elements while still retaining everything necessary to what the study is about. Delete the needless or redundant words that are not central to the research or words that other researchers might fail to use in a database search.

Example: The study was based on a case study of the fast food industry and investigated the nutritional content of several fast food items in North America.

After removing some words or phrases, you can rephrase the emerging title for appropriate syntax. Therefore, the sentence can read as:

A case study of the fast food industry: exploring the nutritional content of fast food items in North America

The above title is suitable for a case study. But you could even shorten it further.

Example: Steps on how to title a research paper.

The final title

In the final version of the title, one can recognize the objectives and the research paper’s subject. It is important to note that essential terms are written at the end and beginning of a title, aiding significantly in being found in database queries and search engines so that more researchers can locate the research after being published.

There are several characteristics of compelling titles in research papers that reflect general principles:

  • Accurately designate the subject and aim of the study
  • Use abbreviations or acronyms rarely unless they are commonly known
  • Make use of recent vocabulary from the field of study
  • Make use of words that stimulate readers interest and create a positive impression
  • Identify crucial variables, both independent and dependent
  • Reflect the relationship between such variables
  • Not very lengthy
  • Not include redundant words and phrases
  • Can take the form of a declarative statement or a question
  • Avoid using an exclamation mark at the end of the title

However, some research papers follow rules prescribed by Style Guides (such as MLA, Chicago, APA, etc). Endeavour to observe such rules for your title if it is mandatory for your research paper.

Adding a subtitle

In case one feels the need to include a subtitle to detail more about a methodology or a sample, you can do so by putting a colon before the information chosen.

Example: ….…. : a case study of steps followed in titling a research paper.

Subtitles are often used in social science research papers, and the following are some reasons one can include a subtitle in their research.

  • To explain or provide further context
  • To add substance to a provocative, literary, or imaginative quote or a title
  • To indicate the geographic location where the study was conducted
  • Qualify the time-based scope of the research paper
  • When one is focused on investigating the work, ideas, or theories of a particular individual
  • To identify the methodology used
  • To explain the predominant technique for analyzing the research problem

To conclude, every journal has its style guidelines and standard formatting for titles. Hence, it is vital to be aware of them when writing the title of your research paper (and all the other parts). Make sure your title captures what is intended to be answered in the research paper.

PS: You may also want to explore some less serious research titles that are quiet humour. Examples of this includes:

miR miR on the wall, who’s the most malignant medulloblastoma miR of them all?
Leaf me alone: visual constraints on the ecology of social group formation

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