The title is the first look a reader gets at the content of the paper. Thus, it should be as specific and informative as possible. Conciseness is also key for the title, so that it is clear what is most important about your topic. You should aim to capture your audience not by flashy words or entertaining metaphors but by clear relevance to the topics your potential readers are interested in.



Creating Your Title


Your title is often the last part of your article that you will write.

The most important element of research is what was studied. Your title must include what was studied, such as “human hexokinase,” “carbon nanotubes,” or “Vermont bedrock.”


The following titles clearly state the subject of the study, using key details that help the reader determine if the article is relevant to them:

  • Normal faulting in the forearc of the Hellenic subduction margin: Paleoearthquake history and kinematics of the Spili Fault, Crete, Greece (Mouslopoulou et al. 2014)
  • Neutrino emissivities from deuteron breakup and formation in supernovae (Nasu et al. 2015)
  • Isolation and characterization of novel iron-oxidizing bacteria that grow at circumneutral pH (Emerson and Moyer 1997)
  • Simultaneous determination of water-soluble and fat-soluble synthetic colorants in foodstuff by high-performance liquid chromatography–diode array detection–electrospray mass spectrometry (Ma et al. 2006)
  • Effects of hyperglycemia and aging on nuclear sirtuins and DNA damage of mouse hepatocytes (Ghiraldini et al., 2013)


One common way to construct titles is to say what was studied, followed by and proceeded by modifiers that describe how it was studied. The “what was studied,” in this case, is more succinct in order to maintain conciseness. This is the style commonly used in ACS publications.


The following are examples of titles that follow this format, with the central subject of study underlined:

  • Diagnosis of Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis by means of Elemental Bioimaging and Speciation Analysis (Birka et al. 2015)
  • Direct visualization of concerted proton tunnelling in a water nanocluster (Meng et al. 2015)
  • Investigation of the Electronic Origin of Asymmetric Induction in Palladium-Catalyzed Allylic Substitutions with Phosphinooxazoline (PHOX) Ligands by Hammett and Swain–Lupton Analysis of the 13C NMR Chemical Shifts of the (π-Allyl)palladium Intermediates (Armstrong et al. 2012)


Another common style is to indicate an important finding of the research in the title (while still highlighting what was studied). For example:

  • Cholesterol Is Required for Efficient Endoplasmic Reticulum-to-Golgi Transport of Secretory Membrane Proteins (Ridsdale et al. 2006)
  • Bilayer manganites reveal polarons in the midst of a metallic breakdown (Massee et al. 2010)



One of the major challenges of creating a title is deciding what information is most important to your study and also what is most critical for attracting the right readers.

First, in as few words as possible, identify the organism/phenomenon/idea that you studied. Remember that this must be part of your title. For a field study, the location of your study will be an important part of this.

Then, identify the key overarching result or conclusion of your study, if there is one. If you only have lots of smaller results that connect to one another by your larger theme, you probably won’t want to center your title about your results, because it will quickly become too complicated to explain in a few words. Biological papers are the most likely to prefer results-centered titles, but the style of your title will depend mostly on your target publication.

Also make a note of the major methods or instruments that you used. Are these important to your study or to the results you obtained? If you are using a novel methodology, it is probably more important that you include the method type in your title.

According to the ACS Style Guide, “The title serves two main purposes: to attract the potential audience and to aid retrieval and indexing. Therefore, include several keywords. The title should provide the maximum information for a computerized title search.” Keywords will most often be the things you already identified—your subject, instruments, and results—but will help you keep your title specific to your study. For example, you should refer to a “iron catalyst” instead of a “metal catalyst.”


Recommended steps for creating your article title (summary)

  1. Identify the central subject, results, and methods of your study
  2. Identify any additional keywords
  3. Create a first draft of your title
  4. Edit for conciseness


Step 4 in the summary above is covered in the next section on title conciseness, below.


Practice exercise

For each of the following abstracts from published journal articles, construct a title that follows 1) a modifier-subject-modifier format and 2) a subject with findings format. Be sure that each is concise and informative.

  1. The Mediator complex has recently been shown to be a key player in the maintenance of embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells. However, the in vivo consequences of loss of many Mediator subunits are unknown. We identified med14 as the gene affected in the zebrafish logelei (log) mutant, which displayed a morphological arrest by 2 days of development. Surprisingly, microarray analysis showed that transcription was not broadly affected in log mutants. Indeed, log cells transplanted into a wild-type environment were able to survive into adulthood. In planarians, RNAi knockdown demonstrated a requirement for med14 and many other Mediator components in adult stem cell maintenance and regeneration. Multiple stem/progenitor cell populations were observed to be reduced or absent in zebrafish med14 mutant embryos. Taken together, our results show a critical, evolutionarily conserved, in vivo function for Med14 (and Mediator) in stem cell maintenance, distinct from a general role in transcription. (Adapted from Brurrows et al. 2015)

  2. The interaction of matter and light is one of the fundamental processes occurring in nature, and its most elementary form is realized when a single atom interacts with a single photon. Reaching this regime has been a major focus of research in atomic physics and quantum optics for several decades and has generated the field of cavity quantum electrodynamics. Here we perform an experiment in which a superconducting two-level system, playing the role of an artificial atom, is coupled to an on-chip cavity consisting of a superconducting transmission line resonator. We show that the strong coupling regime can be attained in a solid-state system, and we experimentally observe the coherent interaction of a superconducting two-level system with a single microwave photon. The concept of circuit quantum electrodynamics opens many new possibilities for studying the strong interaction of light and matter. This system can also be exploited for quantum information processing and quantum communication and may lead to new approaches for single photon generation and detection. (Adapted from Childress et al. 2015)

  3. The uptake of carbon nanotubes (CNT) influences the output of plants, potentially through interactions between the DNA and CNTs. However, little is known about the changes in the plant DNA due to CNT proximity. We report changes in rice plant DNA in the proximity of single walled CNT (SWCNT) using molecular dynamics simulations. The DNA experiences breaking and forming of hydrogen bonds due to unzipping of Watson–Crick (WC) nucleobase pairs and wrapping onto SWCNT. The number of hydrogen bonds between water and DNA nucleobases decreases due to the presence of SWCNT. A higher number of guanine–cytosine (Gua–Cyt) WC hydrogen bonds break as compared to adenine–thymine (Ade–Thy), which suggests that Gua and Cyt bases play a dominant role in DNA–SWCNT interactions. We also find that changes to non-WC nucleobase pairs and van der Waals attractive interactions between WC nucleobase pairs and SWCNT cause significant changes in the conformation of the DNA. (Adapted from Katti et al. 2015)

  4. Many of the conceptual models developed for river networks emphasize progressive downstream trends in morphology and processes. Such models can fall short in describing the longitudinal variability associated with low-order streams. A more thorough understanding of the influence of local variability of process and form in low-order stream channels is required to remotely and accurately predict channel geometry characteristics for management purposes. We evaluated local variability of process domains in the Colorado Front Range by systematically following streams and evaluating a number of channel geometry characteristics. We evaluated 111 stream reaches for significant differences in channel geometry among stream types and process domains, location and clustering of stream types on a slope–drainage area (S–A) plot and downstream hydraulic geometry relationships. Although downstream hydraulic geometry relationships are well-defined using all reaches in the study area, reaches in glacial valleys display much more variability in channel geometry characteristics than reaches in fluvial valleys, less pronounced downstream hydraulic geometry relationships, and greater scatter of reaches on an S–A plot.

Possible solutions

  1. 1) Analysis of Mediator subunit Med14 function in zebrafish mutants by microarray analysis
    2) A conserved in vivo requirement of Mediator subunit Med14 in stem cell maintenance
  2. 1) Coupling of a single photon to a superconducting two-level system using circuit quantum electrodynamics
    2) Circuit quantum electrodynamics provides strong coupling of a single photon to a superconducting two-level system in the solid state
  3. 1) Effect of carbon nanotube proximity on rice DNA structure simulated using molecular dynamics
    2) Carbon nanotube proximity influences rice DNA structure
  4. 1) Comparison of stream channel characteristics in glacial and fluvial process domains in the Colorado Front Range
    2) Glacial valley reaches display greater variability in channel geometry characteristics than fluvial valley reaches in the Colorado Front Range



Making Your Title Concise


Many publications have strict word limits not only for article content but also for its title. This limit is often around 10-15 words. So once you’ve created your title, it is a good idea to edit it for conciseness. Cross out (or avoid in the first place!) any of the following, then re-write it, if necessary, to fix any grammar issues created by doing so.

  • Redundant phrases like “a study of,” “research about,” or “looking at.”
  • Unnecessary uses of “the,” “an,” and “a”


One strategy for making a title more concise is to connect modifying words through hyphens. For example:

a. The extraction of proteins in the solid phase (8 words)

b. Solid-phase protein extraction (3 words)


Regardless of word limits, your title should always be as short as possible while still completely conveying key aspects of the research.


Practice exercise

Edit the following titles for conciseness. Try to not eliminate words that are likely key to the research.

  1. The effect of particle size on the biodistribution of colloidal gold nanoparticles after they have been intravenously administrated (Adapted from Sonavane et al. 2008)
  2. A study on an urbanized region of the Lake Champlain watershed located in Burlington, Vermont that looks at historical trace metal accumulation in the watershed sediments (Adapted from Mecray et al. 2001)
  3. Some damping characteristics of micro-oscillators that are shaped like beams as verified by comparing the calculated damping with experimental results (Adapted from Hosaka et al. 1995)
  4. Characterization of the  molecular and phenotypic makeup of Pichia fermentans strains that can be found among certain yeasts of the Boza variety (Adapted from Caputo et al. 2012)

Possible solutions

  1. Biodistribution of colloidal gold nanoparticles after intravenous administration: Effect of particle size
  2. Historical trace metal accumulation in the sediments of an urbanized region of the Lake Champlain watershed, Burlington, Vermont
  3. Damping characteristics of beam-shaped micro-oscillators
  4. Molecular and phenotypic characterization of Pichia fermentans strains found among Boza yeasts



Using Appropriate Capitalization


When titling your own paper, the same rules apply as in books or essays. In general,

  • Always capitalize the first word of the title
  • Capitalize all verbs nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs
  • Do not capitalize prepositions, articles (like “an” and “the”), or conjunctions (like “and” and “so”)



Using Abbreviations and Acronyms


In general, it is best to avoid using acronyms or abbreviations in journal article titles because it would waste space to define one, yet the abbreviation might not be well-known enough for everyone to know what your paper is about. For that reason, it is acceptable to use abbreviations that are extremely well-known in your discipline. This can be a hard thing to determine, but it can help to think of what kinds of things are almost never referred to by their complete names, such as “DNA.” However, just because an abbreviation is always used by people in your field does not guarantee that it will be understood in a title that is read by a broader audience.

If you’re unsure about whether or not your abbreviation or acronym is acceptable in a title, try searching that term in the scientific literature and observe how others most commonly use it in their titles.

Ultimately, the decision will depend on your audience—what they already know and are familiar with—and your purpose. A paper published in Science, for instance, would likely spell out “Parallel Virtual Machine” while a paper in Network-Computation in Neural Systems might be able to use “PVM” in its title. In addition, if your study is focused the properties of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), which would involve you explaining what NMR is, you would want to spell it out in the title. But if your paper already assumes knowledge of the technique, then you can probably use the acronym in the title.


Also avoid defining an abbreviation in your title. If you have decided that you can use the abbreviated version, most journals prefer that you use it alone. If you need to use the full term, define the abbreviation in the body of your paper, instead.

Not preferred: Characterization of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in T lymphocytes

Preferred: Characterization of HIV in T lymphocytes

Preferred: Characterization of human immunodeficiency virus in T lymphocytes