How to Prepare a Title?
"First impressions are strong impressions; therefore, a headline should be well designed and, as far as the limits allow, give a full and accurate indication of what is to come." T. Clifford Allbutt
< br>IMPORTANCE OF THE TITLE
When preparing a title for an article, the writer would do well to remember one very simple fact: This title will be read by thousands of people. If so, perhaps few people will read the entire article, but many will read the title either in the original journal or from secondary services (abstracts or indexes). For this reason, all words in the title should be chosen very carefully and their relationships with each other should be carefully established. Perhaps the most common mistake in incorrect titles, and certainly the most damaging to meaning, is the incorrect ordering of words.
What is a good title? I define this as a minimum set of words that adequately captures the content of the article.
Remember that abstraction and indexing services rely heavily on title completeness. An improperly titled article may never reach its intended audience and may be lost entirely.
Sometimes headlines are too short. An article was submitted to the Journal of Bacteriology with the title Studies on Brucella. Obviously, such a title could not be of much help to the reader. Is the study taxonomic, genetic, biochemical or medical? We'd like to know at least this much.
In even more common cases, titles are too long. Oddly enough, longer headlines are less meaningful than shorter ones. A generation ago, when there was less specialization in science, titles tended to be long and unspecific. For example, On Additions to Microscopic Research by a New Means of Producing Colour-Contrast between an Object and its Environment, or Particular Parts of the Object (J.Rheinberg, J.R. Microsc. Soc. 1896: 373). This definitely gives the impression of a bad title. Maybe it could be a good summary.
Undoubtedly, most very long titles contain wasted words. Usually, wasted words such as studies on, research on, and observations on appear right at the beginning of the title.
NEED FOR EXPLICIT TITLES
Let's examine an example title: Effects of Antibiotics on Bacteria. He is in shape; It is short and contains no wasted words or overload. Certainly this title could not be improved by changing it to Preliminary Observations on the Effects of Certain Antibiotics on Various Species of Bacteria. But (which brings me to my next point), most very short titles are too short because they contain general rather than specific terms.
We can safely assume that the study titled above did not test the effects of all antibiotics on all bacteria. Therefore, the title is essentially meaningless. If only one or a few antibiotics were studied, they would have to be listed individually in the title. If one or more organisms were tested, they should still be listed one by one in the title. If the number of antibiotics and organisms were too many to list in the title, perhaps a group name could be used instead. More acceptable headline examples:
Effect of Streptomycin on Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
Effect of Streptomycin, Neomycin and Tetracycline on Gram-Positive Bacteria
Effect of Polyene Antibiotics on Plant-Pathogenic Bacteria
Various Antibiotics Used Against Fungi Effect on Candida albicans and Aspergillus Fumigatus
These titles, although more acceptable than the first example, are not particularly good examples because they are still too general. If Effect can be easily defined, the meaning may be clearer. For example, the first heading above could have been edited to Inhibit the Growth of Microbacterium tuberculosis Using Streptomycin.
Long earlier, Leeuwenhoek used the descriptive but not very specific word animalcules. In the 1930s, Howard Raistrick published an important series of articles under the title Studies on Bacteria. A similar article today bears a much more specific title. If the study is about an organism, the title is; It gives genus, species and possibly even strain number. If the study is about an enzyme of an organism, the title would not be something like Enzymes in Bacteria, but would be Dihydrofolate Reductase in Bacillus subtilis.
IMPORTANCE OF WORD ORDER
Pay particular attention to word order in titles. Most grammatical errors in titles are due to incorrect word order.
An article titled Mechanism of Suppression of Nontransmissible Pneumonia in Mice Induced by Newcastle Disease Virus was sent to the Journal of Bacteriology. Unless this writer is somehow capable of spontaneous generation, it must have been pneumonia, not a mouse, that was created. (The title should have been: Mechanism of Suppression of Nontransmissible Pneumonia Induced in Mice by Newcastle Disease Virus).
If you now believe that storks do not bring babies, I recommend this title:ü (Bacteriol. Proc., p. 102, 1986): Multiple Infections Among Newborns Resulting from Implantation with Staphylococius aureus 502A. (Is this the bacteria of life?)
Another example I came across one day (Clin. Res. 8: 134, 1960): , Preliminary Canine and Clinical Evaluation of a New Antitumor Agent Streptovitacin. Once this dog is done evaluating the streptovitacin, I have some studies I want him to look at too!
Grammar aside, I urge you to be careful when you use the word using. I believe that the word using is the best-known suspended present tense verb in scientific writing. Either there are some smarter dogs, or using is used incorrectly in this sentence: Using a fiberoptic bronchoscope, dogs were immunized with sheep red blood cells.
Smart animals are not just dogs. A manuscript was submitted to the Journal of Bacteriology under the title Isolation of Antigens from Monkeys Using Complement-Fixation Techniques.
Even bacteria are smart. Another manuscript was submitted to the Journal of Clinical Microbiology under the title Characterization of Bacteria Causing Mastitis by Gas-Liquid Chromatography. Isn't it wonderful that bacteria can use GLC?
TITLE AS A TAG
The title of the article is a tag. It is not a sentence. It is simpler than a sentence (or at least usually shorter) because it is not a sentence with the usual subject, object, verb arrangement, but the order of the words becomes even more important.
In fact, very few journals allow the title to be a sentence. Here is an example: B-Endorphin is Associated with Overeating in Genetically Obese Mice (ob/ob) and Rats (fa/fa) (Science 202:988, 1978). I guess it's just a matter of opinion. I would object to such a title in two ways. First, the verb is is the word waste and can be removed immediately without affecting understanding. Secondly, the addition of is is that the title now loudly asserts the subject. For reasons developed in Chapter 27, it has a dogmatic tone as we are not accustomed to seeing authors present their results in the present tense.
The order and meaning of the words in the title are important to the prospective reader who sees the title in the contents of the magazine. But these considerations are equally important to all prospective users of the literature, including (perhaps most) those who hear about the paper from secondary sources. Therefore, the title should serve as a tag accompanying the article itself and should be in the form appropriate to the indexing used by Chemical Abstracts, Index Medicus, and others. Most indexing and summarization services work with a keyword system that is based on either deriving KWIC (in-text keywords) or deriving KWOC (out-of-text keywords).
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