Bill Glod, Philosophy Program Officer
good titles and abstracts are keys to getting cited more frequently,
and scholars are typically lousy at creating good titles and abstracts.
It’s great if you have a bunch of publications in good journals, but
tenure committees want to see you getting cited. Plus, I’m sure you’d
personally rather have more and not less people seeing your work and
citing it in their own papers. Otherwise, why are you in this business?
Sometimes it’s about the simple stuff. Your paper isn’t going to
market itself, nor will it be flashing neon lights when a tired
researcher is combing through page after page of search results. So how
do you maximize the chances of getting your article or book on the first
page of results?
The first step is a title that catches the eye and conveys the thesis of your work in one snappy formulation.
“Mill on Liberty” is a really poor title because it has been used
many times and conveys nothing about your argument. “Was Mill a
Liberal?” is also poor because interrogative titles make the reader have
to work more to find out your thesis. You’re not writing a thriller
with plot twists here: let the reader know the answer right away. (The
link has more examples of lousy titles.) A very good title is something
like this: “New Public Management is Dead – Long Live Digital Era
Governance.” In a few words it has a narrative flow and captures the
Perhaps most importantly, your title needs to have some key words likely to be typed into search engines by potential readers.
Your title is just the first step in attracting a potential reader.
Now you need a good abstract. You should replicate in abstract the same
thematic words in your title. The link has a helpful checklist for good
practices, a few of which I will highlight. First, the thing should be
150-300 words and no more than 2 paragraphs. At least 50 words reference
other people’s work in previous literature. At least 50 address what is
distinctive about your approach. Where relevant, 50-100 words should
describe your methods or datasets. As many words as allowable within
your limit should address your bottom-line findings. Finally, you should
spend 30-50 words on the value-added by your work within this field.
Google Scholar can help test your title and abstract. Type the whole
title in double quotes (“ “). It’s good if nothing shows up and bad if
many titles do. Then type three or four of the most distinctive title
words and aim for an inverted U curve: a modest number of returns for
each word is good; no, very few, or very many returns is bad.
Again, the guide provides lots of good advice beyond these
highlights, so I suggest you give it a read (but especially Chapter 4).
Should I Publish in a Mainstream or Classical Liberal Journal
So They Rejected Your Paper
What to Do with Your Rejected Paper
Find the Right Journal for Your Paper
Bad Titles Hurt Good Papers - IHS Academic