Burns in children. Psychiatric illness. Head injuries. These are not funny subjects. But apparently almost anything can seem funny if you think about it long enough—especially if you’ve devoted years to studying the subject. When it’s time to publish their research, many scientists try to get clever with their article titles, presumably to make their work seem more fun and interesting. Fortunately (for us), the results of this creativity range from hackneyed to outright offensive.
We’ve been collecting scientific articles with bizarre titles for more than five years for our blog, Seriously, Science?. (It used to be known as NCBI ROFL, for National Center for Biotechnology Information: Rolling on the Floor Laughing. NCBI runs PubMed, a database of scientific journal articles. You can see why we changed the name.) Here we’ve compiled some of our favorites, classified into the three top categories—although some clearly belong in multiple groups.
Literary and Pop Culture Allusions
We’re not the first to notice that scientists enjoy using literary allusions in their paper titles. In fact, according to an analysis by Neville Goodman of allusions in scientific publication titles, scientists overuse some (obvious) literary allusions. Goodman found, based on an extensive search of the PubMed database, that “more than 1,400 Shakespearean allusions exist, a third of them to ‘What’s in a name’ and another third to Hamlet—mostly to ‘To be or not to be.’ ” There were also 381 allusions to Back to the Future, and many to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, where “all sorts of things have substituted for clothes, including isodose curves, bone densitometry, and the lateral ligaments of the rectum.” Unfortunately, says Goodman, “There are no ‘fat bottomed girls’ (Queen, 1978)” and “Obstetricians have so far ignored ‘Once more unto the breech.’ ”
On a related note, the annual (intentionally lighthearted) Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal was released this week, and it included an analysis by researchers in Sweden of Bob Dylan lyrics found in the biomedical literature. The study was inspired by the authors’ colleagues, who revealed in 2014 that they had been sneaking Dylan lyrics into their articles for years as part of a long-running bet. The list includes such title gems as “Like a Rolling Histone” and “Knockin’ on Pollen’s Door: Live Cell Imaging of Early Polarization Events in Germinating Arabidopsis Pollen.” Although the authors found few Dylan references prior to 1990, since then, the references have increased exponentially, with the two most cited songs being “The Times They Are a-Changin’ ” (135 articles) and “Blowin’ in the Wind” (36 articles). Interestingly, the journal Nature had a particularly high number of articles (six total) that cited Dylan.
Here are a few of the more clever titles we’ve come across—some so ridiculous that we suspect the authors might have come up with the titles first and figured out the studies later.
Some titles take a joke a bit too far, especially for those of us viewing the field as an outsider. Maybe these scientists chose to use their paper’s title to lighten the mood on a heavy topic, but still … there’s dark humor, and then there’s just inappropriate.
And finally, there are the titles that seem so out there that their humor must have been unintentional ... or at least we hope so?
Does having a clever title affect how well a paper is received? One study actually looked at whether articles with “amusing titles” get cited more often. Unfortunately, “while the pleasantness rating was weakly associated with the number of citations, articles with highly amusing titles received fewer citations.” But hey, at least they get cited on our blog! Do you have a favorite article title? Please share it in the comments below or send us a tip.
Purpose and importance of essay title
An essay title bears great importance which is why a wrong headline choice can make or break the quality of the paper you submit. Why? The reason is simple, the title you choose has to intrigue your professor or other readers, make them want to start reading the whole thing to find out what you wrote and how you developed an argument (especially important for argumentative essay). That is why the words you use and how you craft a title is vital to the success of the entire work. While it is easy to assume that the text itself is the only thing that matters, to get positive feedback and a good grade, every part of your paper plays a big role.
The title is, in fact, the first thing your professor, client, or other readers see and your job is to get the “This seems very interesting” reaction, rather than “Oh God, this will be boring.”
Choosing a title that incents people to read your essay because they’re curious and want to find out more, also allows you to find a fertile ground to showcase your knowledge, wisdom, and writing skills at the same time. This is particularly important for freelance writers whose success depends on the number of people who open and read their essays, articles, and so on.
What are the qualities of good essay title
Before you start writing a title for your essay, it is always useful to know more about qualities that every headline should have. When you are aware of all characteristics of good titles, you’re bound to make wise decisions and complete this part of essay writing process successfully.
Since you’re, probably, wondering about the most important qualities the title of your paper should have, here they are:
- Eye-catching – well, this is obvious. Think about it; do you prefer reading content or academic papers with boring titles or you’re more inclined to opt for something with interesting, eye-catching deadline?
- Believable – most students and freelance writers make mistakes by trying to make their titles catchy in such a way they stray away from the truth, thus making the headline inaccurate or a complete, blatant lie. Nothing will anger your professor like a title that doesn’t deliver
- Easy to read – nobody likes complicated and difficult-to-understand titles, not even your professor. Stay away from strange phrases, complicated structures, even some uncommon fonts when writing your headline
- Active voice – if your title contains verbs, always make sure they’re in active, rather than passive voice. For instance, instead of Is regression of society caused by celebrity culture, you should write How does celebrity culture contribute to the regression of society?
- Brief – whenever you can, make an essay title brief. Long headlines are confusing and don’t demonstrate your skills for concise writing
- Accurate – regardless of the topic or niche and under no circumstances should you ever write an inaccurate essay title. You should give your readers a clear idea of what they’re going to read in an essay. Never try to mislead, that can only harm the overall quality of essay and your professor will not appreciate it
What are the components of essay title?
Just like argumentative or some other types of essays have their outline formula you can use to write a high-quality paper, building your title has its own formula too. Below are the main components of your essay’s title:
- A catchy hook – introduces the paper in a creative way
- Topic keywords – the “what” of your essay. This component identifies concepts you’ll be exploring
- Focus keywords – the “where/when” of your essay. Together with topic keywords, these are vital for your headline and provide more info that make it professional
Example: Buy Me a Date: Consumerization and Theories of Social Interaction in 21st Century Online Dating Sites
- Catchy hook – buy me a date
- Topic keywords – consumerism, social interaction, dating
- Focus keywords – 21st century
How to create essay title
Now that you know the importance of essay titles and qualities they should have, it’s time to learn how to create them. If you’re struggling with the essay title, don’t feel bad about yourself. Even the most prolific writers experience a writer’s block when it comes to choosing an ideal headline, from time to time. The writer’s block isn’t the issue here, it matters how you overcome it and create the title. Here are a few ideas that you’ll find useful.
Write essay first, title last
It may seem logical to you to create the title first and then write your essay, but doing the opposite can be more beneficial. In fact, most authors never start with the title. Of course, you may have some working headline in mind and it allows you to focus, develop an argument, and so on. But, writing your paper first will give you a clear idea of what to use in your title. As you write and then reread your essay, you’ll know what to say in the title and intrigue your reader. You’ll experience your “Aha, I’ll write this” moment.
Another benefit of creating title last is that you won’t waste too much time. It is not uncommon for students to spend hours just on figuring out the proper title for their essay. That’s the time you could have spent on research, creating an outline, or writing itself.
Use your thesis
Here is yet another reason to leave the title for last. Good titles offer your reader (or more of them) the reason for reading your paper. Therefore, the best place to find that reason is the thesis statement you’ve already written in the introduction. Try working the thesis statement, or at least, a part of it into a title.
Let’s say your thesis statement is this: “The American colonies rebelled against Great Britain because they were tired of being taxed, and they resented British military presence in their lives and homes."
To create a title, you may use alliteration “Tired of Taxes and Troops” or you can opt for “Rebellion of American Colonies against British Rule: Taxes, Troops, and other factors”
Use popular phrases and clichés you can re-work
Popular catchphrases that apply to the essay&39;s topic make eye-catching titles too, particularly when the phrase is amusing or creates an interesting pun. Besides popular phrases, you can also go for clichés and make some tweaks to re-work and adapt them to the topic of your essay and title itself. For instance: “Fit to be tried: The battle over gay marriage in the courts".
Of course, the tone of your essay plays an important role in creating a perfect title. If writing about a serious topic, then don’t be witty, silly, or off-the-wall with your headline. If your essay is a personal statement and even contains some anecdote, then you can go for a witty, yet intelligent title. Always make sure the tone of title and essay match. Bear in mind that even in witty titles, you should avoid using jargon. Also, don’t use abbreviations in your headlines as well.
Use quote or central idea
This isn’t a general rule, but it comes handy when applicable. Your title can feature a quote or a portion of it about the specific essay topic you’re writing about. If appropriate and relevant to the subject, even a part of song lyric can serve the same purpose. In instances when your essay is about a book, you can take a fragment of a thought-provoking quote from the book. For example: “Toil and trouble: Murder and intrigue in Macbeth".
Sum up your essay in THREE WORDS
This is a useful technique to create essay titles; all you have to do is, to sum up your entire essay or a thesis statement in three words and use them to build the headline, put a colon and then insert what your essay is all about.
The success of your essay doesn’t only depend on the argument you develop, research you do, the title matters as well. Most students struggle to find an ideal headline, but with a few easy tips and tricks from this post, you can forget about frustrations, save some time, and create a catchy and informative headline to intrigue readers.