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Location: Kyoto and Auckland
Work interests: research, editing, ethnobotany, prehistory, plant genetics
Affiliation/website: National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka
Preferred contact method: Any
Preferred contact language(s): English, German
Contact: email = researchcooperative-at-gmail-dot-com
Favourite publications: Aroideana, Economic Botany, Farming Matters, PLoSOne

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Work: ethnobotany, plant ecology and genetics, human ecology, agricultural history, archaeology, museology
Affiliations: 1996-present: National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka. 1995: Freelance editor, Kyoto. 1994: JSPS Research Visitor, Kyoto University, Kyoto. 1993: Research Visitor, Australian National University, Canberra. 1991: Visiting Researcher, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka.1990: STA Fellow, National Institute for Ornamental Plants, Vegetables, and Tea (NIVOT), Ano, Japan
Contact: National Museum of Ethnology, Senri Expo Park, Suita City, Osaka, Japan 565-8511
Biographical: Established the Research Cooperative in 2001
Favourite Publications: Economic Botany, Ethnobotany Research and Applications, New Scientist, Minpaku Anthropology Newsletter, Archaeology in Oceania

Don't tell it all

2015-09-15
By: Research Cooperative
Posted in: Writing

Look - I managed to keep the number of words down to four even though I could easily make the title much longer.

Longer means more important, right? Especially if all the buzz words and tropes can be included. It's hard for some to resist the grand academic subtitle. Using a long subtitle is a great way to pad the title space.

Here's an example of the full whizz-bang:

"Don't tell it all: Short titles lead to greater interest and academic impact, long titles repel potential readers by saying too much, or getting tangled, or repeating words and becoming repetitive"

Having said all that in my title, what more would I need to say? And why would anyone bother to read the whole paper if it existed?

A great paper on the subject does exist, but was not written by me. Here it is:

A. Letchford, H. S. Moat, and T. Preis (2015) "The advantage of short paper titles" Royal Society Open Science (26 August 2015,DOI:10.1098/rsos.150266).

After looking at citation records for scientific papers with longer and shorter titles, in a huge sample of 140,000 papers, the authors suggest three possible explanations for the correlation. They also note (in the abstract) that papers with shorter titles may tend to be written more clearly, and indicate (in conclusion) that they plan to study the relationship between stylistic attributes of content and citation frequency.

It's quite a revealing study overall. Some papers with long-winded titles do get cited a lot, but on average, it's probably better to go with a shorter title.

That is not the whole story though.

Different high impact journals seem to favour shorter or longer titles on average. It's probably good to go with the flow of the journal you want to publish in... if it's a good journal.

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