Maximising discoverability of your research through Titles, Abstracts and Keywords
We all want to write as many papers as possible, as quickly as possible, and get them into the best journals possible. At the same time, however, we want our research to be widely read and cited, for it to be viewed as useful and impactful. This means that papers have to be easily identifiable as relevant to particular themes and, therefore, more likely to be read and cited by others.
Three key elements of your paper and specifically your submission – title, abstract and keywords – if carefully constructed, can ensure maximum visibility and searchability. This is because they contain important words and phrases that communicate the themes within your research.
Crafting titles to maximise discoverability
- A good title should be short. Make sure that the titles you choose for your articles are concise.
- Good titles are simple. They don’t contain complex words and infrequently used abbreviations that confuse people.
- Our experience gained from editing papers tells us that effective article titles should begin with the subject of a paper and identify its main issue. The title should contain the most important words related to your topic, in order to make online searches as effective as possible.
- Finally, try to be alluring with the titles of your research papers, but at the same time don’t give away too much: you want colleagues to want to read the rest of your work!
For more on crafting compelling titles, read: Getting the title of your academic research article right
Writing abstracts to maximise discoverability
Like a good title, an effective abstract should stand alone and contain all the information necessary for someone else to repeat your study. Similarly, an effective abstract should not contain infrequently used terms and abbreviations.
Answer the following questions in sequence and you will have the basis of an effective, well-structured academic abstract.
- Why was the study done?
- What did it address?
- What methods were used?
- What are the main conclusions and why is your study significant?
Remember: The title and abstract of your research papers are often all that people read, especially editors, often making snap decisions about whether, or not, to send your work out for review.
For more on writing effective abstracts, read: How to write an abstract
Choosing keywords to maximise discoverability
Put time into selecting keywords for your research papers as, again, they are used as search terms and will make your work easier to find.
- Generally speaking, your choice of keywords depends on your target audience. Is the journal you are submitting to too subject-area specific or is this a widely read international magazine with a wide circulation?
- Check your target journal’s guide for authors in order to determine the correct number of keywords to include.
- Make sure the keywords are specific to your subject area and not too general. For example, 'soil’ or ‘earth’ would be poor choices as their meanings are too broad.
- It’s also a good idea to use keywords that are not already used in the title of your article, as both are generally included in searches.
- And again, avoid abbreviations unless these are widely known and used in this form within your field (e.g. DNA, PCR, or DEM).
For more on developing appropriate keywords, read: Creating and formatting Keywords for paper submission and communication
Writing and publishing effectively is just part of the battle to be a successful academic these days. It’s also important to ensure that your work is as widely read and cited as possible.
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