Thirteen Types Of Title

1 Titles that announce the general subject, for example:

• The age of adolescence.

• Designing instructional and informational text.

• On writing scientific articles in English.

2 Titles that particularise a specific theme following a general heading, for example:

• Pre-writing: The relation between thinking and feeling.

• The achievement of black Caribbean girls: Good practice in Lambeth schools.

• The role of values in educational research: The case for reflexivity.

3 Titles that indicate the controlling question, for example:

• Is academic writing masculine?

• What is evidence-based practice — and do we want it too?

• What price presentation? The effects of typographic variables on essay grades.

4 Titles that just state the findings, for example:

• Supramaximal inflation improves lung compliance in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

• Asthma in schoolchildren is greater in schools close to concentrated animal feeding operations.

• Angiopoetin-2 levels are elevated in exudative pleural effusions.

5 Titles that indicate that the answer to a question will be revealed, for example:

• Abstracts, introductions and discussions: How far do they differ in style?

• The effects of summaries on the recall of information.

• Current findings from research on structured abstracts.

6 Titles that announce the thesis — i.e. indicate the direction of the author's argument, for example:

• The lost art of conversation.

• Plus <a change . . . Gender preferences for academic disciplines.

7 Titles that emphasise the methodology used in the research, for example:

• Using colons in titles: A meta-analytic review.

• Reading and writing book reviews across the disciplines: A survey of authors.

• Is judging text on screen different from judging text in print? A naturalistic email study.

8 Titles that suggest guidelines and/or comparisons, for example:

• Seven types of ambiguity.

• Eighty ways of improving instructional text.

9 Titles that bid for attention by using startling or effective openings, for example:

• 'Do you ride an elephant' and 'never tell them you're German': The experiences of British Asian, black and overseas student teachers in the UK.

• Something more to tell you: Gay, lesbian and bisexual young people's experiences of secondary schooling.

• Making a difference: An exploration of leadership roles in sixth form colleges.

10 Titles that attract by alliteration, for example:

• Referees are not always right: The case of the 3-D graph.

11 Titles that attract by using literary or biblical allusions, for example:

• From structured abstracts to structured articles: A modest proposal.

• Low! They came to pass. The motivations of failing students.

• Lifting the veil on the viva: The experiences of postgraduate students.

12 Titles that attract by using puns, for example:

• Now take this PIL (Patient Information Leaflet).

• A thorn in the Flesch: Observations on the unreliability of computer-based readability formulae (Rudolph Flesch devised a method of computing the readability of text).

• Unjustified experiments in typographical design (Text set with equal word-spacing and a ragged right-hand edge is said to be set 'unjustified': text set with variable word-spacing and a straight right-hand edge is set 'justified'.)

13 Finally, titles that mystify, for example:

• How do you know you've alternated?

• Is October Brown Chinese?

Titles that mystify may attract the indulgent reader but they are hardly likely to help busy ones. 'Outside the whale' refers to the fact that the author is describing a typographic design course that was run for over 20 years independently of, and not swallowed up by, the requirements of fine arts schools in the UK. 'How do you know you've alternated?' is about problems that sociologists have when alternating between presenting an accurate description of the groups they study, and presenting their interpretation to the readers. October Brown turns out to be the name of a school teacher.

Irony, puns, humour, and literary and cultural references are difficult for non-native speakers of the language to understand. They are probably best avoided in the titles of academic articles. So too are titles containing acronyms

— abbreviations accepted as words, for example 'Mental health for IAG providers' (IAG stands for information, advice and guidance) — and neologisms

— words invented to describe a new phenomenon.

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