Abstracts and titles

What makes a good abstract and title?

Your title is your headline

There are three rules when it comes to deciding on your title: make it concise, accurate, and informative.

Think about the last time you searched online for research that was relevant to your field. You’ll have put in certain keywords. Now think about your article and how someone might find it. What search terms might they use? You want your article to come up, so make your title specific and try to include words that readers might be searching for. Try to make it understandable to a reader from outside your field and, where possible, avoid abbreviations, formulae, and numbers.

Thinking about your title? Avoid using “Investigation of …”; “Study of …”; More about …”; “… revisited”.

Editor’s view

“We would typically expect a strong title, a good title that really expressed what the article was about and made it clear to the reader exactly what the topic was.”

Professor Mark Brundrett, Editor of Education 3-13

Your abstract is your shop window

Your abstract is the shop window of your article – this is where customers (researchers) can sample your wares and decide whether to read and cite your content or instead look elsewhere. So it’s important to get it right.

Each journal will have its own word limit for abstracts (see the Instructions for Authors page), but approximately 100–200 words are what you have to work with. In this short paragraph, you should create a selling pitch, focusing on what your research is about, what methods have been used, and what you found out.

  • It probably won’t be at the forefront of your mind, but keywords play an important role in creating an effective abstract.
  • As you would expect, accuracy is crucial. Whatever you argue or claim in the abstract must reflect what is in the main body of your article – there’s no room for hyperbole here.
  • Have you followed the submission rules? Every journal has an Instructions for Authors page – check the guidelines before you start writing.
  • Ensure that the abstract is self-contained, without abbreviations, footnotes, or incomplete references. It needs to make sense on its own.

Finally, there is a significant difference between original research papers and review papers when it comes to abstracts. For original papers, you should describe your method and procedures. For reviews, take a different approach: you must first state the primary objective of the review, the reasoning behind your choice, the main outcomes and results of your review, and the conclusions that might be drawn, including their implications for further research, application, or practice.