Writing your title and abstract are often the final things you do before you submit an article. However, it is very important not to rush this process as they are both crucial for making your article easy to discover and telling readers what they can expect to learn.
Selecting the right keywords is the first step to creating a good title and abstract, as well as helping the right readers find your article online.
Follow the advice below to help you choose your keywords, and make sure your title and abstract are as effective as possible.
These keywords will help others find your article quickly and accurately. Think of them as the labels for your article. What’s more, a strong correlation exists between online hits and subsequent citations for journal articles.
But how do you choose your keywords? Think about how you search for articles, and what words or phrases you put in. Then think about your own article, and what keywords are most relevant to the focus of your work.
Once you’ve drawn up a shortlist, try searching with them, to ensure the results fit with your article and so you can see how useful they would be to others. Then narrow down your keywords to ensure they are as accurate as possible.
Writing an effective title
A good title should be concise, accurate, and informative. It should tell the reader exactly what the article is about. It should also help make your article more discoverable.
This is where the keywords you’ve identified come in. Make sure that you incorporate these in your title, so that your article is more likely to be included in the results for relevant online searches.
Also try to make your title understandable to a reader from outside your field and avoid abbreviations, formulae, and numbers. This will help increase the potential audience for your article and make it more accessible to readers with a different native language.
“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
Writing an effective abstract
Think about abstracts for other researcher’s articles that you have read in the past. What qualities would encourage you to read the full article? What would put you off? Consider these factors when creating your own.
An abstract should focus on:
- What your research is about
- What methods have been used
- What you found out
It is the selling pitch of your article. This is where researchers can get a quick insight and decide whether to read and cite your content or instead look elsewhere. It’s worth spending time to get it right.
Each journal will have its own word limit for abstracts which you’ll find in the instructions for authors, but approximately 100–200 words are what you have to work with. Check the guidelines before you start writing.
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.
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.
You should now be able to use keywords to write an effective title and abstract.
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Check out our further resources for help with writing your paper.