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. A strong correlation exists between online hits and subsequent citations for journal articles, therefore it is important to have effective keywords.
But how do you choose your keywords? Put yourself in the mindset of someone searching for articles on your topic, what words or phrases would you enter? Before you begin your list, check the Instructions for Authors on your journals TFO homepage. There may be specific journal requirements on many keywords to choose. If not specified, you could look through a recent paper to get an idea.
Here are some tips on creating your list of keywords.
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. It’s vital to incorporate your most relevant keywords in your title. This will make your article more discoverable in relevant online searches. It should include 1-2 keywords, and these keywords should be within the first 65 characters of your title so that they are visible in the search engine results.
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
(Definition of abstract from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
Think about article abstracts that you have read in the past. What qualities would encourage you to read the full article? Is there anything that would put you off delving any deeper into the article? Consider these factors when creating your own.
When writing an abstract, you should focus on:
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 write an abstract that will win readers over.
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 for the word count before you start writing.
As you would expect, accuracy is crucial in a good abstract. Whatever you argue or claim in the abstract must reflect what is in the main body of your article. There’s no room for discussion, or introducing any further points.
Ensure that the abstract is self-contained, without abbreviations, footnotes, or incomplete references. It should be a concise summary that makes sense on its own. Include keywords throughout, but make sure the writing still flows naturally.
You should also avoid including any images, background information or technical terms that may not be understood without further explanation.
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. For further information, visit our writing a review article page.
You can see in the below abstract a clear and concise title built around five keywords highlighting the main points covered in the article. Keywords are used throughout the abstract in a natural way, without affecting readability.
Modelling malaria dynamics with partial immunity and protected travellers: optimal control and cost-effectiveness analysis
A mathematical model of malaria dynamics with naturally acquired transient immunity in the presence of protected travellers is presented. The qualitative analysis carried out on the autonomous model reveals the existence of backward bifurcation, where the locally asymptotically stable malaria-free and malaria-present equilibria coexist as the basic reproduction number crosses unity. The increased fraction of protected travellers is shown to reduce the basic reproduction number significantly. Particularly, optimal control theory is used to analyse the non-autonomous model, which incorporates four control variables. The existence result for the optimal control quadruple, which minimizes malaria infection and costs of implementation, is explicitly proved. Effects of combining at least any three of the control variables on the malaria dynamics are illustrated. Furthermore, the cost-effectiveness analysis is carried out to reveal the most cost-effective strategy that could be implemented to prevent and control the spread of malaria with limited resources.
A video abstract lets you introduce readers to your article in your own words, telling others why they should read your research.
These short videos (three minutes or less) are published alongside the text abstract on Taylor & Francis Online and are an increasingly popular way of getting others to engage with published research, increasing the visibility of your work.
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Check out our further resources for help with writing your paper.