• How to setup your software
  • Sample MLA Paper – normal paper
  • Sample MLA Paper – has cover page
  • Sample APA Paper
  • Sample Chicago Paper
  • Sample CSE Paper
  • APA Format Guidelines

MLA Format Sub-headings

If you would like to utilize subheadings (subtitles) in your research paper, it is a good idea to first check with your instructor to be 100% sure what subheading format he/she would like you to use.

Depending on how long your paper is, you will need either one level subheadings or several levels subheadings

One Level Subheadings:

Format : centered, capitalize the first letter but not the whole subtitle.

MLA Format, Sample Subheadings

MLA Format One Level Subheading

*Visit this full  sample paper for ideas!

Multi-Level Subheadings:

If your paper has subtitles under subtitles, see the format below. Be sure to check with your instructor first if he/she agrees with this format before you decide to use it.

LevelFormat
1Boldface, flush left
2Italicized, flush left
3Boldface, centered
4Italicized, centered
5Underlined, flush left
– Do not capitalize the whole subheadings. Capitalize the first important letters (Example: Limitations of the Study)- A subheading should always have at least two lines of text following it. If a subheading happens to fall at the bottom of a page, move to the next page and start the subheading at the top of the new page.

– MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th Edition – Writing the Research Paper, 7th Edition.

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  • The Format of the Research Paper
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  • MLA Citations
  • MLA Format Works Cited
  • MLA Format FAQs
  • MLA Format Sample Paper
  • MLA Sample Paper w/ Cover and Outline Pages

HOW TO SETUP YOUR SOFTWARE

  • MLA Format using Google Docs
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Copyright © 2011–2024 • MLA Format • All rights reserved. Currently, MLA is at its 8th edition. This website has no official relationship with the Modern Language Association and is not endorsed by the MLA.

APA Style 7th Edition: Citing Your Sources

  • Basics of APA Formatting
  • In Text Quick View
  • Block Quotes
  • Books & eBooks
  • Thesis/Dissertation
  • Audiovisual
  • Conference Presentations
  • Social Media
  • Legal References
  • Reports and Gray Literature

Mechanics of Style

Standard formatting quick guide, abbreviations.

  • Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
  • Additional Resources
  • Reference Page

Refer to Ch. 6 Mechanics of style in the APA Publication Manual 7th ed. regarding specific guidelines regarding the mechanics of style for writing.

  • Use 1" margins for the entire document.
  • Use a 1/2" indent for every paragraph and footnote.
  • Indent set-off quotations 1/2" from the left margin.

Text Formatting

  • Should be accessible to all users
  • The same font should be used throughout paper
  • San serif fonts preferred for online works (Recommend 11pt Calibri, 11-point Arial, or 10pt Lucida Sans Unicode)
  • Serif fonts preferred for print works (Recommend 12pt Times New Roman or 11pt Georgia)
  • Figure images- use a sans serif font with a type size between 8 and 14
  • Computer code- use a monospace font (ex. 10pt Lucida Console or 10pt Courier New)
  • Footnotes- default footnote settings of word-processing program acceptable
  • Do not justify the text or use hyphenation.
  • One space after a period

Page Header

  • Doesn't have to be same as title, but limited to 50 characters and conveys the idea of the title
  • If title is less than 50 characters, can be used as running head
  • Avoid using abbreviations in the running head
  • Appears flush left in all-capital letters
  • Page number should be flush right.
  • If title is longer than one line, separate the title and subtitle on double-spaced lines if desired
  • Center the author's/authors' name directly under the title.
  • Format the name omitting titles (Dr, Prof, etc.) and degrees: First name, middle initial, last name.
  • Center the institutional affiliation directly under the author's/authors' name.
  • Author's note (not applicable to student papers)
  • Course number and name of course
  • Instructor name
  • Assignment due date
  • Running head in page header, flush left (not applicable to student papers)
  • Page number in page header, flush right

Introduction

  • Begin introduction on a new page.
  • Type the title in title case, bold, centered and positioned at the top of the first page of text
  • Do not type the heading "Introduction," title will act as de facto Level 1 heading
  • Use Level 2 heading for any subsections within introduction, Level 3 for subsections of Level 2, and so on
  • Use Level 1 heading for next main section of paper

References (Reference Page)

  • Starts on new page
  • The word " References " should appear (without quotation marks) centered at the top of the page, bold
  • Double-space all reference entries
  • Use a hanging indent for reference- first line of each reference is flush with the left margin while subsequent lines are indented.
  • Use footnotes to provide additional content or acknowledge copyright permission
  • Content footnotes convey just one idea and only include simple, relevant or essential information
  • Use a footnote to acknowledge the source of lengthy quotes, scale and test items, and figures or tables that have been reproduced or adapted
  • Number all footnotes consecutively in the order they appear, use superscript Arabic numerals within the text
  • For separate page- Label section "Footnotes" in bold, centered at the top of the page.  Write footnotes as double-spaced indented paragraphs which begin with superscript footnote number.
  • Begin each appendix on a new page following references and footnotes (if applicable).
  • If single appendix, label page "Appendix."
  • If there is more than one appendix, label each with with a capital letter (ex. "Appendix A," "Appendix B" and so forth) in the order they're mentioned in the text
  • If text appendix contains tables, figures, footnotes and/or display equations, give each one a number preceded by the letter of the appendix in which it appears (ex. Figure A2 for the second figure in Appendix A).
  • If appendix "consists of only a table or figure, then the appendix label takes the place of the table or figure number and the appendix title takes the place of the table or figure title."

Adapted from American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed).  https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000

  • APA Paper Format Find quick answers to basic APA formatting directly from APA Style
  • Annotated Sample Student Paper

The correct form of abbreviation must be used in reference lists:

chap. chapter
ed. edition
Rev. ed. Revised edition
2nd ed. second edition
Ed. (Eds.) Editor (Editors)
Trans. Translators
n.d. no date
p. (pp.) Page (pages)
Vol. Volume (as in Vol. 4)
Vols. Volumes (as in 4 vols.)
No. Number
Pt. Part
Tech. Rep. Technical Report
Suppl. supplement
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  • Last Updated: Jun 13, 2024 1:51 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.usc.edu/APA7th

Can I Use the Subtitles in a Research Paper?

Quick Navigation

First of all, it is necessary to provide a detailed explanation of both notions mentioned above. How can we define a research paper? In general, the notion of research paper refers to the form of academic writing that reminds an expanded essay.

Such academic writing may imply the writer’s own arguments as well as the ideas mentioned by different researchers in their scientific publications. Another notion that should be discussed is a subtitle that can also be regarded as a subheading. In simple terms, writing the subtitles implies the use of different section headings within the chapters included in a research paper.

Can You Use the Subtitles in a Research Paper?

Yes, you can use subtitles in your academic writing assignment, but they should be used wisely and correctly. While working on the organization of a research paper, remember that you can use the major sections and different subheadings to set up a good plan for this particular college assignment.

It is a well-known fact that students were not allowed to use headings in formal writing a few years ago. Many American students were assigned with writing a significant number of academic papers, researches, nursing papers , essays, etc. The interesting thing that should be mentioned is that they were not allowed to use the major headings and subheadings in their formal writings.

However, taking into consideration the current American system of education, it can be concluded that such strong restrictions do not exist anymore. At present, all the college undergraduates have a great opportunity to structure their writing assignments without the obligation to follow the guidelines. Actually, students are required to take into account some basic rules relative to the structure a research paper as well as to its organization.

Do the APA and MLA Research Papers Have Subtitles?

Yes, they do. Generally speaking, you can create certain subtitles while working on the research paper written either in MLA format or in APA style. The important thing to be mentioned is that each of the two paper formats has certain guidelines that should be followed. If you are interested in this issue, continue reading the article and making the notes. Below, you can find the main guidelines of both paper formats that are discussed separately.

Section Headings in MLA Format

The first and foremost thing that should be mentioned is the fact that MLA style does not require the specific section titles within different parts of a research paper. In the case, if you have decided to use the major headings and subheadings in your paper, do your best to divide the entire writing assignment into several logical sections. In these circumstances, make an attempt to examine different aspects of your research topic. Then, taking into account the topic of your research and the main purpose of this particular writing, you may use some brainstorming techniques to generate the interesting ideas and develop them in your research paper.

For the illustrative purposes, we can take the common topic for the majority of college undergraduates – “Gun Violence in the United States”. Since this topic is too broad, it is highly recommended to divide your research paper into different parts and create the effective headings within the paper’s sections.

  • Section 1 – A Brief History of Guns in the United States;
  • Section 2 – Current Politics of Gun Control;
  • Section 3 – Gun Ownership in the United States;
  • Section 4 – Policing Gun Violence;
  • Section 5 – More Guns – More Violence or Less Crime;
  • Section 6 – The Importance of Gun Violence Prevention and Intervention.

Section Headings in APA Format

First of all, you have to read the given instructions carefully. If you are required to use APA format to write a research paper, you have to remember that this particular writing style implies the use of five different heading levels. Apart from that, it is highly recommended to use various subheadings only on the condition that your research paper has two and more subsections within a larger section.

  • First-level headings should be centered and bolded; all the first letters should be capitalized;
  • Second-level – are situated flush left; first letters of all the words have to be capitalized as well;
  • Third-level – bolded, indented five spaces from the left, and followed by a period;
  • Fourth-level – italicized or bolded, indented five spaces from the left, and followed by a period respectively;
  • Fifth-level – italicized, indented five spaces from the left, and followed by a period.

Tips on Using Major Headings and Subheadings in the Paper

  • Make sure that the wording of different questions discussed in your research paper is relevant and consistent.
  • Every heading should be linked to a subject of a preceding passage.
  • Check whether your headings do not have any punctuation mistakes.

Is it Important to Use Subheadings in a Research Paper?

Yes, it is critical to use the subtitles in a research paper because of many important reasons.

  • Some subheadings may encourage the readers’ interest in the given writing;
  • These particular elements of paper’s structure make the writing more readable.

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American Psychological Association

Headings identify the content within sections of a paper.

Make your headings descriptive and concise. Headings that are well formatted and clearly worded aid both visual and nonvisual readers of all abilities.

Levels of heading

There are five levels of heading in APA Style. Level 1 is the highest or main level of heading, Level 2 is a subheading of Level 1, Level 3 is a subheading of Level 2, and so on through Levels 4 and 5.

The number of headings to use in a paper depends on the length and complexity of the work.

  • If only one level of heading is needed, use Level 1.
  • If two levels of heading are needed, use Levels 1 and 2.
  • If three levels of heading are needed, use Levels 1, 2, and 3 (and so on).

Use only the number of headings necessary to differentiate distinct sections in your paper; short student papers may not require any headings. Furthermore, avoid these common errors related to headings:

  • Avoid having only one subsection heading within a section, just like in an outline.
  • Do not label headings with numbers or letters.
  • Double-space headings; do not switch to single spacing within headings.
  • Do not add blank lines above or below headings, even if a heading falls at the end of a page.

Headings are covered in the seventh edition APA Style manuals in the Publication Manual Sections 2.26 and 2.27 and the Concise Guide Sections 1.25 and 1.26

subtitles in a research paper

Related handouts

  • Heading Levels Template: Student Paper (PDF, 257KB)
  • Heading Levels Template: Professional Paper (PDF, 213KB)

Format of headings

The following table demonstrates how to format headings in APA Style.

1

Text begins as a new paragraph.

 

2

Text begins as a new paragraph.

 

3

Text begins as a new paragraph.

 

4

Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph.

 

5

Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph.

 

Note. In title case, most words are capitalized .

Headings in the introduction

Because the first paragraphs of a paper are understood to be introductory, the heading “Introduction” is not needed. Do not begin a paper with an “Introduction” heading; the paper title at the top of the first page of text acts as a de facto Level 1 heading.

It is possible (but not required) to use headings within the introduction. For subsections within the introduction, use Level 2 headings for the first level of subsection, Level 3 for subsections of any Level 2 headings, and so on. After the introduction (regardless of whether it includes headings), use a Level 1 heading for the next main section of the paper (e.g., Method).

Creating accessible headings

Writers who use APA Style may use the automatic headings function of their word-processing program to create headings. This not only simplifies the task of formatting headings but also ensures that headings are coded appropriately in any electronic version of the paper, which aids readers who use navigation tools and assistive technologies such as screen readers. 

Here are some tips on how to create headings in some common word-processing programs:

  • If you use Academic Writer to write your APA Style papers, the headings menu in the Writing Center will format headings for you in 7th edition APA Style.
  • Follow these headings directions from Microsoft to customize the heading formats for your future use.
  • To apply Level 4 and 5 headings (which are inline headings, meaning the heading appears on the same line as paragraph text), first type the heading and a few words of the text that follows. Then highlight the text that you want to be your heading and select the appropriate heading level from the Styles menu. Only the highlighted text will be formatted as the Level 4 or 5 heading.

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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

Level of Information Text Example
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3     
Level 4         
Level 5             

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Level of Information Text Example
Level 1
Level 1
Level 1
Level 1

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

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Research Paper Guide

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Ever find it hard to come up with a catchy title for your research paper? You're not alone! Many people struggle with creating titles that grab attention and show what their work is about.

It can be frustrating because your title is like a first impression. If it's not interesting, people might ignore your research. 

But no worries! 

In this blog, we'll give you practical tips and examples to make sure your research paper title stands out. 

Whether you're a beginner or an expert, we want to help you write research paper titles that would make others excited about your work!

So, let’s get started.

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  • 1. What is a Research Paper Title, and Why Does it Matter?
  • 2. How to Write a Good Research Paper Title in 5 Steps
  • 3. Step 2: Keep it Clear and Concise
  • 4. Research Paper Title Examples
  • 5. Tips for Writing an Effective Research Paper Title

What is a Research Paper Title, and Why Does it Matter?

A research paper title is like the name tag for your work. It tells people what your research paper is about. It's the first thing readers see, and it's important because it helps them decide if they want to read more.

Think of it like this: Have you ever picked up a book because the title sounded interesting? It's kind of the same idea. A good title grabs attention and makes people curious about what's inside.

In the world of research, a well-crafted title is crucial because it sets the stage for your whole paper. 

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Key Characteristics of a Good Research Paper Title

Here are some important factors that create an engaging and interesting research paper title:

  • Clarity and Precision: Clearly conveys the main idea.
  • Relevance to Content: Reflects core focus and findings.
  • Conciseness: Keeps title brief and to the point.
  • Keywords and Phrases: Includes important search keywords.
  • Captivating Language: Engages interest without sacrificing accuracy.
  • Reflects Paper's Tone: Matches the research paper's tone and style.

How to Write a Good Research Paper Title in 5 Steps

Writing an effective research paper title doesn't have to be difficult. Follow these five straightforward steps to craft a title that not only reflects your research but also captures the reader's interest.

Step 1: Understand Your Paper's Main Message

Think of your research as a big idea or a story. Imagine it as the most important thing you want to share with others. 

Ask yourself: What's the main thing or research problem I want people to know about my research? 

Once you're clear on this, you're ready to move on.

If your research study is about the benefits of reading for mental well-being. Your main message could be: "The Magic of Books: Reading for a Happier Mind."

Step 2: Keep it Clear and Concise

When making your title, make it short and simple. Don't use too many words or make it confusing. 

The goal is to make it easy for people to understand what your paper is about right away. Think of it like telling a quick and clear story with your title!

Suppose your research is about the positive effects of outdoor activities on mental well-being. 

A clear and concise title could be: "Nature's Therapy: Boosting Mental Health Outdoors."

Step 3: Be Specific, Not Too General

When writing your title, make sure it talks about your research and not just anything general. Don't use titles that could fit lots of different studies. 

Being specific helps people know exactly what your paper is going to tell them. It's like giving them a clear roadmap to your research!

General Title: "The Impact of Music on People"

Specific Title: "Harmony in the Classroom: Exploring Music's Influence on Student Concentration in Learning Environments"

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Step 4: Inject a Hint of Creativity or Intrigue

Make your title a little exciting! Use engaging words or ask a fun question to make people curious. Imagine your title as a little mystery that makes them want to learn more

For a study on the benefits of laughter on mental health, a creative title could be: "Giggle Therapy: The Joyful Impact on Mental Well-being."

Step 5: Check for Keywords and Relevance

Think about the words people might use when searching for research like yours. Use those words in your title to help people find your work. 

Including relevant keywords can improve the visibility of your paper in searches.

Suppose your study is about the use of social media in relationships. A relevant title might be: "Social Connect: Navigating Relationships in the Digital Age."

Adding a Research Paper Subtitle

A research paper subtitle is like an extra description that comes after the main title. It gives more details about what your research is about. 

Adding a subtitle is a choice, but it can be helpful. If your main title is short and you want to say more about your research, a subtitle is a good idea. 

It's like a bonus that provides extra information for readers. Consider using a subtitle when you want to give a bit more insight into your research topic.

Let's say your main title is "The Impact of Climate Change on Wildlife." If you want to add more specifics, you can include a subtitle like "Adapting Habits and Conservation Strategies." 

Research Paper Title Examples

Check out the examples below and see how they perform in front of different factors:

"Exploring the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Modern Society"GoodGoodGoodGood
"Investigating the Relationship Between Exercise and Overall Well-being in Adults"GoodGoodAverageGood
"A Comparative Study of Different Renewable Energy Sources for Sustainable Solutions"AverageGoodGoodGood
"Analyzing the Effects of Social Media on the Behavior of Adolescents in the Digital Age"GoodGoodGoodGood
"Urban Gardening: Enhancing Sustainable Living in Modern Cities"GoodGoodGoodGood

Tips for Writing an Effective Research Paper Title

Follow these tips to make your research paper title engaging and attention-grabbing:

  • Add important words related to your research for better search results.
  • Make your title brief and clear to convey your research focus effectively.
  • Use words that grab attention and spark curiosity about your study.
  • Craft a title that anyone, whether an expert or newcomer, can understand.
  • Aim for a title that's not too general or too technical, striking the right balance.

In conclusion,

Writing a standout research paper title is a crucial step to ensure your work gets the attention it deserves. Following the simple tips shared in this guide can help you create a title that is clear, engaging, and perfectly aligned with your research focus. 

Remember, your title is the first thing readers see, so making it count is key!

However, if you need writing assistance, MyPerfectWords.com is here for you. Our skilled writers are not only ready to help with writing compelling titles but can also write custom research paper just for you.

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How to Make a Research Paper Title with Examples

subtitles in a research paper

What is a research paper title and why does it matter?

A research paper title summarizes the aim and purpose of your research study. Making a title for your research is one of the most important decisions when writing an article to publish in journals. The research title is the first thing that journal editors and reviewers see when they look at your paper and the only piece of information that fellow researchers will see in a database or search engine query. Good titles that are concise and contain all the relevant terms have been shown to increase citation counts and Altmetric scores .

Therefore, when you title research work, make sure it captures all of the relevant aspects of your study, including the specific topic and problem being investigated. It also should present these elements in a way that is accessible and will captivate readers. Follow these steps to learn how to make a good research title for your work.

How to Make a Research Paper Title in 5 Steps

You might wonder how you are supposed to pick a title from all the content that your manuscript contains—how are you supposed to choose? What will make your research paper title come up in search engines and what will make the people in your field read it? 

In a nutshell, your research title should accurately capture what you have done, it should sound interesting to the people who work on the same or a similar topic, and it should contain the important title keywords that other researchers use when looking for literature in databases. To make the title writing process as simple as possible, we have broken it down into 5 simple steps.

Step 1: Answer some key questions about your research paper

What does your paper seek to answer and what does it accomplish? Try to answer these questions as briefly as possible. You can create these questions by going through each section of your paper and finding the MOST relevant information to make a research title.

“What is my paper about?”  
“What methods/techniques did I use to perform my study?
“What or who was the subject of my study?” 
“What did I find?”

Step 2: Identify research study keywords

Now that you have answers to your research questions, find the most important parts of these responses and make these your study keywords. Note that you should only choose the most important terms for your keywords–journals usually request anywhere from 3 to 8 keywords maximum.

-program volume
-liver transplant patients
-waiting lists
-outcomes
-case study

-US/age 20-50
-60 cases

-positive correlation between waitlist volume and negative outcomes

Step 3: Research title writing: use these keywords

“We employed a case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years to assess how waiting list volume affects the outcomes of liver transplantation in patients; results indicate a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and negative prognosis after the transplant procedure.”

The sentence above is clearly much too long for a research paper title. This is why you will trim and polish your title in the next two steps.

Step 4: Create a working research paper title

To create a working title, remove elements that make it a complete “sentence” but keep everything that is important to what the study is about. Delete all unnecessary and redundant words that are not central to the study or that researchers would most likely not use in a database search.

“ We employed a case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years to assess how the waiting list volume affects the outcome of liver transplantation in patients ; results indicate a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and a negative prognosis after transplant procedure ”

Now shift some words around for proper syntax and rephrase it a bit to shorten the length and make it leaner and more natural. What you are left with is:

“A case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years assessing the impact of waiting list volume on outcome of transplantation and showing a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and a negative prognosis” (Word Count: 38)

This text is getting closer to what we want in a research title, which is just the most important information. But note that the word count for this working title is still 38 words, whereas the average length of published journal article titles is 16 words or fewer. Therefore, we should eliminate some words and phrases that are not essential to this title.

Step 5: Remove any nonessential words and phrases from your title

Because the number of patients studied and the exact outcome are not the most essential parts of this paper, remove these elements first:

 “A case study of 60 liver transplant patients around the US aged 20-50 years assessing the impact of waiting list volume on outcomes of transplantation and showing a positive correlation between increased waiting list volume and a negative prognosis” (Word Count: 19)

In addition, the methods used in a study are not usually the most searched-for keywords in databases and represent additional details that you may want to remove to make your title leaner. So what is left is:

“Assessing the impact of waiting list volume on outcome and prognosis in liver transplantation patients” (Word Count: 15)

In this final version of the title, one can immediately recognize the subject and what objectives the study aims to achieve. Note that the most important terms appear at the beginning and end of the title: “Assessing,” which is the main action of the study, is placed at the beginning; and “liver transplantation patients,” the specific subject of the study, is placed at the end.

This will aid significantly in your research paper title being found in search engines and database queries, which means that a lot more researchers will be able to locate your article once it is published. In fact, a 2014 review of more than 150,000 papers submitted to the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) database found the style of a paper’s title impacted the number of citations it would typically receive. In most disciplines, articles with shorter, more concise titles yielded more citations.

Adding a Research Paper Subtitle

If your title might require a subtitle to provide more immediate details about your methodology or sample, you can do this by adding this information after a colon:

“ : a case study of US adult patients ages 20-25”

If we abide strictly by our word count rule this may not be necessary or recommended. But every journal has its own standard formatting and style guidelines for research paper titles, so it is a good idea to be aware of the specific journal author instructions , not just when you write the manuscript but also to decide how to create a good title for it.

Research Paper Title Examples

The title examples in the following table illustrate how a title can be interesting but incomplete, complete by uninteresting, complete and interesting but too informal in tone, or some other combination of these. A good research paper title should meet all the requirements in the four columns below.

Advantages of Meditation for Nurses: A Longitudinal StudyYesNoNoYesYes
Why Focused Nurses Have the Highest Nursing ResultsNoYesYesNoYes
A Meditation Study Aimed at Hospital NursesNoNoNoNoYes
Mindfulness on the Night Shift: A Longitudinal Study on the Impacts of Meditation on Nurse ProductivityYesYesYesYesNo
Injective Mindfulness: Quantitative Measurements of Medication on Nurse Productivity YesYesYesYesYes

Tips on Formulating a Good Research Paper Title

In addition to the steps given above, there are a few other important things you want to keep in mind when it comes to how to write a research paper title, regarding formatting, word count, and content:

  • Write the title after you’ve written your paper and abstract
  • Include all of the essential terms in your paper
  • Keep it short and to the point (~16 words or fewer)
  • Avoid unnecessary jargon and abbreviations
  • Use keywords that capture the content of your paper
  • Never include a period at the end—your title is NOT a sentence

Research Paper Writing Resources

We hope this article has been helpful in teaching you how to craft your research paper title. But you might still want to dig deeper into different journal title formats and categories that might be more suitable for specific article types or need help with writing a cover letter for your manuscript submission.

In addition to getting English proofreading services , including paper editing services , before submission to journals, be sure to visit our academic resources papers. Here you can find dozens of articles on manuscript writing, from drafting an outline to finding a target journal to submit to.

What Are Subtitles In A Paper

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Introduction

When it comes to writing a paper, there are several elements that contribute to its overall structure and organization. One such element is the use of subtitles. Subtitles, also known as subheadings or headings, are short phrases or titles that provide a concise summary of the content that follows. They serve as a roadmap for readers, helping them navigate through the paper and understand the main points being discussed.

The use of subtitles in a paper is not only a stylistic choice but also an important tool for effective communication. Subtitles help break down complex ideas into smaller, more manageable sections, making it easier for readers to grasp the main ideas and follow the logical flow of the paper. Additionally, subtitles provide visual cues that assist readers in skimming through the paper and quickly locating specific information.

Whether you are writing an essay, research paper, or any other academic document, using subtitles can greatly enhance the reader’s experience and understanding. By structuring your paper with clear and informative subtitles, you can present your ideas in a cohesive and organized manner, making it easier for readers to engage with your content.

In the following sections, we will explore the purpose and importance of subtitles in academic writing, as well as provide guidelines and examples for effectively using subtitles in your paper. But before we delve into those details, let us first understand what exactly subtitles are and how they differ from headings and subheadings.

Definition of Subtitles

Before we delve into the benefits and guidelines for using subtitles in a paper, it is important to establish a clear understanding of what exactly subtitles are and how they differ from headings and subheadings.

Subtitles, also known as subheadings or headings, are concise phrases or titles that provide a brief summary of the content that follows. They are typically used in written materials, such as papers, articles, books, and presentations, to break down the main text into smaller, more manageable sections.

Unlike headings, which are used to designate major sections or chapters within a document, subtitles are used to further divide these sections into more specific categories or topics. They provide a hierarchical structure to the content, allowing readers to easily navigate through the paper and locate relevant information.

Subtitles are often distinguished from headings by their formatting. While headings are typically presented in a larger font size, subtitles are usually formatted with bold text or placed within quotation marks to visually differentiate them from the main text. This visual distinction makes it easier for readers to identify and locate specific sections within a paper.

It is crucial to note that the use of subtitles should be consistent throughout the paper. Ideally, they should be used in a logical and systematic manner, following a clear and coherent structure. This ensures that readers can easily follow the flow of ideas and connect the different sections of the paper.

Now that we have established the definition of subtitles and their role in organizing a paper, let us explore the purpose and importance of using subtitles in academic writing.

Purpose of Subtitles in a Paper

The use of subtitles in a paper serves various purposes that contribute to effective communication and enhanced reader comprehension. Understanding the purpose of subtitles can help you strategically incorporate them into your writing to create a well-structured and engaging document.

One of the primary purposes of subtitles is to guide the reader through the content of the paper. By providing clear and descriptive titles for different sections, subtitles act as signposts, indicating the main ideas or topics covered in each section. This helps readers orient themselves and understand the overall organization of the paper, making it easier for them to navigate through the text and locate specific information.

Furthermore, subtitles facilitate the skimming and scanning of a paper. In academic settings, readers often have limited time and may need to quickly assess the relevance of a document to their research or study. Subtitles provide visual cues that allow readers to skim through the paper and identify sections or subsections that are of particular interest. This not only helps readers save time but also encourages them to engage with the content more effectively.

In addition to aiding navigation and skimming, subtitles also improve the readability of a paper. Breaking down large blocks of text into smaller, subsections with descriptive subtitles makes the content more digestible. This is especially important for academic papers that may contain complex concepts or lengthy discussions. Subtitles provide a logical structure to the content, allowing readers to follow the flow of ideas and maintain focus throughout the paper.

Another purpose of subtitles is to highlight key points or arguments within the paper. By using concise and informative subtitles, you can draw attention to important concepts, findings, or discussions. This helps readers understand the significance of specific sections and enables them to selectively dive deeper into the content that is most relevant to their needs.

Overall, the purpose of subtitles in a paper is to improve readability, facilitate navigation, and enhance the overall comprehensibility of the content. By strategically incorporating subtitles, you can guide your readers through your paper, provide visual cues for efficient skim reading, and create a more engaging and accessible document.

Importance of Subtitles in Academic Writing

Subtitles play a crucial role in academic writing, offering significant benefits for both writers and readers. Recognizing the importance of subtitles can help you improve the clarity, organization, and overall impact of your academic papers.

First and foremost, subtitles help improve the overall structure and organization of academic writing. By breaking down the content into smaller sections with clear subtitles, you create a sense of coherence and logical progression. This not only makes it easier for readers to understand your arguments and ideas but also enables you to organize your thoughts better as a writer. Subtitles help you communicate your main points effectively, ensuring that your paper flows smoothly and is easy to follow.

Additionally, subtitles enhance the readability of academic papers. When readers encounter lengthy paragraphs or dense text, they can quickly become overwhelmed, leading to reduced comprehension. Subtitles provide visual breaks in the text, making the content more accessible and digestible. The use of subtitles allows readers to skim through the paper, locate relevant information, and focus on specific sections that align with their research interests or needs. This not only improves the reader’s experience but also increases the chances of your paper being read and cited by others.

Furthermore, subtitles in academic writing help to improve the overall accessibility and inclusivity of your paper. Different readers may have varying levels of background knowledge or may be approaching your paper from different disciplinary perspectives. Subtitles allow readers to quickly assess the content of each section, enabling them to decide which sections are most relevant to their interests or expertise. This ensures that your paper can be accessed and understood by a wider range of readers, fostering interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration.

The use of subtitles in academic writing also promotes effective communication of complex ideas. Academic papers often address intricate concepts or present detailed findings. By breaking down these ideas into smaller sections with descriptive subtitles, you can guide readers through the content and help them grasp the main arguments or findings. Subtitles serve as signposts, highlighting the key points and ensuring that readers can follow the logical flow of your paper, even when dealing with intricate subject matter.

In summary, the importance of subtitles in academic writing cannot be overstated. They contribute to the overall structure, readability, accessibility, and clarity of your papers. By incorporating subtitles strategically, you improve the organization of your ideas, enhance the reader’s experience, and increase the impact and reach of your academic work.

Guidelines for Using Subtitles in a Paper

Using subtitles effectively is essential for creating a well-structured and accessible academic paper. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your subtitles enhance the overall organization and readability of your work.

1. Be clear and concise: Subtitles should accurately reflect the content of the section while being concise and informative. Avoid using vague or overly broad titles that may confuse the reader. Instead, choose subtitles that provide a clear and concise summary of what will be discussed in that particular section.

2. Maintain a logical hierarchy: Subtitles should follow a logical hierarchy, with main sections identified by larger headings and subsections labeled with subheadings. This hierarchical structure helps readers grasp the overall organization of your paper and understand the relationships between different sections.

3. Ensure parallelism: When using subtitles for multiple sections within the same level, make sure they have a consistent structure. This means using parallel grammatical form, such as using all nouns, verbs, or phrases, to maintain consistency and clarity.

4. Avoid redundancy: Subtitles should provide new and distinct information from the main heading. Avoid duplicating words or phrases that are already mentioned in the main title. Instead, use the subtitle to add additional details or to focus on a specific aspect of the main topic.

5. Consider your audience: Take into account the background and expertise of your intended audience when crafting subtitles. Use terminology and language that is appropriate for your target readership, ensuring that the subtitles are accessible and understandable to them.

6. Use formatting consistently: Formatting is an important aspect of subtitles. Consistently follow the formatting guidelines provided by your institution or publisher. This may include using bold text, italicization, or quotation marks to distinguish subtitles from the main text.

7. Review for coherence: Once you have incorporated subtitles into your paper, review the overall flow and coherence of the sections. Ensure that the subtitles create a logical progression and help guide the reader through your arguments or findings. Adjust and revise as necessary to create a seamless and well-organized document.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can effectively incorporate subtitles into your academic writing, creating a clear and organized paper that is accessible to your readers.

Formatting Subtitles in a Paper

Formatting subtitles in a paper is essential for visually distinguishing them from the main text and creating a clear hierarchy of information. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your subtitles are formatted consistently and effectively.

1. Use appropriate font size and style: Subtitles should be formatted using a slightly larger font size than the main text to make them stand out. However, they should not be excessively larger, as this may disrupt the flow and visual coherence of the paper. Choose a font style that is clear and easy to read, such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri.

2. Utilize bold or italics: To further emphasize subtitles, you can use bold or italics formatting. Decide on a consistent approach for your subtitles and apply the same formatting throughout the paper. For example, you may choose to use bold for main section subtitles and italics for subsections. This helps visually differentiate the different levels of subtitles.

3. Consider using numbering or lettering: In certain cases, such as when presenting a step-by-step process or outlining multiple points, using numbering or lettering can provide clarity and organization. This helps readers understand the sequence or hierarchy of the information being presented. Ensure that the formatting for the numbering or lettering is clear and easily distinguishable from the main text.

4. Use consistent punctuation: Decide on a consistent style for punctuation in subtitles and apply it throughout the paper. For example, you may choose to use sentence case (capitalizing only the first word and any proper nouns) or title case (capitalizing the first letter of each word). Consistency in punctuation helps maintain the visual coherence and professionalism of your paper.

5. Maintain a clear hierarchy: Formatting should reflect the hierarchical structure of your paper. Use larger headings for major sections and smaller subheadings for subsections. Consider using a different font size or formatting style for each level of subtitles to visually indicate the hierarchy. This makes it easier for readers to navigate your paper and locate specific sections.

6. Follow specific style guidelines: Depending on the academic discipline or publication guidelines, there may be specific rules for formatting subtitles. Familiarize yourself with the recommended style guide, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago style, and adhere to their formatting guidelines for subtitles. This ensures consistency and compliance with academic standards.

7. Proofread for consistency: After formatting your subtitles, take the time to proofread your paper for consistency. Check that the font sizes, styles, and punctuation are applied uniformly throughout the document. Consistent formatting enhances the professional appearance of your paper and facilitates readability for your audience.

By following these formatting guidelines, you can effectively structure and present subtitles in your paper, enhancing readability and aiding in the navigation of your content.

Examples of Subtitles in Different Disciplines

Subtitles in academic writing can vary depending on the specific discipline or field of study. Different disciplines may have their own conventions and expectations for how subtitles are used. Here are some examples of how subtitles are commonly employed in various disciplines:

1. Social Sciences: In social sciences, subtitles are often used to indicate different research questions or hypotheses being addressed within a study. For example:

  • “The Effects of Social Media on Adolescent Mental Health: A Quantitative Analysis”
  • “Factors Influencing Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections: A Comparative Study”

2. Natural Sciences: In natural sciences, subtitles are commonly used to outline different stages of an experimental procedure or to present key findings and interpretations. For example:

  • “Experimental Setup and Materials”
  • “Results and Discussion: Analysis of Growth Patterns”

3. Humanities: In humanities disciplines, subtitles are often employed to present different themes or topics within an overall argument or analysis. For example:

  • “Exploring Symbolism in the Novels of Virginia Woolf”
  • “The Evolution of Renaissance Art: A Comparative Study of Italian and Flemish Painting”

4. Engineering and Technology: In engineering and technology disciplines, subtitles are frequently used to indicate different stages or components of a design or experimental process. For example:

  • “Design and Fabrication of a Microfluidic Chip for Drug Delivery”
  • “Testing and Evaluation of Mechanical Properties: Tensile Strength and Hardness”

5. Business and Management: In business and management fields, subtitles may be used to outline different aspects of a case study, business plan, or strategic analysis. For example:

  • “Case Study: Success Factors in International Market Entry”
  • “Strategic Analysis: SWOT Analysis and Competitive Landscape”

These examples provide a glimpse into how subtitles are commonly employed in different disciplines. However, it is important to consult the specific style guidelines or preferences of your field when formatting and structuring subtitles in your own academic writing.

Final Thoughts on Using Subtitles in a Paper

Using subtitles in a paper can greatly enhance its organization, readability, and overall impact. By considering the purpose and following the guidelines for using subtitles effectively, you can create a well-structured and engaging academic document.

Subtitles serve as signposts, guiding readers through the content and aiding in the navigation of the paper. They break down complex ideas into smaller, more manageable sections, making it easier for readers to follow the flow of your arguments or findings.

When incorporating subtitles, it is important to be clear, concise, and consistent. Use descriptive subtitles that accurately reflect the content of each section. Maintain a logical hierarchy and formatting style for your subtitles, ensuring they are visually distinguishable from the main text.

Remember to consider your audience when crafting subtitles, using terminology and language that is appropriate for your readership. Avoid redundancy and ensure that the subtitles add new and distinct information to the overarching title.

Keep in mind that different disciplines may have specific conventions for using subtitles. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines and style requirements of your field to ensure consistency and compliance.

Overall, subtitles play a vital role in improving the organization, readability, and accessibility of academic papers. They facilitate effective communication, aid in skimming and scanning, and enhance the overall reading experience for your audience.

Incorporating subtitles demonstrates your mastery of structuring information and catering to the needs of your readers. By utilizing them strategically, you can effectively convey your ideas, promote understanding, and engage with your audience more effectively.

Remember to proofread your paper for consistency and coherence, ensuring that the subtitles contribute to the overall flow and logical progression of your arguments or findings.

By utilizing and formatting subtitles thoughtfully, you can create a well-organized and impactful paper that captivates readers and effectively communicates your research or ideas.

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  • v.13(Suppl 1); 2019 Apr

Writing the title and abstract for a research paper: Being concise, precise, and meticulous is the key

Milind s. tullu.

Department of Pediatrics, Seth G.S. Medical College and KEM Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

This article deals with formulating a suitable title and an appropriate abstract for an original research paper. The “title” and the “abstract” are the “initial impressions” of a research article, and hence they need to be drafted correctly, accurately, carefully, and meticulously. Often both of these are drafted after the full manuscript is ready. Most readers read only the title and the abstract of a research paper and very few will go on to read the full paper. The title and the abstract are the most important parts of a research paper and should be pleasant to read. The “title” should be descriptive, direct, accurate, appropriate, interesting, concise, precise, unique, and should not be misleading. The “abstract” needs to be simple, specific, clear, unbiased, honest, concise, precise, stand-alone, complete, scholarly, (preferably) structured, and should not be misrepresentative. The abstract should be consistent with the main text of the paper, especially after a revision is made to the paper and should include the key message prominently. It is very important to include the most important words and terms (the “keywords”) in the title and the abstract for appropriate indexing purpose and for retrieval from the search engines and scientific databases. Such keywords should be listed after the abstract. One must adhere to the instructions laid down by the target journal with regard to the style and number of words permitted for the title and the abstract.

Introduction

This article deals with drafting a suitable “title” and an appropriate “abstract” for an original research paper. Because the “title” and the “abstract” are the “initial impressions” or the “face” of a research article, they need to be drafted correctly, accurately, carefully, meticulously, and consume time and energy.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 ] Often, these are drafted after the complete manuscript draft is ready.[ 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 9 , 10 , 11 ] Most readers will read only the title and the abstract of a published research paper, and very few “interested ones” (especially, if the paper is of use to them) will go on to read the full paper.[ 1 , 2 ] One must remember to adhere to the instructions laid down by the “target journal” (the journal for which the author is writing) regarding the style and number of words permitted for the title and the abstract.[ 2 , 4 , 5 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 12 ] Both the title and the abstract are the most important parts of a research paper – for editors (to decide whether to process the paper for further review), for reviewers (to get an initial impression of the paper), and for the readers (as these may be the only parts of the paper available freely and hence, read widely).[ 4 , 8 , 12 ] It may be worth for the novice author to browse through titles and abstracts of several prominent journals (and their target journal as well) to learn more about the wording and styles of the titles and abstracts, as well as the aims and scope of the particular journal.[ 5 , 7 , 9 , 13 ]

The details of the title are discussed under the subheadings of importance, types, drafting, and checklist.

Importance of the title

When a reader browses through the table of contents of a journal issue (hard copy or on website), the title is the “ first detail” or “face” of the paper that is read.[ 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 13 ] Hence, it needs to be simple, direct, accurate, appropriate, specific, functional, interesting, attractive/appealing, concise/brief, precise/focused, unambiguous, memorable, captivating, informative (enough to encourage the reader to read further), unique, catchy, and it should not be misleading.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 9 , 12 ] It should have “just enough details” to arouse the interest and curiosity of the reader so that the reader then goes ahead with studying the abstract and then (if still interested) the full paper.[ 1 , 2 , 4 , 13 ] Journal websites, electronic databases, and search engines use the words in the title and abstract (the “keywords”) to retrieve a particular paper during a search; hence, the importance of these words in accessing the paper by the readers has been emphasized.[ 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 12 , 14 ] Such important words (or keywords) should be arranged in appropriate order of importance as per the context of the paper and should be placed at the beginning of the title (rather than the later part of the title, as some search engines like Google may just display only the first six to seven words of the title).[ 3 , 5 , 12 ] Whimsical, amusing, or clever titles, though initially appealing, may be missed or misread by the busy reader and very short titles may miss the essential scientific words (the “keywords”) used by the indexing agencies to catch and categorize the paper.[ 1 , 3 , 4 , 9 ] Also, amusing or hilarious titles may be taken less seriously by the readers and may be cited less often.[ 4 , 15 ] An excessively long or complicated title may put off the readers.[ 3 , 9 ] It may be a good idea to draft the title after the main body of the text and the abstract are drafted.[ 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ]

Types of titles

Titles can be descriptive, declarative, or interrogative. They can also be classified as nominal, compound, or full-sentence titles.

Descriptive or neutral title

This has the essential elements of the research theme, that is, the patients/subjects, design, interventions, comparisons/control, and outcome, but does not reveal the main result or the conclusion.[ 3 , 4 , 12 , 16 ] Such a title allows the reader to interpret the findings of the research paper in an impartial manner and with an open mind.[ 3 ] These titles also give complete information about the contents of the article, have several keywords (thus increasing the visibility of the article in search engines), and have increased chances of being read and (then) being cited as well.[ 4 ] Hence, such descriptive titles giving a glimpse of the paper are generally preferred.[ 4 , 16 ]

Declarative title

This title states the main finding of the study in the title itself; it reduces the curiosity of the reader, may point toward a bias on the part of the author, and hence is best avoided.[ 3 , 4 , 12 , 16 ]

Interrogative title

This is the one which has a query or the research question in the title.[ 3 , 4 , 16 ] Though a query in the title has the ability to sensationalize the topic, and has more downloads (but less citations), it can be distracting to the reader and is again best avoided for a research article (but can, at times, be used for a review article).[ 3 , 6 , 16 , 17 ]

From a sentence construct point of view, titles may be nominal (capturing only the main theme of the study), compound (with subtitles to provide additional relevant information such as context, design, location/country, temporal aspect, sample size, importance, and a provocative or a literary; for example, see the title of this review), or full-sentence titles (which are longer and indicate an added degree of certainty of the results).[ 4 , 6 , 9 , 16 ] Any of these constructs may be used depending on the type of article, the key message, and the author's preference or judgement.[ 4 ]

Drafting a suitable title

A stepwise process can be followed to draft the appropriate title. The author should describe the paper in about three sentences, avoiding the results and ensuring that these sentences contain important scientific words/keywords that describe the main contents and subject of the paper.[ 1 , 4 , 6 , 12 ] Then the author should join the sentences to form a single sentence, shorten the length (by removing redundant words or adjectives or phrases), and finally edit the title (thus drafted) to make it more accurate, concise (about 10–15 words), and precise.[ 1 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 9 ] Some journals require that the study design be included in the title, and this may be placed (using a colon) after the primary title.[ 2 , 3 , 4 , 14 ] The title should try to incorporate the Patients, Interventions, Comparisons and Outcome (PICO).[ 3 ] The place of the study may be included in the title (if absolutely necessary), that is, if the patient characteristics (such as study population, socioeconomic conditions, or cultural practices) are expected to vary as per the country (or the place of the study) and have a bearing on the possible outcomes.[ 3 , 6 ] Lengthy titles can be boring and appear unfocused, whereas very short titles may not be representative of the contents of the article; hence, optimum length is required to ensure that the title explains the main theme and content of the manuscript.[ 4 , 5 , 9 ] Abbreviations (except the standard or commonly interpreted ones such as HIV, AIDS, DNA, RNA, CDC, FDA, ECG, and EEG) or acronyms should be avoided in the title, as a reader not familiar with them may skip such an article and nonstandard abbreviations may create problems in indexing the article.[ 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 9 , 12 ] Also, too much of technical jargon or chemical formulas in the title may confuse the readers and the article may be skipped by them.[ 4 , 9 ] Numerical values of various parameters (stating study period or sample size) should also be avoided in the titles (unless deemed extremely essential).[ 4 ] It may be worthwhile to take an opinion from a impartial colleague before finalizing the title.[ 4 , 5 , 6 ] Thus, multiple factors (which are, at times, a bit conflicting or contrasting) need to be considered while formulating a title, and hence this should not be done in a hurry.[ 4 , 6 ] Many journals ask the authors to draft a “short title” or “running head” or “running title” for printing in the header or footer of the printed paper.[ 3 , 12 ] This is an abridged version of the main title of up to 40–50 characters, may have standard abbreviations, and helps the reader to navigate through the paper.[ 3 , 12 , 14 ]

Checklist for a good title

Table 1 gives a checklist/useful tips for drafting a good title for a research paper.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 12 ] Table 2 presents some of the titles used by the author of this article in his earlier research papers, and the appropriateness of the titles has been commented upon. As an individual exercise, the reader may try to improvise upon the titles (further) after reading the corresponding abstract and full paper.

Checklist/useful tips for drafting a good title for a research paper

The title needs to be simple and direct
It should be interesting and informative
It should be specific, accurate, and functional (with essential scientific “keywords” for indexing)
It should be concise, precise, and should include the main theme of the paper
It should not be misleading or misrepresentative
It should not be too long or too short (or cryptic)
It should avoid whimsical or amusing words
It should avoid nonstandard abbreviations and unnecessary acronyms (or technical jargon)
Title should be SPICED, that is, it should include Setting, Population, Intervention, Condition, End-point, and Design
Place of the study and sample size should be mentioned only if it adds to the scientific value of the title
Important terms/keywords should be placed in the beginning of the title
Descriptive titles are preferred to declarative or interrogative titles
Authors should adhere to the word count and other instructions as specified by the target journal

Some titles used by author of this article in his earlier publications and remark/comment on their appropriateness

TitleComment/remark on the contents of the title
Comparison of Pediatric Risk of Mortality III, Pediatric Index of Mortality 2, and Pediatric Index of Mortality 3 Scores in Predicting Mortality in a Pediatric Intensive Care UnitLong title (28 words) capturing the main theme; site of study is mentioned
A Prospective Antibacterial Utilization Study in Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of a Tertiary Referral CenterOptimum number of words capturing the main theme; site of study is mentioned
Study of Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia in a Pediatric Intensive Care UnitThe words “study of” can be deleted
Clinical Profile, Co-Morbidities & Health Related Quality of Life in Pediatric Patients with Allergic Rhinitis & AsthmaOptimum number of words; population and intervention mentioned
Benzathine Penicillin Prophylaxis in Children with Rheumatic Fever (RF)/Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD): A Study of ComplianceSubtitle used to convey the main focus of the paper. It may be preferable to use the important word “compliance” in the beginning of the title rather than at the end. Abbreviations RF and RHD can be deleted as corresponding full forms have already been mentioned in the title itself
Performance of PRISM (Pediatric Risk of Mortality) Score and PIM (Pediatric Index of Mortality) Score in a Tertiary Care Pediatric ICUAbbreviations used. “ICU” may be allowed as it is a commonly used abbreviation. Abbreviations PRISM and PIM can be deleted as corresponding full forms are already used in the title itself
Awareness of Health Care Workers Regarding Prophylaxis for Prevention of Transmission of Blood-Borne Viral Infections in Occupational ExposuresSlightly long title (18 words); theme well-captured
Isolated Infective Endocarditis of the Pulmonary Valve: An Autopsy Analysis of Nine CasesSubtitle used to convey additional details like “autopsy” (i.e., postmortem analysis) and “nine” (i.e., number of cases)
Atresia of the Common Pulmonary Vein - A Rare Congenital AnomalySubtitle used to convey importance of the paper/rarity of the condition
Psychological Consequences in Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Survivors: The Neglected OutcomeSubtitle used to convey importance of the paper and to make the title more interesting
Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease: Clinical Profile of 550 patients in IndiaNumber of cases (550) emphasized because it is a large series; country (India) is mentioned in the title - will the clinical profile of patients with rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease vary from country to country? May be yes, as the clinical features depend on the socioeconomic and cultural background
Neurological Manifestations of HIV InfectionShort title; abbreviation “HIV” may be allowed as it is a commonly used abbreviation
Krabbe Disease - Clinical ProfileVery short title (only four words) - may miss out on the essential keywords required for indexing
Experience of Pediatric Tetanus Cases from MumbaiCity mentioned (Mumbai) in the title - one needs to think whether it is required in the title

The Abstract

The details of the abstract are discussed under the subheadings of importance, types, drafting, and checklist.

Importance of the abstract

The abstract is a summary or synopsis of the full research paper and also needs to have similar characteristics like the title. It needs to be simple, direct, specific, functional, clear, unbiased, honest, concise, precise, self-sufficient, complete, comprehensive, scholarly, balanced, and should not be misleading.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 13 , 17 ] Writing an abstract is to extract and summarize (AB – absolutely, STR – straightforward, ACT – actual data presentation and interpretation).[ 17 ] The title and abstracts are the only sections of the research paper that are often freely available to the readers on the journal websites, search engines, and in many abstracting agencies/databases, whereas the full paper may attract a payment per view or a fee for downloading the pdf copy.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 7 , 8 , 10 , 11 , 13 , 14 ] The abstract is an independent and stand-alone (that is, well understood without reading the full paper) section of the manuscript and is used by the editor to decide the fate of the article and to choose appropriate reviewers.[ 2 , 7 , 10 , 12 , 13 ] Even the reviewers are initially supplied only with the title and the abstract before they agree to review the full manuscript.[ 7 , 13 ] This is the second most commonly read part of the manuscript, and therefore it should reflect the contents of the main text of the paper accurately and thus act as a “real trailer” of the full article.[ 2 , 7 , 11 ] The readers will go through the full paper only if they find the abstract interesting and relevant to their practice; else they may skip the paper if the abstract is unimpressive.[ 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 13 ] The abstract needs to highlight the selling point of the manuscript and succeed in luring the reader to read the complete paper.[ 3 , 7 ] The title and the abstract should be constructed using keywords (key terms/important words) from all the sections of the main text.[ 12 ] Abstracts are also used for submitting research papers to a conference for consideration for presentation (as oral paper or poster).[ 9 , 13 , 17 ] Grammatical and typographic errors reflect poorly on the quality of the abstract, may indicate carelessness/casual attitude on part of the author, and hence should be avoided at all times.[ 9 ]

Types of abstracts

The abstracts can be structured or unstructured. They can also be classified as descriptive or informative abstracts.

Structured and unstructured abstracts

Structured abstracts are followed by most journals, are more informative, and include specific subheadings/subsections under which the abstract needs to be composed.[ 1 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 13 , 17 , 18 ] These subheadings usually include context/background, objectives, design, setting, participants, interventions, main outcome measures, results, and conclusions.[ 1 ] Some journals stick to the standard IMRAD format for the structure of the abstracts, and the subheadings would include Introduction/Background, Methods, Results, And (instead of Discussion) the Conclusion/s.[ 1 , 2 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 17 , 18 ] Structured abstracts are more elaborate, informative, easy to read, recall, and peer-review, and hence are preferred; however, they consume more space and can have same limitations as an unstructured abstract.[ 7 , 9 , 18 ] The structured abstracts are (possibly) better understood by the reviewers and readers. Anyway, the choice of the type of the abstract and the subheadings of a structured abstract depend on the particular journal style and is not left to the author's wish.[ 7 , 10 , 12 ] Separate subheadings may be necessary for reporting meta-analysis, educational research, quality improvement work, review, or case study.[ 1 ] Clinical trial abstracts need to include the essential items mentioned in the CONSORT (Consolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials) guidelines.[ 7 , 9 , 14 , 19 ] Similar guidelines exist for various other types of studies, including observational studies and for studies of diagnostic accuracy.[ 20 , 21 ] A useful resource for the above guidelines is available at www.equator-network.org (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research). Unstructured (or non-structured) abstracts are free-flowing, do not have predefined subheadings, and are commonly used for papers that (usually) do not describe original research.[ 1 , 7 , 9 , 10 ]

The four-point structured abstract: This has the following elements which need to be properly balanced with regard to the content/matter under each subheading:[ 9 ]

Background and/or Objectives: This states why the work was undertaken and is usually written in just a couple of sentences.[ 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 12 , 13 ] The hypothesis/study question and the major objectives are also stated under this subheading.[ 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 12 , 13 ]

Methods: This subsection is the longest, states what was done, and gives essential details of the study design, setting, participants, blinding, sample size, sampling method, intervention/s, duration and follow-up, research instruments, main outcome measures, parameters evaluated, and how the outcomes were assessed or analyzed.[ 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 17 ]

Results/Observations/Findings: This subheading states what was found, is longer, is difficult to draft, and needs to mention important details including the number of study participants, results of analysis (of primary and secondary objectives), and include actual data (numbers, mean, median, standard deviation, “P” values, 95% confidence intervals, effect sizes, relative risks, odds ratio, etc.).[ 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 17 ]

Conclusions: The take-home message (the “so what” of the paper) and other significant/important findings should be stated here, considering the interpretation of the research question/hypothesis and results put together (without overinterpreting the findings) and may also include the author's views on the implications of the study.[ 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 17 ]

The eight-point structured abstract: This has the following eight subheadings – Objectives, Study Design, Study Setting, Participants/Patients, Methods/Intervention, Outcome Measures, Results, and Conclusions.[ 3 , 9 , 18 ] The instructions to authors given by the particular journal state whether they use the four- or eight-point abstract or variants thereof.[ 3 , 14 ]

Descriptive and Informative abstracts

Descriptive abstracts are short (75–150 words), only portray what the paper contains without providing any more details; the reader has to read the full paper to know about its contents and are rarely used for original research papers.[ 7 , 10 ] These are used for case reports, reviews, opinions, and so on.[ 7 , 10 ] Informative abstracts (which may be structured or unstructured as described above) give a complete detailed summary of the article contents and truly reflect the actual research done.[ 7 , 10 ]

Drafting a suitable abstract

It is important to religiously stick to the instructions to authors (format, word limit, font size/style, and subheadings) provided by the journal for which the abstract and the paper are being written.[ 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 13 ] Most journals allow 200–300 words for formulating the abstract and it is wise to restrict oneself to this word limit.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 22 ] Though some authors prefer to draft the abstract initially, followed by the main text of the paper, it is recommended to draft the abstract in the end to maintain accuracy and conformity with the main text of the paper (thus maintaining an easy linkage/alignment with title, on one hand, and the introduction section of the main text, on the other hand).[ 2 , 7 , 9 , 10 , 11 ] The authors should check the subheadings (of the structured abstract) permitted by the target journal, use phrases rather than sentences to draft the content of the abstract, and avoid passive voice.[ 1 , 7 , 9 , 12 ] Next, the authors need to get rid of redundant words and edit the abstract (extensively) to the correct word count permitted (every word in the abstract “counts”!).[ 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 13 ] It is important to ensure that the key message, focus, and novelty of the paper are not compromised; the rationale of the study and the basis of the conclusions are clear; and that the abstract is consistent with the main text of the paper.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 7 , 9 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 17 , 22 ] This is especially important while submitting a revision of the paper (modified after addressing the reviewer's comments), as the changes made in the main (revised) text of the paper need to be reflected in the (revised) abstract as well.[ 2 , 10 , 12 , 14 , 22 ] Abbreviations should be avoided in an abstract, unless they are conventionally accepted or standard; references, tables, or figures should not be cited in the abstract.[ 7 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 13 ] It may be worthwhile not to rush with the abstract and to get an opinion by an impartial colleague on the content of the abstract; and if possible, the full paper (an “informal” peer-review).[ 1 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 11 , 17 ] Appropriate “Keywords” (three to ten words or phrases) should follow the abstract and should be preferably chosen from the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) list of the U.S. National Library of Medicine ( https://meshb.nlm.nih.gov/search ) and are used for indexing purposes.[ 2 , 3 , 11 , 12 ] These keywords need to be different from the words in the main title (the title words are automatically used for indexing the article) and can be variants of the terms/phrases used in the title, or words from the abstract and the main text.[ 3 , 12 ] The ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors; http://www.icmje.org/ ) also recommends publishing the clinical trial registration number at the end of the abstract.[ 7 , 14 ]

Checklist for a good abstract

Table 3 gives a checklist/useful tips for formulating a good abstract for a research paper.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 17 , 22 ]

Checklist/useful tips for formulating a good abstract for a research paper

The abstract should have simple language and phrases (rather than sentences)
It should be informative, cohesive, and adhering to the structure (subheadings) provided by the target journal. Structured abstracts are preferred over unstructured abstracts
It should be independent and stand-alone/complete
It should be concise, interesting, unbiased, honest, balanced, and precise
It should not be misleading or misrepresentative; it should be consistent with the main text of the paper (especially after a revision is made)
It should utilize the full word capacity allowed by the journal so that most of the actual scientific facts of the main paper are represented in the abstract
It should include the key message prominently
It should adhere to the style and the word count specified by the target journal (usually about 250 words)
It should avoid nonstandard abbreviations and (if possible) avoid a passive voice
Authors should list appropriate “keywords” below the abstract (keywords are used for indexing purpose)

Concluding Remarks

This review article has given a detailed account of the importance and types of titles and abstracts. It has also attempted to give useful hints for drafting an appropriate title and a complete abstract for a research paper. It is hoped that this review will help the authors in their career in medical writing.

Financial support and sponsorship

Conflicts of interest.

There are no conflicts of interest.

Acknowledgement

The author thanks Dr. Hemant Deshmukh - Dean, Seth G.S. Medical College & KEM Hospital, for granting permission to publish this manuscript.

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How to title a research paper

The title is probably the most imperative single element of a research paper. It is the first thing reviewers and editors see when going through a research paper and an indication of what to expect from that paper. It is usually the main information that turns up in search engine queries or databases. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that the title captures all pertinent aspects of an individual’s research paper and presents it in a mature and attractive way. There are different steps to follow while writing a compelling research paper title, as discussed below.

Steps on how to construct research title

Step 1: Question yourself about your research paper and note the answers

Consider what the document is intended to answer and what it is meant to achieve. One can answer those questions briefly with one or two sentences. The questions can be created by going through each part of the paper and finding the most critical information. The following are some examples of questions that can be asked and their relevant answers.

What is the paper about?

Example: The paper focuses on how to title a research paper.

What are the methods used to perform research?

Example: I used a case study.

Who or what was the subject of the study?

Example: I studied several articles and journals on how to title a research paper.

What were the results?

The study identified significant factors that improved performance for the studied phenomenon “X”.

Step 2: Identify the keywords and phrases from those responses

  • Title a research paper
  • Significant factors

Step 3 : Use keywords in creating a long sentence

For example: The study was based on a case study of the fast food industry and investigated the nutritional content of several fast food items in North America.

If the sentence seems to be long, you can trim and polish it to the required title length.

Step 4: Creating a tentative or working title

The working or tentative title is created early during research progression as it helps to anchor the study’s focus, in the same manner the research problem does. The working title can also help reorient the researcher back to the study’s key focus if he finds himself drifting off while writing. The final title to be submitted is created after completing the research to capture what has been done.

When creating a working title, you have to remove some elements while still retaining everything necessary to what the study is about. Delete the needless or redundant words that are not central to the research or words that other researchers might fail to use in a database search.

Example: The study was based on a case study of the fast food industry and investigated the nutritional content of several fast food items in North America.

After removing some words or phrases, you can rephrase the emerging title for appropriate syntax. Therefore, the sentence can read as:

A case study of the fast food industry: exploring the nutritional content of fast food items in North America

The above title is suitable for a case study. But you could even shorten it further.

Example: Steps on how to title a research paper.

The final title

In the final version of the title, one can recognize the objectives and the research paper’s subject. It is important to note that essential terms are written at the end and beginning of a title, aiding significantly in being found in database queries and search engines so that more researchers can locate the research after being published.

There are several characteristics of compelling titles in research papers that reflect general principles:

  • Accurately designate the subject and aim of the study
  • Use abbreviations or acronyms rarely unless they are commonly known
  • Make use of recent vocabulary from the field of study
  • Make use of words that stimulate readers interest and create a positive impression
  • Identify crucial variables, both independent and dependent
  • Reflect the relationship between such variables
  • Not very lengthy
  • Not include redundant words and phrases
  • Can take the form of a declarative statement or a question
  • Avoid using an exclamation mark at the end of the title

However, some research papers follow rules prescribed by Style Guides (such as MLA, Chicago, APA, etc). Endeavour to observe such rules for your title if it is mandatory for your research paper.

Adding a subtitle

In case one feels the need to include a subtitle to detail more about a methodology or a sample, you can do so by putting a colon before the information chosen.

Example: ….…. : a case study of steps followed in titling a research paper.

Subtitles are often used in social science research papers, and the following are some reasons one can include a subtitle in their research.

  • To explain or provide further context
  • To add substance to a provocative, literary, or imaginative quote or a title
  • To indicate the geographic location where the study was conducted
  • Qualify the time-based scope of the research paper
  • When one is focused on investigating the work, ideas, or theories of a particular individual
  • To identify the methodology used
  • To explain the predominant technique for analyzing the research problem

To conclude, every journal has its style guidelines and standard formatting for titles. Hence, it is vital to be aware of them when writing the title of your research paper (and all the other parts). Make sure your title captures what is intended to be answered in the research paper.

PS: You may also want to explore some less serious research titles that are quiet humour. Examples of this includes:

miR miR on the wall, who’s the most malignant medulloblastoma miR of them all? Leaf me alone: visual constraints on the ecology of social group formation

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Getting the title right

book titles.

The title is the first thing you write. It is the moment you decide what is the purpose, focus and message of your article.

The title is also the first thing we will see of your published article. Whether we decide to click and read the abstract, or download the full article depends – at least, partly - on this first impression.

In this blogpost, I share some thoughts on what makes a good title, and how to come up with one. Even if you can´t find a great title for your article, what you can definitely do is avoid a bad one. I start with tips on what to avoid, proceed with properties and examples of good titles and finish with an illustration of how to get a decent title for a paper.

Five big ‘No’s.

A good title should be informative, argumentative and intriguing. And that’s all - any extra words that do not inform us or intrigue us about the argument, question, hypothesis or contribution of your article are redundant.

While it is difficult to come up with strong titles, you can start by avoiding bad ones!

Never do the following (disclosure - I’ve done all five of them):

Don't tell us in the title what is it that you are doing (‘a study of’, ‘lessons from’, ‘insights on’, ‘the case of’, ‘a comparison of’, ‘exploring’, ‘investigating’, ‘assessing’, ‘evaluating’, ‘measuring’). We know that this is a research paper. Go ahead and tell us what you found, not what you did.

Do not add dead words or words that are too general, such as: ‘beyond’, ‘from … to …’, ‘towards a’.

Avoid clichés and platitudes (‘exploring the contradictions of’, ‘integrating the’, ‘revealing the complexity of’). We know that research objects are complex (we wouldn’t study them if they were not), that causal relations in the real world are contradictory, or that integrating is better than separating.

Don´t tell us the method you are using or the approach you are following (‘a survey of’, ‘an econometric panel data analysis of’, ‘a case study of’, ‘an interdisciplinary perspective’). Exception: do it if the innovation of your paper is the method itself - but then tell us what your innovation is, not the name of your method.

Don’t try too hard to be witty. I’ve seen one too many papers that are ‘a tale of two’ .. islands, rivers, case-studies, ethnographies or surveys. I am sure there are also papers that are ‘gone with the wind’, or worst, ‘gone with the sea’.

Ashamed of past sins

Consider this title of an early paper of mine. “The EU water framework directive: measures and implications” .

Terrible. Boring as hell. I don’t want to read this paper and I am the one who wrote it.

What is wrong with this title?

First, it does not inform the reader about the purpose of my research or my argument. The reader only learns that I am analysing a legislative piece called the Water Framework Directive.

Second, ‘measures’ and ‘implications’ are descriptive, redundant terms. I am analysing a legislation, so of course I will describe its measures and talk about its implications.

The reader does not learn what is interesting or new about my analysis – no hint of what I found or what I will argue. I do not intrigue you to read the paper (unless you are a serious water nerd).

The three elements of a good title

What makes a great title?

Let me repeat.

A good title is informative: the core variables, phenomena or concepts you are contributing to, are there. The purpose of your paper is clear.

A better title is also argumentative: your (hypo)thesis, core finding, or politically-relevant conclusion is there. Ideally, this may include the process that connects your core variables, or the empirical pattern you demonstrate for your phenomenon.

A great title is also intriguing (without being cheesy): it attracts the attention of the reader, it promises something interesting and a new argument or explanation that the reader has not encountered before.

Most of us can write good titles. Titles that inform about the research we did (e.g. my “Social metabolism, ecological distribution conflicts, and valuation languages” ). The challenge is to go the extra mile and write great titles – titles that let the reader know not only what you researched, but also what you found. Titles that intrigue the reader to read your paper.  

Learn from the champs

Consider two of the most cited titles in environmental studies.

‘ Limits to growth ’. It can´t get better than that. In just three words, the title informs you what this work is about: growth and its limits. The thesis, novelty and contribution are clear: unlike what others claim, this piece will argue that there are limits to growth – unlike others studying the causes of growth, this work studies the limits to growth. And this makes it intriguing.

Or Garett Hardin’s four-worded ‘tragedy of the commons’ . By reading the title you know what it is about: the commons. You also get the process, or hypothesis, Hardin is going to demonstrate and explain – the collapse of the commons.

The argument is intriguing: commons end up in tragedy. Written at the height of the Cold War, Hardin’s paper had an underlying political message: commons (shorthand for communism) end up in tragedy and there is a scientific reason why this is so. Like or dislike his conclusion, you are curious to read his paper and you want to engage with the argument, to support it or refute it.

My own In defence of degrowth tries something similar. It is short. It is politically provocative. And it is informative: the reader knows this paper is going to be about growth and degrowth.

But it lacks something that the limits or tragedy titles have: they make an argument. They have a thesis. My title does not say why or how I defend degrowth. (I could add a subtitle to capture this, but then some of the intrigue would be lost – see further on about subtitles and title length).

This is fine. We can´t be perfect. Rules can be broken. If your title is informative and intriguing enough, I think you can excuse yourself if you cannot capture also the thesis within the title.

Create some suspense with a question

Good research papers have good research questions. And good questions can be effective titles. Question titles lack an argument, but they intrigue with suspense.

Consider Daron Acemoglu’s and James Robinson’s ‘Why nations fail’ . You sure want to know why nations fail!

The book deals with the study of so-called ‘state failure’ – corruption and the collapse of government institutions. Instead of using this academic terminology, it uses simple language that speaks to everyone, while hinting to academics what it is about.

Another good question-title my ex-classmate Nathan McClintock came up with is ‘Why farm the city?’

I’ve seen scores of recent articles on urban agriculture (or urban gardening). I would never read one called ‘Beyond existing explanations of urban agriculture: lessons and contradictions’. But I am intrigued to learn why so many people suddenly farm in cities.

Often a subtitle follows a main, shorter title. ´Why nations fail´ for example, is followed by ‘The origins of power, prosperity and poverty´. ‘Why farm the city’ is followed by the more esoteric ‘Theorizing urban agriculture through the lens of metabolic rift’.

A subtitle explains or provides context to a shorter main title, it sets the place and time under study or the method used, and adds substance if your main title is a catchy visual cue, verbal quote or open question.

If you can avoid a subtitle, and your title is powerful enough on its own, I would say avoid it. Hardin did. Adding the place, time or method of your research weakens the generality of your claim – the reader will find this information in the abstract or the paper anyway. Darwin did not have to explain that his study of the origin of species covered millions of years and was based on specimens collected in England and the Galapagos.

Too short or too long?

One reason I am sceptical of subtitles is because very long headings tend to be confusing. As a rule of thumb, a title, including the subtitle, should be between 5 and 15 words.

I am personally fan of ‘short is beautiful’. If you can say it in three or four words, go for it!

Why nations fail? Why farm the city? The tragedy of the commons. The origin of species. You don’t need to say more than that.

Fair enough: you may feel you are not Darwin yet. A longer title with many dead words diminishes your claim to contribution and makes you feel safer. But time to get out of your comfort zone and stake the relevance of your research. If it is not relevant, why did you do it? And why do you want us to read it?

Lively titles

A common title structure used in the social sciences is “Lively cue: informative title”.

The lively cue takes the form of a visual cue, a metaphor, a pun, a literary reference or a quote from something someone said.

As I wrote, if you have to try hard to be witty, then don’t. Do it only if the cue comes naturally to you and only if it is your thesis.

Consider Robert Putnam’s ‘Bowling alone: America's declining social capital’ .

The thesis, and core finding of the book - that social bonds are weakening in the U.S. - is in the title for you to see: a person bowling alone. The subtitle informs you about the phenomenon studied, ‘social capital’ - and the process that is demonstrated empirically: the ‘decline’ of social capital. This is the perfect use of the cue: it really drives home the message of what this book is about, with a visual metaphor that speaks to all of us. The subtitle explains and asserts scientific credibility: make no mistake this is not a book about bowling.

Consider instead the title I chose with my friends Christos Zografos and Erik Gomez for our paper ‘To value or not to value? That is not the question’ .

The paper deals with the monetary valuation of nature: should we try to calculate the worth of a river? Our Shakespearean hint points to the quasi-existential dimension of this dilemma among ecological economists, the audience of this particular article. ‘That is not the question’ summarises our conclusion: the terms of the debate are wrong.

Looking back at it, I find our title somewhat pompous. The rest of the article is an esoteric debate on methods of monetary valuation with arcane academic language. The comparison to a Shakespearean drama makes us good candidates to be covered by the Onion .

My advice: use wit with caution and only if you are 100% sure that you can pull it off. Like an airplane cockpit, journal articles are not the place to be funny - titles even less so. Be aware of the risk when you use literary or other references. You might seem to be exaggerating the importance of your own work (we are the Shakespeares of ecological economics) – not a good idea, more so if you are a starting researcher.

Same principles apply to quotes from interviews. Don’t do it unless the quote is your thesis. Consider a title like “‘Let them die alone’: homelessness and social exclusion in downtown New York” (I imagined this).

‘Let them die alone’ could be a phrase that an officer, businessman or an angry neighbour told you the researcher. If the core thesis of your article is that there is an intentional abandonment of homeless people, and as a result they die, then this quotation is impactful.

If however your article is about something different, say increasing numbers of homelessness and unfair housing policies, or if you touch only peripherally on questions of intentional neglect, then the phrase is just sensational and distractive.

If you end up using a quote, make sure that it is grammatically correct, and that its meaning is crystal clear to everyone. Using quotes in the title is risky if you are not a native speaker. Many of my students are not (I am not either). Translating quotes from interviews they took in Spanish or Greek often times do not make sense in English.

Let’s do this!

You know what your article is going to be about. It's time to baptise it! I have created a workbook with a three step process to help you create better titles. Click on the image below to access the workbook.

workbook image.

If you tried any of this and it worked or didn't work let me know in the comments below. And if you have other tips to share, please let us know!

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Written by Giorgos Kallis

Giorgos Kallis is an ICREA professor of environmental science at ICTA in Barcelona. Giorgos has degrees in Chemistry, Economics, Environmental Engineering and Environmental Policy and Planning. Before coming to Barcelona, he was a Marie Curie Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley.

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Research Method

Home » Research Paper Title – Writing Guide and Example

Research Paper Title – Writing Guide and Example

Table of Contents

Research Paper Title

Research Paper Title

Research Paper Title is the name or heading that summarizes the main theme or topic of a research paper . It serves as the first point of contact between the reader and the paper, providing an initial impression of the content, purpose, and scope of the research . A well-crafted research paper title should be concise, informative, and engaging, accurately reflecting the key elements of the study while also capturing the reader’s attention and interest. The title should be clear and easy to understand, and it should accurately convey the main focus and scope of the research paper.

Examples of Research Paper Title

Here are some Good Examples of Research Paper Title:

  • “Investigating the Relationship Between Sleep Duration and Academic Performance Among College Students”
  • “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Employment: A Systematic Review”
  • “The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis”
  • “Exploring the Effects of Social Support on Mental Health in Patients with Chronic Illness”
  • “Assessing the Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial”
  • “The Impact of Social Media Influencers on Consumer Behavior: A Systematic Review”
  • “Investigating the Link Between Personality Traits and Leadership Effectiveness”
  • “The Effect of Parental Incarceration on Child Development: A Longitudinal Study”
  • “Exploring the Relationship Between Cultural Intelligence and Cross-Cultural Adaptation: A Meta-Analysis”
  • “Assessing the Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Chronic Pain Management”.
  • “The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health: A Meta-Analysis”
  • “The Impact of Climate Change on Global Crop Yields: A Longitudinal Study”
  • “Exploring the Relationship between Parental Involvement and Academic Achievement in Elementary School Students”
  • “The Ethics of Genetic Editing: A Review of Current Research and Implications for Society”
  • “Understanding the Role of Gender in Leadership: A Comparative Study of Male and Female CEOs”
  • “The Effect of Exercise on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial”
  • “The Impacts of COVID-19 on Mental Health: A Cross-Cultural Comparison”
  • “Assessing the Effectiveness of Online Learning Platforms: A Case Study of Coursera”
  • “Exploring the Link between Employee Engagement and Organizational Performance”
  • “The Effects of Income Inequality on Social Mobility: A Comparative Analysis of OECD Countries”
  • “Exploring the Relationship Between Social Media Use and Mental Health in Adolescents”
  • “The Impact of Climate Change on Crop Yield: A Case Study of Maize Production in Sub-Saharan Africa”
  • “Examining the Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: A Meta-Analysis”
  • “An Analysis of the Relationship Between Employee Job Satisfaction and Organizational Commitment”
  • “Assessing the Impacts of Wilderness Areas on Local Economies: A Case Study of Yellowstone National Park”
  • “The Role of Parental Involvement in Early Childhood Education: A Review of the Literature”
  • “Investigating the Effects of Technology on Learning in Higher Education”
  • “The Use of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: Opportunities and Challenges”
  • “A Study of the Relationship Between Personality Traits and Leadership Styles in Business Organizations”.

How to choose Research Paper Title

Choosing a research paper title is an important step in the research process. A good title can attract readers and convey the essence of your research in a concise and clear manner. Here are some tips on how to choose a research paper title:

  • Be clear and concise: A good title should convey the main idea of your research in a clear and concise manner. Avoid using jargon or technical language that may be confusing to readers.
  • Use keywords: Including keywords in your title can help readers find your paper when searching for related topics. Use specific, descriptive terms that accurately describe your research.
  • Be descriptive: A descriptive title can help readers understand what your research is about. Use adjectives and adverbs to convey the main ideas of your research.
  • Consider the audience : Think about the audience for your paper and choose a title that will appeal to them. If your paper is aimed at a specialized audience, you may want to use technical terms or jargon in your title.
  • Avoid being too general or too specific : A title that is too general may not convey the specific focus of your research, while a title that is too specific may not be of interest to a broader audience. Strive for a title that accurately reflects the focus of your research without being too narrow or too broad.
  • Make it interesting : A title that is interesting or provocative can capture the attention of readers and draw them into your research. Use humor, wordplay, or other creative techniques to make your title stand out.
  • Seek feedback: Ask colleagues or advisors for feedback on your title. They may be able to offer suggestions or identify potential problems that you hadn’t considered.

Purpose of Research Paper Title

The research paper title serves several important purposes, including:

  • Identifying the subject matter : The title of a research paper should clearly and accurately identify the topic or subject matter that the paper addresses. This helps readers quickly understand what the paper is about.
  • Catching the reader’s attention : A well-crafted title can grab the reader’s attention and make them interested in reading the paper. This is particularly important in academic settings where there may be many papers on the same topic.
  • Providing context: The title can provide important context for the research paper by indicating the specific area of study, the research methods used, or the key findings.
  • Communicating the scope of the paper: A good title can give readers an idea of the scope and depth of the research paper. This can help them decide if the paper is relevant to their interests or research.
  • Indicating the research question or hypothesis : The title can often indicate the research question or hypothesis that the paper addresses, which can help readers understand the focus of the research and the main argument or conclusion of the paper.

Advantages of Research Paper Title

The title of a research paper is an important component that can have several advantages, including:

  • Capturing the reader’s attention : A well-crafted research paper title can grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to read further. A captivating title can also increase the visibility of the paper and attract more readers.
  • Providing a clear indication of the paper’s focus: A well-written research paper title should clearly convey the main focus and purpose of the study. This helps potential readers quickly determine whether the paper is relevant to their interests.
  • Improving discoverability: A descriptive title that includes relevant keywords can improve the discoverability of the research paper in search engines and academic databases, making it easier for other researchers to find and cite.
  • Enhancing credibility : A clear and concise title can enhance the credibility of the research and the author. A title that accurately reflects the content of the paper can increase the confidence readers have in the research findings.
  • Facilitating communication: A well-written research paper title can facilitate communication among researchers, enabling them to quickly and easily identify relevant studies and engage in discussions related to the topic.
  • Making the paper easier to remember : An engaging and memorable research paper title can help readers remember the paper and its findings. This can be especially important in fields where researchers are constantly inundated with new information and need to quickly recall important studies.
  • Setting expectations: A good research paper title can set expectations for the reader and help them understand what the paper will cover. This can be especially important for readers who are unfamiliar with the topic or the research area.
  • Guiding research: A well-crafted research paper title can also guide future research by highlighting gaps in the current literature or suggesting new areas for investigation.
  • Demonstrating creativity: A creative research paper title can demonstrate the author’s creativity and originality, which can be appealing to readers and other researchers.

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Methodology

  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

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To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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This resource contains a sample MLA paper that adheres to the 2016 updates. To download the MLA sample paper, click this link .

IMAGES

  1. Paper format

    subtitles in a research paper

  2. (PDF) The Subtitle Project

    subtitles in a research paper

  3. APA Format Part II

    subtitles in a research paper

  4. (PDF) The impact of text segmentation on subtitle reading

    subtitles in a research paper

  5. paper title Subtitle as needed (Author)

    subtitles in a research paper

  6. APA Subtitle Levels

    subtitles in a research paper

VIDEO

  1. How to Writing Research or Thesis Cover Page/Title of

  2. How do you write a subheading in a research paper?

  3. My thesis in 5 minutes

  4. How to write a research paper during bachelor’s degree?

  5. WRITING A RESEARCH TITLE || PRACTICAL RESEARC 2

  6. Subtitle Meaning

COMMENTS

  1. MLA Format Sub-headings

    If you would like to utilize subheadings (subtitles) in your research paper, it is a good idea to first check with your instructor to be 100% sure what subheading format he/she would like you to use. Depending on how long your paper is, you will need either one level subheadings or several levels subheadings Format:

  2. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

    The Subtitle Subtitles are frequently used in social sciences research papers because it helps the reader understand the scope of the study in relation to how it was designed to address the research problem. Think about what type of subtitle listed below reflects the overall approach to your study and whether you believe a subtitle is needed to emphasize the investigative parameters of your ...

  3. APA Headings and Subheadings

    There is no " Introduction " heading at the beginning of your paper because the first paragraphs are understood to be introductory. Heading level 2 is used for subsections under level 1. For example, under "Methods" (level 1) you may have subsections for "Sampling Method" and "Data Analysis" (level 2). This continues all the way ...

  4. Formatting Research Paper Headings and Subheadings

    APA style headings example structure. Level 1 Centered, Bold, Title Case. Text begins as a new paragraph. Level 2 Left-aligned, Bold, Title Case. Text begins as a new paragraph. Level 3 Left-aligned, Bold Italic, Title Case. Text begins as a new paragraph. Level 4 Indented, Bold, Title Case, Period. Text begins on the same.

  5. Research Guides: APA Style 7th Edition: Citing Your Sources: Paper

    If title is longer than one line, separate the title and subtitle on double-spaced lines if desired; Center the author's/authors' name directly under the title. Format the name omitting titles (Dr, Prof, etc.) and degrees: First name, middle initial, last name. Center the institutional affiliation directly under the author's/authors' name.

  6. Can I Use the Subtitles in a Research Paper?

    Yes, you can use subtitles in your academic writing assignment, but they should be used wisely and correctly. While working on the organization of a research paper, remember that you can use the major sections and different subheadings to set up a good plan for this particular college assignment. It is a well-known fact that students were not ...

  7. How do I style headings and subheadings in a research paper?

    The paper or chapter title is the first level of heading, and it must be the most prominent. Headings should be styled in descending order of prominence. After the first level, the other headings are subheadings—that is, they are subordinate. Font styling and size are used to signal prominence. In general, a boldface, larger font indicates ...

  8. (PDF) Subtitling: theory, practice and research

    PDF | On Jan 1, 2012, Jorge Diaz-Cintas published Subtitling: theory, practice and research | Find, read and cite all the research you need on ResearchGate

  9. Headings

    There are five levels of heading in APA Style. Level 1 is the highest or main level of heading, Level 2 is a subheading of Level 1, Level 3 is a subheading of Level 2, and so on through Levels 4 and 5. The number of headings to use in a paper depends on the length and complexity of the work. If only one level of heading is needed, use Level 1.

  10. 13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

    Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch. Use double-spaced text throughout your paper. Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point). Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section.

  11. How to Write an APA Methods Section

    Research papers in the social and natural sciences often follow APA style. This article focuses on reporting quantitative research methods . In your APA methods section, you should report enough information to understand and replicate your study, including detailed information on the sample , measures, and procedures used.

  12. How To Write A Good Research Paper Title: Examples & Tips

    Adding a Research Paper Subtitle. A research paper subtitle is like an extra description that comes after the main title. It gives more details about what your research is about. Adding a subtitle is a choice, but it can be helpful. If your main title is short and you want to say more about your research, a subtitle is a good idea.

  13. How to Make a Research Paper Title with Examples

    In fact, a 2014 review of more than 150,000 papers submitted to the UK's Research Excellence Framework (REF) database found the style of a paper's title impacted the number of citations it would typically receive. In most disciplines, articles with shorter, more concise titles yielded more citations. Adding a Research Paper Subtitle

  14. What Are Subtitles In A Paper

    Subtitles help you communicate your main points effectively, ensuring that your paper flows smoothly and is easy to follow. Additionally, subtitles enhance the readability of academic papers. When readers encounter lengthy paragraphs or dense text, they can quickly become overwhelmed, leading to reduced comprehension.

  15. Writing the title and abstract for a research paper: Being concise

    Introduction. This article deals with drafting a suitable "title" and an appropriate "abstract" for an original research paper. Because the "title" and the "abstract" are the "initial impressions" or the "face" of a research article, they need to be drafted correctly, accurately, carefully, meticulously, and consume time and energy.[1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10] Often, these ...

  16. APA Headings and Seriation

    Headings are used to help guide the reader through a document. The levels are organized by levels of subordination, and each section of the paper should start with the highest level of heading. There are 5 heading levels in APA. Regardless of the number of levels, always use the headings in order, beginning with level 1.

  17. PDF Formatting a Research Paper

    Do not use a period after your title or after any heading in the paper (e.g., Works Cited). Begin your text on a new, double-spaced line after the title, indenting the first line of the paragraph half an inch from the left margin. Fig. 1. The top of the first page of a research paper.

  18. How to title a research paper

    The study identified significant factors that improved performance for the studied phenomenon "X". Step 2: Identify the keywords and phrases from those responses. Example: Title a research paper. Case study. Journals. Significant factors. Articles. Step 3: Use keywords in creating a long sentence.

  19. PDF Using Subheadings in Social Science Writing

    Using Headings and Subheadings in Social Science Writing. For longer papers (>10 pages), it may be helpful to break the text into sections in order to avoid unnecessarily strained transition sentences. Headings can help by keep the reader informed about where they are in the paper: i.e., headings and subheadings are like directions or signposts ...

  20. Getting the title right

    Good research papers have good research questions. And good questions can be effective titles. Question titles lack an argument, but they intrigue with suspense. ... A subtitle explains or provides context to a shorter main title, it sets the place and time under study or the method used, and adds substance if your main title is a catchy visual ...

  21. Research Paper Title

    Research Paper Title. Research Paper Title is the name or heading that summarizes the main theme or topic of a research paper.It serves as the first point of contact between the reader and the paper, providing an initial impression of the content, purpose, and scope of the research.A well-crafted research paper title should be concise, informative, and engaging, accurately reflecting the key ...

  22. APA Style (7th Edition)

    Types of APA Papers; APA Stylistics: Basics; APA Stylistics: Avoiding Bias; Footnotes & Appendices Numbers & Statistics Additional Resources; APA Headings and Seriation; APA PowerPoint Slide Presentation; APA Sample Paper; Tables and Figures; Abbreviations Statistics in APA; APA Classroom Poster; Changes in the 7th Edition; General APA FAQs

  23. How to Write a Literature Review

    Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate; Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic. Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We've written a step-by-step ...

  24. MLA Sample Paper

    MLA Sample Paper. This resource contains a sample MLA paper that adheres to the 2016 updates. To download the MLA sample paper, click this link.