They say never judge a book by its cover, but a new study suggests that you may be able to predict the popularity of a scientific paper from the length of its title. Brevity, it turns out, appears to earn a paper a little more attention.
Articles with shorter titles tend to get cited more often than those with longer headers, concludes a study published today, which examined 140,000 papers published between 2007 and 2013. It appears in the journal Royal Society Open Science. (See below for a list of the five longest, and five shortest, titles included in the study.)
Citations are a key currency in the academic world. The number of times other researchers cite a scientist’s work is often an important metric in hiring and workplace evaluations. Citations also play a role in determining a journal’s place in the scholarly pecking order, with journals that publish more highly cited papers earning a higher “impact factor” (although many critics challenge that measure).
Efforts to understand the factors that influence citation rates, however, are fraught with challenges. One problem is that citations can take years to accumulate, and so it can take long periods for even stellar papers to receive recognition.
Indeed, the authors of the current study saw that trend in their analysis, which used the Scopus database to examine the titles of the 20,000 most cited papers in each year from 2007 to 2013 (a total of 140,000 papers). For papers published in 2007 and 2008, the link between shorter titles and higher citation numbers was relatively strong. The link became weaker, however, for papers published in 2012 and 2013, which had less time to accumulate citations.
That difference largely disappeared, however, when they looked at citation totals for entire journals, and not just individual papers....Continue Reading »