作者们经常在做完研究，写好文章之后，却对如何写标题感到困扰。他们想把所知道的都放入标题中。标题可以很复杂，例如最近这个标题：Chiral Silver Phosphate Catalyzed Transformation of ortho-Alkynylaryl Ketones into 1H-Isochromene Derivatives through an Intramolecular-Cyclization/ Enantioselective-Reduction Sequence.然而，我们想来看看什么样的信息适合放入标题中，如何写一个短点或长点的标题，以及要避免什么。
标题好比新闻提要。报纸的标题使用“五个W和一个H,” 或者说是“谁，什么，何时，何地，为什么，以及如何（who, what, when, where, why, and how）” 例如上一个标题，它告诉我们用了什么，发生了什么 （磷酸银被催化）和如何发生的。在标题页上的作者姓名就是“谁”这部分，而其他信息就不需要在标题中出现。也就是说，何时，何地，为什么不是很重要。但是，我们将看看如何使用五个W和一个H来写一个好标题。
谁？ 对很多科研工作来说，“谁”指得是谁是这篇文章的作者。然而，对于某些研究领域，“谁”可能是作者所研究的人或人群。例如，Prevalence of High Body Mass Index in US Children and Adolescents, 2007–2008告诉我们谁是研究对象，何时的研究，在哪里进行的研究以及研究什么。“为什么”和“如何”在这里被认为不那么重要，因此没有在标题中提及。
我将用生物研究作例子。有一种罕见的鸟，中华秋沙鸭，在中国中东部的江西省过冬。四名中国科学家在该地区进行实地调查，研究有多少只这种鸟在这一地区的江边居住。他们非常出色地在标题中回答了五个W和一个H代表的问题。通过他们的标题，我能知道，他们是在哪里研究了何种鸟类，以及何时进行的。他们没有说为何选择这种鸟类（也许是因为它们比较稀有），没有提及谁做的研究（标题中有他们的名字），也没有解释他们如何做研究。但读者可以猜测如何做的以及谁做的，很可能知道实地调查是如何研究的一部分。他们选了一个很好的标题：Wintering distribution and population size of scaly-sided Merganser, Mergus squamatus, in Jiangxi Province。我也许还会加上“China”，但是他们是在地方性期刊发表，而不是在全球性期刊发表。如果我是在Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas（原名为Sida）上发表，我就会加上“China”，因为这个杂志刊载的文章是面向全球读者的，而有些读者可能不知道江西在哪里。
Titles for Scientific Research Papers: Part I, What Goes into a Title?
Often, after conducting research and preparing a paper, authors feel confused about how to write a title. They feel tempted to include everything they know about the topic. Titles may be complex in valid ways such as this recent actual title: Chiral Silver Phosphate Catalyzed Transformation of ortho-Alkynylaryl Ketones into 1H-Isochromene Derivatives through an Intramolecular-Cyclization/ Enantioselective-Reduction Sequence. However, we want to look at what types of information belong in a title, to know how to keep a title short or long, and what pitfalls to avoid.
Titles can be compared to headlines. Newspaper headlines use “The five W’s and H,” or concentrate on “who, what, when, where, why, and how.” For example, in the title shown above, the title tells what is used and what is happening (silver phosphate is being catalyzed) and how that happens. The who part would be the author’s names that are on the title page with the title, and other information is not needed in the title. That is, when, where, and why are not important in this case. However, we will look at how the five W’s and H can be used to write a good title.
Who? For most scientific work, the who is, “Who is the author of this paper?” However, for some areas of research the who may be people or groups of people the author(s) have studied. For example, Prevalence of High Body Mass Index in US Children and Adolescents, 2007–2008 tells who was studied, when the study was done, where the study occurred, and what was studied. The why and how were considered less important and not mentioned.
What? The most important aspect of a study is what the research addressed such as The earthly paradise: religious elements in Chinese landscape art. This title mainly tells what was studied, although one can tell where the artists came from, a little about who they are), although we have no idea of how or why they painted, or when the artwork was done.
As you might have guessed, we will now consider how you can choose a good title for your study. Scientific research may cover a broad array of fields from sociology and economics to physics and biochemistry. For our purposes, we will assume our author has done some field research, collected and analyzed data, and prepared a paper with an abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion section. Those are mentioned here for a reason. Each has the potential to provide information for a title. The abstract should be the best source because it should create a miniature paper and have those same discussions. The introduction within the abstract should tell why the paper is important. The reader will want to know how the data was collected and what the result were so those should be covered there too. The results and their importance should also be covered in the abstract. The question becomes, “How can I condense this paper down to a single sentence, phrase, or question?”
I’m going to take a biological study as an example. A rare bird, the Scaly-sided Merganser, winters in Jiangxi Province in east central China. Four Chinese scientists conducted field surveys in an attempt to discover how many individuals of this species lived along the rivers in this region. They did an excellent job of answering the questions in their title, using some of the five Ws and H. By reading their title I can understand where they studied the birds and what they studied, when they conducted their field surveys. They do not say why they chose this species (probably because it is rare), who did the study (their names are in the title), or explain how they did the study, but the reader can guess the why and who and probably knows they used field studies as part of the how. They chose a good title: Wintering distribution and population size of scaly-sided Merganser, Mergus squamatus, in Jiangxi Province. I might have added “, China” but they published in a regional journal rather than for a global audience. However, if I was publishing in Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (formerly known as Sida), I would have added “China” because that particular journal publishes for a global audience who might not know where Jiangxi is.
Next time, we will get a little more specific and look at how to write a good or a bad title. What makes a good title? What are the pitfalls to avoid? For example, the first title listed above is a real published title, as are all titles in this article. However, even though I’m a professional editor, it reminds me of my experience when I first read scientific journals in college. I looked at a few papers and thought, “This isn’t even English.” Many journals today state they want authors to write for a general audience, people who are knowledgeable and have a solid educational background, but who are not specialists in the field of study for a particular research paper. Your readers many not have your specialized interest, but they probably are well-read and educated, so you will want your titled targeted at a fairly general audience in many cases. As a biologist, I know what phosphate is, I can understand that catalyzing something will transform it and I know that several words in that first title deal with chemicals even if I cannot draw the chemical formula for a ketone. Next time, we will take some real titles, paraphrase them so we don’t hurt any author’s feelings by changing the topic so it is no longer recognizable, and talk about how you can choose a good title and how to make it nice and concise.
After all, the very first thing a reader and a journal reviewer are likely to see is your title. You want to sell your paper to the journal to get it published. We want to start out with a good first impression.