Something every academic should keep in mind is this: What’s the point of writing a research article that’s difficult for others to find? Why not make the process of discovery as easy as possible for other researchers? Irrespective of your target journal, the title, abstract, and keywords of your article should be carefully constructed to ensure maximum visibility and searchability. We all want to write as many papers as possible, as quickly as possible, and get them into the best journals possible. At the same time, however, we want our research to be widely read and cited, for it to be viewed as useful and impactful; this means that papers have to be easily identifiable as relevant to particular themes and, therefore, more likely to be read and cited by others. Don’t play hide-and-seek with your research and make it hard for other academics to find!
Our Charlesworth Knowledge paper writing and publishing workshops will help you to maximise the impact of your articles.
Ask yourself, what do you do when you come up with a new research idea? You go online and research whether or not your idea is viable: What else has recently been published in this area? Is there scope for additional research? Are you re-inventing the wheel, or have you genuinely identified an idea that would be worthy of further research?
Article titles, abstracts, and keyword sets need to be easily understandable when presented individually, and contain important words and phrases that communicate the themes within your research. Make sure that the titles you choose for your articles are concise and contain the most important words related to your topic, in order to make online searches as effective as possible. A good title should be compelling, and above all, short: our experience gained from editing papers tells us that effective article titles should begin with the subject of a paper and identify its main issue. Good titles are ones which are attractive to readers, and don’t contain complex words and infrequently used abbreviations that confuse people. Try to be alluring with the titles of your research papers, but at the same time don’t give away too much: you want colleagues to want to read the rest of your work!
Similarly, an effective abstract should also stand alone and contain all the information necessary for someone else to repeat your study. Why was the study done? What did it address? What methods were used? What are the main conclusions and why is your study significant? Answer these questions in sequence and you will have the basis of an effective, well-structured academic abstract. An effective abstract is honest and precise and does not contain infrequently used terms and abbreviations; remember, the title and abstract of your research papers are often all people read (especially editors, making snap decisions about whether, or not, to send your work out for review).
What about keywords? Put time into selecting these for your research papers as, again, they are used as search terms and will make your work easier to find. Check your target journal’s guide for authors in order to determine the correct number of keywords to include and make sure they are specific to your subject area and not too general (‘soil’ or ‘earth’, for example, would be poor choices as their meanings are too broad). It’s also a good idea to use keywords that are not already used in the title of your article, as both are generally included in searches. And again, avoid abbreviations unless these are widely known and used in this form within your field (e.g. DNA, PCR, or DEM).
Generally speaking, your choice of keywords depends on your target audience. Is the journal you are submitting to too subject-area specific or is this a widely read international magazine with a wide circulation?
Writing and publishing effectively is just part of the battle to be a successful academic these days. It’s also important to ensure that your work is as widely read and cited as possible; maximising discoverability via intelligent utilisation of keywords, titles, and abstracts is a skillset that we teach at Charlesworth Knowledge. Why not get in touch with one of our team to learn more?