Monday, September 24, 2018

Killer bees? The contribution of a paper’s title to its future

Posted by Richard B. Primack

A truly good [article] is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild-flower discovered on the prairies of the West or in the jungles of the East.  
Henry David Thoreau

Is this post about killer bees?  No! It’s about how a paper’s title affects its subsequent number of citations. In a recent article, we investigated this topic by analyzing 5941 papers published in the journal Biological Conservation from 1968 to 2012.  

“Killer bees” attract attention, photo by Jose Manuel via Wiki Commons

We found that papers with the greatest geographic or taxonomic breadth in their titles were cited more frequently than more narrowly focused papers. Also, titles phrased as questions and with shorter titles had slightly higher numbers of citations. Titles aside, the most highly cited papers are review papers, and those that advance the science and are useful to readers.  

The take home message:  Focus on doing good science and writing review articles.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi Richard, I would like to get in touch with you. I am a PhD researcher of Wageningen University. My email address is Many thanks, Christel van Eck