What’s in a name?

from Piled Higher and Deeper by Jorge Cham http://www.phdcomics.com

One of the things that you obviously need in science is a good name (not your reputation, I mean the actual name). This is true for the art of acronymia, as illustrated by the ingenious Jorge Cham above, but also for your core business, your articles. Names are everything. After all, remember that by far the majority of your readers will only read the title of your article. So, you really want to be catchy here, and given the stressful and creativity-killing life a a current-day academic, its no wonder that many scientists try to get inspired by the the timeless work of the best: this post from the google scholar blog reveals the prevalence of Shakespeare quotes among titles of scientific articles. Check out, for example, a search for intitle:to-*-or-not-to on google scholar – 16,000 hits. Some random highlights:

“To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits”

“To slow or not to slow: the economics of the greenhouse effect”

“To profit or not to profit: the commercial transformation of the nonprofit sector”

Also, only related by the general sentiment of this post, I want to point out that the Ig Noble Prizes have been awarded yesterday. For ecology, the most relevant awards were ‘No Evidence Of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise Geochelone carbonaria,” Anna Wilkinson, Natalie Sebanz, Isabella Mandl, Ludwig Huber, Current Zoology, vol. 57, no. 4, 2011. pp. 477-84, as well as “Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females (Coleoptera),” D.T. Gwynne, and D.C.F. Rentz, Journal of the Australian Entomological Society, vol. 22, 1983, pp. 79-80. The literature prices sounded interesting, too: “How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done,” John Perry, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 23, 1996. Later republished elsewhere under the title “Structured Procrastination. Fear of discontinuing this post prevented me from reading it, though. All winners can be found here.

2 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Pingback: Do catchy titles attract more citations? « theoretical ecology

  2. Pingback: A tribute to this year’s Ig Nobel Price winners | theoretical ecology

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