Taking a few days off to write and do some yardwork.
The fundamental currency of academia is publications–their quality, number, and citations. This makes sense, as basically your job as a scientist is to plant some infectious memes–hypotheses and evidence that are so compelling that people start using them. Yet as we have easier and easier access to more and more literature, just getting your paper noticed is the first and most crucial step. And that begins with the title. Why?
1) First impressions matter. A lot. Spend some time with Malcom Gladwell’s Blink (you might first want to check out Wikipedia’s summary). We human’s appear to make many of our decisions quickly, without conscious thought. Now, picture yourself at the end of a long day skimming down the latest table of contents from, say Ecology. How many times are you telling authors “thanks, but no thanks” based on a 0.5 s gander of their wares? More importantly, what in a title makes you stop and consider a moment?
2) The 50/50 rule of headlines. This would be a good time to chat with a professional writer. Copyblogger has a great post noting the common wisdom of journalists, who, face it, write for folks riding the subway to work. An easily distractable bunch. Their job is to catch folk’s attention. Journalists argue that you should take 50% of the time you spend writing an article on crafting the headline.
3) The 80/20 rule of headlines. The common wisdom in the j-biz is that 80% of the folks may read your headline, but only 20% will even begin the article. Apply this now to you, yes you, skimming journal titles. 80/20 sounds rather generous, doesn’t it? Mayyyybe more like, 40/5? So now that I hope I’ve convinced you that the title is the first, crucial, link toward someone reading your work, how do you write a good one? We’ll begin that discussion today with two practical pieces of advice.
As the sun begins to move higher on the horizon, we in the Northern hemisphere say goodbye to long red sunsets as in the post below.
Thanks, as always, to APOD for giving us a gander at this rare Andy Warhol print.