Titles in research articles: Changes across time and discipline

Feng Kevin Jiang, Ken Hyland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Titles are a crucial feature of research papers and have become increasingly important with changes in publishing practices and the explosion of published research. As a result, novice writers seeking to get their work noticed in international journals might benefit from a clear understanding of the features of research titles and an awareness of the relationship between language and disciplinary context. In this study, we explore this relationship and the impact of changing contexts on titles across the last 60 years on the length, form and content of 36,000 titles from the ten leading journals from six disciplines spread along a soft-hard science continuum. Our results show a considerable increase in the length of titles coupled with more interrogative and compound titles in almost all disciplines. There has also been a growing mention of methods in the titles of hard knowledge papers with more frequent inclusion of results in the softer domains. These diachronic changes can be attributed to different characteristics of the fields and of the changing dynamics of the publishing context. Our findings have important implications for early career academics seeking to publish in English and contribute to studies of diachronic analysis of academic discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-248
Number of pages10
JournalLearned Publishing
Issue number2
Early online date22 Sep 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • academic publishing
  • diachronic change
  • disciplinary differences
  • research titles

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