Small is Beautiful When it Comes to Citations

A recent Science Insider article by Dalmeet Singh Chawla put forward an intriguing idea: The shorter the title of a paper, the higher the chances of getting it cited.

The author looked at studies that found a correlation between the brevity in the title of a scientific paper and its citation count, which is the main value metric in the academic world. Decisions that can make or break a scholar’s career are made on the basis of how many times publications are cited, and where.

Yet finding that out has traditionally been far from straightforward, as he explains:

“Efforts to understand the factors that influence citation rates, however, are fraught with challenges. One problem is that citations can take years to accumulate, and so it can take long periods for even stellar papers to receive recognition.”

And that is precisely one of the problems that technologies like RefME can help solve. When millions of researchers all over the world use a platform to collect, organise and annotate citations, it becomes possible to gain real-time accurate insight into the exact impact those publications are having. That opens up all sorts of interesting and exciting possibilities for discovering and connecting knowledge.

For example, the Data Scientists here at RefME were interested in finding out if this idea of shorter titles leading to more citations held up against the way that our users were citing. Sure enough, as we can see from this graph, titles with fewer characters were strongly favoured over the wordier ones. That shows the huge potential for using such data to test and validate scientific propositions.

RefME data shows that users prefer citing sources with shorter titles

And with that in mind, we’ll close this post for now in the interest of brevity, but as always we really welcome your comments and suggestions on Twitter @getrefme

Bibliography and Further Reading – Generated by RefME

‘Dalmeet Singh Chawla’, 2015 <http://news.sciencemag.org/author/dalmeet-singh-chawla> [accessed 9 September 2015]

Jacques, T. S., and N. J. Sebire, ‘The Impact of Article Titles on Citation Hits: An Analysis of General and Specialist Medical Journals’, JRSM Short Reports, 1 (2010), 2–2 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1258/shorts.2009.100020>

Jamali, Hamid R., and Mahsa Nikzad, ‘Article Title Type and Its Relation with the Number of Downloads and Citations’, Scientometrics, 88 (2011), 653–61 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11192-011-0412-z>

Letchford, Adrian, Helen Susannah Moat, and Tobias Preis, ‘The Advantage of Short Paper Titles’, Royal Society Open Science (The Royal Society, 2015), 150266 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.150266>

Singh Chawla, Dalmeet, ‘In Brief, Papers with Shorter Titles Get More Citations, Study Suggests’, Science Insider, 2015 <http://news.sciencemag.org/scientific-community/2015/08/brief-papers-shorter-titles-get-more-citations-study-suggests?rss=1> [accessed 9 September 2015]

Citations, Quotes & Annotations

Jacques, T. S., and N. J. Sebire, ‘The Impact of Article Titles on Citation Hits: An Analysis of General and Specialist Medical Journals’, JRSM Short Reports, 1 (2010), 2–2

“Most published articles are not cited and citation rates depend on many variables. We hypothesized that specific features of journal titles may be related to citation rates.”

Hamid R. Jamali and Mahsa Nikzad, ‘Article Title Type and Its Relation with the Number of Downloads and Citations’,Scientometrics, 88 (2011), 653–61

“Title of an article can be descriptive, declarative or a question. It plays important role in both marketing and findability of article. We investigate the impact of the type of article titles on the number of citations and downloads articles receive. Number of downloads and citations for all articles published in six of PLoS (Public Library of Science) journals (2172 articles) were obtained from PLoS and type of each article’s title (including descriptive, indicative and question) was determined as well as the number of substantive words in title (title length).”

Hamid R. Jamali and Mahsa Nikzad, ‘Article Title Type and Its Relation with the Number of Downloads and Citations’,Scientometrics, 88 (2011), 653–61

Adrian Letchford, Helen Susannah Moat and Tobias Preis, ‘The Advantage of Short Paper Titles’, Royal Society Open Science (The Royal Society, 2015), 150266

“Here, we investigate whether any of this variance can be explained by a simple metric of one aspect of the paper’s presentation: the length of its title.”

Dalmeet Singh Chawla, ‘In Brief, Papers with Shorter Titles Get More Citations, Study Suggests’, Science Insider, 2015

“a new study suggests that you may be able to predict the popularity of a scientific paper from the length of its title. Brevity, it turns out, appears to earn a paper a little more attention.”Dalmeet Singh Chawla, ‘In Brief, Papers with Shorter Titles Get More Citations, Study Suggests’, Science Insider, 2015

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