Wanted: Catchier Titles

This past year I finally got around to being productive. I wrote a paper with J. Francis Thackeray, and we presented it as a poster at this year’s American Association of Physical Anthropology meeting in Albuquerque. I also presented a small study about global patterns of human cranial trait covariation at a graduate student conference here at the University of Michigan. I’m overall pleased with the final products, but I’m really kicking myself in the buttocks over the titles:

“One or two species: a morphometric comparison of robust australopithecines from Swartkrans and Kromdraai”
“Conspecificity of South African robust australopithecines”
“Population-specific patterns of variation and studies of integration” (which was originally “variation and covariation within and among human populations,” sounds like a real page-turner, I know)
Translation: boooooring! So one goal I have for the future is to come up with catchier titles for my projects. I mean, almost anything would be more interesting than the titles I used. How about something like “Putting broken faces to work” for the first two, and “Different Cov(x,y) for different folks.” These may not be too good, but they’re certainly better than my original titles. Once armed with fancier titles, then all I’ll need is a good dissertation onto which to slap a good title.

3 thoughts on “Wanted: Catchier Titles

  1. Yes, it's really a tough call. I do like informative titles because you can get an idea of what the paper's about w/o having to read the abstract, or if you're doing initial research it makes it more obvious whether the paper will be useful.At the same time, when I was encouraging my students to come to the graduate symposium, it *felt* boring to sell my paper as "Variation and covariation…"Still, one of the most memorable titles I've seen was in some PLoS journal, it was about fly sperm evolution and was titled, "The soup in my fly." That both got the basic point across and was pretty clever.

  2. I agree with Rich. You want your title to be as descriptive and informative as possible. When readers glance at your paper for the first few seconds, your informative title will tell them what they are reading. Obviously catchy titles are fun but I'd resort to that on blog titles or paper presentations (when you actually already have a captive audience).One of my undergrad prof. gave a real cool talk about Homo habilis and named it "Will the real Homo habilis please stand up". It's admittedly catchy and fun but I can't imagine me picking up a paper to read with that title!

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