The title of your paper is of
key importance. It will represent your paper in lists of references,
abstracts and even on the internet. It will be the 'hook' that will
make people read the text so spend time thinking about it.
All titles and subtitles
should be as short as possible (ideally not more than 40 to 45
characters), crisp and concise, and highlight rather than explain.
However, there is a careful balance to be achieved between a dry and a
sensational description. If you fail to get the balance right your
potential readers may well be suspicious about the quality of your writing
reading the text.
In addition, it is important
to remember that for indexing services,
literature-retrieval systems and search engines, your title should contain
key words: words that highlight the important content of the paper in
terms that are understandable and retrievable.
So, you need to get the
balance correct to include keywords, description and intrigue.
Authors rarely give enough thought to titles with the result that they
tend to fall into one of two groups. Either (a) too dry and
descriptive or (b) use of the colon.
we look at the first group consider the following title.
BUSHMEAT AND FORESTS
vague and uninteresting. In other words, it is dry and descriptive.
It leaves the potential reader wondering whether this is largely a review
of literature or whether there is significant new analysis. The key
point is that it doesn't help the potential reader decide if they should
On the other hand a title such as:
BUSHMEAT CRISIS IN FORESTS
would be considered too sensational for a scientific journal. It is
the language of a newspaper. The title could be re-phrased as:
THE CASE FOR BUSHMEAT AS A
COMPONENT OF DEVELOPMENT POLICY
This gives the reader enough
information about the objective and content of the paper to make an
informed decision regarding whether or not they wish to read it.
In composing your title remember this:
This leads on to the second
common fault with authors - overuse of the colon.
A colon is generally used in
titles to separate a principle or description of a situation from an
indication of what was done. This is a relatively new occurrence in
scientific writing and reflects the growing need for authors to grab the
attention of potential readers in an increasingly competitive market.
An example of using a colon in a title is
EFFECTS OF LOGGING EXTRACTION
IN THE BRAZILIAN AMAZON: COMMUNITY PERCEPTIONS OF CHANGE
In principle it is hard to
argue against the use of the colon. It can assist in getting over a
complex message in a concise manner. But equally, it is overused to
such an extent that authors appear to have forgotten the impact value of
short titles. Over 80% of manuscripts sent to the International
Forestry Review contain colons in their title and well over half could be
reduced to a shorter, non-colon title which would be far more
eye-catching. For example:
THE VALUE OF INDIGENOUS FRUIT
TREES: THEIR PROMOTION THROUGH IMPROVED PROCESSING AND MARKETING
could be reduced to
PROMOTION OF INDIGENOUS FRUIT
TREES THROUGH IMPROVED PROCESSING AND MARKETING
Another example of the
potential to reduce the length of titles is
FUELWOOD IN DEVELOPING
COUNTRIES: ANALYSIS OF RECENT TRENDS OF EXPLOITATION AND USE
could be reduced to
REASSESSING THE FUELWOOD
SITUATION IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
When compiling a title
consider the following.
Does it contain all the key words you
would use if you were searching for it in a database or index?
Does it convey your main message?
Does it have any verbs that can safely
be deleted? Titles are labels, not sentences.
Can you delete surplus articles like
'the', 'a' or 'an'?
Are there any wasted words that add
nothing to the meaning? For example, 'study of', 'investigation into',
'use of' should be deleted.
Are there any ambiguous words or
expressions? Phrases like 'effect of' or 'relationship between' don't
tell the reader the nature of the relationship found.
Have you made sure that there are no
Can you avoid subtitles and punctuation
Can you reduce the length to ten words?
Spend time on this.
Remember, more people will read this line
than any other part of your paper.
The name(s) of the
author(s) on the title page below the title of the manuscript should
consist, in all languages, of the first given name, followed by initial(s)
and the surname (family name), or initial(s) only followed by the
surname (family name), e.g. John L. Miller or J.L. Miller, and equally
Pieter S. Van Keuyk, Bernd A. v. Droste or B.A. von Droste, Shigeru
Nakano, Ray S.P. Chauduri, Bahadur Singh, Ismail bin Bohari, H. W. Chen,
alternatively Ho-Wang Chen or Ho Wang CHEN.
The abstract follows the
main title and the names and addresses of the authors. It highlights the
major points, results and conclusions in short sentences of plain standard
English. The purpose is to provide the information to readers, reviewers
and abstractors to assist them in deciding whether it is worthwhile for them to read and
document the paper. In general the length of the abstract should not exceed 3 to 5%
of the text of the paper, or 350 words, whichever is less, but most
journals will have a word limit so refer to their guidelines. The
purpose of the abstract is commonly misunderstood with the result that
abstracts are frequently summaries of each part of the paper. The
objective of the abstract is not to summarise the contents but to extract
the essential components and thereby assist the potential reader to
determine whether or not to read the full paper. This is a careful
balance to achieve and requires careful examination of your key message.
Think of what you would want to read if you were to get a full flavour of
It is worthwhile returning to
the Abstract part of
Producing the Outline to remind
yourself how you compiled the outline of this part. Consider the key
issues of situation, problem, question and response but remember that your
reader will not want to read as much about your methods as your findings.
This is where you need to consider carefully the balance of what you are
The abstract is
one of the most important part of your
paper yet it is frequently produced in a rush just before submission of
the manuscript to the journal. Take your time and get it right.
This is the part which is reproduced by indexing and abstracting services. Other
researchers will judge the value of your paper almost entirely on the
basis of what is contained in the abstract.
The abstract should be written in the past
tense and should consist only of one paragraph, beginning with your key
The purpose of the keywords is
to facilitate data storage and retrieval, and to guide literature search. Make sure that you
have followed the instructions to authors produced by the journal
regarding the number and type of key
Tables and figures are crucial
elements in papers but frequently overlooked by authors. It is
common to receive tables which contain unnecessary data and figures which
are of poor quality.
Tables and figures must only
contain data and information that are relevant to the purpose of the paper
and specifically referred to in the text.
They should contain sufficient
information so that the figure/table can be understood by a general reader
without reference to the text.
Legends or captions of tables
and figures must follow guidelines set out by the journal. Do not
deviate from this format.
The information contained
in tables and figures must relate directly to the text and not contain any
additional, superfluous and redundant data. Do not repeat the same data
in several tables/figures.
The units of the
International System of Units (SI) should be used for all relevant data.
Abbreviations and symbols should conform with those customarily used in
international scientific literature. If the paper contains many symbols
and units, they may be listed and explained in an appendix.
Scientific names of plant,
animal or microbial species must be given in full with authority for the
name when it occurs for the first time. Subsequently, the generic name
can be shortened and the authority omitted. Vernacular species names must
be explained by the scientific name in brackets where they first occur.
Numbers one to ten should be
spelled out as words except when used with units e.g. two people but 10 kg
and 5 days.
In general appendices should
be avoided. However, in exceptional cases they are necessary.
In such cases they must be
relevant and complement, but not add to and supplement the text. They
must be essentially necessary to achieve adequate succinctness and
coherence, and must assist to maintain easy readability of the paper.
Footnotes are frequently
misused by containing information which should either be placed in the
text or excluded altogether. They should be
avoided as a general rule and are acceptable only in exceptional cases when
incorporation of their content in the text not possible.
This should be a short,
reference only to those individuals and institutions which have directly
and substantially supported the project and the preparation of the report.
You should include acknowledgements to
donors, funding agencies, research award committees, industries and all
those who have made financial contributions to the project.
This is an important part of the paper and should not be considered simply
In cases where referees have
assisted the development of the paper in a substantial manner they should
be thanked in this section.
References can be complied in
many ways. All formats contain the same information of author(s),
date and source but journals vary in the details of the format in which
they want to receive lists of references so make sure you look at authors
guidelines before submitting your paper. Editors do not appreciate
receiving papers from authors who can't be bothered to format references
correctly and you will quite likley find your manuscript sent back with a
note to "Read the instructions to authors!".
Cited references are listed in alphabetical order of the
authorís name and then of the second, third author and so on, if
applicable, or of the issuing institutionsí name or as anonymous, if no
authorís name is given. Titles written in languages other than English or
French, should be quoted in the original language with the title in italics
and a translation into English in brackets. References to other types of
publications, such as grey literature, company reports, reports by or to
government bodies, proceedings of meetings, should include the same
information as references to books. Unpublished
material such as internal research project reports and other grey
literature, must be sufficiently identified for access so that copies
can be obtained by the reader.
Citation by authorís name
in the text in brackets should only contain the family name of the cited
author, in case of author teams the family names of the first two authors,
and et al. (in italics) for the third and any further authors,
followed by the year of publication. Several publications by the same
author(s) in one year should be identified by the suffixes a, b, c etc.
Citations of publications by different author(s) in one bracket should be
separated by semicolon.
A common mistake amongst inexperienced authors is to attempt to cite as
many publications as possible in order to give an impression of being well
read. This is counterproductive and only creates an impression that
the author is unable to identify the key references related to the work.
Remember, you should cite in your paper only
references to the most important publications. You should not aim to be
You must refer to the instructions to
authors to make sure you do this as required by the journal. One of the
most tedious aspects of writing for science is complying with the
different styles used by different journals both for how literature is
referred to in the text and how the papers are listed in the reference
The way you write your paper often makes the difference between an
acceptable paper and a good one, or a good one and a very good one.
So, don't rush to send off your manuscript simply because you think that
the information is complete. Good writing is a skill, and like all
skills it needs to be worked at. Don't assume you are a good writer.
Once you have completed your first draft you
need to go over it again, very carefully, to make sure it reads well.
In this regard it is often useful to read your text out loud to hear how
it sounds. It is often remarkable the things you want to change when
you hear yourself speaking your own text.
Another important means of checking your
paper is to get colleagues to read it. Although this can often be a
more daunting prospect than sending it to the journal editor it is well
worth the effort. Colleagues will generally know a bit about your
work, and many may have more publication experience than you so they can
offer their advice. However, remember it is your paper. If you
don't agree what they say then you don't have to include their suggested
One benefit of sharing your manuscripts with
your peers is that they are more likely to do the same with you. By
becoming part of the peer-review process in your own institution you will
improve your own writing skills.
Occam's razor from the section
Producing the manuscript. Be clear but
to see an example of a well written paper.