1. McGrath, Jacqueline M. PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN
  2. Co-Editor in Chief
  3. Brandon, Debra H. PhD, RN, CNS, FAAN
  4. Co-Editor in Chief

Article Content

Thanks to your hard work, Advances in Neonatal Care (ANC) is thriving! ANC is considered the number 1 membership benefit of belonging to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN). We are grateful for your readership and support through manuscript submissions, peer review, and letters to the editor. Our impact factor has grown steadily over the past 10 years and has continued to be stable even with the effects of the Pandemic and changes in the publication world. Yet, we want to make sure that your hard work published in Advances in Neonatal Care gets even greater notice. Have you ever wondered about the best way to choose a title for your manuscript? Or, whether it really matters? Should your title be short, or long? Should it be catchy or should it be strictly scientific? Are some title choices better than others? These are important questions to consider, so you can choose the best title for your manuscript.


The title of your manuscript is the first impression of your work. Thus, we believe that being deliberate in choosing a title does matter. You have spent maybe years completing a study or project and then months writing the manuscript. Why would you not want to make sure that you chose the best title for your work? Soler1 scientifically examined journal article titles and found 2 distinct features. Titles are designed to provide information about the article while at the same time the title is designed to be concise.1 A short title can be more enticing while a long title has the potential to detract from the article content. Good titles are generally 10 to 15 words in length; titles of more than 15 words are likely cumbersome and wordy to readers, leading them to dismiss the remainder of the article as important.1,2 As such, articles with shorter titles are cited more often than those with longer titles.2 Brevity seems to be very important to the process of choosing a title for your article.


However, even more importantly, the title makes the article discoverable when individuals are looking for specific content. For example, now that many types of published works encourage a systematic search of the literature to find supporting evidence, the first level of searching is usually through titles and abstracts. If the title does not reflect the essence of the work, it could potentially be overlooked for inclusion in the review. In addition, making sure that the work is discoverable is important to authors because it increases their reputation and credibility in the field. Getting published is not easy. It is professionally fulfilling to tell others that you are published but it's even more rewarding to have someone stop you and say, I read your article and used your findings to change practice in our NICU, thank you. None of this can happen if other neonatal care providers don't find the article. In addition, when the article is not found, science does not grow systematically. When reports and studies are not connected together such that the findings from one study lead to the next, there is no integration of the work into science and over time this loss of knowledge has the potential to waste time and money. With digitalization, our world is becoming more connected and global, yet if the article is not found, we don't learn from each other's challenges or successes in different countries and settings. We even potentially slow the growth of knowledge.


In general, article titles should be simple and direct. Some authors believe that choosing a catchy title that is humorous or suggestive (contains a pun) can make their work more attractive for readers; however, in the scientific literature that practice can actually have just the opposite effect and should for the most part be avoided.2-4 Writing a scholarly manuscript is a formal process and it is somewhat an expectation that the title will be formal as well. A formal title says that this work is scholarly, pay attention. In general, the title should also contain some of the key words submitted with the manuscript. In a similar vein, the title should not include regional descriptors; these could limit the applicability of the findings unless the region is very specific to the outcomes.4 For example, does a study on skin-to-skin care have the same applicability if conducted in Australia as opposed to Germany or the United States? Only the authors can answer this question, but it is important to consider whether the results are truly applicable elsewhere and how they can be translated to other global settings. Thus, region should be included in the title only if it adds to the scientific value of the work.


Some journals provide specific guidelines for titles. For example, some journals prohibit titles that are questions (interrogative titles) or titles punctuated with a colon (compound titles). Advances in Neonatal Care provides a degree of freedom in choosing a title that we hope authors will use to best highlight their work. Titles can be descriptive, declarative, compound, or interrogative.2,3 Each of these types has a specific purpose.


Manuscript titles have the potential to influence the impact of your work and who might be attracted to your work. Titles can either bring a reader in and lead him or her to read the abstract and potentially the manuscript or they can turn a reader off causing him or her to overlook the work. The title should summarize the work. Descriptive titles tell readers what the authors did but may not always provide the full conclusion of their work. For example, "Factors That Contribute to Family Centered-Care." Although this title is short and provides direction that could entice the reader to keep reading the article, the title does not inform readers about the specific factors or what conclusions the authors found. If a specific factor contributes more to the science than other factors that information could be lost by choosing this title.


Declarative titles state the results or conclusions of the manuscript. This type of title is often used for research articles. For example, "Cortisol Levels Are Decreased After Preterm Infant Massage." Usually, these title statements are written in past or present tense. Past tense tells the reader that this was found in the study while present tense leads the reader to believe that this declaration is more generalizable. Past tense in the title might be best for pilot or exploratory findings as opposed to the use of present tense for findings from large, randomized trials. Although using present tense may seem to make the title appear stronger, present tense also has the potential to mislead or misrepresent the true findings within the manuscript report if the sample size was small or the results are not easily generalizable in the clinical setting. As such, present tense should be used with caution.


Interestingly, many journals restrict the use of compound titles, although they are cited more frequently.3,4 Compound titles often go from general to specific such as "Necrotizing Enterocolitis: Assessment and Management." Compound titles sometimes provide a means to be more concise than using other title styles because sometimes words can be deleted without loss of meaning for the reader. However, the use of punctuation in titles needs to be thoughtfully considered and used only when other choices do not fit or make the title too long.


Questioning (interrogative) titles flirt with the reader and they can seem more lively, but there is a weakness in asking a question in the title in that no direction for the results or direction of the manuscript is shared. It has been noted that while these articles may be downloaded more often, yet they are cited less often than those with declarative or descriptive titles.3,4


In summary, we believe that choosing a title should be deliberate and while it is often the last thing an author does in preparing his or her manuscript for publication, it is important to be thoughtful in the process. To that end our vision is that Advances in Neonatal Care is the FIRST-place neonatal nurses and neonatal care providers go to for the best evidence to support caregiving of NICU infants and families; please choose a title that best represents your work. In addition to the title, please also thoughtfully consider the key words chosen to go with your manuscript. Advances in Neonatal Care allows authors to submit up to 10 key words. We encourage authors to provide a through list of key words. This is another way to make the article discoverable. Authors can do this by examining their references, working with a librarian to explore MeSH terms and even conducting a search with the key words they choose to make sure that an article like theirs does indeed come into the search. Choosing 10 key words can help ensure that the work is discoverable and does contribute appropriately to the science. Again, we thank you for your readership and for your submissions to Advances in Neonatal Care.


-Jacqueline M. McGrath, PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN


Co-Editor in Chief, Advances in Neonatal Care


[email protected]


-Debra H. Brandon, PhD, RN, CNS, FAAN


Co-Editor in Chief, Advances in Neonatal Care


[email protected]




1. Soler V. Writing titles in science: an exploratory study. Engl Specif Purp. 2007;26(1):90-102. doi:10.1016/j.esp.2006.08.001. [Context Link]


2. Bowman D, Kinnan S. Creating effective titles for your scientific publication. VideoGIE. 2018;3(9):260-261. doi:10.1016/j.vgie.2018.07.009. [Context Link]


3. Vasilev M. How to write a good title for a journal article. Published 2012. Accessed August 8, 2023. [Context Link]


4. Tullu MS. Writing the title and abstract for a research paper: being concise, precise, and meticulous is the key. Saudi J Anesth. 2019;13(suppl 1):S12-S17. doi:10.4103/sja.SJA_685_18. [Context Link]