Title, abstract and keywords

These are the most widely seen and, thus, most important parts of your paper. You might have a working title and abstract but revise them carefully after you finish the main body of your manuscript.


It can be challenging to craft a title that will simultaneously inform and attract a reader. Different studies of title attributes, such as length, character, structure, context and language, show different or no impact on article citation count and this can vary significantly across scientific disciplines.

Research articles should have objective, unambiguous, informative titles that reflect the content of the paper. Some journals, especially in the biomedical disciplines, include the findings in the title, e.g. Factor x increases variable y, others do not, e.g. The effect of factor x on y.

If relevant, mention the study period and location, the scientific name of the studied organism, and the primary outcome. Include the experimental design (e.g. a case study or randomised controlled trial).

The title should be generally understandable to specialists in other fields. Avoid abbreviations, especially those less known to the wider community.

Check your target journal for specific information on titles, including any limits on length.


An abstract (sometimes referred to as a summary) is a mandatory part of the article in most scholarly disciplines, for all types of papers. However, for some shorter types of papers (e.g. short communication) or in some humanities disciplines an abstract is not required.

The abstract plays a pivotal role in attracting readers’ attention and it is usually the most frequently read section of the paper. Journals increasingly use structured abstracts that mirror the paper’s organization. This format addresses four fundamental questions (see Writing the first draft).

  • Background and Objectives (Introduction) – Briefly explain why this topic is important and what question(s) you aimed to answer.
  • Methods – Describe how you performed the study. Include details of all methods used to collect and analyse data for the primary outcome and a precise description of the statistical analysis.
  • Results – For all studies report the main outcomes and findings of the main analyses. For studies on humans, briefly summarise start and end dates, number of
    participants, sex or gender, ethnicity and age range.
  • Discussion/Conclusion – Describe the main consequences of your findings and their implications for practical application or future research.

Even if a journal does not explicitly mandate a structured abstract, a narrative one should still be crafted with a clear structural framework in mind.

The abstract is usually composed at the final stage of the writing process after all sections of the paper have been completed and agreed upon by the authors. Check your target
journal and follow its recommendations regarding structure, length, abbreviations and citing sources for different article types.

Useful Abstract Tips

Do not refer to figures or tables within the abstract.

Do not cite references in the abstract unless they are absolutely necessary (then provide information in brackets: author, title, year).

Use keywords within the abstract to facilitate online searching for your article.

Make sure that all the information given in the abstract is consistent with the main body of the article.

For clinical trials, follow CONSORT for Abstracts. If the journal word limit for abstracts is too short, follow CONSORT for Abstracts and inform the editor why you have
exceeded the word count.

In pursuit of a broader readership and to embrace multilingualism, some journals go beyond the original article language and publish abstracts in additional languages,
opt for longer/extended abstracts in other languages or present information in plain language.

Innovative approaches include visual, graphical (e.g. infographics), audio or multimedia abstracts. Check your target journal.

List of keywords

Keywords are terms used to define the topics of your paper and help readers find them in database searches. Most journals will have a limit to the number of keywords you may provide, so check you comply with this detail, but be sure to include as many words as allowed.

Include all relevant scientific terms and any additional words that help contextualise and describe your paper’s key details that do not appear in the title. Keep the keywords specific to your article. Add more general terms if your study has interdisciplinary significance.