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Titles of biomedical journal articles have two functions: to identify the main topic or the message of the paper and to attract readers.


Stating the Topic in the Title

The standard title of a biomedical research paper is a phrase that identifies the topic of the paper. For a hypothesis-testing paper, the topic includes three pieces of information: the independent variable(s) that you manipulated, if any (X), the dependent variable(s) you observed or measured (Y), and the animal or population and the material on which you did the work (Z). The animal studied must always be included in the title, whether or not the animal studied is included in the question and the answer. If necessary, two other pieces of information may also be included in the title: the condition of the animals or subjects during the study and the experimental approach.

Titles for Papers That Have Both Independent and Dependent Variables

For studies that have both independent and dependent variables, the standard form of the title is

Effect of X on Y in Z.

Example 11.1

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Note that in this standard form, the animal, population, or material studied comes at the end of the title.

When humans are studied, they are often omitted from the title, as in Example 11.2, though it is clearest to include "humans" in the title, as in Example 11.22 below.

Example 11.2

Effect of Membrane Splitting on Transmembrane Polypeptides

However, when a subpopulation of humans was studied, the subpopulation is always included in the title.

Example 11.3

Effects of Esmolol on Airway Function in Patients Who Have Asthma

For the negative implication to work (no population in the title implies that the population is humans), the animal must always be included in the title when the work was done on animals.

Titles for Papers That Have Only Dependent Variables

For hypothesis-testing studies that have only dependent variables, the standard form of the title is

Y in Z,

where Y is the dependent variable(s)—that is, the variable(s) observed or measured—and Z is the animal or population and the material on which the work was done. For examples, see the revisions of Examples 11.25 and 11.27 below. Also see Example 11.36 below.

Other Information in the Title

In addition to these essential pieces of information (X, Y, and Z), the title of a hypothesis-testing paper may sometimes include the condition the subjects or the animals were in during the experiments (Example 11.4) or the experimental approach (Example 11.5), if these details are important.

Example ...

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