Of course, the snappiness of the paper’s name says nothing about the value of the research. Some topics don’t lend themselves to poetic turns of phrase. The authors of “Human Odometry Verifies the Symmetry Perspective on Bipedal Gaits” were undoubtedly doing the best they could with the material they had.
There are irresistible ones like “Coolness: an Empirical Investigation,” which explains the difference between cachet and contrarian coolness, and “Getting on Top Through Mass Murder: Narrative, Metaphor, and Violence,” which sounds like a business seminar gone horribly awry but turns out to be an argument for the value of narrative criminology.
If Sarah Fulton had titled her paper “The Gendered Quality Gap and Incumbent Electoral Success,” I admit I would have instantly scrolled past it, though it’s certainly an important topic. But instead she called it: “Running Backwards and in High Heels: The Gendered Quality Gap and Incumbent Electoral Success.”
The same goes for the paper “Because Hitler Did It! Quantitative Tests of Bayesian Argumentation Using ad Hominem,” from which I learned the name of a logical fallacy: ad Hitlerum.
Sometimes just stating the subject of the paper is enough. Example: “Thoughts on Whether Government Should Steer a Tropical Cyclone if It Could.” For the record, the author concludes that the government should probably not try to steer tropical cyclones unless officials believe, “with something approaching certainty,” that it can be steered safely into open water.
There are patterns when it comes to paper titles, like the very general first sentence followed by the extremely specific second sentence. “Learning the Wrong Lessons?” could be about absolutely anything, but what it’s actually about is “Science and Fisheries Management in the Chesapeake Bay Blue-Crab Fishery.”
Authors often mine the movies for appropriate phrases:
- I See People: The Presence of Human Faces Impacts the Processing of Complex Emotional Stimuli
- Show Me the Data! Empirical Support for the Centerfold Syndrome
- More Than a Feeling: Discrete Emotions Mediate the Relationship Between Relative Deprivation and Reactions to Workplace Furloughs
- Just the Two of Us: Misalignment of Theory and Methods in Examining Dyadic Phenomena
- What’s Love Got to Do With It? Framing “JihadJane” in the U.S. Press
- Born in the U.S.A.: How Immigrant Generation Shapes Meritocracy and Its Relation to Ethnic Identity and Collective Action
Not to mention popular songs:
Again, though, you work with what you have. If we’re just talking about clickability, the authors of “Can Victoria’s Secret Change the Perception of Future Time? Sexually Arousing Images, Anticipatory Time Perception, and Intertemporal Preferences for Monetary Rewards” simply have an unfair advantage over the authors of “Distinct Recruitment of Temporo-Parietal Junction and Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Behavior Understanding and Trait Identification” and no play on words is going to change that.