The keywords you choose for your manuscript, the title, and its abstract are three critical aspects of manuscript preparation because they determine the accessibility and initial impact of your writing.

In an age of search engines and easily available information, keywords chosen for manuscript retrieval/accessibility are often as important as the research itself. Further, while writing a research paper, a lot of attention is naturally focused on the body of the manuscript. At such times, it is easy to miss out on composing an effective title. The first aspect of a research manuscript visible after the title is its abstract. A well-written, well-structured abstract is critical in that it gives the reader an idea of the entire research and often also influences journal acceptance or rejection.

Why is it important to research effective keywords anyway?

The title, abstract, and keywords of a manuscript play an important role in making it visible or accessible to other journals or researchers and helping them decide its value. Therefore it is vital to choose the right keywords and write an effective title and abstract. Here are other reasons why these three stages of manuscript preparation are so important:

  • Thanks to SEO and SEM, most search engines scanning research publications tend to use the words included in a paper’s title and abstract. However, it is the keywords that determine when and whether or not the information will even be displayed to a potentially interested reader.

  • Most often, the title and abstract are the only freely available sections of the manuscript that are available to interested readers. Thus, considering that a reader will evaluate the value of a research paper based on first impressions, it is imperative to compose an effective title and to write a compelling abstract.

  • Journal editors are busy people, and the abstract of a manuscript is often viewed as an introduction to the author’s work. This section has the potential to swing an editor’s mind in favor of queuing up the manuscript for peer review or to lead them to reject it outright.

What’s in a name? How to write an effective title.

The title of a manuscript has a greater function than defining the scope of the research. A title actually plays a dual role. As mentioned earlier, it is the first part of the paper that is extracted by search engines and websites. It also determines whether or not a reader will develop an interest in your paper and will proceed to accessing its full contents. To be effective, the title of a research paper should be succinct, convey the theme and content of the research, and yet, should avoid being a story in itself. Ideally a title should be 10 to 12 words long and should use words and phrases that accurately highlight the core focus of the research.

Here’s a helpful article on writing a strong title:

Writing an effective abstract.

An abstract, too, plays a dual role. It creates a first impression of sorts on the journal editor reviewing it and determines acceptance for peer review/rejection. It also functions as a summary of the research based on which readers make a decision on whether or not they are willing to read through the rest of the manuscript and find out what the research is all about.

An abstract could also be considered as a sort of marketing tool or akin to film previews that are meant to pique the audience’s curiosity, making them want to find out more. Abstracts typically range between 100 and 300 words, based on journal specifications, and are expected to outline the research and the manuscript structure. There are 3 types of abstracts:

  • Descriptive Abstracts—used in the humanities—do not provide specific information about methods and results.

  • Informative Abstracts—used in the sciences—present details regarding the aim, methodology, and results of the research.

  • Structured Abstracts—most commonly used for medical journals/papers—structure information under section headings (e.g., Objective, Methods, Results, Conclusion).

Here’s what you need to remember when writing an abstract:

Choosing keywords

Keywords play an essential role in the retrieval and display of scientific information. Thus, they determine the order of and efficacy by which a research paper will be displayed, especially vis-à-vis similar research topics. In fact, journals, websites, and search engines use a system of keywords to catalogue and display information. Keywords, therefore, are of vital importance and need to be strategically chosen.

This article includes the primary considerations in the choice of effective keywords:

The title of a research paper, its abstract, and the keywords an author chooses might seem like the smaller, less effort-intensive aspects of manuscript preparation. However, they play a major role in determining the impact on a manuscript’s acceptance and evaluation.