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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 181-185

Assessment of titles of original research articles published in two peer-reviewed journals of community medicine and public health from India: A descriptive study

1 Department of Community Medicine, Vilasrao Deshmukh Institute of Medical Sciences, Latur, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, Shri Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College, Yavatmal, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission16-Sep-2020
Date of Decision25-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance28-Dec-2020
Date of Web Publication29-Jul-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Vijay Kishanrao Domple
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College, Yavatmal, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdmimsu.jdmimsu_332_20

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Introduction: Title is the first face of research article which is the mostly read part after publication. Objective: The objective of this study is to assess the titles of original research articles published in two peer-reviewed journals of community medicine and public health from India. Materials and Methods: This descriptive study included 340 original articles from the Indian Journal of Community Medicine and 140 articles the Indian Journal of Public Health published during 2010 to 2018. These articles were downloaded from the official website of the journals. The study was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee. A predesigned proforma pertaining to fulfill objective consisting of Setting, Population, Intervention, Conclusion, Endpoint and Design (SPICED) criteria, length, typology, punctuation, abbreviations, use of keywords in title, was used. Data were entered in Excel and analyzed by using Epi Info version 7 for frequencies and percentages. Results: Out of 480 original research articles, 48.54% of the articles had title with 16 to 30 words. Four hundred and forty-two (92.08%) titles were of declarative type and 42.08% titles were of topic only type. Out of 200 articles where punctuation or abbreviations were used maximum 83% were with colon. 46.46% articles quoted 5–8 keywords in the articles. Only 9.58% titles were with all the keywords quoted. Only one experimental study had title with SPICED criteria while no observational study had title was with all criteria. Conclusions: Most of the titles were of descriptive type and less use of keywords in titles was there in the formulation of titles along with scarce use of all components of SPICED criteria.

Keywords: Community medicine, peer review, public health, publications, title

How to cite this article:
Wadde SK, Domple VK. Assessment of titles of original research articles published in two peer-reviewed journals of community medicine and public health from India: A descriptive study. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ 2021;16:181-5

How to cite this URL:
Wadde SK, Domple VK. Assessment of titles of original research articles published in two peer-reviewed journals of community medicine and public health from India: A descriptive study. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Sep 16];16:181-5. Available from: http://www.journaldmims.com/text.asp?2021/16/1/181/322629

  Introduction Top

Title is the first face of research article which is the mostly read part after publication which gives the summary of an article.[1] It may also tell us the study design, population involved, study variables, and methodology to some extent. This can be compared with trailer of a movie which should have the greatest impact so that it will oblige the reader to read the complete article. It should be not only concise and accurate but attractive enough for the reader, researcher, editor, and reviewer. It is also very useful in search the literature as most of the keywords are expected in it.[2],[3],[4] Whenever any researcher want to go for literature search, he/she needs to use the keywords and title in databases and are the recommendations by few authors.[5] By reading only the title, the readers may decide if it is useful or relevant to them or not.[6] An article with poor title may be difficult to find, may be ignored or may reduce impact on the reader.[7] On the contrary, a good title with keywords is likely to be discovered easily and cited more often.

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors in their guidelines mentioned that the title should be concise enough to read easily and not too short to lack important information.[8] In one of the study, it was also found that titles with more length were downloaded less frequently as compared with shorter length while title that contained question mark were also downloaded more often.[9] Setting, Population, Intervention, Condition, Endpoint and Design (SPICED) criteria being the balanced one should be used for formulating a title.[10] It is also recommended that the study design should be put after colon, interrogative titles (titles with query or question mark) should be avoided. Abbreviations or acronyms which are not well known should be avoided and those which appear in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary are to be included.[7],[10]

Number of citations of an article decides the impact factor of a journal which tell the importance and quality of a journal in its field. The journals with higher impact factor are considered are of good quality.[11] An informative, attractive, and catchy title increases the number of downloads and citations contributing to the impact factor of journal.[9] Here, title of an article plays an important role.

Most of the authors in community medicine give first choice to these two journals, namely Indian Journal of Community Medicine (IJCM) and Indian Journal of Public Health (IJPH) for their publication. IJCM and IJPH are the two open access; peer-reviewed leading journals in community medicine but no specific or detailed guidelines are provided in the instructions of authors. IJCM has mentioned running title should not be more than 40 letters whereas 50 characters by IJPH.[12],[13] CONSORT 2010 guidelines for randomized controlled trials and PRISMA 2009 for systematic reviews and meta-analysis reporting recommend study design in the title while STARD 2015 for diagnostic accuracy should include at least one measure of accuracy such as sensitivity, specificity, predictive values or area under a receiver-operator characteristic curve in the title.[14],[15],[16] STROBE guidelines for observational studies should include study design with commonly used terms.[17] Though title being so important, many other journals also have not included the guidelines to frame a title for research article such as length of title, number of keywords, use of colon, question mark, or typology of title. Hence, we decided to assess the titles of the original articles published in IJCM and IJPH, two open access peer-reviewed journals.

  Materials and Methods Top

The present descriptive study was conducted during the month of January–October 2019. We included only original articles published in IJCM and IJPH during January 2010–December 2018 which were downloaded from the respective official websites of these journals. Hence, all other type of articles were excluded. There were 340 original articles published in IJCM and 140 in IJPH published during 2010 to 2018. A predesigned questionnaire was used to assess the titles of original articles. The components of questionnaire were like publication year, length of title, type of title (declarative/descriptive/interrogative), another typology of title (topic only/method describing/result describing/conclusion describing/dataset describing), SPICED criteria, grammar of title (colon/question mark used), use of abbreviations, acronym, keywords quoted in the abstract, how many keywords used in the title.

Terms used in the study were as follows

  1. Publication year – The publication year was considered in which year the research article was published.
  2. Length of title – It included the number of words included in the title. The word count of titles was calculated by using the following formula[18] = LEN (C3)-LEN (SUBSTITUTE (C3,” “,””)) + 1 in Microsoft Excel.
  3. Type of title: Adopted from the articles by Bavdekar[6] and Vasilev[19]

    1. Declarative title: It tells us main findings or outcome or conclusions mentioned in the research article
    2. Descriptive title: It describes main theme of the article and not the findings or conclusions. It has all the elements of research question. Here the title may be long but informative containing many keywords and keeping the outcome suspense
    3. Interrogative title: This type of title is of question type including full or a part of research question.

  1. Another typology of title: Adopted from the article by Goodman et al. published in Science Editor.[3] They had developed and mentioned following type of titles.

    1. Topic only: Title is ambiguous and has subject. It does not have the information or types apart from the remaining categories mentioned below.
    2. Methods describing: Title has topic and included study design, data management, or analysis. It may be comprised of the terms such as case-control, cohort, effectiveness, efficacy, frequency, incidence, mortality, prevalence, surveillance, survival, trend, or validity study; meta-analysis; randomized clinical trial; or sensitivity-specificity or cost-effectiveness analysis. The title may be indicative of investigation of an epidemic or outbreak or it may be with incomplete description of a method inclusive of terminologies such as assessment, evaluation, population, sample, or comparison.
    3. Dataset: It states the particular study duration of a study, indicates topic name or an acronym. For e.g., Global Adult Tobacco Survey [GATS] India 2009–2010.
    4. Results: It includes topic and information related to a specific value, terms such as increased, decreased, high, or low indicative of semi-quantitative or ordinal information, or information on relationship such as association, change, correlation, determinants, effect, evidence, impact, influence, outcomes, predictors, relation, remission, risk, variability, or any variation. The terms are used as per the findings observed in the research article by the authors.
    5. Conclusions: Title includes the topic as well as the outcome, findings, or evidence from the study.

  2. Grammar of title: The grammar of title was assessed by noting the use of colon/question mark used.
  3. Keywords: The keywords were obtained from the abstract and counted manually.
  4. We used the SPICED criteria for interventional studies. Only SPCED criteria were used for observational studies as there is no intervention (I).

The present study was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee. The titles of original articles and relevant information pertaining to the objective of study were entered in Excel sheet. The data were cross verified by both the investigator for errors and analyzed by Epi Info version 7, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia (US) for frequency and percentages.

Ethical clearance

This study was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee, Shri. V. N. Government medical college, Yavatmal, on 23rd Jan 2020.

  Results Top

Out of 480 original articles, 340 (70.83%) were from IJCM and 140 (29.17%) were from IJPH. Maximum article, i.e., 18.54% was published in year 2018 followed by 75 (15.63%) in 2010.

Out of 480 titles, maximum, i.e., 233 (48.54) were having 16–30 words in the title followed by 41.46%, i.e., 199 titles with 10 to 15 words. Forty-four (9.17%) were having only 4–9 words in the title and four titles were with more than 30 words. Out of 199 titles with 10–15 words most were from IJCM, i.e., 148 (74.37%). Even maximum titles, i.e., 157 (67.38%) from IJCM were with 16–30 words. Two article titles from each journal were with more than 30 words.

Out of 480 articles, 442 (92.08%) were with descriptive title and 23 (4.79%) were having declarative title while 15 (3.13%) were of interrogative type. Similar distribution was found in the type of title in individual journal also [Table 1].
Table 1: Distribution of original articles according to type of title

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Out of 340 articles from IJCM, most were of topic only titles, i.e., 46.47% followed by methods and result describing, i.e., 111 (32.65%) and 38 (11.18%), respectively. Nine (2.65%) and 5 (1.47%) were conclusion and dataset describing. In IJCM, 19 (5.58%) titles were of combination of different categories such as methods and result, methods and conclusion, methods and dataset, topic and dataset, result and conclusion, result and dataset, etc., Maximum titles of the articles, i.e., 67 (47.86%) from IJPH were of methods describing type, while 44 (31.43%) and 10 (7.14%) were of topic only and result describing, respectively. Thirteen (9.28%) article titles were of combined type, of which 9 (6.43%) were of methods and result describing [Table 2].
Table 2: Distribution of original articles according to the category of titles

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Out of 480 articles, 200 (41.66%) titles used some punctuation mark or abbreviation. Colon was the punctuation mark used in 166 (83%) of the titles. Out of 145 titles from IJCM, 120 (82.76%) titles had colon and 14 (9.65%) used abbreviation in the title. Fifteen (7.5%) articles used a question as there were same number of interrogative type of titles in [Table 1].

The number of keywords quoted in all the articles ranged from 3 to 16. Out of 140 articles from, there were 26 (18.57%) articles with at least three keywords IJPH and remaining 81.43% were having 4 to 16 keywords. As per the guidelines for authors, 154 (45.29%) of 340 articles from IJCM had 5 to 8 keywords, whereas 182 (55.53%) had 3 or 4 keywords and 4 (1.18%) had 9 to 16 keywords.

Of the total 480 articles from IJPH and IJCM, 29 (6.04%) titles had not use any of the keywords quoted in the articles and only 9.58% title were with all the keywords quoted. The percentage of the titles from IJCM and IJPH who used all the keyword was 9.71 and 9.29 respectively. Hundred and sixty-four (48.24%) and 59 (42.14%) titles from IJCM and IJPH, respectively, used 50% of the quoted keywords in their title.

As the criteria of intervention from SPICED are not applicable to observational studies two different tables [Table 3] and [Table 4] for experimental and observational studies were made. Out of 480, there were 30 experimental [Table 3] and 450 observational studies [Table 4]. There were 22 (73.33%) experimental studies from IJCM, while 8 (26.67%) were from IJPH. Only one (3.33) study title had all the six (SPICED) criteria in the title while 2 (6.67%) studies had fulfilled none of the criteria, and all these studies were from IJCM. Three to five criteria were fulfilled by 6 (20%) study titles each while 5 (16.67%) had only one criteria in the title.
Table 3: Distribution of experimental studies according to Setting, Population, Intervention, Condition, Endpoint, and Design of study criteria

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Table 4: Distribution of observational studies according to Setting, Population, Condition, Endpoint, and Design of study criteria

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None of the title from 480 observational studies had fulfilled all the criteria (SPCED) while 21 (4.67%) had not fulfilled any of the SPCED criteria of which most, i.e., 20 were from IJCM. Maximum, i.e., 108 (24%) had setting, population, and conclusion (SPC) in the title followed by 91 (20.22%) titles had setting and population included in it, of which only one was from IJPH. Sixty-two (13.78%) studies from IJCM had only setting mention in the title while none was from IJPH. There were various other combinations such as SC, PC, SPD, PCD, etc., in 110 (24.44%) of the titles the details of which could not be mentioned in the table due to the limitation of space. There were 26 (5.78%) study titles form 450 observational studies in which setting (S) was also not applicable along with intervention (I), so these were assessed with PCED criteria.

There were 18 articles, 14 from IJCM and 4 from IJPH which used redundant words like “study of” “study on” or “investigation of” in the title of articles.

  Discussion Top

We assessed 480 titles of original articles in IJCM and IJPH published during 2010 to 2018. There are many components (like SPICED criteria) to be included in the title so that it will be more effective and have maximum impact.

In the present study, most of the titles were formulated by using 16–30 words. As there are no such guidelines provided regarding the length of title in both journals' website (http://www.ijcm.org.in/contributors.asp and http://www.ijph.in/contributors.asp). So as per the interest of authors, titles were formulated. Goodman et al.[3] discussed in their research article that one journal entitled “Obstet Gynecol” (1997) had published policy regarding the length of title; that manuscript title should not contain more than 100 characters, including letters and spaces. Bavdekar[6] suggested that instead of giving emphasis on length of title, it should have as many words which should explain the article's main theme and content. Dewan et al.[10] suggested that title should be formulated by using 10–12 words which explicit the essence of research. Vitse and Poland[20] recommended that title should be short (∼150 characters).

In our study, most of the titles were descriptive followed by declarative and interrogative titles. Jamali et al.[9] also reported the highest number of descriptive (1442) titles followed by declarative (660) and interrogative (45) titles. Dewan et al.[10] and Bavdekar[6] suggested that descriptive title should be used as it covers all the elements of a research question such as population, intervention, comparison, and outcome, and it will not tell the results and conclusion keeping it as a suspense over declarative and interrogative.

In the present study, most of titles were categorized as topic only, followed by method describing, result describing and so on. Goodman et al.[3] reported that 40% papers were classified as topic only, 33% were methods describing, 18% were results describing 1% of the titles presented a conclusion. Iskander et al.[21] suggested that title should include who, what, when, and where of the study. Along with this, out of methods, results, conclusions, or named data set or study, one or two items should be included.

Most of IJCM titles were formulated with colon than IJPH in this study. Jamali et al.[9] reported that there were 325 titles with and 1847 titles without colon. Dewan et al.[10] mentioned that the study design should be placed after a colon or a dash. Very few articles were used abbreviations in the titles in the present study. Bavdekar[6] reported that there should not be use of nonstandard abbreviations in the title as well as if acronym have to be used, it is advisable to spell them out. Dewan et al.[10] in their research paper suggested to avoid abbreviations or acronyms as far as possible.

Approximately 10% titles were formulated by using all keywords in this study. As per the guidelines to authors from IJPH, there should be three or more keywords in the article[13] and IJCM guidelines recommended 5–8 keywords[12] in the articles while Hall[22] recommends 3 to 6 keywords. Bavdekar[6] suggested that title should include as many keywords as necessary to ensure that article get picked during an electronic search, whereas Dewan et al.[10] reported that the keywords/important terms should be placed in the beginning of title as well as it is advised to not duplicate the keywords which are used in the main title as both will be helpful to access the article in electronic search and for citation purpose.

Literature review suggested that no study was available till date for the comparison of findings of SPICED criteria. Only one title of the experimental study was having all components of it but not a single title of the observational study. Although SPICED criteria are considered as balanced while formulating a title, setting, population, intervention, condition, and design can be included for a title of an experimental study as endpoint or outcome is very sparingly used unless declarative title is used.[10] We observed that there were some titles where all components of SPICED criteria were not applicable. From the SPICED criteria; 'I' (Intervention) is not applicable in observational studies, so 'I' component should not be considered while formulating the title. We think it is the area of authors where he/she/they should finalize the title as per the need of topic by selecting the optimum components of SPICED criteria. Irrespective of study design/category of research articles (original article/brief communication/short communication/brief article/letter to editor etc) in journals, it is better to use all components of SPICED criteria, wherever possible.

  Conclusion Top

To conclude, most of the titles were of descriptive type, most of the titles were of topic only and method describing type, significant use of colon, less use of keywords in titles was there in formulation of titles along with scarce use of all components of SPICED criteria.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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