What's in a name? Word inflation, punctuation, abbreviation and cloud formation

Susie J. Schofield (Lead / Corresponding author), Pieta G. Schofield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
293 Downloads (Pure)


The title of a journal paper offers a crucial portal into any scientific field. It determines whether interested readers locate the paper and whether others have enough interest sparked to lead them to read the abstract. This article looks at authored journal paper titles in Medical Education over its first 50 years (n = 6357) of publication and Medical Teacher over its first 35 years of publication, revealing both trends in areas of interest and how those interests are worded. Word clouds per decade showed a shift from teaching to learning and from examination to assessment, and new foci on learning, patients, research and feedback in both journals. The average length of title in Medical Education peeked in the 2000s, dropping to 70 characters in the 2010s, with no titles being longer than 140 characters (the length of a tweet) in this last decade. Abbreviations were used sparingly. The use of humorous titles, although not common, has increased in recent years. The use of the colon showed a marked increase in the 1980s, dropping a little in the 2000s but resurging in the 2010s. Titles posed as a question increased steadily, appearing to plateau in the 2000s at 11%. The use of humour and questions suggests that the authors of these articles are submitting papers to be selected by the human rather than just the virtual eye. We also hypothesise that the use of humour may indicate a maturation of medical education as a subject.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1264-1268
Number of pages5
JournalMedical Education
Issue number12
Early online date22 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


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