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Succinct effect or informative effect: the relationship between title length and the number of citations

Abstract

Previous studies produced mixed results with respect to the correlation between title length and number of citations. This research aims to provide a new explanation for this controversy by examining one of the largest pools of papers to date, containing over 300,000 economics papers spanning a much longer time period (1956–2012). The results show that correlation between title length and the number of citations is negative between 1956 and 2000, but becomes positive after 2000, when online searches became the predominant method for literature retrieval. Moreover, heterogeneity analyses show that longer titles are especially crucial for papers with relatively lower influence, which researchers can typically only access using online searches.

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Fig. 1

Data source: Web of Science

Fig. 2

Data source: Web of Science

Notes

  1. 1.

    SEO theory refers to the optimization of the website through website structure adjustment, website content construction, website code optimization, etc., to improve the ranking of the website and the exposure of the website’s products.

  2. 2.

    The Web of Science provides data on the articles published in over 12,000 scientific journals and one of the two major sources for bibliometric material on scientific publications, citations, and related information. In this study, we restrict the sample to economics.

  3. 3.

    Since 68,281 papers did not get any citations among the 302,048 samples (as the mode of citation is 0 in Table 1), we also used the Tobit regression besides OLS regression to deal with the left-censored problem. Our basic results did not change.

  4. 4.

    Using the logarithm of the number of citations as the dependent variable is to alleviate the problem of heteroscedasticity. The number of citations plus 0.0001 was used in Log-transformation in order to handle the case which received no citation. The original value of the independent variable title length and control variables are used.

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Acknowledgements

Financial support from National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71603046) and National Social Science Fund of China (Grant No. 16CJY065) is gratefully acknowledged. We would like to thank Xi Chen, Jiacheng Liu and other participants in seminar at Yale University for helpful comments. James Tierney and Rachel Koh provided excellent assistance.

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Correspondence to Chao Ma.

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Guo, F., Ma, C., Shi, Q. et al. Succinct effect or informative effect: the relationship between title length and the number of citations. Scientometrics 116, 1531–1539 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-018-2805-8

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Keywords

  • Citation
  • Title
  • Search
  • Scholarly impact

JEL Classification

  • A2
  • Z1