Friday, November 21, 2008

Who wrote that cheese?

I have spent the majority of my academic career (i.e. as a student, I don't claim to ahve entered the lofty world of academia just yet) leaving what most people consider the most important part of anything I've written to the end. I'm talking about... The Title.

A title should be catchy, memorable and make people want to read your work. It should be short enough, but not too short to avoid giving some kind of description of your study, while maintaining a professional, but accessible tone. I suck at making up titles.

Biologists, particularly in the more up-and-coming fields of Zoology, are the worst. Behavioural studies, which I am involved in, are often labelled as "sexy science" because laymen like reading about what the panda did or didn't do, and they generally can get a foot into the door of popular science stuff, which, unfortunately attracts stuff that is mildly necessary, like interest in your work, or funding. I find the whole situation quite tiresome.

Don't get me wrong, some people are great at coming up with titles. There are papers that I read over half a decade ago (showing my age a bit) that I remember clearly from the title. But unfortunately, as anyone who has ever spent an afternoon hearing the terrible puns that seem to emanate from zoologists, most titles these days are either completely dull and dry and boring (including most of mine) or else so pathetically cheesy that I battle to take their work seriously.

I am trying to get ready for a conference at the moment, and when I sent in my abstract (that's like a summary of what I'm going to be talking about), I found myself stuck in the mental quicksand that is writing a title. Fortunately I have a very creative brother who works in marketing and I sent him an email begging for help. I asked him to try and use puns, and that the cheesier it is, the better. He repleid pretty quickly with six or seven options, having taken full opportunity to poke fun of me by making the AWFUL in their cheesiness.

Adn you know what the worst part was? Most of them were fantastic, and I picked one, adjusted it slightly, and sent it to the conference organisers!


SuvvyGirl said...

I agree titles have to be something that grab you. They have to be just right. I sometimes struggle with this when it comes to my stories. Although it's so much easier to come up with a title for somethign that is fictional and meant for entertainment purposes only. Glad your brother could help you!!

Unknown said...

so what was the title?

ps - the new background is the one.

Helen said...

Thanks Tompkins! The title will not be revealed here because it's too cheesy for me to broadcast...

Suffice to say, it's treading the thin line between wordplay and punning. Speaking of which, did you ever watch the documentary "Wordpaly" abuot people who play the NY times crossword? Very interesting!