Ahhh, writing scientific publications: pouring over the literature to craft a detailed introduction, a meticulous methods section and a conclusion that carries all the gravitas you can muster! It can certainly be a serious business. When you’ve finally pieced all these sections together, drafted an abstract, dotted every ‘i’, crossed every ‘t’ and italicised every et al., Greek letter or Latin name, you can turn your attention to the title.
Finally. This is your time to shine, your chance to grab the attention of your peers. Of course, you could provide a very informative and functional title that lets the reader know exactly what they’re in for (like most people do…). Or, you could traverse the less travelled road and have a go at being funny!
Some scientists wait a lifetime to write a review article that lets them craft a clever title. When you read the great ones, you can almost feel the creative debates – likely aided by a beverage or two – behind arriving at such a point of genius. However, it can also be a double-edged sword, as discussed in an article published last year entitled ‘Amusing titles in scientific journals and article citation’ in which the authors concluded that, ‘The use of humor may decrease the tendency to read an article and treat its contents seriously’. Sad news indeed.
Fortunately, this clearly that wasn’t enough to dissuade everyone (hooray!). In celebration of this fact, we’ve listed some of our favourite scientific article titles of all time, and salute this display of wit in the face of scientific evidence condemning such papers to a dusty, citation-free area of academia! In no particular order:
- Meristem maintenance is KNOX so simple
- Liebsch D et al. (2014) Development 141:4311-4319
- The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth: how belief in the Tooth Fairy can engender false memories.
- Principle GF and Smith E (2007) Cognitive Psychology 22:625-642
- MAKING AND MANAGING ELECTRONIC CHILDREN: E-assessment in child welfare
- Peckover S, White S and Hall C (2008) Information, Communication &Society 11:375-394
- Sorting the Slow Way: An Analysis of Perversely Awful Randomized Sorting Algorithms
- Gruber H, Holzer M and Ruepp O (2007) Fun with Algorithms 4475:183-197
- Accidental electrocution during autoeroticism: a shocking case
- Schott JC, Davis GJ and Hunsaker JC 3rd (2003) American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 24:92-95
- Daddy issues - paternal contribution in plants
- Lokody I (2014) Nature Reviews Genetics 15:705
- Transposable elements: ERE and there for pluripotency
- Burgess DJ (2014) Nature Reviews Genetics 15:439
- Evolution: boom and robust
- Burgess DJ (2014) Nature Reviews Genetics 15:216
- Evolution: Speciation goes with the flow
- Flintoff L (2013) Nature Reviews Genetics 14:748
- Gutsy moves in mice: cellular and molecular dynamics of endoderm morphogenesis
- Viotti M, Foley AC and Hadjantonakis AK (2014) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 369:1657
- Technology: go ahead, make my DNA
- Burgess DJ (2011) Nature Reviews Genetics 12:381
- Development: Differentiation goes up a Notch
- Burgess DJ (2011) Nature Reviews Genetics 12:226
- Oogenesis: making the mos of meiosis
- Extavour C (2009) Current Biology 23:R489-R491
- Bust size and hitchhiking: a field study
- Guéguen N (2007) Perceptual and Motor Skills 105:1294-1298
- One giant leap for mankind? A cost-utility analysis of abolishing the law of gravity
- Cyr C and Lanthier MD (2007) Canadian Medical Association Journal 177:1536-1538
- Mexican waves in an excitable medium
- Farkas I, Helbing D and Vicsek T (2002) Nature 131-132
- Chemical processes in the deep interior of Uranus
- Chau R, Hamel S and Nellis WJ (2011) Nature Communications 2:203
There’s no way that this short sequence of paper titles could do justice to the full array of wondrous scientific puns and in-jokes that can be found diffused among the literature (all puns intended, of course).
Instead, we were hoping to get a reaction from you all (ha!). Please do add to our growing chain of ideas (that one’s a bit more obscure) by posting your favourite paper title in the comments below, or tweet about them using the hashtag #paperpuns!
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