Many standard ways of formatting references do not include the name or title of the work in question in the citation. A formal citation often consists of the author names, journal name, publication year, volume/page number or other details, but not the title of the work.

This seems ironic given that the title is usually the single most important little string of text one can have, to use to find a given paper. Especially since nowadays, the most common way of finding a paper is to Google it (historically, one would need to physically go to a library, and in that case it perhaps is true that knowing the journal name + volume and page numbers is more useful than knowing the title)

Personally, my approach is this: when submitting a paper to a journal and other formal writing, I follow the established conventions, but when writing anything informal, I always include titles in the references, for the convenience of the reader. Do you think this makes sense?

Are there any reasons for the traditional convention of omitting titles, other than to save ink and paper?

  • 5
    What? What style does this? May 1, 2022 at 21:26
  • 7
    @AzorAhai-him- Many physics journals do that. And it's just to save ink and paper, from the olden days. May 1, 2022 at 21:59
  • 1
    @AzorAhai-him- Space-stingy journals in biology and medicine, too.
    – Bryan Krause
    May 1, 2022 at 23:14
  • Related: Why do citations in physics journals leave out the article title? For what it's worth, I still google references without including the title most of the time, i.e. just using abbreviated journal name + volume + page, though it breaks down for some more obscure journals. (And in PDF form, references are usually hyperlinked, which beats using search engines anyway.)
    – Anyon
    May 1, 2022 at 23:57
  • I can vouch that it happened 100 years ago in certain mathematics journals in the U.K. Seems unhelpful to me, yes! May 2, 2022 at 0:22

1 Answer 1


The reason, strictly speaking, is that it is not necessary. A citation needs to provide the reader of an article a way to find the referenced source, and providing journal, volume, issue, and page is enough. Anything beyond this only requires paper and ink and is, strictly speaking, not necessary.

That it is inconvenient in modern electronic times is of course a different matter and one could imagine that journals that currently use this style might consider changing the style they use. Personally, I also often find it quite useful to read the title because it helps me understand whether or not I should take a look at that paper. Since space and black pixels no longer cost anything these days, there wouldn't even be a cost to such a style change.

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