I'm thinking of a title for my conference paper. In the paper, I define a new term, say Hurble Gurble.

In the title shall I use itself or the definition of it, which is 8-9 words?

Very Good Method to Live in Hurble Gurble Streets


Very Good Method to Live in in Streets Where Cats Usually Sleep on the Containers Rather Than Inside

Which one is more proper?

Edit: The term is planarized, which means points in 3-D are usually grouped on the planes.

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    If it is not possible to understand what Hurble Gurble means without additional information I would pick the second one. Otherwise, if the reader can get a good idea what you are going to talk about only by Hurble Gurble the first one. – The Almighty Bob Jun 5 '14 at 17:29
  • @TheAlmightyBob I have added the term. Is it understandable? – padawan Jun 5 '14 at 17:31
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    It sounds understandable, but I am not the right person to judge. I would suggest asking someone from your field, maybe a colleague. – The Almighty Bob Jun 5 '14 at 17:36
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    This is a judgment call on your part. Let me say: asking for advice on the title of your paper without including the proposed title of your paper strikes me as unnecessarily inefficient: I don't think "the general principles of paper titling" will be sufficient to guide you to a definitive answer in this case. – Pete L. Clark Jun 5 '14 at 20:47
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    At best, your definition will be an overload for planarized. That is, planarize already has several meanings. – mkennedy Jun 5 '14 at 21:27

Coining a new term in the title of your paper -- while defining it there or not -- is definitely something that you are permitted to do (so it is "proper", as you ask). I have seen this thing happen: the first example that sprung (!) to my mind was

Duchin, Moon Curvature, stretchiness, and dynamics. In the tradition of Ahlfors-Bers. IV, 19–30, Contemp. Math., 432, Amer. Math. Soc., Providence, RI, 2007.

[First sentence of the MathReviews description of the paper:] The author introduces stretchiness, a new and interesting notion describing a kind of curvature of a metric space.

On the other hand, not only is this the first use of "stretchiness" in all of MathReviews, it is also the last.

A recent paper of mine is called "Quadratic reciprocity in abstract number rings", and you have to read the paper (or at least the abstract) to learn what an abstract number ring is.

Whether you should use a new term in the title of the paper is a very subjective and personal choice. I guess it's no secret that many, many people instinctively roll their eyes a little when they encounter a new word being coined. (In fact, I this to be an interesting socio-linguistic phenomenon. But moving on...) Making up your own language can make you look arrogant, overly playful, simply ignorant of existing nomenclature, and so forth. But the majority of academic terminology was coined by some prior academic within the relatively recent past rather than the mists of prehistory: as new ideas and new objects are created, we need new words for them.

Maybe -- maybe -- a good rule of thumb for this is that if you don't feel acutely that something would be lost upon removing your new term from the title, then it really doesn't need to be there. If you introduce the terminology within the paper itself, then you give the community a chance to chew on it, and then others can decide whether full promotion of the new term is a good idea. In fact, if I apply this standard to my own paper above, I am coming around to the idea that the title could be changed. The concept of an "abstract number ring" is not as important to me now as it was when I first started writing the paper.

Whether it is good or bad in your particular case seems impossible to answer without (i) seeing the title of your paper and (ii) having some real expertise and wisdom in the subject area of your paper. I would suggest that you find someone who satisfies (ii) -- e.g. a current or former advisor or mentor -- and show them your paper.

  • 1
    BTW: I am now editing the paper I referred to in my answer. The process of answering this question was helpful in getting me to see that I wanted to change the title. – Pete L. Clark Jun 6 '14 at 20:04

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