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I often come across papers which have a 'Novel' in their titles. In the content the authors go out of their way to explain how their work is the first to the best of their knowledge to come up with the results.

Isn't novelty a necessity in research papers? Is a separate emphasis really needed? What is the best way to convey novelty without sounding extravagant?

  • I don't recall seeing a qualifier like “to the best of [one's] knowledge” in such papers, although the phrase “in the literature” gets used as a qualifier. The former might be taken as an admission of possibly incomplete knowledge, vs. the desired claim of being completely familiar with whatever the topic is. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Aug 28 '12 at 16:57
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    Another reason for using 'novel' is that it's a lazy way out. I can't say "An algorithm for clustering", and maybe I can't get into the details of what's new in my title, so I just say 'A novel algorithm for clustering' – Suresh Aug 29 '12 at 20:23
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The authors need to make it clear that the paper makes a contribution and to be explicit about what that contribution is. Otherwise the work is not original and does not deserve to be published. (This excludes survey papers and such things.)

The emphasis on novelty need not, however, be placed so explicitly in the title.

Good ways of emphasizing the novelty are

  • Include a short discussion at the end of the introduction stating explicitly what the contributions of the paper are.
  • Back this up with evidence in the body of the paper.
  • A proper comparison with related work. (As El Cid's answer states.)
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  • Instead of a minor edit, I would strongly emphasize evidence. – walkmanyi Aug 28 '12 at 7:50
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I would rather comment on @Dave's points, but since I have no reputation, here goes my comment/answer :-)

I personally was taught not to put "novel" or "to-the-best-of-my-knowledge" or any other weasel words in the papers, so I also do not like the cited examples, if and when I review papers.

What is most often overseen in papers is the "related work" (apart from the discussion section, which I believe belongs more to a journal-type publication), and how the paper makes an advance to the field. The authors should emphasise what the state of the art is, and how the paper advances it. That is what makes me judge for an accept or reject, rather than "incredible results". But it is also true that when you're growing "older" you look for different things in papers, and that "younger" reviewers are more easily captivated by strong claims.

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I usually employ the following interpretations:

  • "best-of-our-knowledge" means that the authors were too lazy to search for existing work.
  • "novel" and the like in the title means that something very close already exists for ages.

Novelty (a contribution improving on the previous state-of-the-art) is necessary, such emphasis is not.

Regarding how to "convey novelty": It is absolutely required to explain why it is new instead of asserting that it is. This holds for both the title and the body of the article.

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    Some journals in chemistry now forbid the use of "new", "novel", or "de novo" in titles. – Ben Norris Aug 28 '12 at 11:10
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    Another interpretation of "to the best of our knowledge" is that the authors are being intellectually honest. – Joel Reyes Noche Aug 28 '12 at 13:02

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