Trade Tips & Tricks

  • Metadata - How to choose Keywords

    In this series of blog posts we will be talking about how to make your article more discoverable by giving it rich, descriptive metadata. If you missed it, read our first post about what metadata is and how search engines use it, our post on how to write a great title, and our last post on how to write a great abstract.

    The final piece of metadata we are going to discuss is keywords. Similarly to titles, it is important that keywords are not vague and that they instead use direct, descriptive terms that accurately reflect the article you have written.

    Keywords do not have to be the words that appear the most times in your article, but should instead offer a reader at a glance an idea of the subject area and field of study. Keywords do not need to be only one word, which is an important point to remember. They can be two-to-four word phrases that make sense in the context of describing your article.

    As is the case with other pieces of metadata, keywords are crawled and used to index your article by search engines. Having keywords that are strong indicators of the content of your article will boost your article in ranking and search results.

    Some tips for writing keywords:

    • Don’t feel restricted to pick one-word keywords. They can be two-to-four word phrases.
    • Avoid broad keywords, or anything too general (e.g., “education”; “medicine”; “history”).
    • Avoid words that are too narrow or specific that are unlikely to be used by readers in searches.
    • Keywords are not restricted to the keyword section – they can (and should) be repeated in the title and abstract.

    A good way to start thinking about what the keywords should be for your article is to ask yourself what you would type into a search bar to find the article you have written.

  • Metadata - Why bother writing an abstract?

    In this series of blog posts we will be talking about how to make your article more discoverable by giving it rich, descriptive metadata. If you missed it, read our first post about what metadata is and how search engines use it and our post on how to write a great title.

    Abstracts – are they really important? Do you really need to write one? How much of a difference can having an abstract really make? The answer is pretty clear – any article that is going to appear online 100%, absolutely, must have a well written abstract to accompany it.

    The reason for this is simple. As explained in our first post on how search engines work, the abstract for your article is going to be searched, the keywords it contains indexed, and this information will contribute to how your article is ranked by search engines. If you write a detailed, descriptive abstract, your article will be ranked higher than an identical article with no abstract. It is that simple. If you want people to find your article, an abstract is crucial.

    Getting people to find it is just the first step. You also want your article to be read and cited. A well written abstract is the best tool to achieve this. By telling readers exactly what your article contains, they can quickly and easily determine if the content in your article is pertinent to their research.

    So now that you’re convinced, what does a great abstract look like? Not all abstracts will look the same – they vary from discipline to discipline. An abstract in a scientific journal will look different than one in a literary journal. Regardless of your field of study, your abstract should consider the following information:

    1. What – what is the article about? What type of research is being discussed? What makes this article different than others on the same topic?
    2. How – if you are a life scientist or social scientist your abstract should describe how you conducted your research. If you are a humanities scholar, your abstract should tell your readers what theoretical approaches, if any, you are using.
    3. Where – Was there a particular geographic location, or region associated with the research?
    4. When – Was there a particular time period examined?
    5. Why – what makes this research new/interesting/important?
    6. So What – what were the conclusions, findings or implications?

    Here are Antonia’s Dos and Don’ts for writing an abstract

    DO

    • Write one
    • Use key words / terms / phrases
    • Define all acronyms, even common ones
    • Work within the set word
    • Obtain feedback from other subject specialists.

    DON’T

    • Don’t just use the first paragraph of the article, or a collection of sentences
    • Don’t use too much technical or specialized jargon
    • Don’t include any information that is not also in the full article
    • Don’t include references – you want people to read your article, not go off and find one referenced in your abstract.

     

    Takeaways:

    • Every article that will be published online absolutely needs an abstract.
    • A good abstract will increase the ranking and discoverability for search engines, and help readers decide which articles to read.
    • Abstracts should contain keywords and terms.

    Next – key words!

  • Metadata - Importance of the Title

    In this series of blog posts we will be talking about how to make your article more discoverable by giving it rich, descriptive metadata. If you missed it, read our first post about what metadata is and how search engines use it.

    The first piece of metadata that we are going to talk about it the TITLE and what makes a good title.

    A good title should be descriptive – it should tell the reader exactly what the article is about. It should not use jargon, puns, or sarcasm. While humans may understand these figures of speech, the web crawlers that are reading the title, and ranking the article based on the words it contains, are not going to understand them.

    For example, if an article about rats in New York City is titled “A very furry problem” a human reader might guess the topic, but there are no key words in this title to tell an internet crawler what the article is about. The article would therefore rank lowly in any searches on the topic of rats in NYC.

    Your title should state what the article is about as simply and accurately as possible. If you have a pun, play on words, or joke you would like to use, be sure that it is only one part of your title, and that the other part meets the above criteria.

    When writing the title for your article ask yourself – what is this article about? What makes this article interesting? If I were doing a search online for this article, what words would I search for? Does the title alone immediately tell readers what the article is about? The answers to these questions can help you come up with an informative title that will help your readers find it and boost your article in the right search rankings.

    Takeaways:

    • Bad metadata will make even the very best article difficult to find, therefore affecting how many people read it and cite it.
    • A good title will boost your article in search rankings, making it easier to find for your readers and ultimately result in more readership and potentially citations.
    • A good title is descriptive and avoids jargon, puns, and sarcasm.

    Next up – Abstracts!

  • What is Metadata?

    Welcome to the first of a series of blog posts on metadata and why it is important. The information in these posts is great for authors and editors alike, so please read, share, and send us your thoughts.

    These posts are derived from a presentation done by UTP’s Production Manager, Antonia Pop. Antonia spoke on the importance of metadata and discoverability at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Association of American University Presses, the CALJ 2014 Annual Meeting as well as at both CALJ Bootcamps for Editors (2013 and 2014). We will be adapting parts of her presentation here to outline how to write great titles, abstracts, and keywords. Stay tuned for more!

    What is Metadata?

    Congrats! Your article has been accepted! While it may seem as though the publishing process is out of your hands, there is plenty you can do now to ensure that your article is found and read by people in your field of study. In this series we will explain how and why to make your article’s metadata the best that it can be. Before we begin, we’ll explain a bit more about metadata and how search engines work.

    The information that makes your article discoverable is called metadata; that is, information flagged electronically as having some particular function – title, keyword, abstract, author, etc. It is the metadata that tells search engines what your article is about. And it is the metadata that helps search engines decide what to display in response to a reader’s search query.

    Search engines operate in two main phases. In phase one, before anyone has started a search, they go out and collect information about what articles are available to them. They index the words that appear in the metadata of each article, tabulate how often they appear, and record where exactly they appear (in the title? or in a footnote on page 26?). Phase two is when a reader starts a search and all this information is fed into an algorithm. Here is what happens: the reader inputs search terms, the search engine selects articles from its index, the articles are ranked by the algorithm based on what it finds in metadata fields, and depending on the quality of your metadata, your article either comes up on the screen immediately or lurks somewhere down around article number 5,000.

    What you want to do is make sure that your metadata moves your article to the top of the list. If the search term appears frequently, and in important pieces of metadata such as the title, keywords, and abstract, the article will rank high and will appear near the beginning of the list. If the search term appears only in the body of the text, the article will rank lower and appear further down the list.

    Authors can influence the discoverability of their articles by giving them rich metadata that will make them rank higher in readers’ searches.

    Takeaways:

    • Metadata is how search engines know what your article is about.
    • Search engines rank articles based on where and how often a search term appears in their metadata.
    • Authors can make their articles easier to find by providing rich, descriptive metadata.

    Next up - Titles!

  • Tips For Improving Your Academic Essay Writing

    custom-essay-writing2Many students struggle in developing the skills to write an academic paper in their post-secondary careers.  In high school, students are often instructed on how to compose descriptive essays, whereas University professors expect their first year pupils to be able formulate an in-depth critical analysis.  Learning how to translate an insightful idea into a clearly presented critical argument that is supported by secondary sources is a daunting task for the majority of post-secondary students.  Below is a list of 5 tips from Stephen K. Donovan’s article “10 Rules for Academic Writing” that are sure to strengthen your academic writing skills and ease the anxiety associated with composing a university/college level research paper.

    1. Always Carry a Notebook: This will act as a safety net for any thoughts or ideas you may have while you are away from your writing space.  By carrying a notebook around, you will be able to document your point and later add it to your paper to improve its overall quality.
    2. Follow a Schedule: Think of your paper as a part-time job. Devote specific periods of time to writing sections of your essay.  Organizing the production of your essay into sections will ensure that time is equally spent developing each point, which will improve the overall quality of your writing.
    3. Write Down Your Goals: Commit. Keeping a schedule will help you fulfill your time-management goals, but remember to also write down any personal improvement goals you want to achieve.  Perhaps it is to improve your thesis composition or maybe to integrate more secondary sources than in a previous paper.  Whatever the goal you are striving for, writing it down externalizes it and solidifies it, increasing your drive to achieve it.
    4. Read Lots: Relying on material that appears on Wikipedia and Sparknotes will limit your scholarly development.  It is important to expand your reading in order to become an expert in your field.  Find material within your subject area as well as anything that interests you.   Reading furthers knowledge which will assist you in communicating ideas within your paper. Whatever you read, you will develop further as an academic writer if you use the facility to be informed and influenced by the styles and ideas of other authors, both good and not so good.
    5. Before You Start Writing, Create a Mind Map:  Mind Maps are, in essence, an outline of your entire essay. You should sketch out the progression of your essay before writing it out to ensure that you will be able to communicate your ideas effectively and also to make sure each paragraph is unified. Use one-line sentences to describe paragraphs and bullet points to describe what each paragraph will contain. Play with the order of your points and explore which organization presents your idea the strongest.

     

    Read the rest of Stephen K. Donovan's tips here, and check out the Journal of Scholarly Publishing page to find more articles with tips for improving your writing and research skills

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