#Paperpuns: of science and wit

21 November 2014| by Paul Avery

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.

xkcd scienceImage: xkcd/CC BY-NC 2.5

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:


















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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