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Clinical and Research Support

The needle in the haystack


Over 800 000 citations are added to PubMed alone each year.

How will people find your research in this flood of material?  

  • Make your title work for you
  • Write a good abstract
  • Make the most of keywords
  • Think about people look for research
  • 'Reverse engineer' your own searching habits
  • Maintain your researcher profile
  • Consider open access options

Photo by Lucas Gallone on Unsplash


Your title will be searched by keyword searches, quickly scanned by readers for relevance and generally act as an ad for your paper.  infographic title optimization for scholarly publications

  • make it informative, attractive and to the point.
  • use words that describe the study and that people would search databases by
  • balance attractiveness with "aboutness"
  • avoid using sensationalist titles - academics and medical professionals tend to avoid them
  • search algorithms give more weight to title words - make sure critical terms are in the title


Infographic by Schilhan, Kaier, Lackner


Video - How to write a title for your research paper by Editage Insights.



Your abstract is the largest section that will be searched by keyword searches (most databases do not search full text). Make it count by including all entry points to your research. These may be alternative terminology, trial or drug names.

For help in writing a good abstract see the How to write a good abstract tab.



Database and search engines are extremely literal - they search for exactly what thy are asked. This means that if people use different spellings or terminology to you they may not find your paper.

  • Example. In PubMed:   leukemia    298 803 results

leukaemia   34 988   results

Use the author keywords options to address this. Attach terminology or spelling variants as keywords to appear in different searches.


How people search  

  • most searches are only a couple of terms
  • author names are commonly searched
  • in one study,  genes, proteins and disease were the next most searched after authors
  • acronyms are searched

Keep this in mind when writing your title, abstract and choosing keywords.

Think about when you were searching for literature on this topic - what did you do? What worked? Apply this to how people will find your paper.

Increasing visibility and discoverability of scholarly publications with academic search engine optimization. UKSG Insights 2021 article.


Researcher profile  

People search by author but this can be a difficult way to correctly identify individual researchers:

  • authors names can be presented in many different ways through the publication process
  • there may be many other people with the same or similar name.

Use an ORCID ID to create perpetual links to your research:

  • Medline and Embase index author ORCID ID's. If people search by this they will find all papers you have linked to your ID.
  • use your ORCID ID across platforms such as personal websites, ResearchGate, LinkedIn, funding applications etc to get credit for your work and allow more ways for it to be found.
  • provide your ID even if publishers do not ask for it.

Use platforms such as institutional websites, personal webpages, professional networking sites and social media to create a digital presence. It does not have to be blatantly self-promoting, just participating will allow more ways for people to find you and your work.

Blowing Your Own Trumpet: How to Increase the Online Visibility of Your Publication? 2018 article.


Open Access  

Research which is available open access (ie not behind a publishing pay wall) gets more views and is cited more.

  • consider what options your preferred journal has for open access
  • look at your publishing contract. What are your options for archiving or posting your paper?
    • you may be able to make the final authors version available
    • you may be able to make the final version available after an embargo period
    • you can usually directly distribute a certain number of copies of your paper
  • make the most of any institutional websites, repositories or other opportunities to store or display your work.


What about Google?

Google Scholar trawls institutional repositories, author websites and other websites with academic content. If your paper doesn’t appear, there are ways to assist Scholar find it:

  • have a bibliography online
  • upload your paper into your institution’s digital repository
  • if your institution’s repository is not crawled, you can ask Google Scholar to include it
  • if you have copyright permission, upload your paper into Research Gate or other network
  • add it yourself
    • sign into your google account , on the 3 line menu on the left in Google Scholar, choose Author Profile.
    • add your details. Google will ask if you have authored articles which it has found
    • if you have publications that don't appear in this list, you can add them manually.