The title of a paper has crucial importance, since when it is well thought, other researchers will have more possibilities of finding it when in need, and of wondering its content when encountered. I have found (by chance or systematic search) many great ideas buried into the abyss of unawareness by means of an uninformative title.

Sometimes I find myself struggling to get the right title: do you think that it would be appropriate to ask for help at MO with an specific title for an specific paper? Why?

  • $\begingroup$ Maybe you should clarify whether you want to ask: 1) About advice for choosing a title in general. Or: 2) About advice concerning title of a specific paper you are currently working on. (I can't be sure, but my guess would be that the former has slightly bigger chance to be well-received on MO than the latter. On the other hand, it's possible that there is not much what can be said about this topic in general.) $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2018 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak Thanks, I thought it was clear that I was talking about specific questions for specific papers and their titles. I'm going to edit the question $\endgroup$
    – Jose Brox
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:28
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ What's with the 2 downvotes? If you think the answer is "no" then write or upvote an answer saying so. This is a good question for meta. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Webster Mod
    Sep 5, 2018 at 14:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BenWebster I think there's an unstated tradition across meta-SE's that, on questions that are "yes/no", an upvote means "yes" and a downvote means "no". Of course this has most of its meaning to those who have enough reputation to see upvote and downvote totals, rather than the net total. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2018 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ @zibadawatimmy The problem is I also want the becauses... $\endgroup$
    – Jose Brox
    Sep 5, 2018 at 19:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JoseBrox Those are what votes on actual answers give in this case. It's not a perfect system of course. Some people only want to vote on the yes/no part, not the why part, or only vote on answers, and there's the usual self-selection bias... But for better or worse, that's the general behavior I've noticed across many meta SE's. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2018 at 19:14
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @zibadawatimmy Although if we follow what the help center says - in the section voting is different on meta - then this is recommended for posts which are tagged (feature-request). (Although in practice many users upvote/downvote the way you describe in your comment, i.e., to express agreement or disagreement with the statement said in the question.) $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2018 at 19:41

3 Answers 3


I'm personally pretty skeptical. I think this goes under "MathOverflow is not a discussion forum." What makes a good paper is a pretty nebulous notion, and there certainly isn't going to be a "right" answer. That's probably the most applicable part of the written guidelines.

In general, if you're writing a MathOverflow question that starts by asking the reader to read our paper (which you would be doing, implicitly or explicitly), that's a really bad sign.

Another thing that I personally think is relevant for questions is whether it will be useful to future people on the internet for the question, answer and discussion to be publicly available. I think that discussing the name for one of your papers scores pretty low on that metric.


I support Ben Webster's position on this: the MathOverflow question and answer posts are not appropriate for asking about a subject as "too localized" as resolving the title of an article being completed.

However, there is the MathOverflow user page. I think many things which are not allowed in Q and A posts are allowed on user pages. In particular to MathOverflow, opinions, links, promotional material, requests to review papers, and other items are (or should be) permitted. This is not to say a user should go rogue and commit all sorts of anti-community behaviours on ones own user page; it is to say that (I believe that) fewer restrictions should apply to user page content than to Q and A content.

Further, an occasional comment or brief statement in a post WHERE IT IS RELEVANT AND APPROPRIATE that links to the appropriate section of the user page should be permitted. For example, I think it acceptable that Jose add something to the question like "For an example of what I need, see here on my user page", which would link to a section which might have a list of titles, or another link off the site to the paper, or whatever. Similarly, it would be bad on my part to edit his question to link to my user page, but I think it would be acceptable for me to leave a comment on his question to say "Me Too, here's my link to my problem.", and offer people to check out my user page.

The point is that there should be low impact ways to ask for help, and I believe (in moderation) some commentary and links to user pages can be made low impact and improve the community.

Gerhard "Not Approaching The Facebook Limit" Paseman, 2018.09.07.


You might enjoy "Titles composed entirely of math symbols." Some are quite inscrutable, perhaps intentionally, e.g., "$\textbf{&}$." Other are accurately descriptive, e.g., "$R(4,5)=25$."

  • $\begingroup$ Although not actually related to my question, yes, I find the subject amusing :) $\endgroup$
    – Jose Brox
    Sep 10, 2018 at 12:35

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