The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Are IR Titles Getting Increasingly Boring? Evidence from a Data Set

May 18, 2012

Abstract

Though scholars widely claim that they are capable of writing creative titles, there exist some notable skeptics. Resolving this debate requires empirical evidence. However, beyond a few anecdotes, no one has systematically tested trends in the mind-numbing dullness of IR article titles. I correct this lacuna through the use of an original data set containing eight independent measurements of the originality and wittiness of article titles. Using various statistical techniques, I find that, for article appearing in six leading journals between 1985 and 2005, titles are indeed becoming more boring over time. In addition to confirming a depressing decline in titular creativity, my study reveals two additional findings of significance. First, titles that take the form of “historical quotation: explanation of what the article is actually about” are only interesting for the years 1985-1995, after which they become extremely boring. Second, the most consistently insipid article titles consist of  a putative correlation expressed as a question followed by an independent clause alluding to a data set. My findings and research methods have important implications for the field, as I assert repeatedly in the body of this article despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.