What Would Cohen Have Titled “The Earth is Round (p < .05)” in 2014?

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The area of bibliometrics is not my area of expertise but is still of interest as a researcher. I sometimes think about how Google has impacted the way we title articles. Gone are the days of witty, snappy titles. Title selection is an art form but of a different kind. Generally, researchers try to construct titles of the most searchable keywords. In trying to title an article today and came upon an Internet article entitled Heading for Success: Or How Not to Title Your Paper.

According to the article, to increase citation rates, a title should:

  1. Contain no ? or !
  2. May contain a :
  3. Should be between 31-40 character
  4. Avoid humor/pun

In seeing:

…some authors are tempted to spice them up with a touch of humour, which may be a pun, a play on words, or an amusing metaphor. This, however, is a risky strategy.

my mind went to the classic Jacob Cohen (1994) paper entitled The Earth is Round (p < .05). In 1994 the world was different; Google didn't exist yet. I ask, “What if Cohen had to title his classic title in 2014?” What would it look like?


Keywords: Mining “The Earth is Round (p < .05)”

I set to work by grabbing the paper's content and converting to plain text. Then I decided to tease out the most frequent terms after stemming and removing stopwords. Here's the script I used:

library(qdap); library(RCurl); library(wordcloud); library(ggplot2)

cohen_url <- "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/trinker/cohen_title/master/data/Cohen1994.txt"
cohen <- getURL(cohen_url, ssl.verifypeer = FALSE)

## remove reference section and title
cohen <- substring(strsplit(cohen, "REFERENCES")[[c(1, 1)]], 34)

## convert format so we can eliminate strange characters
cohen <- iconv(cohen, "", "ASCII", "byte")

## replacement parts
bads <- c("-", "<80><9c>", "<80><9d>", "<80><98>", 
    "<80><99>", "<80><9b>", "<87>", "<80>", 
    "<80><93>", "<80><94>", "", "", 
    "", "<81>", "", "<82>", 
    "<81>", "", "/j")

goods <- c(" ", " ", " ", "'", "'", "'", "'", "...", " ", 
    " ", "a", "e", "half", "fi", " | ", "ff", "ff", " ", "ff")

## sub the bad for the good
cohen <- mgsub(bads, goods, clean(cohen))

## Stem it
cohen_stem <- stemmer(cohen)

## Find top words
(cohen_top_20 <- freq_terms(cohen_stem, top = 20, stopwords = Top200Words))
plot(cohen_top_20)

##    WORD         FREQ
## 1  test           21
## 2  signiffc       19
## 3  research       18
## 4  probabl        17
## 5  size           17
## 6  data           15
## 7  h              15
## 8  effect         14
## 9  p              14
## 10 statist        14
## 11 given          13
## 12 hypothesi      13
## 13 analysi        11
## 14 articl         11
## 15 nhst           11
## 16 null           11
## 17 psycholog      11
## 18 conffdenc      10
## 19 correl         10
## 20 psychologist   10
## 21 result         10
## 22 theori         10

plot of chunk plot1

library(wordcloud)
with(cohen_top_20, wordcloud(WORD, FREQ))
mtext("Content Cloud: The Earth is Round (p < .05)", col="blue")

plot of chunk plot2


What Would Cohen Have Titled “The Earth is Round (p < .05)”?

So what would Cohen have titled “The Earth is Round (p < .05)” in 2014? Looking at the results… I don't know. It's fun to speculate. Maybe some could suggest in the comments but as for me I still like “The Earth is Round (p < .05)”.


Cohen, J. (1994). The earth is round (p < .05). American Psychologist, 49(12), 997-1003. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.49.12.997

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