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It is said that "To give added punch, articles are often dropped in the titles" source: http://www.davidappleyard.com/english/articles.htm

Is there any general rule or reference about dropping articles, especially in academic research papers?

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I don't think that there is a general rule about dropping articles from the title, esp. in academic research papers, however, according to the book, How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, a title of a paper is its label, and should therefore be succinct in its description.

[Specifically,] the meaning and order of the words in the title are of importance
to the potential reader who sees the title in the journal table of contents...
Thus, the title should be useful as a label accompanying the paper itself, and it
also should be in a form suitable for the machine indexing systems used by
Chemical abstracts, Indexing Medicus, and others.

It also mentions that the verb "is" is a wasted word in that it can be readily deleted without affecting comprehension. For example, the verb "is" can be readily deleted from the following title without affecting its comprehension.

"Beta-Endorphin is Associated with Overeating in Genetically Obese Mice (ob/ob)
and Rats (fa/fa)".

Furthermore, inclusion of the verb "is" results in a title that now seems to be a loud assertion.

There is no mention of removing articles from the title. Note, however, that I have the third edition of this book.

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