(Re)presenting Science in Research Articles and Press Releases

A Contrastive Analysis of Titles and Headlines





science communication, titles, headlines, press releases, academic discourse


Science communication is a powerful supplier of scientific knowledge for the public (see Harmatiy 2021; Kueffer and Larson 2014). While popularization discourse has been explored in depth (see for example, Calsamiglia and Van Dijk 2004; Garzone 2014, 2020; Gotti 2014; Luzón 2013; Myers 2003), the ways specific linguistic strategies impact content and the communication of science still need to be fully explored. The general purpose of this study is to explore how titles of scientific articles are transformed to be turned into headlines of press releases. Specifically, it aims first to identify recurring discursive patterns in the adaptation of titles in scientific discourse to headlines in science communication. Second, it investigates whether these patterns have an impact on the way scientific knowledge is presented. Two matching corpora were used: one of titles of research articles and one of headlines of research-based university press releases. The unique feature of these two corpora is that they have a bijective relation, so that each of the 210 titles of scientific papers matches one of the 210 university press release headlines. Results show that many linguistic strategies in science journalism are the mirror image of scientific discourse: three strategies were identified that contribute to two different representations of science, as an ongoing process in academic titles and a conclusive fact in press releases’ headlines: 1) the validity-endorsement strategy; 2) the V-ing construction; 3) the opposition between unspecified association vs. explicit relation.

Author Biography

Laura Di Ferrante

Laura Di Ferrante (PhD, University for foreigners of Siena, 2008; Texas A&M University-Commerce, 2013) is from Naples (Italy) and works at the University of Milan as an Assistant Professor of English Linguistics. She is co-founding editor and co-editor in chief of E-JournALL, EuroAmerican Journal of Applied Linguistics and Languages. Her main research interests focus on workplace and media discourse, language ideologies, and applied linguistics.


Autzen, Charlotte. “Press Releases – The New Trend in Science Communication.” Journal of Science Communication 13.3 (2014): C02.

Ball, Rafael. “Scholarly Communication in Transition: The Use of Question Marks in the Titles of Scientific Articles in Medicine, Life Sciences and Physics 1966–2005.” Scientometrics 79.3 (2009): 667-679.

Biber, Douglas. University Language: A Corpus-Based Study of Spoken and Written Registers. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing, 2006.

Biber, Douglas, and Susan Conrad. Register, Genre, and Style. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Blom, Jonas Nygaard and Kenneth Reinecke Hansen. “Click Bait: Forward-Reference as Lure in Online News Headlines.” Journal of Pragmatics 76 (2015): 87-100.

Calsamiglia, Helena and Teun A. Van Dijk. “Popularization Discourse and Knowledge About the Genome.” Discourse & Society 15.4 (2004): 369-389.

Catenaccio, Paola. “Press Releases as a Hybrid Genre: Addressing the Informative/Promotional Conundrum.” Pragmatics 18.1 (2008): 9-31.

Cheng, Stephanie W., Chih-Wei Kuo and Chih-Hua Kuo. “Research Article Titles in Applied Linguistics.” Journal of Academic Language and Learning 6.1 (2012): A1-A14.

Chovanec, Jan. “The Uses of the Present Tense in Headlines.” Theory and Practice in English Studies 1 (2003): 83-92.

Di Ferrante, Laura, Giulia Lattanzi and Emilia Petrocelli. “Those Who Get Lost in Communication Science. Promotion and Downplay in University Press Releases.” Discursive Perspectives on Knowledge Dissemination in Corporate and Professional Communication: Focus on Ethical and Ideological Aspects. Edited by Giuliana Garzone, Walter Giordano and Sergio Pizziconi. Timișoara: Editura Politehnica, 2021. 31-56.

Dor, Daniel. “On Newspaper Headlines as Relevance Optimizers.” Journal of Pragmatics 35.5 (2003): 695-721.

Eco, Umberto. “Appendice: Guida all’Interpretazione del Linguaggio Giornalistico.” La Stampa Quotidiana in Italia. Edited by Vittorio Capecchi and Marino Livolsi. Milano: Bompiani, 1971. 333-377.

Fahnestock, Jeanne. “Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical Life of Scientific Facts.” Written communication 3.3 (1998): 275-296.

Farkas, David K. “The Logical and Rhetorical Construction of Procedural Discourse.” Technical Communication 46.1 (1999): 42-54.

Fischhoff, Baruch. “The Sciences of Science Communication.” PNAS – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110.3 (2013): 14033-14039.

Flowerdew, John and Matthew Peacock. Research Perspectives on English for Academic Purposes. Cambridge Applied Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Gabielkov, Maksym, Arthi Ramachandran, Augustin Chaintreau, and Arnaud Legout. “Social Clicks: What and Who Gets Read on Twitter?” Proceedings of the 2016 ACM SIGMETRICS International Conference on Measurement and Modeling of Computer Science, 2016. 179-192.

Garzone, Giuliana E. “News Production and Scientific Knowledge: Exploring Popularization as a Process.” The Language of Popularization. Edited by Bongo, Giancarmine and Giuditta Caliendo. Lausanne: Peter Lang, 2014. 73-107.

---. Specialized Communication and Popularization in English. Roma: Carocci. 2020.

Genette, Gérard and Marie Maclean. “Introduction to the Paratext.” New literary history 22.2 (1991): 261-272.

Gotti, Maurizio. Specialized Discourse: Linguistic Features and Changing Conventions. Lausanne: Peter Lang, 2003.

Gotti, Maurizio. “Reformulation and Recontextualization in Popularization Discourse.” Ibérica 27 (2014): 15-34.

Harmatiy, Olha. “Science Coverage: What Does the Audience Want and Really Need? Exploring Media Consumption in Ukraine.” Journal of Creative Communications 16.1 (2021): 97-112.

Kueffer, Christoph and Brendon MH Larson. “Responsible Use of Language in Scientific Writing and Science Communication.” Bioscience 64.8 (2014): 719-724.

Kumar, M. Jagadesh. “Editorial Commentary: Making Your Research Paper Discoverable: Title Plays the Winning Trick.” IETE Technical Review 30.5 (2013): 361-363.

Luzón, María José. “Public Communication of Science in Blogs: Recontextualizing Scientific Discourse for a Diversified Audience.” Written Communication 30.4 (2013): 428-457.

Mabe, Michael A. and Mayur Amin. “Dr Jekyll and Dr Hyde: Author-Reader Asymmetries in Scholarly Publishing.” Aslib Proceedings 54.3 (2002): 149-157.

Mahrt, Merja and Cornelius Puschmann. “Science Blogging: An Exploratory Study of Motives, Styles, and Audience Reactions.” Journal of Science Communication 13.3 (2014): A05.

Molek-Kozakowska, Katarzyna. “Towards a Pragma-Linguistic Framework for the Study of Sensationalism in News Headlines.” Discourse & Communication 7.2 (2013): 173-197.

Myers, Greg. “Discourse Studies of Scientific Popularization: Questioning the Boundaries.” Discourse Studies 5.2 (2003): 265-279.

Nordqvist, Asa. “The Use of Direct and Indirect Speech By 1 ½-To 4-Year-Olds.” Psychology of Language and Communication 5.1 (2001): 57-66.

Petrocelli, Emilia, Laura Di Ferrante and Elisa Ghia. “Multi-Word Combinations in Science Communication: A Corpus-Driven Study of University Press Releases.” Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies 12.4 (2022): 1-19.

Puschmann, Cornelius. “A Digital Mob in the Ivory Tower? Context Collapse in Scholarly Communication Online.” Discourse in and Through the Media: Recontextualizing and Reconceptualizing Expert Discourse. Edited by Marina Bondi, Silvia Cacchiani, Davide Mazzi. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2015. 22-45.

Saitz, Richard and Gary Schwitzer. “Communicating Science in the Time of a Pandemic.” JAMA 324.5 (2020): 443-444.

Sarangi, Srikant. “Rethinking Recontextualization in Professional Discourse Studies: An Epilogue.” Text & Talk 18.2 (1998): 301-318.

Swales, John. Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Tessuto, Girolamo. “Making Sense of Web-Based European Court of Justice Institutional Press Releases: Context, Structure and Replicable Genres.” Ibérica 42 (2021): 219-244.