Cracking the Code: Experimenting with Science News Headline Format to Maximize Engagement

May 3rd, 2020 | RESEARCH

During the course of our ongoing collaboration with KQED, my fellow academic researchers and I have learned that science media professionals are especially interested in improving strategies for headline design, with the goal of increasing audience engagement. Their intuitions about the importance of headlines are supported by research findings. At least when browsing on social media platforms, media consumers often make decisions about whether to engage with stories based only off of the headline. Moreover, headlines influence the way people interpret the story and the impressions they form about the story. It is surprising, then, that there hasn't been much research published in the science communication literature that has aimed to contribute to (or come up with) theories for why different headlines work the way that they do. Therefore, we conducted an experiment to examine whether headline format influences whether someone (a) selects a story to read, (b) anticipates engaging with that story (e.g., commenting, sharing), and/or (c) evaluates the story as more or less credible.


(no document provided)

Team Members

Sue Ellen McCann, Principal Investigator, KQED, Inc.
Sevda Eris, Co-Principal Investigator, KQED, Inc.
Asheley Landrum, Co-Principal Investigator, Texas Tech University, College of media and Communication
Sarah Mohamad, Project Manager, KQED, Inc.


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1811019
Funding Amount: $1,932,857

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1810990
Funding Amount: $152,034

Related URLs

Cracking the Code: Experimenting with Science News Headline Format to Maximize Engagement
Collaborative Research: Influencing Millennial Science Engagement


Audience: Adults | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: General STEM
Resource Type: Research Case Study | Research Products
Environment Type: Comics | Books | Newspapers | Media and Technology | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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