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I am writing a scientific paper and confused with choosing the correct form to use as the section title.

Which one is the correct one?

How it works


How does it work?

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As J. M. wrote, both are correct. However, using a complete sentence as a section heading (“How does it work?”) sounds more friendly/casual/informal than using a noun phrase (“How it works”) to me, and it may be good or bad depending on the style of your paper.

I also agree to J. M. that using “it” in a heading may not be the best choice.

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"how does it work" sounds informal? Really? – xport Dec 16 '10 at 2:40
Huh? Why the downvote? :o Anyway, I upvoted this. – user730 Dec 16 '10 at 2:50
"How it works" is certainly more formal, at least in my opinion. I would avoid using a question as a heading in formal writing. But then, this is a matter of preference. – Jimi Oke Dec 16 '10 at 3:00
I don't know why I downvote this answer. OK. I upvote now :-) – xport Dec 16 '10 at 3:00
@Jimi: as always, a matter of ear. ;) FWIW, I've seen both forms in the scientific literature. – user730 Dec 16 '10 at 3:41

It depends on the flow and the titles of the immediately previous sections. For example:


The new cure for the disease[...]

How it was Discovered

It all started with some mold on a petri dish[...]

How it Works





Why is this important?


How does it work?


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Either of the two is okay; I would however recommend replacing "it" with the actual object under consideration if that is to be a section's title.

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@JM, thanks for answering. Good answer! – xport Dec 16 '10 at 2:41

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