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

or

How does it work?

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.

  • "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
  • 1
    "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
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    @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:

Introduction

The new cure for the disease[...]

How it was Discovered

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

How it Works

Magic.

Versus:

Introduction

[...]

Why is this important?

[...]

How does it work?

[...]

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.

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

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