A catchy title for a research paper depends on the subject of the paper, but in general a bit of wordplay is good. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer uses "An American Idol Nation" as an example of a catchy title for a paper on the effects of popular media.
Rolf Zwaan, a professor of psychology and language, cautions that too much humor in the title can negatively affect the reader's perceptions. Zwaan conducted an informal study showing that papers with humorous titles are generally rated as less trustworthy or interesting than papers with catchy but serious titles. Clever or memorable acronyms can also help catch a reader's attention and make the paper stick in her mind.
A bit of wordplay in a title or a reference to a well-known or current topic can help draw attention. Some research has indicated that people prefer titles with colons. Writers should use a descriptive or provocative phrase in the main title and add a more serious or detailed explanation in the subtitle.
Topics that are inherently controversial are catchy with a plain descriptive title, especially if the title does not lay out the conclusions drawn in the paper, since this keeps interested readers in suspense.