Dissertation title writing
(Last updated: 12 May 2021)
1. What is it for?
Your dissertation title is much more than just an arbitrary label for naming your work. It serves as the first summary of what your piece is all about. A good dissertation title must communicate the essence of your research project and give an accurate sense of what follows.
Take time and effort to formulate a punchy, even compelling, dissertation title. For those with little natural linguistic flair, think about throwing around ideas with a student studying English.
The title is your opening gambit, so be sure not to falter and set your dissertation writing off on a bad footing. Ambivalence and ambiguity have no place here; a clear, lucid and descriptive title is the best way to make a confident opening statement to the person who will eventually mark the work.
Dissertations come in many forms and are guided by different purposes, even within the same field. Consider therefore the value of signalling from the very outset whether your dissertation is of one type or another. Make clear what the reader can hope to expect in reading the entire text.
Many academic disciplines will have developed conventional formulae for putting together dissertation and article titles. This being the case, a consultation of published material can provide you with a model for structuring your own title.
Keep the title short and relevant to the aims of your research. There is no room whatsoever for extraneous material and padding. The specificity of your title will indicate the focus of your approach as a whole, and therefore demonstrate a certain clarity of thought.
The full extent of the reach of your research will be discussed in the introductory chapter of your dissertation, but in an impressionistic sense the title can serve to give an idea as to the breadth of your purview. Indicate the span of your dissertation if possible.
A good dissertation title will be instantly recognisable and distinct from those of other extended pieces of writing on the same or related topics. To this end, it is advisable to avoid dry and generic vocabulary where possible and mark out your dissertation as being somewhat unique.
A quick note on presentation: the title should have its own page, formatted to meet the requirements sent to you from your department or faculty. Typically the date, your name, department, university and candidate number should appear on this page alongside the title itself. A word count (including or excluding appendices and footnotes, depending on specifications) may also be required.
Certain academic disciplines accommodate a little humour in the titles of work which they publish. At its best, this approach can provide a hook to reel the reader in; at worst it will detract from the credibility of the piece. Consider only if all other requirements are fulfilled.