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How to write academic-style titles


Titles in scholarly writing follow a very clear pattern. They generally consist of 3 components (below). They should give the reader a good sense of what the scholarly paper’s substance is, and therefore are best settled upon near the end of the essay-writing process.

What pattern do you see in these academic titles?

How are they different from newspaper, trade book, or movie titles?

Compare titles for a work about sexuality in Nigeria:

Academic Titles Have Three Parts

First componennt: A catchy “hook”

This, the least important part of an academic title, introduces the paper in a creative way.

Second component: topic keywords

The “what” of the paper. This identifies concepts the scholar will be exploring. They and are present in the title both for humans scanning lots of articles and for search engine indexing.

Third part: focus keywords

The ”where/when” of the paper. Along with “B”, these more specific keywords are vital so that researchers can drill down to specific articles that pertain to their research.

Put together A+B+C, and an academic-style title might sound like:

Spin Bad Titles into Good

(Note how not only the words have changed, but you can imagine that the substance of these essays would be very different.)

While the first title could be arguing anything from the cost of textbooks to the poor information contained between their covers, the “good” title indicates a specific component of textbooks that will be examined, and on top of that, identifies the main scholarly theory that the paper will use to explore that component.