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?
- “Female Consumerism and Household Authority in Early National New England”
- “Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich”
- “Workers and the Wild: Conservation, Consumerism, and Labor in Oregon, 1910-30”
- “Creating the New Egyptian Woman: Consumerism, Education and National Identity 1863-1922”
- “The Poet in Society: Art, Consumerism, and Politics in Mallarme” “Good Bye, Lenin! : Free-Market Nostalgia for Socialist Consumerism”
Compare titles for a work about sexuality in Nigeria:
- Newspaper article: These Are The Lies Nigerian Girls Tell
- Bestselling book: Everything in Nigeria is Going to Kill You
- Movie Title: B for Boy
- Academic article: The Emergent Queer: Homosexuality and Nigerian Fiction in the 21st Century
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.
- Strength through Joy
- Workers in the Wild
- The Emergent Queer
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.
- Consumerism and Mass Tourism
- Homosexuality and Nigerian Fiction
- Conservation, Consumerism, and Labor
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.
- …in Early National New England
- …in the 21st Century
- …in Mallarme
Put together A+B+C, and an academic-style title might sound like:
- Buy Me a Date: Consumerization and Theories of Social Interaction in 21st Century Online Dating Sites
- “Just Do It: Risk-Taking and Collaborative Learning Theory in Multiplayer Video Games”
- “Is That a Horseshoe in Your Pocket? Homosocial Male Archetypes in the the Cowboy Western”
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.)
- Topic: How important textbooks are in K-12 education
- Bad: “Textbooks in Our Schools”
- Better: “Necessary Tools: Lack of Textbooks in America’s public schools, K-12”
- Good: “Necessary Tools: K-12 Textbook Visual Accessibility and the Soundbyte Model of Information Theory”
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.