Choosing good titles in academic writing


The title of your paper is the first thing your readers notice, and their first judgments are shaped by your title. Therefore, you have to think thoroughly, as it has the power to create a good first impression. There are three essential rules you have to follow when choosing a good title.

What is a subtitle?

Before explaining how to choose a good title, you must know that a good title can be split into two parts: the main title (main heading) and a subtitle, which are separated by a colon.

A good title demands to be informative and compelling, and subtitles can easily help you achieve these. Just combine your compelling, catchy hook with an informative main title.

Here is an example:
You can also reverse the two parts according to what you would like to emphasize more:

Three main components

Writing an informative title

Your title, above everything else, should help the reader predict the content of your paper. The accuracy of the title in presenting the topic and the scope of your study is particularly essential.

Here is an example of an informative title:

Writing a compelling title

Your title has a role in attracting people into reading the rest of your essay or research paper. You must acknowledge your potential readers’ taste and choose a compelling title to attract and lure them.

A title’s edginess plays a vital role in attracting attention. According to your field of study, find out how edgy you can be, and determine the tone of your title accordingly. Here is an example of a compelling title:

In some fields of studies, a compelling title might mean an insightful title that reveals the findings of the study:

Although a good title is usually 10 to 15 words, long titles (like the one above) are acceptable in sciences.

Writing a proper title

A proper title reflects your tone and shows you know your audience. Consider these three suggestions for an appropriate title.

Of course, you can have a working title during your process but decide on the final title after re-reading your paper from introduction to conclusion, and understanding the tone you have written.

The familiarity of your topic to the audience should determine your final title. In the end, your title should be understood clearly to attract the reader. So, although it is acceptable, avoid using overly technical terms that might not be understood by an average reader from your field of study. Make sure you use the right taboo words and phrases.

For example, the catchy hook “fear not” in the example of “Fear Not: A Critical Perspective on the Terrorist Threat in Europe” (Egmont Institute) is a substance that contributes to the paper’s thesis statement to not be afraid of terrorist threats in Europe.

Keywords in titles

Keywords are crucial for your readers to find the answers to the “what/where/when” of your paper. There are two kinds of keywords. While topic keywords give away the “what” of your topic, focus keywords help determine the location of place and time.

Topic keywords

Topic keywords in your title help to define your content. They answer “what” your content is about. It is important to add topic keywords so that your reader can identify the critical paragraphs and transitions in your paper easily.

Focus Keywords

These keywords help determine the location of your paper and answer “when/where” questions. Focus keywords change from discipline to discipline.

For example, for a literary student, while the location might mean a specific book or author, for a history student, it might mean a certain era or a place. Focus keywords help your paper become professional by offering more information regarding the topic.

The title below shows a catchy phrase, topic keywords, and a focus keyword:

“The Dark Side of Transition: Violence Against Muslims in Myanmar (International Crisis Group)

Catchy Phrase – The Dark Side of Transition

Topic Keywords – Violence Against Muslims

Focus Keyword – Myanmar

Title templates

There are various title formats that you might have to choose from, when finding a title to your paper. Although there might be more examples and the format types are not limited, here is a list of title formats for you to explore.

Gender in Problem-solving Workshops: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing? (Swisspeace)

Rebels without a Cause: Russia’s Proxies in Eastern Ukraine (International Crisis Group)

Redefining the U.S.-Turkey Relationship (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

Taobao Villages: Rural E-Commerce and Low-End Manufacturing in China (East-West Center)

“I have a dream for Pakistan”: A Critique of Zardari’s Plan (Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies)

Mode of delivery of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia: A randomized controlled non-inferiority trial of digital and face- to-face therapy (Sleep)

Stress and Sleep Across the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Impact of Distance Learning on U.S. College Students’ Health Trajectories (Sleep)

High-fidelity quantum memory using nitrogen-vacancy center ensemble for hybrid quantum computation (Physical Review)

Things to avoid

Feel free to check Dos and Don’ts of Academic Writing before you begin.

Frequently Asked Questions

Deciding on the correct title for your research paper depends on several things. First of all, you need to learn the best keywords to include on your topic and you should also decide which technique you will use. If meeting the criteria, anything can be a good topic.

Research paper topic ideas would be a long list, but there are three main thing you should look for; it should be related to your paper, it should be explanatory, and it should be attractive. The topic is the first thing readers notice.

If you want to write a catchy topic for your paper, you can try to use the striking to informative title template. In this method, you start with a phrase to pique your readers’ attention, and in the second part, give brief information about the subject.

When writing the title of your paper, you need to make sure your paper is already finished. After completing the paper, you will have more ideas for your title and you’ll be able to come up with a comprehensive title. Besides, you should ensure it is informative and striking at the same time.

Thank you for reading. If you need further information, feel free to have a look at our essay samples or contact us at live chat.

Ibrahim Akturk
Ibrahim Akturk
Content editor at Tamara Research. Translation major, huge coffee and baking nerd. Addicted to good music and great articles.

Recently on Tamara Blog

Choosing good titles in academic writing
Fatih Gul

Essay Topic Ideas

In the writing process, generating ideas is the least systematic and most innovative step. Now, let’s continue with the steps you can follow in order to find a topic for your academic essay.

Read More »
Pelin Dalkiran

Differences between US and UK English

Your English style should always be consistent throughout the process of writing your research paper, essay, or dissertation. Even though there are more than 160 different English dialects worldwide, American English and British English are known as the most commonly used styles.

Read More »
Education concept. Student studying and brainstorming campus con
Deniz Akcaoglu

Active and passive voice in writing

Active voice and passive voice define how an action is told. While the subject is doing the action in active voice, the person or thing that receives the action comes before the verb in passive voice. You should use the correct verb tense to create a passive voice.

Read More »
Ibrahim Akturk

First-person pronouns in academic writing

There are many different perspectives on using first-person pronouns (I, we, our, etc.) in academic writing among various disciplines. While many experts advise using first-person pronouns even in fields of science, there is no consensus.

Read More »
Ibrahim Akturk

Common phrasal verbs in writing

The two lists below show commonly used phrasal verbs in academic writing and their one-word synonyms. Although it is academically acceptable to use phrasal verbs, you might want to switch them to their one-word synonyms to make your writing diverse and more professional. 

Read More »
Ibrahim Akturk

Tense selection in academic writing

Every type of an academic paper (essays, theses, and dissertations) might require you to choose different tenses. This article will show you the different tense selections in different parts of an academic paper.

Read More »