The clue to writing the best essay title

For much of your scholarly life, you will be assigned a title and you will be asked to write about it. To be able to develop the skill of using a technique and a reply to the title will take quite some time. When you are asked to choose or decide on  your very own essay title, most likely for an extended piece of writing like a dissertation or thesis, you come to the realisation that it can be quite a challenge to actually create your own title for a piece of your work. This, of course, this is not an unexpected reaction to a novel task when you have to use some independent thought processes. However, there are certain strategies that can be adopted to assist you to select a title that will stand out and attractive to you and your potential reader.

The type of writing will determine the title:

The first thing that you need to do is to centre your thoughts on the type of essay you are about to write. Obviously an essay that requires descriptive writing will require a different sort of title from a critical essay or an evaluative essay, for example

Gaining ideas:

Once you have decided what sort of essay you need to write, you will have to make a brief note of all the ideas that are characteristic of the main idea of your essay  as you can. In other words, you are working almost in the opposite way to your normal practice of responding to a question or topic by listing ideas as a reactive process by allowing the ideas to generate a title. In most cases, this will give you a strong essay title that engages with your ideas so you are accomplishing two things at once.

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Choosing a good title:

Most academic essay titles have an implied or open question. In other words, they will ask you, directly or indirectly, to consider a topic. An example of an open question in a title could be:

‘Do you agree that Modern Literature is reflective of the era in which it is set? Discuss this with reference to works by a number of authors of the time’.

If the same essay were expressed implicitly, it might look something like this:

‘Modern Literature reflects the era in which it is set’: Discuss this with reference to chosen authors of the era.

You can quite easily spot that the essential content of each title is precisely the same and the same type of essay will be required in respect to each of them. But, the direct question gives the writer a better position to commence from in replying to it by offering a starting point to argue ‘ in favour or against’ and it is a good idea to include a question in your essay heading as the reply will help you considerably with the formation of your thesis statement. You will also need to make a decision whether your title will have more than one section to it as the examples do..

Also, if you are going to concentrate on a specific theme of a subject, it will be necessary for you to add this as a ‘key’ word in your title. You will know this process well with, but the other way round as you will be used to looking for the ‘key’ words to explain when writing an essay as highlighting them helps you to answer the question in the right way. At this point in time, you will be utilising these words in order to centre the focus of your essay and assist in the defining the points you wish to highlight. Some often used key words are:

  • Discuss
  • Compare
  • Analyse
  • Contrast
  • Evaluate
  • Assess

Clearly, these make up are just some of the many available words that you may select to aid you in forming a great essay title . Questions which include one of these specific words explicitly point to the sort of essay that has to be written, e.g.:

‘Compare the value of two different theorists on the formation of the British welfare State..’


‘Evaluate the early work of Sigmund Freud’s contribution to the study of psychoanalysis’

In each of these questions, it is possible to notice that  the key words utilised assist you to pay attention exactly to the specific aspect of the topic you will  write about and, as with the inclusion of a question, assist with the forming of a thesis statement.

Essay Titles Without Research:

The essay titles which have already been discussed have been mostly of the type you may use for a type of academic work  that includes research of some type. But it is most likely that you may be simply asked to look for a title for a descriptive essay or an imaginative or personal piece. In general, it is most likely that these types of writing are more than likely to involve you in the production of a title, as they are, more creative. If you are ever asked to look for a title of this type,  try to compose a list of your thoughts about the subject as these may bring forward a title for you. With this type of title, however, your attention needs to be on getting the attention of your reader, like a newspaper headline with the aim of urging them on to read further.

Examples of these sorts of titles:

  • Descriptive title – ‘Ecstasy on Earth’ (this is an invitation to the reader to want to explore the piece of writing to find out how the author alludes to ecstasy on Earth.
  • Imaginative title – ‘The Globe in 50 Years’ (this title similarly attempts to gain interest from the reader who might want to compare  their own ideas )
  • Personal title – ‘The Most Difficult Time of My Life’ (this encourages the reader to want to know about this time}

It should be remembered  that the main aim of each essay title is to assist the writer  to cover a subject of their choosing and be able to attract a reader’s interest.