The title of your research should explain in sufficient detail what you are doing so that potential readers can decide if this is relevant to their interests. For example, imagine yourself looking through previous reports/papers/theses to check for ideas and material you could use. Would your project title be a good enough guide to attract your attention?

The title for your research should be a clear and precise description of the topic. A title can be phrased as a question or hypothesis (though it doesn’t need to be). A title should specify sufficient detail so that places, organisations, subjects are readily identifiable. A title should use appropriate phrases to specify the nature of the investigation e.g. “differences between….”, “relationship of ….”, “quantify …”. Do not use vague phrases e.g. “look at”, “study”, “research into”. A good title will help you be clear in your own mind about what it is you are doing and will therefore help decide methodologies, statistics, etc.

Preparing a good title means:

  • Having the most important words appear toward the beginning of your title
  • Limiting the use of ambiguous or confusing words
  • Breaking your title up into a title and subtitle when you have too many words, and
  • Including key words that will help researchers in the future find your work.

Examples of good titles

1. The relationship between odour and the presence of sulphurous hydrocarbons in landfill leachate sampled from boreholes at Clifton March Landfill Site, Preston.

This title gives detail on target (“odour …hydrocarbons”), focused in clear venue (“landfill leachate”), where (“Clifton Marsh Landfill Site, Preston”) and nature of study (“relationship between”).

A less helpful, more ambiguous, version might have been:
A study investigating odour from landfill leachate in various boreholes at a landfill site near Preston.

With those points in mind, here are some good examples of PhD titles found on the Internet in January 2007:

1.  Towards a historical, social and cultural understanding of Sequential Art in England - an examination of process and practice

2. Between Text and Image: An Analysis of Pseudo-Glyphs on Late Classic Maya Pottery from Guatemala

3. Numerical Modelling of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

4. Integrating Dependability Analysis into the Embedded System Design Process

5. A comparison of midwives' and women's assessment of maternal wellbeing

IDevice Icon Activity 21: Possible Titles

This activity requires you to put forward 5 different possible titles for your proposed research and then choosing the best one, while providing sound reasons to support your choice. Now open your log book and complete Activity 21.