1.4 Deciding on a title for your thesis
Your title sets the tone for your thesis as a whole. It’s also a quick way to show your understanding of the topic, and hopefully get your marker on side in the process.
Just like the conclusion, the title itself is part of the rhetoric of persuasion that critical writing is all about.
Sometimes the title can be easier to write after the bulk of the essay is done, as your ideas will have had time to become more crystallised.
But more often than not, getting your title fixed and ready before you start planning will help keep you on the right track during the writing phase.
Avoid anything vague or abstract in your title, or anything obscure that only you understand. The title should be descriptive. It should give a genuine sense of what you’re discussing.
Strength, clarity and catchiness are all-important here.
If you’re a scientist, your title will likely take the form of a question, a hypothesis to be tested.
Or if your thesis is in the arts, humanities or social sciences, this classic title formula cannot really be beaten:
"Short Quotation": Active Verb Introducing Topic or Perspective in X.
Here’s an example:
“In the sincerity of love and honest kindness”: cataloguing the rhetoric of deception in Othello and Julius Caesar.
Just make sure, if you're quoting directly from a given text, that it’s reflective of your larger argument. (The example above is a line spoken by Othello’s arch-villain Iago as he manipulates the unsuspecting Cassio.) It’s a surefire way of signposting your detailed knowledge of the subject matter right from the start.
For the second half of the title, using an active verb signals your intention to enter into and fully engage in the critical debate. A simple exercise that helps is to complete the following sentence in the fewest words possible: “In this thesis, I will be… [cataloguing the rhetoric of deception in Othello and Julius Caesar].”