How to Choose a Title for Your Research Paper

by Kristen Hamlin
A good research paper captures the gist of the paper and sparks interest in the content.

A good research paper captures the gist of the paper and sparks interest in the content.

You’ve written the paper--15 perfectly proofread pages of sound arguments supporting an original thesis, complete with a formatted bibliography. The only thing left is the title page, and you’re stumped. You’ve put weeks of work into this assignment, which is a substantial portion of your final grade, and you have no idea what to call it. Coming up with a title for your research paper that captures the main idea of your paper and entices others to read your painstakingly researched work is sometimes the most difficult part of an assignment—but the extra effort can help you earn a higher grade.

Write your paper. As you write, make notes of sentences, phrases or ideas that capture the main ideas of your paper and could be used in the title.

Make a list of the questions that your paper answers. If your topic is well-defined, it may be a short list, but the list may help you narrow down a title for your paper by focusing your efforts. Craft a title that hints at the information contained in the paper.

Create interest in reading your paper by using vivid language. Use a thesaurus if necessary to find the language. Your title should spark interest in the content of the paper.

Use your thesis or hypothesis as the basis for your title. Turn your conclusions into a definitive statement that captures the main idea of your paper and use that as your title.

Include a quotation from the work that supports your thesis, if you are writing a literature or literary analysis paper. If your paper is not on a literary topic, research quotations that relate to the subject, and create a title using the quotation followed by a subtitle that details the subject of your paper.

Divide your paper title into a title and a subtitle. The title can be more literary or descriptive, while the subtitle details the specifics of the paper.

Define the tone of your paper with your title. If your paper is a serious and conventional academic study, do not write a casual or fun title containing flowery language or a play on words.

Write a title that is no more than 15 to 20 words. The title is meant to spark interest in the paper and give readers the gist of the information that is included. If your title is too long or too complicated, it may turn off your readers before they even start reading the paper.


  • Always format your title according to the assignment parameters. Even a great title will lose points if it is not formatted properly.

About the Author

Kristen Hamlin began writing professionally in 1998 and is the author of "Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College" (Capital Books). Her work has appeared in publications such as "Young Money," "Scrapbooks, Etc.," and "Creating Keepsakes." She holds a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing.

Photo Credits

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