How to Come Up With a Dissertation Title

Students average eight years to finish a doctoral program, including their dissertation.
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Though it appears at the beginning of your dissertation, the title could be the last part you write. You may have a working title, but dissertations change over time. The final title must accurately reflect your finished product, so consider two key points.

1 Clarity

The title introduces readers to your work, conveying precisely what to expect and revealing the overall topic. A reader interested in science wants to know if your study covers meteors or medieval history. Introduce your specific approach by indicating if your research was, for example, a survey, experimental study or a theoretical analysis. Include the distinct variables you developed that make your dissertation an original piece of research. For instance, identify your control and experimental groups or mention the attributes studied, such as sex or age. Also, describe the scope of the project; a case study is analyzed differently than a large sample.

2 Originality

Your title sets your dissertation apart from other work in the discipline. Reject vocabulary that is overused or all-inclusive unless it is critical to your topic. For example, in the educational field, "interdisciplinary" is a common term that includes all subject areas. Avoid it by specifying the courses you studied, such as science and writing. Also, writers sometimes draw attention to their dissertation by starting with an intriguing short title, adding a colon and finishing with a more specific subtitle; for example: "The Cat's in the Cradle: A Survey of Mothering Habits of Homeless Cats in Urban Centers."

Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.