How to Title a College Essay

Stand out from the crowd with good college essay titles.
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A good paper title contributes to a better final grade, yet many students struggle with titles. Good paper titles should arise from the overall content of the papers and their main themes. Avoid writing the title first and never changing it. Depending on the paper and assignment, different titling techniques can produce the best title for every paper.

1 Placeholder Titles

Many students start their paper with the title and never change it. Chances are, the first title you come up with will be vague or may not fit the paper well, leading to a lower grade. Use a sample or placeholder title when you start writing the paper. Write the final title as one of your last steps. Proofread the title carefully along with the rest of the paper before you hand it in.

2 Key Terms

Combine two key terms from your paper as effective title components. A paper about toxic food additives and poor diet could be titled: "Environmental Toxins and Harmful Health Habits." In a literature class, a paper about Emily Dickinson's poems and her isolated life could be titled: "Dickenson's Poems and Her Solitary Life." For political science, a paper about voter ID laws and voting rights might be titled: "Current Voting Restrictions and the Voting Rights Act."

3 Ask Questions

Asking a question in a title can increase the reader's interest, as long as you answer the question in the body of the paper. For example, a health sciences paper could ask: "Can Exercise and Diet Relieve Stress?" Another technique includes providing the answer covered in the paper following the question in the form of a more detailed subtitle. For example: "Can Haiti Recover? Economic Development After Natural Disaster."

4 Debate Focus

An argument and persuasion paper provides an ideal opportunity for a good title. This type of paper requires you to have an opinion on a topic or issue. If you are writing a paper about citizenship for undocumented immigrants, for example, highlight the pro and con portions of the debate: "Citizenship for All, or A Closed Border." A paper about teaching creationism in schools could be titled "Genesis or Darwin? Which Should be Taught?" Good titles for debate-type papers attempt to include both sides of an issue.

Amy Sterling Casil is an award-winning writer with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chapman University in Orange, Calif. She is a professional author and college writing teacher, and has published 20 nonfiction books for schools and libraries.