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Helping Students to Write Successful Paper Titles

Ode Ogede

All who treasure great literature recognize the pivotal role played by a title. But, until now, at both the undergraduate and the graduate level, no book-length study has devoted detailed expert attention to the subject of academic paper titling. Helping Students to Write Successful Paper Titles is the first attempt at an extended exploration of this subject, breaking new ground by confirming the significance of a title as an apparatus for scholarly endeavor. Academic writing’s dependence on the title imparts pre-eminence to the part of the paper that bridges the gap between its contents and the reader, making the title more than just another component of the work and investing the paper with an identity. Through systematic examination of a variety of paper titles, the study offers a cohesive picture of the function of the title in academic writing and guides students in the art of effective title making.
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3. How Not to Write Academic Paper Titles

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As we have seen, the academic paper title is one of those writing conventions that are decidedly frozen structurally but at the same time remain open to innovation and thus have restricted room for maneuver. But what happens when poorly executed titles misrepresent the role of this mightily important part of the academic paper entirely? Such titles don’t offer any details or clues about the contents of the papers, and a gross mischaracterization of the concept of correct academic paper titling invariably leads to disaster: an inability to meet the set expectations readers bring to the reading experience. These expectations revolve around the demand for the academic paper to bring to final form the element(s) hinted at in the title. Faulty academic paper titles present themselves as not bound by the rules of the game, coming across as evidence of critical abuse and also compounding some of the already difficult writing challenges for students. Matters are not helped by the fact that, all too often, titles purporting to be obedient to the norms of academic writing, in literature and composition textbooks published even by major presses, with few exceptions, totally mislead the reader. Rather than provide an accurate guide, what in these mis-titled works are often served up as “model student papers” lead students down the wrong path. What we have is misinformation parading itself in such papers as anything but what it really is rather than anything ← 67 | 68 → that is truly helpful. Just how much...

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