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There are a number of starting points for developing your own essay title. You will probably already have a text or author to write on, and perhaps also a theme. The topic may be determined by your supervisor or by your own interests. For a successful essay, this basis will need to be further refined. Otherwise the essay will be unfocussed, leading to a superficial approach that lacks analysis or argument.

  • The first key questions to pose about your topic, therefore, are "what about it?", and "why is it interesting?"
  • Even if your actual title is descriptive and general, it is useful to have in your mind a research question or problem, to give your ideas analysis and focus.
  • You could experiment with a format from a past exam paper, or one of the types outlined in the previous sections of this resource. Try starting with a closed question, and then perhaps developing it into an open question.
  • You could also experiment with an 'instruction' title. Think about the higher levels of learning in Bloom's taxonomy, and try instruction words which prompt one or more of those levels.
  • You could explore adapting or extending a question, problem or issue raised in a lecture or journal title. Lectures are a good place to get ideas for an essay title, but for a really successful essay, you will need to go beyond them. There will be little room for fresh ideas in an essay which poses the same question or problem as a lecture, and which answers it with the same examples and approaches. Try taking an issue which has been dealt with in a lecture, and ask yourself, what further problems does that now pose, and what questions arise from it? Try thinking across lectures - perhaps an issue which was interesting in connection with another text, author, genre or period might be relevant to the topic you are working on.
  • You could start with a proposition from your secondary reading, applying it to your text as a way of engaging with it. Lectures may have given you an overview of some of the debates and scholarship on the area, or you could try a general handbook or reader on the topic which might summarize the approaches taken in the past. If you come across a statement which makes you think, reconsider or question your own response to the text, this might be a good starting point from which to depart.