Alongside your abstract the title of your paper is also important. Essentially, there are three things you need to keep in mind:
- Ensure your title accurately reflects the crux of your research
- Keep it concise
- Make it different to an essay title
Your title will be the first thing anyone sees in a conference programme so it needs to draw an audience in. Coming up with a really good title is much more difficult than it looks. Basically you need to convey your information in a concise manner, while avoiding the temptation to make it sound like an essay title. Don’t waste the opportunity to get it right.
The ‘too-much-like-an-essay’ title
‘What were the economic reasons behind the handover of power from Brandt to Schmidt in Germany in 1972?’
‘Discuss the arguments for and against capital punishment’
It might seem easy to use the title of your favourite research essay you wrote for History 101 as the title of your paper. But those tend not to work. The title of your paper should describe the intellectual ground you’re covering, and give a hint as to what your argument or focus is. Remember, you are encapsulating the core themes of your research to accurately reflect what people will be getting if they come to your talk or search out your poster.
The clever or obscure title
‘Knock knock. Anyone home?’
‘Is there a Text in this Class?’
These titles may seem interesting but they do not tell your potential audience enough about the content of the talk or poster. Unless these sorts of cryptic statements are a cornerstone of what you’re presenting on (perhaps a quote from a newspaper or speech, for example), stay away from in-jokes or vague references. Think about the most successful books, in fiction and non-fiction categories, and consider what works for the bestsellers.
The ‘academic colon’
‘Where have all the Blue Knights Gone?: Colour Symbolism in Medieval Literature’
‘With All, and for the Good of All: The Emergence of Popular Nationalism in the Cuban Communities of the United States, 1848-1898′
These sorts of titles can be great and provide an interesting and informative introduction to your work, but only use this style of title if it is appropriate within your discipline. You should also ensure that the pre-colon section of the title is relevant to your research and not just an excuse to make things sound more interesting.
The ‘my whole article is in the title’ title
Be careful not to make your title too long. Ensure that you have conveyed enough information, but don’t try to cram in too much.
The ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ title
‘The Siege Engine as Metaphor in Four Old French Chronicles’
‘The Stereochemical Outcome of Diene Additions to Thionitrosoarenes’
‘Short-term and Long-Term Effects of United Nations Peace Operations’
These sorts of titles tell the audience exactly what they will be getting if they see your talk or read your poster and are informative to those who have a good knowledge of the subject area and those who do not.
If in doubt take a look at titles of conference presentations in your discipline. Some titles are better and more effective than others. Which ones tell you exactly what you would get if you went to that talk? Which pique your interest and which put you off? Try to take inspiration from the best titles and re-title your talk or poster if you think you need to.