Framing the text: Title and reference list
Apart from the running text, essays and articles also need a title and, usually, a list of references. These two elements frame the text in the sense that the title is what first welcomes the reader to the text and the list of references is the final part of the text.
Titles need to be informative and attractive in order to gain prospective readers' attention. Consider the following when formulating a title:
Aim for clarity
If choosing a so-called compound title (a title consisting of two elements separated by a colon), make sure that both parts of the title are relevant and necessary. A short and-to-the-point title is usually more efficient than a long and convoluted one.
Use informative words
Include keywords in the title in order to inform prospective readers as well as to make sure that the text is easily found by those interested in the subject. Sometimes it is also appropriate to describe what kind of discussion the text comprises. For instance, nouns such as 'investigation', 'exploration', 'discussion', or 'comparison' could be used.
Avoid false marketing - make sure your title does not indicate something that is not actually discussed in the article.
Whether you should capitalise title words or not may be stipulated in instructions for your assignment (essay or journal stylesheet, for instance). If not, it is often a matter of taste. There are two ways of capitalising text titles in English: sentence-case and title-case.
In sentence-case, only the first word (and any words that are always capitalised in English) are capitalised:
- The use of butter in Swedish cooking
In a title consisting of two elements separated by a colon, the first word after the colon is usually capitalised too:
- The use of butter in Swedish cooking: A longitudinal study
In title-case, the first word plus nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns are capitalised (and any words that are always capitalised in English):
- The Use of Butter in Swedish Cooking
- The Use of Butter in Swedish Cooking: A Longitudinal Study
For further information about capitalisation in English, see
Hays (2010) presents advice for title writing in science, but her advice is applicable in most research fields:
- Hays, J. C. (2010). Eight Recommendations for Writing Titles of Scientific Manuscripts. Public Health Nursing, 27, 101–103.
Haggan (2004) discusses differences between disciplines (literature, linguistics and science) and provides a number of examples of different ways of structuring a title.
The reference list
The structure of the reference list depends on the reference style, although there are some general features that are usually included. Read more about them here: