1. Write the article, essay, or paper first. It will be much easier to write the title once you already know what you said and what you wanted to communicate. Read through it again or skim it before working on the title.
2. What is the tone of the project? If this is a serious paper, don't be too silly or off-the-wall with your title. If it is a personal essay, meant to be funny or a little strange, it's ok to title your essay in a different manner. But the title should match the tone of the essay.
3. Pull out a few keywords that sum up your paper. After you have your keywords, brainstorm some ideas around them. Do the three words fit together? That could work well. Are they jarringly different? That could work well too. Do they remind you of another word that sums up the whole idea? Spend a few minutes brainstorming.
4. Follow the formula. A lot of essays have titles with a one or few word introdtory statement that is creative, followed by a colon and a direct statement explaining exactly what the paper is about. It's a formula that works very well, so use it freely.
5. Find a quote that matches one theme or central idea of your essay or paper, if applicable. You can type the word into a search engine along with the word quote and check out a few quote web pages. Then take a fragment of the quote to use. You could also use a song lyric if appropriate. If it is a book report, take a fragment of a thought-provoking quote from the book itself. For a paper on Macbeth, try "Toil and trouble: Murder and intrigue in Macbeth".
6. Use a startling, interesting or surprising image paired with your keywords to get the reader's attention and make them curious about your paper, but make sure it's appropriate. If your paper is about a volcano, try "The day the earth bled: The eruption of Mount Vesuvius" or for the fall of Constantinople, you could try "The last king's folly: The final battle of Constantinople".
7. Try to find a cliche that you could re-work and say in a new way for your essay for a clever effect. How about "Fit to be tried: The battle over gay marriage in the courts".
8. Try some clever word play for your title such as a double entendre that could apply to your paper. For a paper about missionaries in West Africa during the colonial period, try "Prophets or profits: The European colonial invasion of West Africa". Or how about "Understanding and overstanding: Predatory lending and debt."
9. Ask someone else for help if you are still having trouble. Have them read over your paper and ask them if it makes them think of any song lyrics, movie titles or TV shows or quotes. If not, ask them to sum up the paper in three words and use those to build your title.
10. Sum up your paper in three words or sum up your thesis. Use those three words to build your title, put a colon and then just state what your paper is about. Jared Diamond's 1997 book title basically just summed up his thesis statement. "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" and it's a best seller.
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