Undergraduate dissertations

Title

Your title should be formulated in a precise and grammatical form. It should tell any reader – even those who have no knowledge of your subject area – the exact nature your topic and your approach to it.

Let’s look at an example. Imagine that you come across a journal article with the title: ‘The Representation of Women in Magazine Advertisements’.

This raises more questions than it answers. Unless you read the article you will not know, for example, what period of time the author is writing about, what types of magazines and what types of advertisements. You might even assume that the article is going to look at the whole history of the representation of women in magazine advertisements.

Most importantly, there is no indication of exactly what the author is going to say about the subject. For all you can tell, the article might just be a description of advertisements: that some use black and white photography and some use colour, or that sometimes women are shown wearing lots of clothes and sometimes not very many.

In contrast, imagine you come across an article with the title: ‘The Image of the 90s Woman as presented in Magazine Advertisements which promote Cosmetic Industries’.

This tells you clearly what the author is going to write about. He or she is focussing on a specific period of time and on a specific type of advertisement. The title does not specify what type of magazine the author is writing about but it does invite us to assume that the article will focus on women’s magazines because that is where such advertisements usually appear.

The second title also does something else that is very important: it establishes a wider context for the discussion. The first part of the title ‘The Image of the 90s Woman’ implies two things. First: that there is an identifiable female type or types that are represented throughout advertisements for cosmetics in the 90s. Second: that there is a ‘90s Woman’ as distinct from an ‘80s Woman’ or ‘a 70s Woman’. By implying those things it inevitably invites us to reflect on the accuracy and truth of the representations of 90s Woman in advertisements.

So, make sure your topic and your approach to it are clearly formulated. This does three things:

  • i. it tells the reader clearly what you are writing about;
  • ii. it shows that you have thought about and know about your topic;
  • iii. it helps you to organise the remainder of your dissertation.