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Journal Academica, Vol. 1. No. 1, pp.

24-28 | July 2010 | ISSN: 2026-559X

©2012, African Institute for Researching and Development



Albert Amoah SAAH* & Collins Kwabena OSEI

Centre for Distance and Continuing Education
Institute of Distance Learning
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi Ghana

The title of a research project or the thesis may be seen as the eye. By it a reader can diagnose the
state of the piece of work; whether a good or bad one. As the eye of a storm driving a storm and
showing the direction of its force so does the title of a research project shown the thrust thereof.
However, several research projects and thesis at the tertiary education level have not been
successful because of the structure or statement of their title. Students have had difficulty in
choosing a working title for their work to result in an appropriate thesis title. Titles have been
found by both internal and external examiners to have failed to reflect the content of the thesis.
Thesis supervisors as well as students have wondered what guidelines existed for choosing working
titles. Study therefore sought to study accepted titles of accepted research proposals and successful
theses as well as that of rejected titles of research proposals; to identify content factors that made
for accepted titles and successful theses. Social unit was students from two (2) cohorts of 2008/9
Commonwealth Executive Master Degree programs of the Institute of Distance Learning, Kumasi.
A research project titling process cycle was modelled from the findings of the study.

Keywords: guideline, working title, research project


Research titles serve as the eye of the certain attributes or characteristics. A working title
dissertation, research paper or thesis (Saah, 2013). called descriptive title by Khan (2008) is part of
As the eye of a storm shows the direct and the force your research project proposal. Choosing a title for
of the storm; as the eye of a needle signifies a a research project can pose a problem to the student
doorway, and a patients, shows health status, so researcher if one has not already been given but one
does the working title show the quality status of has to choose their own. Much as some see it as an
work. It is the window or gateway to the art it could well be a science as well and for a
dissertation. It shows the thrust and direction of mastery one should know the principles and
thesis or project before the reader or examiner gets practice for a while to be perfect. Some topics or
engaged. working titles were submitted without research
Title is the name of your long piece of written proposal, working titles too long, and did not reflect
work involving personal research, written as part of theory.
a university degree. It is a word or words by which Students have found it difficult stating and
your research project report is known, addressed or structuring a title for their thesis or project
referred to or identified. This title should possess dissertation.


The study was n exploratory type of research, and Titles and Topics of two (2) 2008/9 academic year
survey methods were used to gather data for the Commonwealth Executive Masters’ degree
study. And particularly, Literature survey was used research proposals in KNUST, Kumasi were
inn gathering information and secondary data. studies. Elements and factors in the titles were
Sources included books, and articles from websites. analyzed qualitatively.

Journal Academica, Vol. 1. No. 1, pp. 24-28 | July 2010 | ISSN: 2026-559X
©2012, African Institute for Researching and Development

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION program or course of study). Topic: a subject

of a text, speech, conversation, etc (Gr. topika
A. Some key words to think about and = matters concerning commonplaces)
understand. Terms: key words related to the subject or
These will include theme, topic, text, terms, field of study. Text: a matter or printed work
title, topic and thesis. Soans (2009) defines seen in terms of its content rather than its
them as follows. Theme: a subject on which a form; the main body of a written work as
person speaks, writes or thinks; an idea that is distinct from appendices, illustrations, etc.; a
often repeated in works of art or literature written work chosen as subject of study. Title:
(accompanying the beginning and the end). the name of a book, musical composition or
(Course themes: subjects such are gender, other artistic work. Thesis: a statement or
multiculturalism, the environment; theory and theory put forward to be supported or proved.
concepts or knowledge gathered in the

Figure 1: a research project titling process cycle

B. using a process decision cycle to generate highlight a single area, make tree diagram,
a working title and make an idea map. How do you begin
Going through decision making process in the a research project? Claim a topic, research
cycle (figure 1) helps one go through the your thesis by narrowing your topic,
stages and steps in writing a title in a consider the kind of research you must do.
systematic way. 3. Capture some theories and terms: what
1. Call a theme: this is a subject of study (a terms do your topic and field of study
branch of knowledge studied or taught) in conjure or command? These are words
the field of Public Administration with often used in the concepts and principles
concepts and theories found in the of the discipline.
commonwealth executive masters 4. Choose working title: the initial name of
program. proposed research project. You work
2. Claim a topic: a subject of a text (a through the thesis with this name,
person or thing that is being discussed, referring to your work and identify your
studied, or dealt with). Hairston, et al work.
(1999) recommend how one may find a 5. Craft your text: along the controlling
topic. They explain that one needs to thoughts of your topic
brainstorm, assess your strengths, consider 6. Construct a thesis (or theses): Gong and
current issues, browse in the library, and Sam (1995), have developed some steps
browse online. How do you refine your by answering the following questions. Are
topic? Do not try to cover everything, there any classical topics? What is your

Journal Academica, Vol. 1. No. 1, pp. 24-28 | July 2010 | ISSN: 2026-559X
©2012, African Institute for Researching and Development

thesis statement? How do you construct a

thesis? Make a strong point, make a D. Some considerations when stating your
worthwhile point, preview the direction of title. Ask some questions.
your paper, place your thesis effectively, Mind your Target. For whom and to whom
(opening paragraph with thesis), develop are you writing?
and clarify your thesis. How best does you The examiner (internal and external); the
title sum up your concepts? What about academic department (you belong to) that is
the theme and topic? awarding the degree; the academia (academic
7. Conclude with final title: how well does institution repository); the intellectuals (may
the final name of your final research want to find the ration behind the title if
project interesting); other researchers who may want
to verify, validate or replicate or continue with
C. Some considerations when structuring your research recommendations;
your title. Implementers, Stakeholders or employer or
The following four principles may be a good professional body (the may have given you
guide for you. your working title already and this may not
differ very much from the final title. This
Components structure: have at most two would be implementer-specific, stakeholder-
components usually linked with a colon, (:) specific, employer-specific)
Example 1 “one-component (usually a
sentence and may become too long for ease Objective/task/problem-solving/thesis
and clarity). “An evaluation of social-cultural oriented: identify a problem in your work
practices increasing productivity of small scale place or environment or area of interest. These
farmers in selected communities of the Afram yield relatively immediate findings or result to
Plains Irrigation Authority, Eastern Ghana” be acted upon by stakeholders. It may be
Example 2 “two-component (usually two describe as “action research” of “actionable
phrases) (a Title: subtitle) or (a topic: focused research”,
area) e.g., = “An evaluation of social-cultural Example 1 (problem-solving) “the application
practices increasing productivity: Case of of social-cultural practices to increasing
small scale farmers in selected communities of productivity of small scale farmers: Selected
the Afram Plains Authority Project, Eastern communities in the Nandom Irrigation Project,
Ghana” Northern Ghana”
Example 2 (objective) “Social-cultural
Brevity structure: What should be the length practices influencing productivity of small
(number of words) of your working title? scale farmers: Case studying selected
Number of Phrases: 2 communities in the Nandom Irrigation project,
Number of words: 20-25 maximum Northern Ghana”
Number of sentences: 1 maximum Example 3 (task) “Creating quality in learning
materials using distance education esoteric
Clarity structure: there should be no influences in the University of Cape Coast,
ambiguity. Write what you mean, and mean Ghana”
what you write “what is written is written”. Example 4 (thesis) “Bio-Psycho Social factors
Focused: the subject of study. Better with enhance women learner participation in work-
singular aspects oriented functional literacy in inner city of
Narrow: area of study Accra”
Direction: the thought and approach of study Contain measurable parameters (dependent
and independent variables). The quantitative
Tentative, yet tracking: you may not be able approach or qualitative approach. Dependent
to write a perfect tile right away. Start with a and independent variables relations: A = B,
working title and refine it to a final title by the AαB, Aα1/B.
end of study. Example 1 “the influence of Adult Learner
Example 1 (working Title) perceptions on learner participation in
Example 2 (final Title)

Journal Academica, Vol. 1. No. 1, pp. 24-28 | July 2010 | ISSN: 2026-559X
©2012, African Institute for Researching and Development

functional literacy programs in Accra City, E=O, E<O) where E is the expected and O is
Ghana. the observed
Example 2 “the relationship of parameters Example 1 ‘… use of quality learning material
influencing adult experience on quality delivered on e-learning platforms at IDL
experience among distance learning graduate exceeded expectations of distance learners …’
students at KNUST Example 2 ‘… learners have satisfactory
perception of their facilitator cognition of the
Reflect a Theory or concept in a field of subject matter …’
interest or program of study Will title be supported by library indexing? If
Example 1 (Business Administration) “impact you intend to publish your research project in
of Market Mix on Management decision- a library of references then this worth noting.
making processes of Small Scale Businesses Example 1 “Gender Issues: Ghana’s critical
profitability in Donkorkrom, Afram Plains, problems with maternal mortality identified in
Ghana.” Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra.”
Example 2 (Religion and Spirituality) “The Example 2 “Public Administration Principles
impact of spiritual mapping principles on and Practices: Challenges in Financing Public
evangelistic strategies in Ghanaian Churches Services in highly indebted Economies in Sub
during the decade of 1990 – 2000” Saharan West African.”

Focus on subject (theme or topic), have Nomenclature: a system of names used in a

brevity of words and clarity of thought: no particular subject or discipline. Ask and find
double meaning or ambiguous out how your institution states their titles base
Example 1 “An assessment of ICT related on what direction or approach of research they
challenges confronting distance learning may subscribe. It may have its own structure
students in KNUST, Kumasi.” and style of stating it.
Give name (title) to your personal piece of
Thesis stated: especially in the final title, and work (research project report); name: A word
is conclusive or words, by which someone or something is
Example 1 “internal factors of quality known, addressed or referred to identify,
components enhance the production of quality mention by name.
learning materials in distance education”
Get a theme based on problem and theory.
Claim a topic for the study. It should be worth From that one could eventually have a
studying or finding about. Some departments working title derived from such a theme.
already have topics they would prefer
researching on. They are usually available in Conclusion
the course material or syllabus or for a course The structure and statement of a
description. descriptive title reflects the totality of the
piece of work it is describing. Well stated
They may for example have and structures descriptive title of a
Example 1 for Business administration research reflects the very nature of the
program – Managing Human Resources
Example 2 for Public administration program
– New Public Systems
The entire research project process and report
(write-up) should support the thesis (E>O,

Journal Academica, Vol. 1. No. 1, pp. 24-28 | July 2010 | ISSN: 2026-559X
©2012, African Institute for Researching and Development


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Saah, A. A. (2013). Research Foundations and
Educational Publishers Longman, Frameworks – A Student Guidebook in
Inc. Research Project, 1st Edition. Kumasi:
Hairston, M., Ruszkiewicz, J., Friend, C. African Institute for Researching and
(1999). The Scott, Foresman Development
Handbook for Writers, 5th Edition. Soanes, C. (2009). The Oxford Dictionary
London: Addison-Wesley of Current English, 3rd Edition.
Oxford University Press

*Corresponding Author: A. A. Saah, Research Fellow; Email: alasaah@yahoo.com, Tel.: +233 24 466 7570