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.

The title

Titles need to be informative and attractive in order to gain prospective readers' attention. Consider the following when formulating a title:

  • Avoid long and convoluted titles. If choosing a so-called compound title (a title consisting of two elements separated by a colon, for instance), make sure that both parts of the title are relevant and necessary.
  • Include keywords of the text in the title in order to inform prospective readers as well as to make sure that the text is easily found by readers interested in the subject.
  • Sometimes it is appropriate to describe what kind of investigation the text comprises. For instance, nouns such as 'investigation', 'exploration', 'discussion', or 'comparison' could be used.
  • Avoid false marketing - make sure that your title does not indicate something that is not actually discussed in the article.

Further reading: How to write a good title

There are a number of studies on titles in academic writing. Some of them discuss differences between disciplines, whereas others offer more practical advice to writers. Here are two examples:

Hays (2010) presents a list of advice for title writing and she also refers to a number of other articles on the topic of how to write a title. Her article deals with writing in science but her advice is applicable in most research fields.

Haggan (2004) discusses differences between disciplines (literature, linguistics and science). Her article contains a number of examples of different ways of structuring a title.

Reference list

The nature of the reference list will depend on the reference style, although there are some general features that are usually included. Read more about them in the AWELU text on