The following is an excerpt from Celia Millward and Jane Flick, Handbook for Writers, Canadian Edition (Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, Ltd., 1985), pp. 344–345.
Every paper should have a title, which should specify or at least suggest the contents of the paper. A good title is more specific than simply a description of the general subject area of the paper. That is, if your instructor has assigned a paper on cheating in schools, your title should not be simply “Cheating in Schools.” To avoid overly general titles, it is best to postpone deciding on a title until after you have formulated a thesis statement or, even better, until after you have written your first draft.
Titles should not be long; if you title takes up more than one line on the page, try to shorten it. For example, “A Description of the Old Open-Air Market in Kitchener” can easily be shortened to “Kitchener’s Open-Air Market.” Catchy titles are appealing to the reader but are more appropriate for informal or humorous topics than for serious topics. In any case, don’t spend a great deal of time trying to think of a catchy title; a straightforward descriptive title is always acceptable.
Although a good title does not necessarily reveal the rhetorical type of a paper, it does provide an indication of it. Listed below are three broad subject areas. Possible titles are given for papers in each subject area and for each rhetorical type.
|SUBJECT AREA||RHETORICAL TYPE||PAPER TITLE|
|tobacco||exposition||How To Roll Your Own Cigarettes|
|argument||Why Snuff Should Replace Cigarettes|
|description||The Parphernalia of a Pipe-Smoker|
|narration||My First Encounter with Chewing Tobacco|
|automobiles||exposition||Developing a Nonpolluting Engine|
|argument||Teen-agers Make the Best Drivers|
|description||My New Datsun 200 SX|
|narration||Tragedy on the Trans-Canada|
|fires||exposition||Arson: The Fastest-Growing Crime|
|argument||Smoke Detectors Are Worthless|
|description||Our House After the Fire|
|narration||The Great London Fire of 1666|