a guide to writing an okay thesis title
December 1, 2013
Rough ideas for research topics.
- Costco and Walmart, beyond good and evil in the landscape of supersized retail stores in America
- The survival of the "American Dream" in 21st Century New York City. Prospects and Opportunities for the Youth, the Immigrants, and the Homeless
- Distrust, Solidarity and Activism during the 1980s AIDS Crisis in New York
- Contemporary Theater Culture in New York from 1970.
- Jewish American Identity and Cultural Representation in New York City
- Urban Frenemies. Chicago and New York.
- Representation of the City Through the Lens of Street Photographers. Robert Frank, Joel Meyerowitz, Ernst Haas, Saul Leiter, William Eggleston.
- The Studio Problem. Artists vs. Landlords in New York City
- Towards the Gentrification of Brooklyn.
- Legacy of the 1960s Folk Culture in New York.
- Rent Control, the Middle Class, and The End of Affordable Housing in New York.
BASICALLY, HOW DO I BECOME A CAT??? SOMEONE GIVE ME NINE LIVES, PRONTO.
Also, look at that, proud child of the Academia Industry, who can churn out okay-if-clunky thesis titles ad infinitum. No wonder I have a tendency towards annoyingly abusing Capital Letters In Every Shape Or Form. Mostly, I just have issues. Actually those are some shitty titles. Normally you'd have a nice, literary-sounding prologue to the dissertation title, like "Abandoning the American Jeremiad" or "In Search of A Lost Manifest Destiny," followed by either a colon or a period, depending on whether you're a fancy-fancy person or more of a dry-and-concise kind of gal. Or a quote, perhaps, a humorous, not-so-subtle wink-wink to the reader, like "We start bombing in five minutes" (a dissertation on the ethnological and anthropological meanings of 20th century political gaffes, or the theatricality and comedic potential of Sovet Union-United States relations... So many possibilities!), or maybe a pop culture reference like "Guess Who's Coming Over To Dinner?" (a dissertation on the evolution of the hostess in American households, or a study of American cuisine as a mirror of social status and milieu?). In the second part of the title, we might find several other tropes that may help to define the genre of Thesis Titles. Here are some rules, or some "do's and dont's." Or, as I'd like to label this list: The Conundrum of Choosing A Thesis Title: How To Capture and Compel A Reader's Attention Towards Dissertation Success.
- Use nouns that are as profound as they are vague: Reappropriation, Dismemberment, Validation, Paradigm, Confrontation, Deconstructing, Configuration, Transcending, etc.
- Also words like beyond and towards, since people never seem to overdose on either of them, so, you know, go for it. In the same vein, between, at the crossroads of, are always good because you can't ever be pushing your opinion down people's throat. Everything has to be nuanced. Moderation is the key. EVERYTHING IS LIMINAL.
- To describe the actual meta-content of the text, the self-aware conceit, "study" may suffice, although other synonymous phrases will bring your title up the literary ladder (or just the pomposity ladder): Breaking Down the..., The politics of..., How Something did Something, An analysis of..., Re-imagining..., Understanding..., even "Making Sense of...," why not. Or reach for a home run and start the title with "Of ...” Oof. What a legacy.
- The world is moving, and so, with it, are things, and things are always either going up or going down, so open the floodgates to a plethora of: "The Rise Of" or "The Fall Of," or decline, demise, rebirth, transformation, resurrection, etc. It's the Circle of Life!
- Especially in the realm of American Studies, studies always seem to gravitate towards DEFINING stuff, so, "Identity," "Remembering," "Renaissance," "Consciousness," "politicallycorrecttermforaminority-Americans," "Culture," "Aesthetic," "Community," etc. are always welcome.
- Insert geographical and chronological boundaries, whether in numbers (from [year], [year]-[year], in [year]) or in poetic adjective-city-clusters (Depression-Era California, Post 9/11 New York City)
- AND YOU'RE SET!!!
- Bonus point if you've just made up a word by attaching your big concept-words to any of the following prefixes: Pre/Post-, Neo-, Generation-, or suffixes: -topia, -land, etc.
- Extra bonus point if you use words en Francais, like “différance,” “dispositif,” or “mise en scène." Extra-extra brownie points if you’re quoting Barthes or Deleuze or Derrida or Foucault or Lacan or Baudrillard or [insert French philosopher/linguist/hermeneutic/epistemologist/structuralist/post-structuralist/deconstructionist/projectionist. GUYS. WHAT THE HELL ARE WE EVEN DOING.]