Skip to main content

Dissertation Title Best Practices

Dissertations are a valuable resource for other scholars, only if they can be easily located. Modern retrieval systems generally use the words in the title to locate a document. It is essential that the title be an accurate and meaningful description of the content and that obscure references be avoided. Please use these guidelines when formulating a dissertation title:


The first and last words and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs (if, because, as, that, etc.) are capitalized. Articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor), and prepositions, regardless of length, are lowercased unless they are the first or last word of the title or subtitle. Only acronyms should be set in full capitals.



 Consult the dictionary as to whether a word is hyphenated. In general, do not hyphenate words beginning with the prefixes co, non, pre, post, or re unless there is a possibility of confusion (co-op, post-master's) or the root word begins with a capital letter (post-Renaissance). Hyphenate words beginning with the prefix self. Hyphenate compounds used as adjectives (decision-making) but not as nouns (decision maker). Part-time is always hyphenated. When more than one prefix is joined to a base word, hyphenate the prefixes standing alone (micro- and macroeconomics). Do not hyphenate fundraising, freelance, yearlong, health care, African American, Asian American.


Spelling and Grammar

Dissertation titles should be spell-checked and dictionary spelling of words should be used.  Use “and” rather than “&,” and spell out names of centuries and other numbers usually spelled out in text.


Special Characters 

No special characters should appear in the dissertation title (SES/CAESAR cannot accommodate special characters).  Terms or phrases that include special characters should instead be written out.



Italics should only be used in dissertation titles when referring to the title of a published work, foreign language words, gene names, scientific names as appropriate, or other words that are usually italicized.



Do not use to form plurals (it should be 1940s, not 1940's) unless it would be confusing without (thus A's and B's, not As and Bs; p's, not ps). Possessives of singular nouns ending in s are formed by adding 's (e.g., Russ's dog).