ARTICLE 5: How to Structure a Title Page for a Master’s Degree or a Ph. D. Research Report

Written by Dr. Hannes Nel, D. Com, D. Phil


In this post, I will share with you several hints on the title page for a Ph. D. or masters degree research report.  

Just before we discuss the format of the title page – It is not possible to use terminology with which all universities will agree.

Some call the report submitted for a Ph. D. a dissertation, others call it a thesis. It is also called a doctorate.

The same applies to a research report for a master’s degree.

I will refer to the research report as a thesis on the master’s degree level and a dissertation on Ph. D. level.

I will use “research report” when referring to both the thesis and the dissertation.

Some universities call the person who applies for doctoral or masters studies a student or prospective student, others call him or her a candidate. In a relativist spirit, I will just use what feels right.

The study leader is sometimes also called the promoter or the supervisor. In a more structuralist spirit, I will stick to ‘study leader’.

A title page for your research report

I deliberately decided to discuss the title page for a research report and not just the title, because the title page includes the title.

There are several other issues of the title page that I would also like to bring to your attention.

The layout and wording of the title page for a research report might differ slightly from the title page for the research proposal. This is also something about which universities do not always agree, although the differences in the layout are mostly subtle.

As I said in my previous post, members of the Postgraduate Committee might suggest a different title from the one that you suggest.

If you chose a study leader before applying for post-graduate studies, she or he will probably help you with the formulation of the title.

The title of your research proposal, once refined, can be the same as the one that you will use for your final research report.

Here is an example of a title page for a research proposal.

An Epistemological Explanation of the Migration of the Ontology of Functionalism that can be Attributed to the Erosion of the Epistemological Development of Society from a Foucauldian Perspective

Please note that the title given here is in many ways flawed.

I deliberately did this so that we can use it as an example of how you should refine the title.

Let us analyse and refine the title.

To begin with, the title is too long. We will need to shorten it.

There are too many pompous words in the title.

“Epistemological explanation” is a tautology. Epistemology ís the explanation of something. The student should omit either “epistemological” or “explanation” or rephase the sentence entirely.

Even “migration” can probably be replaced by something like “change”.

Using “epistemology” twice in the title makes it sound awkward. The student should lose the second “epistemology”.

Ontology will probably be the right word to use if it is the student’s purpose to do research on the changed meaning of Functionalism as a paradigm over time. She or he could have explained this in the body of the proposal or could have used a simpler word, for example, the “original meaning”.

Michel Foucault’s philosophy is said to be post-structuralist in nature, or perhaps even post-modernist. He, however, does not agree. It would be rather risky to use his philosophy as the foundation for your research title if you are not sure that his philosophy is even relevant to your study.

Lastly, it would be difficult to come to conclusions and to suggest recommendations that would apply to the entire world. Different countries and even continents differ in terms of culture, geography, politics, levels of development, etc. It would, furthermore, be impossible to conduct research globally because of time, financial and physical constraints.

Here is a suggested title that would eliminate the flaws in the original one:

An analysis of the changes in the value system and structure of the Namibian society since independence.

The meaning of the original title has changed in the sense that it now refers to a much narrower context.

Some universities might require you to use some more technical or scientific terms, perhaps just to lend some status to the title of your research.

In my opinion, however, the status of your research should come from the quality of your research and not from window-dressing.

Close and summary

In summary, check the requirements for a title page of the university where you study or plan to study.

Ask your study leader for examples of good title pages and copy their layout.

Keep the title of your research report short and simple, but also listen to the suggestions of the Postgraduate Committee and your study leader.

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