Can Essay Titles Be Questions? A Guide to Writing Effective Essay Titles

Can essay titles be questions? Discover our guide to see when it makes sense to use a question as an essay title and when to avoid it.

The title is an important part of the piece when writing a research paper or essay for an academic writing situation. You may be wondering, “can essay titles be questions?” The answer is yes, but only if they are well-written and suitable for the topic of your essay.

A good title is relevant to the arguments within the essay and the thesis you create, and if a question fits that well, then it can be your essay title.

Using a Question as an Essay Title

The purpose of essay and research paper titles is to grab the reader’s attention and show a little bit about what the piece of writing will cover. Creative essay titles can make the reader want to read your piece, giving you a small place to showcase your writing skills. No matter what type of scientific or academic essay you write, you will need a title. Using a question as an essay title depends mainly on the type of essay you write. Some types lend themselves well to question titles, and others do not. Here are some common types you may need to write.

Argumentative Essay

The essay title can be a question when writing an argumentative essay with two possible arguments. First, posing the question, you’ll be arguing in the title guides the reader to your opening paragraph and thesis statement. In addition, it can get the reader thinking about the question you’ll be arguing. On the other hand, if there are not two possible arguments, then the title should state your position, not ask a question. Thus, argumentative essays can have question titles sometimes, but sometimes they do not make the most sense.

Persuasive Essay

If you are writing a persuasive essay, a question may not work as well as the title. Instead, you’ll want a statement to summarize the thesis statement. Remember, your goal is not to get the reader to think about two sides of an argument with this type of essay. Instead, your goal is to persuade the reader that your position on the topic is the right one.

Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is another place where you might be able to title an essay with a question. A question could make the entire essay more intriguing in this type of essay. It pauses the reader and invites them to read your narration to discover the answer.

College Essay

A college essay is one place where you’ll often see a question as the title. In these essays, admissions teams want to see that you know how to answer a question thoughtfully, so using that question as the title makes sense.

Analytical Essays

In analytical essays, a question often makes the essay weaker. While it can work well in certain circumstances, most analytical essays need a statement of the problem or the solution the writer will analyze.

Using Questions as High School of College Essay Titles

Many students are looking for creative essay titles, but it can be a bit of a challenge. A few reasons why  you might have a difficult time coming up with the best essay title include:

  • You might have difficulty finding an adequate title that accurately reflects all the information you will cover in your essay.
  • You might be concerned that the best title for your essay has already been taken, causing you to get worried about plagiarism.
  • You might be trying to formulate your essay title before you write the rest of the essay. As a result, you might have to change the title when you realize what your essay is about.

If you are having trouble finding a solid title to summarize your piece of writing adequately, you may want to consider using a question. You can use an essay title that is a question as long as it is appropriately framed to suit the topic on which you are writing. You must make sure that the question you use to title your essay is still relevant to the arguments you make in the essay. It should also adequately reflect the thesis statement.

A question title might be appropriate if you feel like there are multiple perspectives on your topic that you need to cover. On the other hand, if you are writing an argumentative or persuasive essay, you might want to turn your essay title into a statement. Therefore, a question title can be a solid option for an academic essay, but it is not necessarily appropriate for every type of essay.

How to Write a Strong Essay Question

Whether you use a question or not, writing a good title is essential in essay writing. Both types of titles, whether phrases or questions, need to summarize the main ideas of your essay. They should be short but practical because the main focus is on the content, not the title. They also should be catchy and creative, which is why a question can work well if appropriate to the essay. 

1. Look at Your Research Question

Your research question should not be the essay title but can give you a starting point. If you are given a  research question, use it to start some initial research and form a preliminary thesis statement. This can help you write your title.

2. Write the Title Last

If you can, write the title of your essay last. This allows you to see where your arguments take you, so you can focus on a well-developed essay first, then tailor the title to it.

3. Grab the Attention of the Reader 

Ultimately, you need a catchy title that will grab the reader’s attention. This does not mean you need something pulled from social media, but the title should spark enough curiosity that the reader will want to read the essay.

4. Add Keywords

Can essay titles be questions?
Keywords can be helpful if you eventually have your essay published in an online database

Keywords should be pulled from the essay, and tell your reader what they will read in the piece. These are not keywords for online marketing purposes, but if your title uses keywords from your piece, you will more easily write a title relevant to the rest of the essay. Keywords can be helpful if you eventually have your essay published in an online database. In addition, research conducted at college and university levels often becomes a part of online databases; thus, learning how to use keywords in the title will help the essay find more readers in the future.

5. Make the Title Specific

Next, you should ensure that your title is specific. Remember that your essay has to be an accurate reflection of what is covered. If it is too general, your readers will have difficulty figuring out what the essay is about. For example, the statement “Concussions in the NFL” is far too general. There are a lot of different opinions on concussions in the NFL, and research has changed significantly during the past few decades. Instead, you may want to choose a title such as “What Is the Impact of Repeated Concussions in the NFL on Player Safety?” This is a much more specific statement that will give the reader a better idea of what your essay covers. 

6. Format the Title Properly

As you write your title, make sure you format it correctly. Use these rules:

  • Capitalize the first and last words, as well as most other words. Do not capitalize articles and short prepositions.
  • If you use questions for titles, end them with a question mark, but do not end statements with a period.
  • Do not add additional punctuation, except if the title includes the title of a published work, in which case you punctuate the title of the published work according to the appropriate rules.

7. Avoid “Yes” or “No” Question Titles

If you decide to use a question as the essay title, do not phrase it so that it has a yes or no answer. For example:

  • Does Cell Phone Use Impact Social Communication?

The answer is probably yes, and you would not need much explanation. Instead, format the title so that it invites more discussion.

  • How Has Cell Phone Use Impacted Social Communication?

Here you have room to develop several points as you explore the answer to the question.

8. Set the Tone

Essays all have a tone. For example, academic essays tend to be severe and factual, while narrative essays can have a more humorous tone. You can set the tone of your essay in your title so the reader knows what to expect as they read the work.

9. Test the Title on Other People

Finally, getting an outside perspective on your title could be prudent. Just as you may want to have people read your essay to identify confusing statements, typos, or grammatical issues you may have overlooked, you should also ask people for their opinions on your title. See if they can figure out what the essay is about based on the title. Find out if they have more creative ideas you can incorporate into the title of your essay. Remember that you are not obligated to follow their advice, but it could be helpful to see what other people have to say. 

Tips To Create a Good Essay Title

Tips to create a good essay title
Your essay title should summarize the essay’s main ideas

Regardless of the essay title you choose, it must be relevant to the essay’s contents. Here are a few tips to consider when writing your essay title.

  • Summarize: Your essay title should summarize the essay’s main ideas. That is why it might be smart to wait until the essay is written before developing your essay title. Then, you can look at your thesis statement, analyze your topic sentences, and develop a title that adequately summarizes the essay’s main ideas.
  • Concise: You should keep your title as short as possible. Even though you need to include enough words to adequately describe what is covered in your essay, you do not want the title to be too long. The shorter your title is, the easier it will be for people to be hooked by your essay title. 
  • Specific: You should also ensure that your essay title is specific. If your title is too general, people may have difficulty figuring out what your essay is about. You do not want to leave them guessing. But, on the other hand, you want people to know what your essay is about right away.
  • Creative: Finally, your essay title should be creative. Remember that your essay title is responsible for the first impression you will have on your reader. It would help if you hooked your reader’s attention right away. Otherwise, they will not read the rest of the essay. You need your title to do exactly that. You can convince someone to keep reading if you use a curious, profound question.

Remember that you may want to try multiple titles before you decide which one to use. You must find the one that best describes your essay’s contents while grabbing potential readers’ attention.

Examples of Question-Based Essay Titles

The best essay title is the one that fits the essay you are writing. Sometimes questions work, and sometimes they do not. Here are some examples of essay titles that work well in question format:

  • Are Cameras in Public Places Good Security or a Violation of Privacy Rights? (Argumentative essay)
  • Why Is Social Media a Threat to Modern Teenagers? (Argumentative essay)
  • Does Paying Children for Their Grades Help? (High school essay)
  • What Parenting Style Is the Most Effective? (High school essay)
  • Is “Fake News” Real, and How Does It Affect People’s Political Views? (College essay)
  • How Has Cell Phone Technology Changed the Way We Communicate? (College essay
  • What Are the Top Benefits of Antioxidants: The Research (Research paper)
  • Do Violent Video Games Cause More Violence in Society? (Research paper_
  • What Role Did the Marshall Plan Play in Rebuilding Europe After World War II? (High school essay)

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips!

If you’re still stuck, check out our general resource of essay writing topics.