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For my Masters Thesis, I am trying to find an appropriate title. The field of the research is in Forestry and Geographic Information Science (GIS). Currently my title is the following:

"Determining harvest costs for private forest landowners in the Pacific Northwest (USA)"

I am wondering if I should also include the method I used and change it to:

"A spatial model to determine harvest costs for private forest landowners in the Pacific Northwest (USA)"

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Hello and welcome to Writers! In order to answer this question we would need to know more about where this paper will be published; different formats (journal, conference, poster session, etc) and different domains tend to have different expectations. Could you edit more details into your question? Thanks. –  Monica Cellio Feb 21 '13 at 19:21
    
I corrected some spelling and formatting in your question. In addition to Monica's concerns, does your university style guide for masters theses? This may be of help. I've even heard of individual departments having a style sheet. –  Neil Fein Feb 21 '13 at 20:49
    
Thanks for your support! I tried to edit more details into the question. @NeilFein: Sure the university has a style guide. But currently I am only working on a proper title. My question is if you generally include the method in the title or not. What is your experience? –  ustroetz Feb 21 '13 at 21:22
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4 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

A title tells the reader not only the general subject area, but also focus of your paper, the aspect of the subject that you will primarily emphasize.

Each of the following titles (your two plus one I added for contrast) suggests the same general subject area: Harvest costs for private forest landowners in the Pacific Northwest USA. But each suggests a different emphasis in your paper:

  1. "Determining harvest costs for private forest landowners in the Pacific Northwest (USA)"

  2. "A spatial model to determine harvest costs for private forest landowners in the Pacific Northwest (USA)"

  3. "Harvest costs for private forest landowners in the Pacific Northwest (USA)"

The first title emphasizes the process of determining costs. The second emphasizes the model. The third emphasizes the costs themselves.

So... What aspect of your subject or method or conclusions do you wish to emphasize in your title?

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It sounds like the point of your paper isn't so much the costs themselves but the way you determined them. If you invented this model (or adapted it from an existing one with significant changes) and the point of the paper is to show how well it works, while also presenting your results, then that's the second title is better. On the other hand, if your paper is more about how you applied some existing model (or an adaption that doesn't stray too much from an existing model) to the specific challenges associated with the costs in that region, your first title is better.

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The second title starting with 'spatial model' gives people an idea of what you've focussed on during the research.

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Usually you include what is important and innovative about your paper.

If there is a method more than half of your domain uses, and you use it too, there is no point writing about that in the title. If there are three competing methods, you may choose to include it in the title or not. If you use a method maybe 5% of your coleagues use, say, because it requires three times the effort for 20% accuracy gain, by all means, include it. If your research is testing a new method on known set of data, it's the method that is a must in the title, not what is being checked.

Essentially, the title says what's special about your research. If the method is, it belongs. If it's generic, it does not.

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