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I am writing an academic CV for artificial intelligence PhD programs. However, when it comes to mentioning my master's thesis, I am embarrassed at how horrible the title is. It was even criticised in my feedback for the work.

The title is:


Is it bad to simply mention your thesis topic, and not the title itself? Is this going to haunt me for the rest of my academic career?

For example could I use:

Thesis topic: Flexoelectricity in Nematic Liquid Crystals

when discussing previous projects on my CV (as I do not currently have my name attached to any publications).

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It's not that bad. Relax. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 16 at 23:18
I like your title. I know absolutely nothing about your research area, and it gives me a solid idea about your topic. – gnometorule Mar 16 at 23:27
It's a perfectly legitimate title. You should see some from the humanities... – Captain Emacs Mar 17 at 0:25
Mostly, that looks horrible because you wrote it in upper-case italics. If you just wrote it in mixed case, it would be fine. I mean, it's kinda verbose and a bit redundant ("addition of... additives") but so what? – David Richerby Mar 17 at 0:58
Well, I probably wouldn't expect thesis titles from the humanities to be written in "good" English style (/irony) - but "The addition of additives"??? - somebody buy that grad student (or his/her department) a Thesaurus, please. And "Investigating the effect of X on Y" seems simpler and clearer than "Investigating the effects on Y due to X". The content of the title seems OK (not my field!) but the language leaves a bit to be desired IMO. – alephzero Mar 17 at 1:46
up vote 60 down vote accepted

You could use a summary statement like the one you've proposed as your thesis topic - and I'd assume that it was for brevity and clarity rather than because you hate the title.

That being said, that title is far from the worst paper title I've read today, let alone something in need of outright hiding from the world.

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+1 Mind sharing? – Fixed Point Mar 17 at 2:47
@FixedPoint: I would hope they don't, as sharing would amount to shaming in this situation. – Andrew Coonce Mar 17 at 3:57
@FixedPoint As Andrew has said, I don't want to engage in public shaming. But the best title I've read today is 'How Not to Train Your Dragon: A Case of a Komodo Dragon Bite'. Hopefully that will suffice :) – Fomite Mar 17 at 4:08
Pubmed for that title: – Andrew Grimm Mar 17 at 6:58

You can simply abbreviate your title. "Flexoelectric Response and Liquid Crystal Additives." People talk about "Hamlet" when the full title is "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark."

Alternatively, paraphrase. "MSc in Chemistry, with thesis on flexoelectricity in nematic liquid crystals."

No one in your new field cares about the exact title. In fact, the only reason to mention the thesis at all is to emphasize that you did a thesis on a sophisticated topic.

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I don't like this idea. Putting the title or topic shows that the OP has done some research, and on what topic. Both are important factors for being admitted to a PhD. – Davidmh Mar 17 at 8:19
OK, so "MSc in Chemistry, with thesis on flexoelectricity in nematic liquid crystals" would do that. Or a short version of the title (answer modified.) – Joshua Fox Mar 17 at 11:14
Actually, with today's theses, a title should make it easier to find them as many universities make them available online. – DetlevCM Mar 17 at 18:02

I don't think the title of the thesis matters very much once you've moved beyond your graduate work, and are into a postdoc or permanent position. I'm not about to throw out a perfectly valid CV because the title of the work is unusual. (I might chuckle to myself and shake my head, but I'm not going to rule it out of consideration.)

That said, in most cases, it is also not necessary to post the full title of the thesis. You are perfectly free to cover the general area of the thesis rather than the full title. You can say something like "Reasearch in [area of work]" instead of listing "Thesis title: [Something Awful]."

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Trust me, it will definitely catch attention. That's about it, and that's good.

The way i see it, it will work out favorably for you. If you've ever heard of the adage: "There is no good or bad publicity, just publicity" This is as good as it gets. A highly likely scenario on an interview would be that It would catch attention, and if you're lucky enough, you'd then be given that extra edge over the others to talk about the content of your paper.

In the case where you aren't physically present at the time of reading your CV, it sure helps to have an odd (unique?) content on your paper catching attention that would give them more time to consider to add you on the shortlist compared to all the hundreds if not thousands of application papers just like yours.

In the end, once you've successfully acquired their attention, the thing that will get you to whatever you're applying for or why you're writing an academic CV is your overall delivery and the quality of content you're delivering. The thesis title is just a part of a whole.

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Sorry, but the thesis title is the thesis title. Until it gets so famous that, like the "Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica" came to be known as "Principia", it is known by a shortened title.

Good luck with that.

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Note that the suggested version is topic not title. – Fomite Mar 17 at 0:27

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