Is the thesis title below ambiguous, and if so, how should it be expressed instead?

Predicting split atoms in mountain chains with virtual beetles

I want to say that I predict shared atoms, and the method is to use virtual beetles. The atoms that I estimate and predict the split for are found in mountain chains. But, what I wonder is whether the sentence can be interpreted to mean that I'm talking about mountain chains where virtual beetles exist?

So, how should I express the sentence so it can be understood that my method is virtual beetles, and not small robotic insects?

  • 1
    Are you using random nouns to as a general question, or is this a real title? I have no clue what this is about, just curious.
    – Flater
    May 15, 2017 at 14:07
  • 1
    Can you use "Using virtual beetles to predict split atoms in mountain chains"? May 15, 2017 at 14:24
  • @Flater yes I am, it was very clever of you to notice that ;) However, should I not have done that? Maybe it is hard to give me feedback when it's a "nonsense" title. The purpose was to not "exploit" my real thesis title as I don't want anyone to think that I have "plagiarized" even one sentence of my report. May 15, 2017 at 14:35
  • @YosefBaskin actually that is a good idea. I thought of something starting with "Using" (but I didn't write it in the question because I did not want to "bias" my replies..).. But I did not think of the exact way you expressed it, I think it can work because it is much shorter than what I have tried so far. Thanks alot May 15, 2017 at 14:38
  • @StephenJohnson: I'm a developer, so I often resort to placeholder names like Foo and Bar (developer favorites). However, logic works independent of context (that's the goal at least). This does not hold true for language. Even if a response is technically correct, it might still sound stilted because there is a better way of saying it for your specific context.
    – Flater
    May 15, 2017 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


Your title is ambiguous in that it fails to identify which phrase (either splitting atoms or mountain chains) the virtual beetles are associated with.

It could mean either:

(Predicting split atoms in mountain chains) with virtual beetles


Predicting split atoms in (mountain chains with virtual beetles)

The first version is your intended meaning.

It should be made clear that the virtual beetle method was used to split the atoms. With your current sentence order this will prove difficult.

As thesis titles are intended to be helpful, I would write:

Virtual beetle method predicts split atoms in mountain chains

but there are several alternatives.

  • I don't think you should encourage the practice of using a conclusion as thesis title. 1. It does not describe the subject of the investigation 2. It precludes the possibility of the reader making his own judgment about the conclusions. It is really bad psychology — as a thesis examiner I would be immediately prejudiced against the student. For goodness sake do him a favour and stick with your appropriate suggestions.
    – David
    May 15, 2017 at 19:09
  • @David; it's not a real thesis, so, using the concepts given, it should be impossible to make a meaningful title.
    – JMP
    May 16, 2017 at 5:20
  • Thank you for taking the time to make an answer. You are right, the title in the question is not real as the nouns have been replaced by random, yet kind of related, words. However, I realized when I read my title today, that even if you interpret it as intended, i.e., the first of your quotes, I think it is still ambiguous. Why? Because someone might think I have virtual beetle friends that helps me with the predicting. May 16, 2017 at 7:51

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