72 Examples of Research Paper Topics in 18 Different Study Areas
The examples of research paper topics listed in this post range across disciplines and fields of study to help a wide range of academics, scientists and students choose and develop topics with true research potential that will prove engaging not only for those authors, but also for their readers. A topic of particular personal interest & relevance to the researcher & his or her life tends to make the research and writing processes more exciting and enjoyable. It can also be helpful to know a little about a topic in advance, but prior knowledge is never as important as a true passion for a topic.
The topic chosen for a research paper must be appropriate for the field of study and observe any specific guidelines or requirements associated with the intended paper. The editor of a literary journal, for instance, or the instructor of a literature course will want a paper exploring some aspect of literature, usually the literature of a particular period, genre, style or author, and the same kind of focus will also be required in other research areas. The length and scope of the paper as well as the time available to complete the research and writing should certainly be considered when choosing a topic, and it is always wise to preview recently published sources on a topic to determine how the topic has been treated in scholarship and whether there is enough material to enable the new research. Topics that are of concern to both specialists and more general readers tend to be particularly successful, so I have aimed for topics of this kind in the list below. Areas of interest appear in alphabetical order, and helpful tips are offered amidst the example topics.
ANIMALS & ANIMAL RIGHTS
1. Consider animal testing in relation to animal rights. Do the benefits of animal testing outweigh the suffering of laboratory animals or not? This topic could be wide and general or very closely focussed on one kind of animal or the testing that takes place in a single laboratory.
2. Should animals be used by humans as food? This could include a study of slaughterhouses and processing facilities and perhaps an argument for or against a vegetarian or vegan diet.
3. There should (or should not) be greater penalties for cruelty to animals. Specific instances and their legal ramifications could be described and discussed as meaningful case studies.
4. Is it right to use animals in sports and entertainment? Animals that become hunting trophies, captive cetaceans entertaining tourists, rodeo horses, circus elephants, animals in film, etc. – the possibilities for discussion are virtually endless.
Tip: Always be sure to support whatever argument you pursue with convincing evidence acquired through sound research methods. Opinions and feelings may play a part in choosing a research topic and formulating ideas, but they are not enough on their own, no matter how strong or fashionable they may be.
ART & ART HISTORY
1. Art is (or is not) a vital aspect of a primary (or secondary) school education and should (or should not) be included in the curriculum. Discuss.
Tip: Since most authors of research papers are well educated, this is the type of topic that could easily include evidence derived from the researcher’s own experiences, whether positive or negative.
2. The importance (or perhaps role) of illustrations in children’s books. A selection of different examples to compare and contrast or a close focus on a particular book, series or author would prove effective. Alternatively, the use of art in books written for adults could be considered.
3. Discuss a work of art in relation to a poem or story, a piece of music, a remarkable building or some other product of human creativity. This topic encourages an interdisciplinary approach that can be particularly interesting, but careful thought should be given to choosing the pieces for comparison.
4. Art history courses often define and describe art periods, styles, schools and the like, so exploring the characteristics, development or impact of any of those or of a particular artist makes a good topic. If specialised terminology is required for this topic, it should be carefully explained and used both accurately and consistently.
COMPUTERS & COMPUTER SCIENCE
1. Mac versus PC: which computer is better and why? Opinions tend to be strong and in many cases uninformed on this issue, which can be an important point for discussion, but it is essential in a research paper to investigate and discuss the facts about the two types of computer.
2. Do spell checkers, grammar checkers and autocorrect functions strengthen or weaken the writing skills of computer users? Consider more than one of these tools in the investigation.
3. Identify the next great development in computer science and discuss why you think it will be so very important.
4. What role or roles do you think artificial intelligence is now playing and/or will in the future play in human evolution?
ECONOMICS & BUSINESS STUDIES
1. Is the wealth of the world distributed equally among its people? What could be done to promote greater equality?
2. Consider the consequences of some aspect of salaries or pay that is currently in the news, such as early-career professionals working for free, promotions given without raises or unacceptably low minimum wages.
3. In what ways and to what degree do social media and networking sites function as instruments for business promotion?
4. Are large corporations able to break the law and get away with it in ways that small businesses and individuals cannot? Why or why not?
Tip: Topic 4 here is the type of topic for which there may be far more opinions than actual facts available, so it is important to be especially careful about the quality of evidence used to support an argument.
EDUCATION & SCHOOLS
1. Explore the benefits and drawbacks of a ‘no child left behind’ educational policy.
2. Bullying occurs in the schools of many countries. How serious do you think the problem is in your area, and what, if anything, could be done to improve the situation?
3. Plagiarism is on the rise in modern universities, yet many accused students appear not to understand their error. Explore the concept of plagiarism in the twenty-first century and discuss its consequences.
4. Does religion have a valid place in public schools? If so, what might its role be? If not, why not?
1. Compare and contrast two different literary texts or the writing of two different authors. Consider a number of aspects such as genre, style, character development, metaphor, imagery and word play in examining and discussing the texts.
Tip: Comparing and contrasting two or more things, events or problems in a research paper can be a useful approach for initiating and focussing an investigation. The secret to success is to choose the items for comparison with care and to narrow the topic as much as necessary for the intended paper.
2. Discuss the role, suppression and/or rediscovery of pre-twentieth-century women authors in the English literary canon as it is usually taught in schools.
3. Investigate and discuss the sophisticated use of irony to establish character and communicate potentially unwelcome concepts to readers in the writing of a major author such as Chaucer, Shakespeare or Dickens.
4. Does quality literature have a positive effect on society? Does it make readers wiser, more perceptive, more empathetic or perhaps better writers? Views can be supported with both personal and research-based evidence.
ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES & GLOBAL WARMING
1. Is global warming a reality or a hoax? If it really is happening, what are the primary causes? Can humanity make a difference?
2. Oil and mineral exploration has recently taken place in and very close to wildlife reserves and national parks. Consider whether this should be allowed or not.
3. Investigate power sources in your region or country. Are they environmentally sound? What sources of alternate energy might be especially well suited to the area and why?
4. Learn all you can about an endangered wildlife species or group in your locality. Consider the current state of the animals, the reasons why they have become endangered and the actions that have been used and could be used to increase their chances of survival.
Tip: A great deal of propaganda is generated around certain issues of current concern, and environmental matters are certainly among them. It is therefore imperative to look for the signs of authoritative scientific reporting as you conduct your research and to be both specific and precise in discussing subjects and events.
FAMILIES, FOOD & NUTRITION
1. Explore the relationship between nutrition and family health. This topic could easily be narrowed to focus, for instance, on breastfeeding and baby health or perhaps the health and social benefits of a family sitting down together over a home-cooked meal.
2. How have fast-food restaurants affected family nutrition and health? Should the menus of such restaurants be regulated?
3. Investigate local family farms and food producers in your area to determine how much of your diet could be acquired from these sources. What would be missing? Would an attempt to purchase as much of your food from local sources as possible result in changes to your diet?
4. Should parents be able to spank their children? Why or why not?
HEALTH & MEDICINE
1. Explore one of the health problems that currently pose particular challenges for humanity and are under intense investigation in the published scholarship: depression, Alzheimer’s, cancer, AIDS and autism are good examples. Consider how the condition affects individuals and society and what might be done to alleviate suffering and cost.
2. Study a group of teenagers under treatment for depression to discover common predictors of the disease and suggest how this information could help in the prevention of teenage depression.
Tip: As the first two topics here indicate, when writing a research paper about human health an author should usually dedicate part of the discussion to improving the lives of the people under investigation.
3. Do the benefits of vaccinating children outweigh the risks? Consider different types of vaccinations, the frequency and nature of complications, and the risks to society.
4. Should healthcare and medication be available free of charge to all people? Why or why not?
1. Investigate and discuss the importance of a major historical event, such as the first moon landing or the assassination of J.F. Kennedy, of some decisive battle or war, such as the Battle of Hastings or the American Civil War, or of some revolutionary document, such as Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence. Why was it so very important?
2. Did Columbus really ‘discover’ America first? Consider other voyagers – the Vikings and Chinese, for instance – as well as native populations.
3. Explore the role and importance of salt in world history. This topic could be productively narrowed to focus on a particular region or period.
4. Learn about a historical individual, family or group through their books. The extensive devotional library of a twelfth-century monastery, the single anthology of romances owned by a fifteenth-century merchant family or the esoteric book collection cherished by a renaissance scholar could be considered in terms of content and examined for reader responses. The possibilities are endless as long as the books can be firmly connected with their historical readers.
1. Has the internet affected the ways in which academic and scientific research is published and made available to readers? Consider factors such as open access, publisher paywalls, article retractions and scholarly blogs.
2. Does frequent use of the internet enhance or undermine a child’s health, development, education and/or social skills? Consider what children are doing online as well as what they might be doing were they not online.
3. How big an issue is online security or cyber security as far as you are concerned? What makes you feel safe and secure about your online activities? What might make you feel safer?
4. Examine one or more of the major problems associated with the internet such as child pornography, erroneous information or copyright infringement. Are there effective ways to prevent or eliminate such problems?
1. Look into the incarceration rates in your country. Are they higher or lower than the rates in other countries? Can you detect a reason for any significant differences? Do you think incarceration is an effective solution for managing crime and promoting the rehabilitation of criminals?
2. Gun control has been an issue of hot debate in recent years. Consider a variety of perspectives as you argue your view of the matter.
3. Should people be legally able to take their own lives when they are suffering from a debilitating terminal disease? Discuss.
4. Despite negative publicity and dire consequences, drivers continue to text while operating vehicles. Why do you think this happens and what would be the most effective way to prevent the problem?
MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS
1. Marketing invades nearly every aspect of modern life. Based on your own experience and that of friends and family, do you think the impact of these impersonal communications is predominantly positive or negative?
2. What kind of regulations or limitations apply to marketing products to children in your country or region? Are they appropriate, inadequate or excessive?
3. Discuss the pros and cons of outsourcing customer services. Comparing the views of customers with that of businesses will no doubt prove enlightening.
4. Has all the communicating we do via text messaging, email, social media, blog sites and professional online platforms improved our ability to communicate in person? Be sure to share your reasoning and support your viewpoint.
1. Investigate and discuss the unique nature of the Trump presidency and its implications both within the United States and beyond.
Tip: For many research paper topics, including the one above, it is essential to recognise your own national and political perspective (Republican American, Liberal Canadian, etc.), to achieve some level of objectivity and to support your argument with research-based evidence.
2. Examine the conditions and forces associated with the rise of Nazi Germany. Was WWII inevitable? The focus of this topic could be shifted to any major war, such as WWI, the Battle of Hastings or the American Civil War. Discussion of a war’s aftermath can be of interest as well.
3. An enormous amount of money is spent on political advertising during election campaigns, which usually leaves neighbourhoods cluttered with flyers and posters. Is this a legitimate expense? Should parties be responsible for cleaning up the litter after a campaign?
4. Choose a significant political scandal or event that has recently occurred in your country or region and discuss how it began or occurred, how news of it was spread and how it affected individuals and society in the area.
RELIGION & BELIEFS
1. Are dreams meaningful or simply games of the sleeping mind? Research a variety of perspectives on the matter and consider the possible functions and causes of dreams such as prophecy, therapy, eating before bed or falling asleep in an anxious or troubled state.
2. Why are religious cults so appealing and powerful? Consider individual cases in your discussion.
3. Does the regular attendance of citizens at formal religious services have an impact on crime in a region? This topic could be narrowed by choosing a specific type of crime or focussing on children, teenagers or families.
4. Education rather than indoctrination is an ideal for the role of religion in schools. How might this ideal be achieved?
Tip: When discussing religion and beliefs, be sure to avoid unsubstantiated value judgements. Instead, base your interpretations firmly on the evidence gleaned from sound research practices.
SOCIOLOGY & SOCIAL CONCERNS
1. Should parents be allowed to engineer designer babies? Different situations and reasons for genetic manipulation should be considered along with a variety of perspectives on the matter.
2. The successful settlement of immigrants in a new country often depends upon the social services immediately available to them. What sort of financial, medical and educational assistance does your country provide for immigrants and refugees when they arrive? Should more or less be provided?
3. Terrorism creates a fear culture that can become a society’s own unintentional terrorist. Explore and discuss how this is true or false of the effects of terrorism in the twenty-first century.
4. Discuss gay rights in relation to your own community. Consider whether gay marriage is permitted, whether gay couples can adopt children, whether gay individuals are welcome at religious services and social events, whether gay pride is publicly displayed and other telltale signs. Could the situation be better?
TECHNOLOGY & INDUSTRIALISATION
1. How did the steel sword, the long bow, gunpowder, airplanes, biological warfare or the atomic bomb change the nature of warfare forever? The focus could be on one of these technological developments or two or more could be compared in a single paper.
2. Investigate how home computers, tablets and smart phones have changed human beings, their behaviours and their culture. Be sure to consult published scholarship on the topic as well as your own experience.
Tip: The first of the topics above focuses on historical impacts, whereas the second investigates a current impact, but both should be approached in a research paper context with an equally formal and objective perspective.
3. Railroads and trains have been identified as primary forces in the exploitation, settlement and industrialisation of countries and continents. How is this true or not of your homeland?
4. How has the use of fossil fuels shaped the modern world? This topic could be narrowed to focus on a particular or local area or on one major effect of the predominance of fossil fuels, such as pollution from oil spills or the slow development of alternate energy sources.
1. Many young women suffer from anorexia and bulimia. Learn all you can about these eating disorders, their causes and their symptoms. How significant is the impact and what might improve the situation?
2. Investigate a major event or development in women’s history, such as the suffrage movement, the admission of women to institutes of higher education, the Salem witch trials or the legalisation of birth control or abortion. What were the immediate and lasting implications of the event or development?
3. Women still tend to earn less money than men for performing the same jobs and duties. Consider specific examples as you discuss why this is the case and suggest how the problem might be realistically remedied.
4. Do beauty contests empower or objectify women? This topic might be shifted to focus instead on female strippers, nude centrefolds or the women who act in pornographic films.
Tip: When writing about research of the kind outlined in the last topic here, do remember to be tactful and professional when presenting evidence. The point is to persuade, not offend your readers.