11 Pop Culture Research Topics That Pop

What do the following have in common?

  • Hippies
  • Kim Kardashian
  • Whip/Nae Nae
  • Friends (the television show)
  • Call of Duty (the video game)

At first glance, these probably don’t seem to relate to each other in any way, but they actually have at least one very important thing in common: they’re all pop culture legends.

While it can be a relatively simple task to create a list of things related to pop culture, it can be a little harder to find a solid research topic about pop culture. (After all, there’s only so much research you can do on Kim Kardashian, right?)

So if you’re still looking for the perfect pop culture topic that pops, here are 11 pop culture research topics to get you started.

11 Pop Culture Research Topics That Pop

pop culture research topics
“Andy Warhol – Marilyn 1967” by Ian Burt, Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

Before we get to the list of pop culture research topics, keep in mind that even though the title of this post focuses on research topics, there’s more than one way to write a research paper.

In most cases, you’ll need to include research in a compare and contrast essay or an argument essay. You might even be required to include research in an expository essay.

Thus, when you read the list of pop culture research topics here, don’t forget that a broad topic can work for several different types of assignments. I’ve given you a few suggestions and asked a variety of questions to help you out along the way, but you’ll need to tweak the ideas to make them work for your paper.

I’ve also included a few links to sample papers, so you can see what other students have written about pop culture.

Pop culture research topic #1: Sexism and feminism in pop culture

Think about the female characters in Grand Theft Auto and how they’re often degraded. Do these types of images have an effect on society’s perception of males and females? How is sexism portrayed differently in different types of media, such as music, films, video games, and television? Has the type or amount of sexism changed in recent decades?

Pop culture research topic #2: Marketing and pop culture

Ever watch a show and get bombarded with an ad (say one from AT&T) so many times that you know what Lily is going to say to the customer before he walks through the door?

If you’ve had this experience or if you know who Lily is, then you’re likely already aware of marketing and its connection to pop culture. How and why do these ads and spokespeople (like Flo from Progressive or Colonel Sanders from KFC) become part of the culture?

Also, think about how marketing affects our perceptions of products. Do people buy more if they like an ad campaign and/or a spokesperson? What happens if they don’t like the spokesperson? Do they avoid purchasing products?

Pop culture research topic #3: Reality television and pop culture

pop culture research topics
“Reality TV – Graffiti” by Dean (leu), Flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

How has reality television shaped our viewing habits? Think about people like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian. They’re essentially famous for being famous.

How has reality television changed our perceptions of these and other celebrities? How has reality TV impacted people’s (specifically teens’) perceptions of reality?

Though many people see reality TV as only a negative influence, read Anna David’s Argument on the Positive Aspects of Reality TV to see one person’s take on the positive impacts.

Pop culture research topic #4: A specific pop celebrity, show, or character

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This topic lends itself to compare and contrast and argument essays. You might argue whether Daniel Craig or Sean Connery was the better Seinfeld to the humor in Curb Your Enthusiasm as these are both shows produced by Larry David.

Pop culture research topic #5: Compare pop culture trends

Don’t forget that pop culture isn’t just something old people say “kids these days” care about. Pop culture has been around a long time, so you might compare the past to the present—for example dance crazes of the 1950s to dance crazes of today.

pop culture research topics
“Pop Rocks” by Mike Mozart, Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

Bonus tip: Food can be part of pop culture too! Ever hear of Pop Rocks and Pop Tarts? (Not only are they part of pop culture, they even have “pop” in their name!) In this case, you might write about how foods become part of pop culture and why they’re so POPular.

Pop culture research topic #6: Pop culture’s reflection of society

Some people say that art imitates life. Others argue the opposite. If you’re writing a paper about how pop culture reflects society, try focusing on a specific form of art, such as music or film. For instance, do sci-fi movies, such as Star Wars or Jurassic World, reflect any aspect(s) of today’s culture?

If you really want to narrow your topic, you might write about a specific person, such as a musical artist who focuses on society or culture.

Check out Lady Gaga’s video for “Till it Happens to You” to see how she’s using her music to draw awareness to the problem of sexual assault on college campuses.

Pop culture research topic #7: Celebrity worship

It seems as though people have worshiped celebrities as long as there have been celebrities, but has our love of all things celebrity changed over the years?

Celebrity worship has affected our viewing habits, listening habits, clothing choices, and seemingly everything between. How has this impacted children and teens? How has it impacted people’s self-image and/or body image?

Pop culture research topic #8: Generational trends in pop culture

pop culture research topics

Even though each generation experiences culture and pop culture differently, some elements of pop culture remain the same.

For instance, you might compare the music of the 1960s and the music of today by discussing how artists of both decades use their music to comment on social policies and injustices.

This type of paper could also examine the fact that each generation doesn’t seem to understand the next.

For instance, kids in the 1950s adored Elvis Presley, yet many parents certainly didn’t share this adoration. The same can be said for artists such as The Beatles, Madonna, Miley Cyrus, or Drake. Think about what these artists have in common, how they differ, and why one generation might not appreciate the music as much as the next.

Pop culture research topic #9: Pop culture’s promotion of social change

While it’s certainly true that pop culture can be filled with crazy trends in clothing, hairstyles, and catch phrases, pop culture can also be an instrument of social change.

Consider how the Occupy Movement and Black Lives Matter increased awareness. Or consider how musical artists such as John Lennon and Bob Dylan have promoted awareness and social change.

Check out The Significant Changes in the American Pop Culture Brought by the Civil Rights Movement to see a sample paper about this topic.

Pop culture research topic #10: Pop culture across the world

If you’re writing a paper about pop culture in various countries, you could compare two countries or two time periods, or examine another country’s pop culture in detail.

This type of paper might also discuss how one country’s pop culture influences another’s. For instance, during the British Invasion of the 1960s, musical artists from Britain became mega stars in the United States and changed pop culture forever.

Pop culture research topic #11: Popularity of movies

pop culture research topics
“haters gonna hate” by James G., Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

Ever see a movie that you absolutely loved only to read that every critic imaginable has given it one star or less? Why does it seem that the movies we love are the movies critics hate? What makes these movies pop culture hits?

You might examine this phenomenon as a whole or focus on the merits of one specific film. Check out 50 movies that critics really hate but normal people love for a few film ideas.

Final Words of Advice

Any time you’re writing a research paper, you should try to choose a topic that you’re interested in.

If the pop culture research topics I’ve listed here aren’t working for you, here are 50 Research Paper Topics to Help You Jumpstart Your Writing. While these topics aren’t necessarily related to pop culture, they may spark your interest and help you find the perfect topic that is.

Looking for help with the actual writing of a research paper? Take a look at these helpful posts:

Of course, I can’t let you wander away into the world of pop culture without giving you one final piece of advice. Upload your essay for top-notch proofreading (and feedback!) from one of our rockstar editors.

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