You’ve really hit the big leagues now. Gone are the days of teachers telling you exactly what to write and giving you research paper topics that drive you out of your mind with boredom.
You have freedom to choose your own topic now! (No need to write one more boring, assigned paper about gun control or legalizing marijuana. Hooray! )
This freedom, however, comes with its own set of frustrations. Your mind could be filled with so many possibilities that you don’t even know where to start. How do you pick a good topic–the right topic?
No need to stress. Help is here. I am going to give you some guidelines and sample research paper topics to help you jumpstart your writing.
Guidelines for Choosing Research Paper Topics
Let me start off by saying that there is no such thing as the “perfect topic.” There are research paper topics that are better than others, however, and I’m going to help you be on the “better” side rather than the “others” side
Pick something that interests you. If you’re not interested before you start your research, you’re probably not going to be very thrilled while you’re spending hours actually doing the research.
Make sure there’s already information on your topic. Most research papers are going to discuss the topic in relation to what’s already been said about it. Even if you disagree with what other scholars are saying, you have to know their arguments in order to refute them.
Come up with a question–one with more than a trivial answer. Coming up with a question will drive your research until you find an answer. Plus, coming up with a concise answer to that question can give you a pretty easy thesis statement.
You want to make sure that the question is one that doesn’t have a straightforward answer. A question like “When was Abraham Lincoln assassinated?” wouldn’t work because there’s no way to fill up an entire paper with an answer that is already agreed upon and so simple.
(By the way, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865.)
If you’re still a little stuck or confused about how to choose the perfect research paper topic, I’ve come up with a list of 50 topic ideas to help you out. I’ve broken them down by discipline so that you can choose an idea that is best for you.
Literature Research Paper Topics
1. Does Romeo and Juliet glorify teenage suicide?
2. Did Edgar Allan Poe’s common theme of premature burial reflect his own fear of being buried alive?
3. Does Walt Whitman deserve the title “Father of Free Verse”?
4. Is Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy a positive role model for young girls?
5. What is the significance of the Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg billboard in The Great Gatsby?
6. What is the significance of Walden in the modern world?
7. How are the influences of Bram Stoker apparent in modern horror fiction?
8. How does J. K. Rowling incorporate religious themes in the Harry Potter series?
9. How did Langston Hughes typify the Harlem Renaissance?
10. How are populist politics represented in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?
History Research Paper Topics
11. What role did jazz have in promoting desegregation in the United States?
12. Why were the Battles of Saratoga considered a turning point for the Americans during the Revolutionary War?
13. Why was Robespierre beheaded during the French Revolution?
14. What were the most important causes of the Civil War?
15. Was Bill Clinton an effective leader?
16. How did Aztec military structure compare with modern United States military structure?
17. What were the causes of the Cold War?
18. How did military technology and strategy change between World War I and World War II?
19. What caused the influx of Irish immigrants to the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century?
20. What technologies made the Roman Empire successful?
Sociology Research Paper Topics
21. Do governments with more women in positions of power rule more fairly?
22. What were the effects of Reaganomics on the lower and middle classes?
23. Why is there a difference in birth rate among social classes?
24. Does middle child syndrome really exist?
25. Does premarital cohabitation have a negative effect on marital success?
26. What are the social costs of poverty?
27. Is solitary confinement effective for dangerous inmates?
28. Is satire more effective than confrontation in reference to social change?
29. How does divorce affect young children differently than teenagers?
30. How do views of the elderly differ between United States and Latin American cultures?
Anthropology Research Paper Topics
31. What is the relationship between Neanderthals and humans?
32. How are global languages related?
33. Why did humans begin walking upright?
34. What role do hormones play in human bonding?
35. What role did hunting have on early humans’ social bonds?
36. How has the role of women changed in human culture?
37. Is racism a learned or an evolved trait?
38. How did the development of agriculture change human society?
39. Who were the first Americans?
40. What are the origins of the city-state?
Media Research Paper Topics
41. Are Dove’s beauty ads effective in building self-esteem for girls and women?
42. What effect does violence in the media have on children?
43. How does social media affect personal relationships?
44. Why doesn’t educational programming perform as well as sports programming on television?
45. Is reading on a tablet more effective for children than reading from a book?
46. Is reality television altering people’s perception of reality?
47. How do advertisers use fear to drive sales?
48. How do the advertisement of leaders in the field differ from competitors (e.g. Lexus vs Hyundai)?
49. Is marketing targeted toward children effective?
50. In what ways are print advertisements more effective than television ads?
Extended Argumentative Essay
You probably noticed that a lot of these research paper topics sound like argumentative essay topics. You’re not wrong. In a way, a research paper can be viewed as an extended argumentative essay.
The research paper argues a claim (your thesis), but is going to be a lot longer than a simple argumentative essay. It’s also going to be written in a less opinionated manner because it will be based both on existing scholarly materials, as well as primary sources such as charts, data, newspaper articles, letters, artifacts, and media sources.
Now that you have the tools to formulate a good research topic, it’s time to jump in feet first.
Need more help? Picking your topic is just the beginning. Here is a great article about how to spice up your research paper.
And if you’re having doubts when your paper is finished, let our editors take a look.