Choosing a your research paper topic is actually the number one goal when starting to write it: your chief aim is to refine your topic, to sharpen and delimit your main question. You should start distilling and reshaping your topic as early as possible, even though you will continue to do so as you research and write. It’s not something you do once at the beginning and then put behind you. Honing your topic is vital to producing a first-rate research paper, and you should keep doing it throughout the project. The question is, how exactly do you refine your topic? You begin by understanding what makes a research paper topic manageable.
Good Research Paper Topics:
Argumentative Research Paper Topics
There are so many you can choose from. The best topic is one that you truly care about, and one that you’re prepared to research. You’ll have to back up your claim with lots of evidence and support. When writing a research paper on argumentative topics you should focus on picking a topic that is current and relevant to society and can be argued logically. It is best to avoid moral topics since they do not always support logical discussion. Additionally, any potential argumentative research paper topic should be current, debatable, researchable, and manageable. See Argumentative Research Paper Topics
Career Research Paper Topics
Sweeping changes in the nature of work, shifts in the meaning of career success, the rise of global business and international careers, heightened concerns over social influences on careers, and emerging labor laws and regulations influence the ways in which individuals, organizations, and the broader society view career development. See Career Research Paper Topics
Communication Research Paper Topics
The word “communication” is descended from the Latin noun communicatio, which meant a sharing or imparting. From the root communis (common, public), it has no relation to terms such as union or unity, but rather is linked to the Latin munus (duty, gift), and thus has relatives in such terms as common, immune, mad, mean, meaning, municipal, mutual, and German terms such as Gemeinschaft (community) and Meinung (opinion). Its root senses have to do with change, exchange, and goods possessed by more than one person; the Latin verb communicare means to make common. See Communication Research Paper Topics
Criminal Justice Research Paper Topics
The study of criminal justice and criminology has experienced tremendous growth over the last years, which is evident, in part, by the widespread popularity and increased enrollment in criminology and criminal justice departments at the undergraduate and graduate levels, both across the United States and internationally. An evolutionary paradigmatic shift has accompanied this criminological surge in definitional, disciplinary, and pragmatic terms. Though long identified as a leading sociological specialty area, criminology has emerged as a stand-alone discipline in its own right, one that continues to grow and is clearly here to stay. Today, criminology remains inherently theoretical but is also far more applied in focus and thus more connected to the academic and practitioner concerns of criminal justice and related professional service fields. Contemporary study of criminology and criminal justice is also increasingly interdisciplinary and thus features a broad variety of research paper topics on the causes, effects, and responses to crime. See Criminal Justice Research Paper Topics
Domestic Violence Research Paper Topics
The list of domestic violence research paper topics below will show that domestic violence takes on many forms. Through recent scientific study, it is now known that domestic violence occurs within different types of households. The purpose of creating this list is for students to have available a comprehensive, state-of-the-research, easy-to-read compilation of a wide variety of domestic violence topics and provide research paper examples on those topics. See Domestic Violence Research Paper Topics
Economics Research Paper Topics
Encompassing the traditional economics research paper topics as well as those that economists have only more recently addressed, this list will meet the needs of several types of readers. Students of economics will find summaries of theory and models in key areas of micro- and macroeconomics. Readers interested in learning about economic analysis of a topic or issue as well as students developing research papers will find sample research papers on various economic topics. And economists seeking to learn about extensions of analysis into new areas or about new approaches will benefit from research papers on cutting-edge topics. The sample research papers linked in this list provide a good place to begin researching or studying a topic in economics. See Economics Research Paper Topics
Education Research Paper Topics
With its many constituents, education has many faces. To some, it is their second-grade teacher. To others, it is an economic indicator (property values are increased on the perceived quality of nearby schools). At a micro level, schools transcend teacher-student relationships and become complex institutions around which important policy decisions and vast investments are made. Taken as a whole, the topics contained in the list above present and interpret these many faces of education. See Education Research Paper Topics
History Research Paper Topics
In every culture and epoch ‘history’ has a double meaning. On the one hand, it designates temporally organized events in the past. At the same time, and inseparably from the first meaning, ‘history’ also means the account of these events that articulates their significance for our understanding of ourselves and of our world. The first meaning has to do with temporal succession, the second with its narrative representation. Not everything that has happened can be called history, but rather only that which is somehow meaningful in the present: as for example the foundation of a city or a kingdom is significant to its inhabitants, as a person’s birthday is significant to him or her, and so on. Usually this event is described in a sequence of occurrences. These may often be the actions of human beings, heroes, or divine beings, as in myth or epic; however, they may also involve more complicated phenomena, such as the development of a manufacturing process, the evolution in the meaning of a concept, the epochal transformation of a mentality, an ‘axial time,’ and so on. See History Research Paper Topics
Management Research Paper Topics
This list of management research paper topics provides 100 key issues and topics that managers are confronting in the modern world. New technologies, globalization, and associated ethical implications frame many of these issues like the management of nonprofit, arts, healthcare, sports, and philanthropic organizations. See Management Research Paper Topics
Political Science Research Paper Topics
This collection of almost 100 political science research paper topics and example papers on political science highlights the most important topics, issues, questions, and debates that any student obtaining a degree in this field ought to have mastered for effectiveness. The purpose is to provide students in political science with an authoritative reference sources and sample research papers that will help their writing efforts with far more detailed information than short essays. See Political Science Research Paper Topics
Psychology Research Paper Topics
Although human and animal behaviors have been topics of interest to scientists and others since antiquity, historians typically date the inception of modern psychology to the mid-19th century. More specifically, they have selected 1879, the year that Wilhelm Wundt established his experimental psychology laboratory at the University of Leipzig, as the year that modern psychology originated. At that time, Wundt believed that the goals of psychology were (a) to study “immediate” conscious experience using experimental methodology and (b) to investigate higher mental processes using nonexperimental techniques. The change that psychology has undergone in the nearly 130 years since its founding has been nothing short of phenomenal. See Psychology Research Paper Topics
Sociology Research Paper Topics
This list of sociology research paper topics represents a thorough inquiry into the state of knowledge and scholarly thinking. For more than 100 years, sociological research has covered a vast terrain of topics, theoretical perspectives, and methodologies that run the range of mainstream topics of interest, emerging new ideas, as well as topics considered to be peripheral to the discipline but nevertheless draw heavily on sociological literature for their framework. See Sociology Research Paper Topics
Some topics, no matter how significant and interesting, are simply too big and amorphous to research well. You can’t get your arms around them. You will never really master them, and it’s very hard to write a coherent paper that truly does them justice. That leads to a second point: You need to figure out how to move from a compelling general idea to a sharply focused topic, one you can research and analyze within the time available.
What Makes a Good Topic?
A good research paper topic is the one that is successful and manageable in your particular case. A successful research paper poses an interesting question you can actually answer. Just as important, it poses a question you can answer within the time available. The question should be one that interests you and deserves exploration. It might be an empirical question or a theoretical puzzle. In some fields, it might be a practical problem or policy issue. Whatever the question is, you need to mark off its boundaries clearly and intelligently so you can complete the research paper and not get lost in the woods. That means your topic should be manageable as well as interesting and important.
A topic is manageable if you can:
- Master the relevant literature
- Collect and analyze the necessary data
- Answer the key questions you have posed
- Do it all within the time available, with the skills you have
A topic is important if it:
- Touches directly on major theoretical issues and debates, or
- Addresses substantive topics of great interest in your field
Ideally, your topic can do both, engaging theoretical and substantive issues. In elementary education, for example, parents, teachers, scholars, and public officials all debate the effectiveness of charter schools, the impact of vouchers, and the value of different reading programs. A research paper on any of these would resonate within the university and well beyond it. Still, as you approach such topics, you need to limit the scope of your investigation so you can finish your research and writing on time. After all, to be a good research paper, it first has to be a completed one. A successful research paper poses an interesting question you can actually answer within the time available for the project. Some problems are simply too grand, too sweeping to master within the time limits. Some are too minor to interest you or anybody else.
The solution, however, is not to find a lukewarm bowl of porridge, a bland compromise. Nor is it to abandon your interest in larger, more profound issues such as the relationship between school organization and educational achievement or between immigration and poverty. Rather, the solution is to select a well-defined topic that is closely linked to some larger issue and then explore that link. Your research paper will succeed if you nail a well-defined topic. It will rise to excellence if you probe that topic deeply and show how it illuminates wider issues.The best theses deal with important issues, framed in manageable ways. The goal is to select a well-defined topic that is closely linked to some larger issue and can illuminate it.
You can begin your project with either a large issue or a narrowly defined topic, depending on your interests and the ideas you have generated. Whichever way you start, the goals are the same: to connect the two in meaningful ways and to explore your specific topic in depth.
Of course, the choice of a particular research paper topic depends on the course you’re taking. Our site can offer you the following research paper topics and example research papers:
Moving from an Idea to a Topic
Let’s begin as most students actually do, by going from a “big issue” to a more manageable research paper topic. Suppose you start with a big question such as, “Why has the United States fought so many wars since 1945?” That’s certainly a big, important question. Unfortunately, it’s too complex and sprawling to cover well in a research paper. Working with your professor or instructor, you could zero in on a related but feasible research topic, such as “Why did the Johnson administration choose to escalate the U.S. war in Vietnam?” By choosing this topic, your research paper can focus on a specific war and, within that, on a few crucial years in the mid-1960s.
You can draw on major works covering all aspects of the Vietnam War and the Johnson administration’s decision making. You have access to policy memos that were once stamped top secret. These primary documents have now been declassified, published by the State Department, and made available to research libraries. Many are readily available on the Web. You can also take advantage of top-quality secondary sources (that is, books and articles based on primary documents, interviews, and other research data).
Drawing on these primary and secondary sources, you can uncover and critique the reasons behind U.S. military escalation. As you answer this well-defined question about Vietnam, you can (and you should) return to the larger themes that interest you, namely, “What does the escalation in Southeast Asia tell us about the global projection of U.S. military power since 1945?” As one of America’s largest military engagements since World War II, the war in Vietnam should tell us a great deal about the more general question.
The goal here is to pick a good case to study, one that is compelling in its own right and speaks to the larger issue. It need not be a typical example, but it does need to illuminate the larger question. Some cases are better than others precisely because they illuminate larger issues. That’s why choosing the best cases makes such a difference in your research paper.
Since you are interested in why the United States has fought so often since 1945, you probably shouldn’t focus on U.S. invasions of Grenada, Haiti, or Panama in the past two decades. Why? Because the United States has launched numerous military actions against small, weak states in the Caribbean for more than a century. That is important in its own right, but it doesn’t say much about what has changed so dramatically since 1945. The real change since 1945 is the projection of U.S. power far beyond the Western Hemisphere, to Europe and Asia. You cannot explain this change—or any change, for that matter—by looking at something that remains constant.
In this case, to analyze the larger pattern of U.S. war fighting and the shift it represents, you need to pick examples of distant conflicts, such as Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Afghanistan, or Iraq. That’s the noteworthy change since 1945: U.S. military intervention outside the Western Hemisphere. The United States has fought frequently in such areas since World War II but rarely before then. Alternatively, you could use statistics covering many cases of U.S. intervention around the world, perhaps supplemented with some telling cases studies.
Students in the humanities want to explore their own big ideas, and they, too, need to focus their research. In English literature, their big issue might be “masculinity” or, to narrow the range a bit, “masculinity in Jewish American literature.” Important as these issues are, they are too vast for anyone to read all the major novels plus all the relevant criticism and then frame a comprehensive research paper.
If you don’t narrow these sprawling topics and focus your work, you can only skim the surface. Skimming the surface is not what you want to do in a research paper. You want to understand your subject in depth and convey that understanding to your readers.
That does not mean you have to abandon your interest in major themes. It means you have to restrict their scope in sensible ways. To do that, you need to think about which aspects of masculinity really interest you and then find works that deal with them.
You may realize your central concern is how masculinity is defined in response to strong women. That focus would still leave you considerable flexibility, depending on your academic background and what you love to read. That might be anything from a reconsideration of Macbeth to an analysis of early twentieth-century American novels, where men must cope with women in assertive new roles. Perhaps you are interested in another aspect of masculinity: the different ways it is defined within the same culture at the same moment. That would lead you to novelists who explore these differences in their characters, perhaps contrasting men who come from different backgrounds, work in different jobs, or simply differ emotionally. Again, you would have considerable flexibility in choosing specific writers.
Connecting a Specific Research Paper Topic to a Bigger Idea
Not all students begin their research paper concerned with big issues such as masculinity or American wars over the past half century. Some start with very specific topics in mind. One example might be the decision to create NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement encompassing Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Perhaps you are interested in NAFTA because you discussed it in a course, heard about it in a political campaign, or saw its effects firsthand on local workers, companies, and consumers. It intrigues you, and you would like to study it in a research paper. The challenge is to go from this clear-cut subject to a larger theme that will frame your paper.
Why do you even need to figure out a larger theme? Because NAFTA bears on several major topics, and you cannot explore all of them. Your challenge—and your opportunity—is to figure out which one captures your imagination.
One way to think about that is to finish this sentence: “For me, NAFTA is a case of ___________.” If you are mainly interested in negotiations between big and small countries, then your answer is, “For me, NAFTA is a case of a large country like the United States bargaining with a smaller neighbor.” Your answer would be different if you are mainly interested in decision making within the United States, Mexico, or Canada. In that case, you might say, “NAFTA seems to be a case where a strong U.S. president pushed a trade policy through Congress.” Perhaps you are more concerned with the role played by business lobbies. “For me, NAFTA is a case of undue corporate influence over foreign economic policy.” Or you could be interested in the role of trade unions, environmental groups, or public opinion.
The NAFTA decision is related to all these big issues and more. You cannot cover them all. There is not enough time, and even if there were, the resulting paper would be too diffuse, too scattershot. To make an impact, throw a rock, not a handful of pebbles.
Choosing one of these large issues will shape your research paper on NAFTA. If you are interested in U.S. decision making, for example, you might study the lobbying process or perhaps the differences between Democrats and Republicans. If you are interested in diplomacy, you would focus on negotiations between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Either would make an interesting research paper, but they are different topics.
Although the subject matter and analysis are decidedly different in the humanities, many of the same considerations still apply to topic selection. In English or comparative literature, for example, you may be attracted to a very specific topic such as several poems by William Wordsworth. You are not trying, as a social scientist would, to test some generalizations that apply across time or space. Rather, you want to analyze these specific poems, uncover their multiple meanings, trace their allusions, and understand their form and beauty.
As part of the research paper, however, you may wish to say something bigger, something that goes beyond these particular poems. That might be about Wordsworth’s larger body of work. Are these poems representative or unusual? Do they break with his previous work or anticipate work yet to come? You may wish to comment on Wordsworth’s close ties to his fellow “Lake Poets,” Coleridge and Southey, underscoring some similarities in their work. Do they use language in shared ways? Do they use similar metaphors or explore similar themes? You may even wish to show how these particular poems are properly understood as part of the wider Romantic movement in literature and the arts. Any of these would connect the specific poems to larger themes.
How to Refine Your Research Paper Topic
One of your professor’s or instructor’s most valuable contributions to the success of your research paper is to help you refine your topic. She can help you select the best cases for detailed study or the best data and statistical techniques. S/he can help you find cases that shed light on larger questions, have good data available, and are discussed in a rich secondary literature. She may know valuable troves of documents to explore. That’s why it is so important to bring these issues up in early meetings. These discussions with your instructor are crucial in moving from a big but ill-defined idea to a smart, feasible topic.Some colleges supplement this advising process by offering special workshops and tutorial support for students. These are great resources, and you should take full advantage of them. They can improve your project in at least two ways.
First, tutors and workshop leaders are usually quite adept at helping you focus and shape your topic. That’s what they do best. Even if they are relatively new teachers, they have been writing research papers themselves for many years. They know how to do it well and how to avoid common mistakes. To craft their own papers, they have learned how to narrow their topics, gather data, interpret sources, and evaluate conjectures. They know how to use appropriate methods and how to mine the academic literature. In all these ways, they can assist you with their own hard-won experience. To avoid any confusion, just make sure your instructor knows what advice you are getting from workshop leaders and tutors. You want everyone to be pulling in the same direction.
Second, you will benefit enormously from batting around your research paper in workshops. The more you speak about your subject, the better you will understand it yourself. The better you understand it, the clearer your research and writing will be. You will learn about your project as you present your ideas; you will learn more as you listen to others discuss your work; and you will learn still more as you respond to their suggestions. Although you should do that in sessions with your instructor, you will also profit from doing it in workshops and tutorial sessions.