119 Research Paper Topics to Explore (Updated for 2018)

research paper topics
  • Last Edited: May 26, 2018

Writing a research paper but struggling to find a research paper topic?  A lot of times, people imagine that to produce a successful paper they must know everything there is to know about a subject before beginning.  As Professor Peyton Jones points out, all you really need is an idea:  once you have the idea, start writing.  As you begin to write you will find out what it is you don’t know—and that can spur you on in your research.

Any subject under the sun could be studied until the end of time and still there would be more to know.  For that reason, view a research paper as a process—a paper that shows what you have learned about a subject, what you did to find out about it, and the questions you sought to answer.  Research paper topics are easy to come by once you think of your paper in this light.

 

elements of research paper

Figure 1: “Elements of a Research Paper” Source: https://www.pinterest.com/Fresnostategws/academic-writing/

Argumentative Research Paper Topics

With any research paper, you will want to pick a subject that you can find information on—preferably scholarly information.  With that said, almost every topic has been written on by scholars, so try thinking of an argument that you feel passionate about and then see what the scholars have to say.

  • Should America be the policeman of the world?
    • Many presidents throughout history have thought so, but what would the Founding Fathers say?
  • Federalist or Anti-Federalist?
    • Hindsight is 20/20—so which side makes the better case?
  • The Federal Reserve is good or bad for the U.S.?
    • What is the history of the Federal Reserve and whose interests has it served?
  • Should hemp be used in construction?
    • Hemp used to be legal in America and actually has many uses.
  • Is green energy efficient?
    • Green energy may sound good on paper, but in many cases fossil fuel energy is embedded in the construction of so-called green technology.

Easy Research Paper Topics

Easy topics are ones that you know will be simple to research.  A lot of times, the Internet is a great place to start.  Search Google Scholar, Google Books, or even Wikipedia to get some ideas or answers.  Or try your local library!

  • How the Industrial Revolution transformed the modern world
    • The world changed significantly as a result of the Industrial Revolution: how did it happen?
  • The Lawless Decade: the origins of Prohibition in the 1920s
    • How did the Teetotaler Movement spark the rise of organized crime?
  • The influence of the French Revolution
    • Much of the world today has been impacted by the ideals of the French Revolution. How so?
  • How the Silk Road made history
    • The Silk Road allowed for the first truly global exchange of goods and as a result transformed both the East and the West
  • The problem of the Cultural Revolution in China
    • Why was Mao’s plan to transform China into a socialist state doomed from the start?

Interesting Research Paper Topics

An interesting research topic is really just one that you feel particularly drawn to.  It may not interest others, but if you present it in a matter that shows how into it you are, your reader’s interest will undoubtedly be piqued as well.

  • The most efficient way to build a house
    • Homes are something everyone lives in yet most people don’t know the first thing about how they are constructed or maintained.
  • How Quantitative Easing has changed the global economy
    • Is every major asset class in a bubble or is the disappearance of fundamentals as a meaningful indicator just the new normal?
  • Did Shakespeare exist?
    • Some people think Shakespeare’s plays were really written by someone else. What is the evidence for and against this claim?
  • What is electricity?
    • This was one of the questions that Tesla pondered his whole life. What is the answer?
  • What caused the fall of the Roman Empire?
    • Many people believe the U.S. is on the same trajectory as the Roman Empire. So how did Rome fall and what can the U.S. learn to avoid a similar fate?

Research Paper Topics on History

A lot of great research paper topics can be found in history.  History shapes so much of our lives—so much so, in fact, that to understand ourselves we often have to turn to the pages of history for clues.

  • How the Second Vatican Council altered the Catholic Church
    • The 1960s were a revolutionary time, not just in America but also in the Catholic Church
  • The CIA’s MK-ULTRA program
    • Mind-control is not just something that is portrayed in the movies. The CIA spent years developing mind control techniques.
  • “False flags” throughout history
    • False flags occur all the time and for a big reason. What does history tell us about the false flag event and its uses for governments in need of a pretext for invasion?
  • 1917 and the Russian Revolution
    • Who financed and controlled the Russian Revolution and how did it change the course of world history?
  • The Robber Barons
    • What role did the Robber Barons play in the shaping of American history?

Controversial Research Paper Topics

Controversial topics are great ones for a research paper because there are often so many sides to the issues.  You don’t want your research to be all one-sided, however; so be careful to be fair in how you present your information and how you go about digging up facts.

  • Israel’s role in 9/11
    • Saudi Arabia’s role in 9/11 is no longer a big secret, but some suggest the Israeli Mossad also played a significant role. What does the evidence say?
  • Who killed JFK?
    • The official narrative is that Oswald acted alone, but there are compelling reasons that indicate otherwise.
  • Did James Earl Ray really kill Martin Luther King, Jr.?
    • A televised mock courtroom trial proved that Ray could not have killed MLK. So who did?
  • Did we really walk on the Moon?
    • The Apollo mission brought a lot of great publicity to America at a time when it needed it, but was the moon landing faked?
  • The Rise of the Rothschilds
    • Modern finance owes a lot to the Rothschilds. How did they do it?

Research Paper Topics for College Students

College topics can range from academic to pragmatic.  What matters is that the topic is one you can research and one that you can find enough scholarly data on to support your paper and answer your research questions.  You can even stand out by picking a topic that challenges the status quo!

  • Is America broke?
    • We are trillions in debt and owe trillions more in unfunded liabilities. Should we be worried?
  • How education today differs from 1000 years ago
    • Education has changed a lot over time and much of that change is cultural, ideological, and ultimately pedagogical.
  • What Lysander Spooner can tell us about government
    • This anarchist actually has a lot of logical and articulate arguments for why government may be a big problem.
  • Should government and business be separated?
    • Most Americans believe in the separation of church and state—but what about the separation of business and state?
  • Should we still be paying into Social Security?
    • If the coffers of Social Security have been raided, why are we still paying into it?

Persuasive Research Paper Topics

Persuasive topics are good subjects for research because there is always an argument to be made.  Pick a side and then research why one side is better than the other.

  • Capitalism or Communism: Which is better?
    • Or are the differences between the two only superficial, since both are fundamentally materialistic at core?
  • Why gold should not be considered a “barbarous relic”
    • Gold and silver are considered safe haven assets—but not everyone agrees.
  • Why probiotics are better than antibiotics
    • Antibiotics are pushed by doctors and the pharmaceutical industry, but do they do more harm than good?
  • Creationism vs. Evolution: Which presents the better argument
    • What is the evidence for either claim and how should one think about the origins of life?
  • Whether or not diet soda is actually good for you
    • Diet sodas are loved by those who want to avoid calories, but does that mean they are healthy?

Research Paper Topics on Sports

Sports make the world go round—so why not write a research paper about a game you love?

  • Has the NFL become too politicized?
    • Political correctness is weighing heavily on the NFL—but is this good for the game?
  • Do sports have a positive or negative impact on youths?
    • Sometimes schools push athletics more than they do academics, which can send kids a mixed signal.
  • Did Babe Ruth call his home run?
    • Everyone has heard of the shot and seen the picture—but was Babe really pointing out where he was going to hit the ball?
  • Is the UFC too violent?
    • The UFC has received a lot of attention in recent years, but the sport may be too dangerous.
  • Why the Olympic Games are so important to the world
    • The first Olympic Games started in ancient Greece yet today the whole world takes part in them. How did this happen and what does it mean?

Research Paper Topics for Middle School Students

Middle school is a time of great creativity and curiosity.  Don’t feel that anything is off limits:  let your interests be your guide—and start exploring to find a topic that you want to know more about.

  • Lessons to be learned from Homer’s Odyssey
    • Odysseus is placed in a lot of strange but compelling situations that have some great lessons for our own time. What are they?
  • The life of Abe Lincoln
    • Abe Lincoln came from humble origins to be one of the most revered American presidents of all time. How did this happen?
  • How America came to be
    • A lot of influences shaped America in its early days, but gradually it came to take on a specific shape and character. So—just as a child resembles its parents—which social, political and economic “parents” does America resemble?
  • Should athletes be drug tested?
    • A lot is expected of athletes: they have to perform at super-human levels.  So what if they take performance enhancers?
  • The real Julius Caesar
    • Every middle student has read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, so how does it compare to the real story of the man?

Research Paper Topics for High School Students

High school is a time when students are ready to get out in the world.  They have a lot of questions, naturally.  This is a perfect time to give voice to one of them and find answers.

  • Is Civil Disobedience an effective practice?
    • Thoreau thought so.
  • Should high schools have “safe spaces”?
    • They have them in colleges—why not high schools?
  • Can anyone become president?
    • Lincoln did—but today it seems you literally have to be a billionaire.
  • When did America stop being isolationist?
    • America seems to intervene in affairs all over the world. Is this good?
  • What was the effect of “yellow journalism”?
    • Does it still live on today?

Research Paper Topics on Animals

Who doesn’t love animals?  There is a lot of potential for research here.

  • Are zoos like prisons?
    • Zoos protect species but also take them out of their natural habitat.
  • Should environments be protected if endangered species live there?
    • Where is the line between conservation and development?
  • Is animal testing a kind of animal cruelty?
    • What does the research say?
  • Do animals express love?
    • The dog is said to be man’s best friend.
  • How was typhus spread during WW2?
    • Not all animals are friendly.

Research Paper Topics on Music

Music is another great love of humanity—and a great subject to research and read about.

  • Beethoven’s 9th symphony and what it means
    • The 9th is a truly epic work.
  • How Wagner changed opera
    • Opera was never the same after Wagner took it over.
  • How punk rock came into being
    • Punk pushed rock to the limits, but where did it come from?
  • Where is popular music heading?
    • Has music evolved to the greatest extent possible?
  • If video killed the radio star, what has the Internet done to it?
    • How is technology changing the way we listen to and think about music?

Research Paper Topics on Science

Some of the biggest questions of our time are being asked by scientists.  See what they have to say!

  • Is the earth dying?
    • Can our planet continue to sustain life indefinitely?
  • Will AI play a major role in the coming century?
    • Sci-fi movies make it look like AI is right around the corner, but is it?
  • Will humans one day be able to live for centuries if not indefinitely?
    • Death is one of the great stumbling blocks—but can it be overcome?
  • Is Bitcoin the currency of the future?
    • What is the blockchain?
  • If we are more connected than ever before, is it possible that we are also more alienated than ever before?
    • The Internet has changed everything about society.

Medical Research Paper Topics

Medical topics are perfect for a research paper because there is always a ton of scholarly information in peer-reviewed journals waiting to be accessed by the savvy reader.

  • The relationship between diet and diabetes
    • Food and health have always gone together.
  • Vitamin C and the cure for cancer
    • Our bodies are made to be healthy naturally, so maybe nature also has the cure.
  • Medical marijuana and its effects
    • What are the medical benefits of marijuana?
  • The FDA and Big Pharma
    • Is the relationship between the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry a good one?
  • The history of AIDS
    • What is the reality of the AIDS virus and why is it viewed differently in different parts of the world?

Psychology Research Paper Topics

Psychology is a great, big field—and there is a lot to discuss.  Freud may have gotten the ball rolling, but where is the study of psychology going today?

  • Person Centered Therapy
    • What is person centered therapy and how does it work?
  • Bettelheim and The Uses of Enchantment
    • Bruno Bettelheim penned this book as a way to explain how fairy tales help develop the child’s psychology. How have psychologists responded?
  • Family Therapy
    • How is family therapy used to help address psychological problems for individuals?
  • Adam Lanza
    • Apparently there were a number of red flags with Adam Lanza—what were they are how could they have been better addressed?
  • OCD
    • Obsessive compulsive disorder has impacted the lives of many people: does anyone know what causes it and how it can be cured?

Good Research Paper Topics

            Good research paper topics are ones that have potential to be thoroughly examined from multiple perspectives.  But just because a topic has not been done before doesn’t mean it’s off limits.  Neither does a topic have to be wholly original!  Be creative—or try tackling an old subject in a new manner.

  • Ship recycling
    • In shipyards like those in Bangladesh, ship recycling is a dangerous business—one that impacts both workers and the environment. Why is it like this and how can it change?
  • Organ harvesting
    • While this topic does not receive a lot of attention in the mainstream, there is no denying that it is big business. What is known about organ harvesting and how is it carried on today?
  • The making of Strangelove
    • Kubrick’s Cold War satire is a classic, but it certainly was not initially conceived as a comedy. How did the film go from having its origins as a serious drama to being of the funniest send-ups of the concept of mutually assured destruction?
  • The life of Dostoevsky
    • One of the greatest of the Russian novelists, Fyodor Dostoevsky had one of the most remarkable lives. How are the lessons he learned in life reflected in his works?
  • Ophelia’s madness
    • What causes Ophelia to lose her mind? Is Hamlet to blame—or does the root of madness lie somewhere else?

Fun Research Paper Topics

Fun research topics can be whatever you want them to be.  Dive into sports, if you’re a sports fan, films if you’re a movie fun, history if you’re a history buff, science if that’s your angle, philosophy if you love wisdom, or religion if you’re curious about our connection to the other side.  Here are a few fun topic ideas to get you thinking:

  • The relationship between the moon and fertility
    • Is there some connection between the moon cycles and fertility? Ancient cultures used to think so…
  • Free electricity
    • Tesla apparently had the idea of free renewable energy for everyone—but that didn’t jive with Morgan. So how would that have worked?
  • The brain
    • How much of our brain do we really use? Some say it’s a small amount while others argue that it’s actually much more.  Regardless, is there untapped potential in all of us—and if so how can we tap it?
  • Flat Earth
    • While some NBA players are convinced the Earth is flat, others disagree. So what is the argument here?  If photos show the Earth to be round, how can some say it is flat?
  • The Internet
    • Everyone uses it—but does anyone really know what the Internet is? Use the Internet to find out what the Internet is, how it started, who created it, and what is being done to regulate it.

Criminal Justice Research Paper Topics

Criminal justice is a good field to mine for research topics:  it is relatively new and there is a lot written about it.  Try out some of these ideas and see what you can come up with!

  • Broken Windows Theory
    • What is the relationship between minor acts of vandalism in a neighborhood and a rising crime rate?
  • Racial profiling
    • Detractors call it racial profiling but the law enforcement community disagrees with that viewpoint—so what is it and how does it work?
  • The origins of criminology
    • Criminology or the study of crime is fairly modern science that has only gotten more exacting over the years. So how did it all start?
  • The effectiveness of Stand Your Ground laws
    • Proponents of these laws say they cut down on crime, but critics of these laws argue that they have just the opposite effect. What is the real story?
  • Police and body cameras
    • How is technology and the ability to “wear” a camera changing the way law enforcement officers police in America?

Research Paper Topics on Education

Research topics on education are ideal because education is such a highly relatable topic. Nearly every writer has firsthand experience with it in some way. It also offers a wealth of possible topics related to all the many multifaceted aspects of going to school. Topics connected to learning and dealing with the challenges of the immediate environment are plentiful.

  • Does homeschooling children really give them the best education?
    • Do reduced opportunities for socializing impact homeschooled children in a negative or positive way?
  • What are the benefits and disadvantages of sending children to boarding school?
    • Does sending children to boarding school make them more independent or more resentful?
  • What are the best ways to improve inner city schools?
    • Why is the high school graduation rate lower in the inner city and what can be done to fix this?
  • Loners, nerds, and social pariahs: why being unpopular in high school often equates to bigger success later in life.
    • Why being popular in high school can set you up for disappointment later in life.
  • Grades aren’t everything: Why children with more developed social skills have more success.
    • Why C-students tend to succeed later in life.

Research Paper Topics on Science

Research topics on science offer a truly boundless number of possibilities when it comes to potential themes for a paper.  Science impacts nearly every aspect of living, so don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to brainstorming an idea for a science-based topic.

  • The importance of sleeping and dreaming.
    • Too much sleep? The benefits and disadvantages of getting eight hours of sleep per night.
  • What makes a genius? The main criteria for brilliance.
    • Female geniuses: Overlooked by history or simply a minority?
  • The main methods of animal communication.
    • The highly developed language of dolphins: understanding echolocation.
  • The nuances of earthquake warning systems.
    • Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis: What natural disasters can teach us.
  • The main problems with artificial intelligence.
    • What artificial intelligence reveals about human nature.

Research Paper Topics on Math

Many students groan at the prospect of writing a research paper on mathematics, but there’s no reason why a paper on math can’t be super fun and illuminating. Math directly connects to the mysteries of the world and the nature of reality. Math fluidly overlaps with science, business, engineering, and even music, art and architecture.

  • How chaos math can help create a safer world.
    • Examples of chaos theory in history: How small changes can cause big unpredictable shifts.
  • What mathematics can demonstrate about cellular communication.
    • How mathematics shapes the natural world.
  • Sacred geometry: What certain geometric shapes and proportions can tell us about human existence.
    • Art, architecture and religion: The presence of sacred geometry.
  • Mathematics and cryptocurrency: charting the future.
    • Cryptocurrency and the economy: Predictions for how we will live.

Research Paper Topics on Business

If money is what makes the world go round, then business is the force that generates all the money. Business is exciting as it touches so many subjects and realms of life and human interaction. An essay topic on business should be fun to research and inspiring about the many arenas business can impact.

  • Which Silicon Valley startups have had the biggest influence on society?
    • What we can learn from Silicon Valley failures.
  • Religion and billionaires: The belief systems of the world’s wealthiest.
    • How morality and millionaires: The ethical principles of the richest.
  • Success rates of female-run startups.
    • The world’s most successful female-run businesses.
  • How to predict a recession.
    • Patterns inherent in American recessions/depressions.
  • The craziest business ideas that made millions.
    • The business ideas that changed their industries.

Research Paper Topics on Medicine

People generally don’t like to think about health or medicine until they get sick. Medicine and the wellness industry have come a long way from the time of leech therapy in the 19th century. Writing an essay on medicine should inspire hope for the future and faith in the progress of modern science.

  • Progress in cancer treatments
    • Predicting cancer: social, spiritual, emotional and physical signs to be aware of.
  • Preventing and managing AIDS in the world’s poorest countries.
    • The male contraceptive pill: benefits and drawbacks.
  • The Daily Multivitamin: Advantages and Disadvantages.
    • Do supplements really make you live longer?
  • Do optimists have fewer health problems than pessimists?
    • How smiling can impact your mood.

2018 Current Events Research Paper Topics

2018, and the years leading up to this time, have been full of changes and surprises in society. To some, the nation might seem as discordant and chaotic as ever. To others, the future has never looked brighter. Writing a research paper on current events should help illuminate some of the nuances of the current day and age. This task can help bring clarity to the more complicated issues that permeate society.

  • History of the electoral college system of voting
    • Reasons to abolish the electoral college system of voting
  • The benefits of having non-politician leaders
    • The drawbacks of having non-politician leaders
  • What we can learn from the failure of Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign.
    • If 2016 had been different: Pros and cons of the Trump Presidency.
  • What the #metoo movement shows us about institutionalized misogyny.
    • Common patterns in the #metoo movement: How abuse manifests in the workplace.
  • What history indicates about creating gender equality.
    • Tactics for creating a more equitable workplace for our daughters.
  • Preventing police brutality: history and what citizens can do.
    • What police brutality today indicates about racism in America.

Conclusion

How do you choose from so many research paper topics?  Easy.  Go with what calls to you.  But remember:  be specific.  Ask yourself what it is you want to know more about—and then start digging around for answers.  A research paper should address a specific question or set of questions—but in most cases the more you look into a subject, the more complex it becomes.  Don’t worry about producing a report that clears away all the fog—just pay attention to where your questions are leading you and then start reading.

Research paper topics don’t have to be painful.  They can be fun, serious, theoretical or practical.  Try one above or think of one all on your own!

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