Research Paper Topics

Research papers are a little different from normal essays because you are not only looking at your primary subject, but also looking for secondary texts and opinions. In some ways it is like involving yourself in a conversation with other authors who have examined the same subject and come to their own conclusions.

Even if you are given an assigned topic, you may find that other sources allow you to think outside the box and make it yours.

History / Social Science Papers

When writing a research paper for history, you want to find a historical problem you would like to address.

For example, when assigned an essay on WWII, you might ask, “Did racism have anything to do with the bombing of Japan?” This sort of question can be researched and argued one way or the other.

Some other ideas for historical research papers:

  • Historical Figures: Examine the truth of Marco Polo’s claims about his journey into Asia, or his contributions to cartography. Look at Kublai Khan’s influence on Chinese culture.
  • Events or Discoveries: How did the caravel ship revolutionize sea exploration? What were the economic implications of Johann Friedrich Böttger’s discovery of the formula for making Chinese porcelain?
  • Famous Artifacts: Write about the history of the Aleppo Codex, or Ptolemy’s Map, or perhaps the world’s oldest bottle of wine, found in Pfalz. What are their histories, or their significance to modern scholarship?

Literature Papers

For an English paper, you must choose a piece to analyze – a story, poem, or other written work – and settle on an interpretation that you support with other sources.

Here are a few ways you can approach that:

  • Influences: Take a look at how an author’s life or historical circumstances affected her/his writing. For example, John Milton was heavily involved in the politics of his time, and this can be seen in his work. The same is true of other figures, like Dante Alighieri and Niccolò Machiavelli.
  • Ideologies: Analyze your source with a social issue in mind, such as feminism, racism, or religion. Examine the point of view it seems to encourage, or that it might react to.
  • Compare / contrast: Look at two different pieces by the same author, or by different authors of the same period. Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare are a good example.

Science Papers

Like history papers, essays looking at scientific process or discovery are usually based on fact instead of interpretation. But in addition, there are questions to ask about matters such as ethics, sustainability, and the worth of this work to our culture.

  • Bio Science: What are the ethics of cloning, or fields like stem cell research? What are the most important discoveries in this field, and who made them? For example, James D. Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA; how did this change the study of biology?
  • Physical Science: Consider historic findings such as Marie Curie and her isolation of radium, or Nikola Tesla’s experimentation in energy transmission. Or try looking into hybrid and electric vehicles, and what impact they might have on issues like global warming.
  • Medical Science: Explore the pros and cons of legalizing drugs like marijuana, or look at some important discoveries such as Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, or Ignaz Semmelweis and his pioneering of such ideas as washing one’s hands when performing medical procedures.