If given the option to choose your own research paper topic but you find yourself struggling to choose what to write about, this guide contains some basic guidelines to keep in mind as you choose what to write about, and contains a large list of possible topics to help spark some ideas.
Things to keep in mind:
Keep in mind that there are some topics that are too broad, general, or have nothing new to say. You may want to avoid the usual social issue topics, including: abortion, the death penalty, gun control, euthanasia, violence in video games, steroid abuse, the SATs, the “obesity epidemic,” and marriage equality. These topics often lead to more simplistic research questions or pro/con arguments. Original takes can be interesting, or there may be specific new developments about a topic worth discussing, and some of these topics are included in this guide's list of topics, but be mindful of how you approach them.
While you want to choose something you are interested in, don’t choose something you have already made up your mind about. Doing so will lead to more simplistic arguments where you may overlook ways to make a more nuanced argument or overlook important evidence that doesn’t support the argument you want to make. After all, if you already know the answer to your research question, then why are you researching it?
The best topics will come out of your own curiosity and reading. If you find a source that says exactly what you want to say, however, then you want to change your approach to your topic (because why would you want to say everything someone else has already said). You might think of your task as synthesizing other views into your own view.
This material is adapted from Wendy Hayden and Stephanie Margolin's Research Toolkit at the Hunter College Libraries under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.