You’ve considered our tips, you’ve learned all the tricks, but you’re having trouble just getting started on your research paper. Good research paper ideas take creativity but sometimes choosing a research topic is the most difficult part, so we’ve gathered some ideas for research paper topics for college students. It’s easier said than done: avoid choosing broad research subjects that interest you, and try instead to narrow your focus when selecting research paper topics.
It’s easy to get caught up in something that you’re passionate about, but if that means discussing the broadest of topics, such as simply “Barack Obama,” then you’re never going to be able to dive deeply into anything specific. You’ll only be skating over the top of a hundred concepts covering his early years, government experience, and his presidency. Instead, begin with that research subject and try to find one specific issue that you can develop into a solid thesis. Consider writing about the impact of just one of the changes he’s made in office or perhaps the way one group has been affected by his presidency.
Chapter 3 of Schaum’s Quick Guide to Writing Great Research Papers explains the difference between a subject and a topic. “Recall that a subject of a research paper is the general content […] subjects are broad and general. The topic of a research paper, in contrast, is the specific issue being discussed.” Schaum then gives example that if your subject is “Animal Rights” you may make your topic “If zoos are cruel rather than educational” or “if testing medical procedures/drugs on animals should be increased or decreased.”
Looking for specific ideas to get your brain in gear? Questia has a section devoted to Research Topics broken into 14 major categories. Select one of these broad ideas and you’ll be connected straight to thousands of good research topics linked directly to the over 77,000 books and 4 million articles on our virtual shelves. Questia shows the most popular research topics in each category, making it easy to zero in on a great subject. Upon clicking a topic link, Questia pulls the most relevant books and articles for those topics. It also offers related books and articles you may not have considered. Looking through these may just spark some creativity and get you started on writing your research paper.
Some schools even offer suggestions of interesting research topics on their library or Writing Center websites. The topics page at Midway College gives an alphabetical list of topics and gives one suggestion of where to take those ideas. Another excellent resource is the book 99 Jumpstarts to Research: Topic Guides for Finding Information on Current Issues. This book is intended to teach good research habits and offers readers search terms, food for thought, and background and statistics on 99 interesting research topics.
In a blog post called How to Choose Good Essay or Research Paper Topics, author Ishmael Ahab advises, “One thing that you can do is to browse at your old essays or research papers. Look for old topics that you can reinvent. You can also look for ideas on those old essays or research papers that were not given enough focus. Those ideas can be used as the main topic for your new essay or research paper.” Not everyone saves all of their old papers, of course, but you can brainstorm previous ideas that you’ve had for topics. Review these old, dusty ideas and reimagine them into a research topic that better suits your class’s focus and your since-developed academic abilities.
Once you’ve chosen a good research paper topic that you know can hold up to your own interrogation, the real research can begin. Have a look back at some of our other helpful blog posts for help with how to write a research paper:
Back to school tips: How to write a research paper
Top 10 mistakes when writing a research paper