Good research paper topics in recreation and leisure studies

Leisure studies includes research paper topics from sports to National Parks to roller coasters. (Expedition GeForce, Credit: Boris23)

Leisure studies includes research paper topics from sports to National Parks to roller coasters. (Expedition GeForce, Credit: Boris23)

The idiom goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” But looking at how people divide work and nonwork time isn’t necessarily about fun and games. The perception of vacation time, or just time for play, as of less worth than work time can be challenging to overcome, and recreation and leisure studies strive to investigate not only how people relax, but how the perception of relaxation shifts as cultures grow, develop and change. If you are looking for good research paper topics in recreation and leisure studies, consider looking into your own nonwork interests. You might also explore the topic: what are leisure studies, and is the field in crisis? Keep reading for more research paper topic ideas.

What are leisure studies?

So what exactly are recreation and leisure studies? According to a paper by Geoffrey C. Godbey, et. al., published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine and available online at Active Living Research,Contributions of leisure studies and recreation and park management research to the active living agenda,” the field looks at how nonwork time impacts the health and wellness needs of people. Recreation and park management were spurred on as a field by the industrialization and urbanization faced by 19th century people. In early years, “interest focused on the ability of nonwork activity to improve the health, education, social adjustment, and life chances of poor people, children, the elderly, handicapped, and others who had few resources to help them replace the recreation patterns of agriculture-based peasant life,” Godbey, et. al., explained. The researchers continued, “Recreation and leisure, among such movements, were examined not only intellectually but also morally and strategically.”

According to some historians, leisure and recreation in the United States went through a boom period during the Progressive Era, between 1890 and 1914. Technology enabled new types of recreation to evolve—such as film—and the period also introduced developments in organized sports. Additionally, during that period, workers’ unions pushed for benefits from employers such as vacation time, prioritizing the need for nonwork hours. In more recent times, organizations such as the World Leisure organization have included a focus on leisure as necessary to improving the quality of life worldwide.

A field in crisis

In the late 20th century and into the 21st century, the field of leisure studies became considered by some researchers to be in a state of crisis. In her 2012 paper “Leisure studies in the 21st century: The sky is falling?” originally published in Leisure Studies and available online at the website of Texas A&M’s Recreation, Park & Tourism Services department, Karla A. Henderson explained that crisis can be a good thing for a field to go through, as it means change in perception rather than the elimination of a field of study. She described conversations among members of the field from a 2009 seminar. “Major concern surrounded the apparent fragmentation of the field with a central question about whether the center or identity of leisure studies was (and would continue to hold) the field together,” she wrote, noting that in some areas of the field, political economy has taken precedence over more philosophical ideas.

Considering the discourse on the field’s future, you might consider researching one of the issues Henderson raises in her own paper:

  • Should parks be separated from leisure?
  • What collective identity can be defined in the field of leisure studies?
  • How do sub-fields of study (tourism, sports management, therapeutic recreation) fit into the general field of leisure studies?
  • How do attitudes toward leisure studies in the United States differ from those in Europe?
  • How can leisure studies help define what makes life meaningful?

The importance of play

“Even when you love the job you’re doing, you can’t do it all the time without losing something,” wrote Al Gini in his 2003 book The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure, and Vacations. “To do almost anything well, you must have time off from it.”

How can that translate to a research paper in leisure studies? Consider looking at:

  • How playing video games develops marketable skills
  • How physical activity improves mental health
  • The historical importance of open spaces (and parks) on civic outlook

In addition to looking for research topics in Questia’s Leisure and Recreation category, you can find lists of topics and resources at:

  •, hosted by the University of Amsterdam []
  • Natural Resources Research Information Pages, hosted by North Carolina State University []
  • The website of the National Park Service []

What areas of leisure and recreation do you think lend themselves to the best research paper topics? Tell us in the comments. 

For more on leisure and recreation, visit Questia.

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