Research paper topics in transportation

Transportation covers a huge field of interest, so narrowing down a good idea for a research paper topic can be a real challenge. Are you primarily interested in mass transportation, or are you considering looking into theories of transportation planning? Other parts of transportation are aerospace, railroads, subway systems and personal vehicles.

Learn more about the many modes of transportation here. (Credit: SGS)

Learn more about the many modes of transportation here. (Credit: SGS)

While your professor is likely to narrow the focus of your paper topics for you somewhat, there’s still a wide variety of approaches you could take in aiming at a particular topic in transportation. When you’re looking for a good idea, consider getting started at Questia and head to the writing center for tutorials on choosing a paper topic.

Subtopics in transportation

Questia’s library has a full topic heading on transportation, with an overview that narrows transportation into three major branches: land, air, and water. The transportation topic also has related subtopics that offer a narrower focus:

  • Transportation history
  • Transportation planning
  • Mass transportation
  • Commuting (Transportation)
  • Railroad history
  • Automotive history
  • Commercial aviation

For a source for a land transportation topic, you might consider reading through Owen D. Gutfreund’s book Twentieth Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape, published in 2004. In it, Gutfreund discussed how “two related trends—the suburbanization of the nation and the overhaul of the transportation infrastructure—combined to define and shape late twentieth century America.”

Transportation planning and mass transportation

Both the transportation planning and mass transportation subtopics deal quite a bit with urban planning and the necessity of creating systems by which many people can move. One recent source on the subject is Andrew J. Sparberg’s 2015 book From a Nickel to a Token: The Journey from Board of Transportation to MTA, which chronicles the history of mass transportation in New York City from 1940 to 1968.

If you are more interested in current issues, you can search by journal articles rather than books by limiting your search in Questia in the left-hand margin. You can also choose to get sources that are peer-reviewed or news within the last five years.

Futurists and transportation

When looking into future transportation planning or technology, you can consider looking at some of the cutting edge news by searching  topics such as “self-driving cars” or “flying cars,” using date limits to keep only the most relevant results. For example, engineers and futurists at Arconic.com teamed up to depict a more scientifically based version of  the 1960s cartoon, The Jetsons, which takes place in 2062, at “The Jetsons.” Many of these advances are focused on transportation, as the cartoon itself envisioned flying cars and people movers as key forms of transit. One good idea for a research paper topic would be to choose a source like The Jetsons that was futuristic in the 1960s and look at which predictions were accurate, which predictions futurists still anticipate, and which ideas fell by the wayside as technology developed in different directions.

Mona Chalabi of the statistics website FiveThirtyEight.com also gave a good shot at transportation predictions in “2064: The Technology of the Future (Will We Still Be Waiting for Our Jetpacks?)” posted April 17, 2014. The community FutureTimeline.net encourages scientists and futurists to contribute their predictions, any of which could become a good idea for a research paper topic that investigates the possibilities of those future transportation goals.

For more on transportation, visit Questia.

What other good ideas for research paper topics do you have on transportation? Share with us in the comments.

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