Coming up with research paper topics is the first step in writing most papers. While it may seem easy compared to the actual writing, choosing the right research paper topic is nonetheless one of the most important steps. Your topic determines the entire writing process: your core arguments, which sources you use, the structure of your outline, and ultimately how well the paper is received.
Unfortunately, how to select a research topic isn’t always obvious. So here, we explain how to come up with research paper topics that will work for you. We even share a list of research topics to help inspire you.
What are research paper topics?
A research paper topic is the main focus of a piece of academic writing, encompassing the author’s main argument, thesis, or hypothesis that they plan to research and investigate.
Usually, the assignment stipulates what kind of research paper topics you can use, but even so you should choose topics that you feel passionately about and that have ample resources to fully develop your ideas.
How to come up with research paper topic examples
The ideal approach is to create a list of research topics that fulfill the criteria, and then choose the best one. Because research paper topics can be pretty broad, creating a list helps you narrow down ideas and consider fresh alternatives.
Of course, creating a list of research topics takes some effort. To save you time, here are some tried-and-true methods for how to come up with research paper topic examples:
- Personal interest: Which topics are you interested in or particularly curious about?
- Topics in class discussions: Was anything mentioned in class that you’d like to examine more deeply?
- Current events: Are there any topics in the news that fit the requirements for the assignment?
- Research gaps: For dissertations, are there any topics that haven’t been sufficiently researched before that you could contribute original data to?
- Advice from teacher, colleagues, or friends: Can you ask someone knowledgeable to help you brainstorm research paper topics?
- Search online: What kinds of relevant topics do people discuss online?
Once you have a short list of research topics, it’s time to move on to the next step: deciding how to select a research topic from the list.
How to select a research topic
As we explain in our guide on how to write a research paper, you should choose a topic with enough content to fill the length of your paper. On top of that, it’s best to pick a topic that you’re personally interested in, since you’re going to be spending long hours researching it and discussing it.
To keep your paper focused, choose a specific topic instead of a broad one. For example, instead of a general topic like “the eating habits of cats,” try to narrow it down a little, like “the eating habits of tigers.” With broad topics, you won’t be able to cover everything. Limit the scope of your topic so you can fully discuss it within the paper.
However, if you get too specific, you won’t have enough data, sources, or knowledge to write a substantial report. For example, if your topic was “the eating habits of my cat Charlie,” most likely you wouldn’t have enough information to fill more than a page or two.
So try to pick a topic that’s not only precise but manageable enough to describe completely within the limitations of the assignment.
Research paper topic vs. thesis vs. hypothesis
What’s the difference between a research paper topic, a thesis, and a hypothesis?
A research paper thesis is the main argument your paper tries to prove or explain. As such, the thesis is a core part of your entire research paper topic. A thesis is typically summed up in a thesis statement, a single sentence at the beginning of the paper to introduce your argument to the reader.
For example, if your topic was analyzing wind power in Mexico, your thesis might be:
Wind power effectively enabled Mexico to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement, thanks to natural winds in the south.
With this thesis, your paper would then discuss the availability of wind, what factors of the south make it ideal, and how Mexico went about enacting it with regard to the Paris Agreement.
Specific to scientific works, a research paper hypothesis is a statement that describes what the author hopes to prove or disprove with their paper. A hypothesis is similar to a thesis in that it sums up the research paper topic, but a hypothesis requires original data and often testing to prove whether it’s true, whereas a thesis can draw on other people’s research.
55 examples of research topics
- The evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- Comparing the impacts of pollution on freshwater and saltwater ecosystems
- How the Human Genome Project changed the field of biology
- How modern-day urbanization affects wildlife and natural habitats
- The ethical considerations of CRISPR technology
- Leveraging sustainable business practices for marketing purposes
- How attitudes about financial risk management have changed over time
- Different leadership styles and their impact on organizational performance
- The challenges of cross-cultural business negotiations
- The practicality of big data analytics for small businesses
- How the internet changed in-person social interactions
- The most effective strategies for interpersonal conflict resolution
- The relationship between media literacy and voting habits
- The evolution of communication in family dynamics
- How advertising affects decision-making outside of sales
- The application of blockchain technology outside of finance
- The future of quantum computing
- The greatest threats to cybersecurity at present
- The ramifications of humanizing AI
- An in-depth comparison between cloud computing and fog computing
- Rehabilitation versus punishment in the juvenile justice system
- The merits of decriminalizing certain drugs
- Comparing the apprehension of white-collar and blue-collar criminals
- The evolution of profiling and behavioral analysis
- The effects of a private prison system on lawmaking
- Cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation
- Comparing the historic traditions of younger and older countries
- Effective strategies to preserve indigenous cultures
- The merits of multiculturalism in big cities
- The influence of public school systems on cultural understanding
- The relationship between socioeconomic factors and educational achievements
- The challenges of early childhood education compared to that of older students
- Effective strategies for promoting interest in STEM fields
- Predicting the future of education based on current trends
- Pros and cons of multilingual classrooms
- The evolution of mental health treatment over time
- Analyzing the most successful public health campaigns throughout history
- Misinformation and diet-related illnesses
- Comparing the health effects of natural drugs and synthetic drugs
- The future of telehealth and telemedicine
- Comparing feminist literature of the first, second, third, and fourth waves
- How colonization historically affected literature
- Comparing the genres of high fantasy and magic realism
- The decline of literary journals in the modern era
- The history of metafiction and self-referential literature
- Effective strategies for combating political corruption
- Leading causes of political extremism and terrorism
- Comparing the efficiency of different electoral systems around the world
- Comparing populism in North America and Europe
- The connection between specific governments and the happiness index of their people
Research paper topics FAQs
What are research paper topics?
A research paper topic is the main focus of a piece of academic writing, encompassing the author’s main argument, thesis, or hypothesis, as well as the evidence to support it and the ultimate conclusion.
How do you come up with research paper topic examples?
You can brainstorm some research paper topics by asking people or searching online. Sometimes current events or topics discussed in the classroom can fit the type of topic you need. Try to think of topics you have a personal connection to, or perhaps topics that have not yet been sufficiently researched.
What’s the difference between a research paper topic, thesis, and hypothesis?
A research paper topic describes the general subject matter of the entire paper. A thesis is the specific argument that the author is trying to prove or explain. A hypothesis is particular to scientific papers; it is what the author attempts to prove or disprove through original testing.