Choosing a topic for a research paper is hard; but, there are a few key indicators that show whether a particular topic that you are considering might be better avoided.
Selecting your topic will usually focus on what interests you and what you think will interest others. Although this opens up a wide vista, you should avoid certain topics in a research paper. For example:
Unless you are famous enough to have one or more books written about you, you usually cannot do a research paper about yourself. After all, by definition, a research paper requires you to do research. This means that there must be sources available for you to use to do that research.
Just as you can't write a research paper about yourself due to the lack of "researchable" information, you also can't write a research paper about a topic upon which there is no data.
If you choose something too esoteric (like the color of Napoleon's socks or what Albert Einstein ate for breakfast) you probably aren't going to find a lot of detailed information about it and you won't have enough information to write a successful paper.
Continuing along the same theme, you also don't want to pick a topic that is too narrow... again, because finding enough information to write your paper is going to be impossible.
You could, for example, easily write a paper on something like what makes a diamond valuable. However, it would be a lot harder to find enough detailed information if you made your paper about "what makes a one karat round F color diamond purchased in New York valuable" because you have just narrowed the topic to become way, way too specific.
It is also possible that a topic will have too much information available and will also not be good for a paper.
If you have too much data, or there are too many different things involved, you won't be able to go into any depth about them and your paper might not be a good one. For example, a paper about "Causes of Gang Violence" is probably going to be a lot better of a paper than one about "Gang Violence" because the one about "Gang Violence" will just have too many possible things for you to write about (causes, effects, amount of violence, types, etc.).
Some people may wonder if there are any specific topics to avoid because they might be "hot button issues." For example, a student may be afraid to write a research paper about the death penalty or abortion for fear of offending someone.
As a general matter, unless you know for a fact that the person you are preparing the paper for will be offended by the choice of a particular topic or the direction of the paper, writing about controversial issues can be OK. However, you need to remember that this is a research paper and it should be researched.
You can't (and shouldn't) just present your opinions or views on an issues - especially not a hot button one. If you make sound and logical arguments supported by research and data, the reader of your paper should be able to appreciate its accuracy and validity of the research, even if they don't necessarily share the views espoused in the paper.
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