What Topics Should You Avoid in Writing a Research Paper?

Choosing a topic for a research paper can be quite daunting. It seems like every topic out there is a great choice for an informative and engaging research paper. However, you’ll find that some research topics make better choices than others. Take a look at the types of research topics to be avoided when writing your next research paper.

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Played Out Topics

It may feel like your research paper is provocative and unique. But keep in mind that teachers and professors have read hundreds of research papers, and most of them have probably been about the same few topics. Some “played out” topics to avoid include:

  • abortion
  • the death penalty
  • same-sex marriage
  • bullying
  • gun control
  • freedom of religion

These are very important issues in our society. However, teachers have seen these essay topics submitted time and time again. Unless you can offer a remarkable fresh perspective on these too-common topics, it's probably best to avoid them. Scan the online newspapers for something new and fresh – something that people aren’t paying attention to, but probably should be.

Personal Stories and Information

Research papers are a type of informational writing that use reliable sources. Personal stories about your own experiences, also known as personal narrative essays, rely on only yourself as a source. If you really want to write a research paper about yourself, focus on topics that require more sources than you (for example, your ancestry, your upbringing, the personal history of one of your relatives). Otherwise, personal information is one of the research topics to avoid.

Topics With No Available Information

You can't write a research paper about a topic with no data. If you choose something too obscure (like the color of Napoleon's socks or what Albert Einstein ate for breakfast), you aren't going to find a lot of detailed information about it. Spending endless hours searching for information about a topic isn’t a good use of your research time.

Topics That Are Too Technical

When choosing a topic, consider both your skill level and your audience. Topics that are very technical are difficult to write about unless you are an expert in the subject. Even then, it’s easy to accidentally misrepresent detailed data. Technical topics also run the risk of losing the audience in the details if readers are not in your specific field.

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Topics That Are Too Narrow

Narrow topics are problematic for several reasons. First, it can be difficult to find a sufficient number of sources for a very narrow topic. Readers may also lose interest in a topic that doesn’t ask bigger questions or search for overarching themes. Narrow topics just aren’t engaging or relevant enough to most readers.

Topics That Are Too Broad

Research essays that lack focus often have very broad topics. If you have too much data, or there are too many different aspects of a topic involved, you won't be able to go into any depth about them. Find the part of the topic that is the most interesting to you and still has great sources, and narrow it down. (But not too much!)

Opinion-Based or Offensive Controversial Topics

Generally speaking, unless you know for a fact that the person receiving the paper will be offended, writing about controversial issues can be okay. However, you need to remember that this is a research paper. As such, it should be fact-driven and as unbiased as possible. Presenting your opinions or views on an issue, especially a hot button topic, can turn your research paper into a persuasive essay.

Topics That Aren’t Significant

Writing a research paper is more than just an assignment. It’s an opportunity to use your analysis and writing skills to bring awareness to issues from the past and present. Choose a research topic that is significant to you and your audience; otherwise, writing the paper is a waste of everyone’s time.

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Topics That Have Already Been Proven

Not every research paper needs to make an earth-shattering revelation. But choosing a topic that is very obvious or has already been proven isn’t exactly a challenge. Pick something to write about that is intriguing and requires several sources to support it, not one that relies on common knowledge.

Topics With Unreliable Sources

Quality research papers are based on strong, reliable sources. If you can only find information in one source, or if the sources you’re using are very biased, they’re no longer reliable. Make sure you don’t select a topic that relies on a particular point of view, because your paper can be easily disproved or debunked.

Make Careful, Courageous Topic Selections

Even though these topics aren’t the best choices for research papers, there are many strong topics available. Now that you know what not to do, read these tips on how to write a research paper. If you need formatting help, these basic research paper examples are a great place to start.