Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.
Will You Be a Problem Solver?
Every year, technological devices become faster, smaller, and smarter. In fact, your cell phone holds more information than the room-sized computers that sent a man to the moon!
In my essay Can Today's College Students Solve World Problems? I talk about how advances like the green revolution and more fuel-efficient cars solved many of the problems I worried about as a college freshman in 1979. Yet these new solutions also cause new problems. For example, the invention of the gasoline engine made travel faster and easier but also raised concerns about air pollution and global warming.
This generation has many problems to solve, but as I've worked with college students over the last 25 years, I know they are poised and ready to be problem solvers. My goal in writing this article is to motivate students to research problems they care about so that they will be poised to find creative and innovative solutions for our future. Below, you will find many questions, ideas, links, research, and videos to get you started on your research essay.
This Article Includes
Steps for Researching
How to Write Your Paper
Over 100 Tech Topics:
4. Genetic Engineering
5. Technical Experiments on Humans
6. Relationships and Media
8. Information and Communication Tech
9. Computer Science and Robotics
Steps in Researching
- Understand your Research Assignment: What kind of research paper has your instructor assigned? Re-read your assignment sheet and any information in the textbook. For example, I ask my students to choose a technology topic for a Summary, Analysis, and Response essay which asks them to research three or more perspectives on an issue.
- Find a Topic Idea: Look over the topic lists below to find a question that interests you. For an Exploratory paper, you will need a topic that has three or more perspectives to explore. If you are doing a Position, Argument, or a Cause paper, you will need to know the different perspectives, but you will use your answer to the question as your thesis statement.
- Read about the Topic: Once you find one you like, you can learn more about that issue by looking at some of the hyperlinked articles. You can look for more research articles at your school library or online at Google Scholar. Additionally, check science magazines for a non-technical audience like Discover, Scientific American, or Popular Scientist. Science Daily is a good website to check for breaking news and research.
- Choose a Question to Research: After you find a topic idea you like, write out the question and make a list of other similar issues or words you could use as keywords to research. You can use the other questions on the topic list to help you out.
- Use Your Keyword Ideas to Look for Articles: You can start by looking through a search engine to see what you can find, but don't use articles that don't fit the type of authoritative sources your instructor requires.
- Use Links to Find Good Sources: One hint is to follow the links in articles that are written for a non-specialist that go to the original sources and research articles. You can also use your library resources to find more academic articles.
- Follow my instructions in writing your essay: Easy Ways to Write a Thesis Sentence, Writing Argument Essays, and, How to Write a Paper Without Making Common Mistakes.
Here is a list of twenty starter topic ideas for research essays. See below for many more!
- How has COVID-19 changed medical technologies? What will be the lasting impact on how we attack other viruses and even cancer?
- What are the long-term effects of living in a technological world? Are these mostly negative or positive?
- Are children under 10 now growing up in a different world than college-age students did? How is it different, and what does that mean for them?
- What is the most important new technology for solving world problems?
- How has social media helped solve and create problems in countries outside the U.S.?
- Will governments like China and North Korea continue to be able to control citizens' access to the Internet and social media?
- How do social media, texting, cell phones, and the Internet make the world bigger? Smaller?
- What are the implications of ever-increasing globalization through technology to the global economy?
- Technology is changing so quickly that we are frequently using computers, software programs, and other technologies that have frustrating glitches and problems. Is there a solution?
- How does our experience of social interactions with other humans influence the way we interact with machines?
- When does it become morally wrong to genetically engineer your child?
- How have COVID shutdowns, virtual learning, and remote work changed our relationship to technology?
- How is online education going to change the way students learn?
- Does the Internet need controls or censorship? If so, what kind?
- Do digital tools make us more or less productive at work?
- To what extent is the development of new technologies having a negative effect?
- How will technology change our lives in twenty years?
- Should people get identity chips implanted under their skin?
- Should people in all countries have equal access to technological developments?
- Can video gaming help solve world problems?
- How are brains different from computers?
- Is organic food better for you than genetically modified foods?
- What are genetically modified food technologies able to do? How does this compare with traditional plant breeding methods?
- Should genetically modified food technologies be used to solve hunger issues?
- Since it is now possible to sequence human genes to find out about possible future heath risks, is that something everyone should have done? What are the advantages or disadvantages?
- If people have genetic testing, who has the right to that information? Should healthcare companies and employers have access to that information?
- If parents have genetic information about their children, when and how should they share it with the child?
- What sort of genetic information should parents seek about their children and how might this influence raising that child?
- Are self-driving cars a good or bad idea?
- How might travel in the future be different?
- Should information technologies and Internet availability make work from home the norm?
- What is the best way for infertile couples to have a child?
- Should research into mechanical reproduction technologies be unlimited?
- What do we do about frozen embryos that won't be used by the donating couple?
- Should "adopting" frozen embryos be encouraged more widely?
- Is mechanical reproduction ethical?
- Is there a difference between raising adopted and birth children?
- How can we best take care of the problem of unwanted pregnancies?
- What makes a person a mother or a father?
- What regulation should there be on infertility technologies?
- Should health insurance plans cover infertility technologies?
- How far is "too far" in reproductive technologies?
- Should we be trying to use cloning and surrogate parenting to bring back extinct species?
Your Gamete, Myself: An article about egg and sperm donation
- How important is it to have a genetic connection with your children?
- Do egg donors and children have rights to a relationship?
- Should egg and sperm donors be compensated?
- Should children created through egg or sperm donation have the right to contact their donor?
- Should there be a limit to the number of children a sperm donor can have?
The Curious Lives of Surrogates: Discussing the reason why some women choose to be surrogate mothers.
- Is surrogate pregnancy a good way for a couple to get a baby?
- Is it right that surrogacy is heavily advertised to military wives?
- What should the children’s rights be in the case of surrogate pregnancy?
- Should surrogates be used for any reason, or only for health reasons?
- Is it ethical for a woman to carry someone else’s child?
- Should there be regulations of international surrogacy?
Read More From Owlcation
The Beating Heart Donors: Discussing organ transplant procedures.
- What do we need to do in order to make organ donation a better experience for everyone involved?
- When is a person dead? How do we define death? Should there be changes in our definition of “brain death"?
- Should organ donors be given pain medications?
- Should we choose organ donation for ourselves and our loved ones?
- Do organ donors feel pain?
- What is the best method of organ replacement to solve the problem of a shortage of donors?
- Will regenerating human limbs be a reality in our lifetime?
- What is the best way to help people who have lost a limb?
- Is it ethical to use tissue from animals in people?
- Are using embryonic stem cells necessary, or will technological innovations make these obsolete?
- Should more funding grants from the National Institute of Health (which tend to support research projects without immediate practical applications) go to practical research projects which produce direct medical help to individuals?
- When considering war, should we factor in the medical costs of soldiers who will return wounded?
The Bypass Cure: Tells of new evidence that Gastric Bypass surgery can cure diabetes.
- What is the best way to help solve the problem of a rising number of people with Type 2 diabetes in the U.S.?
- What is the best way to treat people with morbid obesity?
- Should bypass surgeries be used as a standard cure for type 2 diabetes?
- What is the cause of the recent increase in diabetes in the U.S.?
- How much of diabetes type 2 and obesity is genetic? How much is behavioral?
- Should people with obesity and diabetes or other diseases pay more for health care?
Genetic Engineering Technologies
Genetic Engineering of Humans Research Links
- Genetically Engineering Babies with Three Parents (two short articles explaining this)
- Reverse Eugenics: Choosing an Embryo With a Disability
- Help Wanted: Adventurous Woman to Give Birth to a Neanderthal Baby
- Human Genome Project fact sheets
- Is human cloning a good or bad idea?
- Should we ban human cloning?
- What makes people human?
- What is the role of religion/faith in making decisions about using reproductive technologies?
- How does cloning change the value of human life?
- How should we best solve the problem of genetic diseases?
- Is there a point when genetic engineering has gone too far?
- Who should decide the limits of how genetic engineering is used?
- What is the best way to use the technologies of genetic engineering to help humans?
- Which genetic engineering projects should be given the most funding?
Technologies and Human Identity
Medicine, Experiments, and Human Identity
- Should human life be deemed more important than animal life?
- What is the dignity of human life and how should we observe this in medical situations?
- Who decides how far medical research should go?
- Should there be limits to the scientific investigation on humans?
DNA Test Gives Students Shock
- What should people do when DNA tests reveal family secrets?
- What should determine our racial identity? Is it our DNA, our appearance, our choice, our family, or our cultural environment?
- How important is DNA information in forming our identity?
- Should people get Ancestry DNA testing?
- Should identifying as multi-racial be more common?
Ways to Leave Your Body: Tells about out-of-body technologies like virtual reality as well as other ways to be outside yourself.
- What is the self? Can it be found in scientific investigation?
- Does science have the final say about who we are? Will technology create an Inception effect where people will not be able to distinguish out-of-body from in-body experiences?
- How will virtual reality technology change us?
- Is virtual reality the future?
- Should there be a limit to the research on virtual reality?
- What are the uses and benefits of virtual reality technologies?
The Switched On Brain: Describes studies that are using light waves in the brain to cure psychiatric diseases.
- Is controlling brains with technology like light ethical?
- How important is it to find alternative treatments (something other than drugs) for mental illness?
- What is the best way to treat mental illness?
- Has an increase in the use of technology affected the rise of mental illness in the U.S.?
- If it were possible, should technologies be used to control drug addictions?
- Should we seek ways to control the brain with technologies?
- What are the social dangers of brain-controlling technologies?
Technology and Relationships
Is "Phubbing" Ruining Your Social Relationships? by James Roberts
- Has social media changed our relationships in a good or bad way?
- How important is it to monitor and limit our social media intake?
- Is addiction to technology something we should worry about?
- Are the distractions of using social media negatively influencing the workplace?
- Has the media hurt or helped family communication? Friendship communication? Romantic relationships?
- What is the best way to manage technology in relationships?
- What is the best way to maintain a close relationship?
When Texting is Wrong, by Randy Cohen in the New York Times.
- Is using technology in college classrooms a good or bad idea?
- What is the best way for educators to incorporate social media into their classrooms?
- What is the best way for educators to use technology to teach?
- Should there be social rules about cell phone use in schools or the workplace?
- How are technologies changing the way people interact in the workplace?
- Have texting and social media damaged this generation's ability to communicate in person?
- Do cell phones and social media make family relationships stronger?
- How has texting changed the way we communicate with one another?
- What are the dangers of texting?
- When is texting rude? Has texting made this generation less respectful of other people? Who decides?
They Loved Your G.P.A. and Then They Saw Your Tweets by Natasha Singer in the New York Times
- How should people manage their social networking profiles? How important is this?
- Should there be limits to the access a university or employer has to social profiles?
- Should teachers have limits on social networking with students?
- How should professionals use Facebook or other social media?
- Should there be more regulations on social media privacy?
- How large a role should social profiles have in hiring and other decisions?
- How justifiable is it to take legal action against someone for posts on social media sites?
Living with the Bomb in National Geographic
- How has drone warfare changed the way we think about war?
- Does increasing military technology really make us safer?
- Do more guns make people more or less safe?
- How much money should the U.S. devote to military research for better weapons?
- What would happen if someone detonated a nuclear bomb today?
- How should the U.S. and other nations deal with Iran and North Korea and their development of nuclear weapons technology?
- Should we destroy our nuclear weapons?
- How has modern warfare technology changed the way we view war?
- Has technology made the world safer or less safe?
- Should drones be used in modern warfare?
- What is the effect of taking people out of direct combat with the enemy?
- Will nanobot drones be the future of warfare?
Information Communication Technologies (ITC)
Is Google Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr in the Atlantic Monthly
- Is technology changing the way we read?
- Does an online format cause readers to skim rather than fully digest information?
- Is being able to find information quickly online a good or bad thing?
- How do we gauge intelligence?
- How is Google search changing us?
- How should we change teaching to incorporate new technologies?
- How important is it that schools teach using iPads, Smart Boards, social media, and other new technologies?
- Is there an intelligence developed through conventional reading and research which is being lost in the digital age?
- If Google prefers its own brand of information, are we getting the best when we search?
Does the Internet Make You Smarter? by Clay Shirky in the Wall Street Journal
- Should there be regulation of sites such as Wikipedia which provide information that is not necessarily credible?
- Are blogs better than books?
- How necessary is teaching traditional researching skills to today’s young people?
- Do schools and parents need to encourage or discourage media use?
- How is reading digitally different than reading print?
- Is the digital generation going to be smarter or dumber?
- Is Google affecting the attention span of young people?
- Is using technology for entertainment a bad thing?
Information Storage (see videos)
- How can storing information on DNA create new information system technologies?
- Are there any ethical objections to using DNA for storage?
- Is unlimited data storage a good thing? How can humans manage these large amounts of information?
- Should we worry about the fact that the line between the human brain and a computer is getting blurred? Is it a problem that computers will soon be able to think?
- Should we build robots to do many of the tasks people don't like to do? How relevant is the Wall-E scenario for our future?
Computer Science and Robotics
- Where is the hardware and software borderline in cloud computing?
- What will be the consequences of everything moving into the cloud?
- Can reinforcement learning teach robots to be more intelligent and more like humans?
- Since open-source is becoming more of a trend in computer science, how can computer programmers be able to protect a device?
- How will big data and bioinformatics change biology?
- What is machine learning? How important is it?
- Where will machine learning have the most impact?
- How will virtualization change entertainment?
- How will virtual reality change education?
- Is virtual reality a good or bad thing?
- What is the next level for the Internet? How can the Internet be changed to make it better?
- If computers take over many of our tasks, what will humans do?
- Which computer languages are going to be most important in the future?
- If there is a new computer language to be invented, what does it need to do to be better than the languages we now have?
- How are robots changing health care?
Five Kinds of Arguable Claims
|Claim Type||Explanation||Arguable Claim Examples: Pro Global Warming||Con Global Warming||Exploratory Essay Topics|
What is it?
Global warming is real and can be documented with scientific evidence.
Global warming is a myth.
Is global warming real?
What does it mean?
Global warming is a serious and immediate threat to human and animal life.
Even if true, global warming is not an immediate threat.
How would global warming affect us?
What caused it?
Global warming is caused by man.
Natural processes on Earth and solar flares cause temperature fluctuations on earth.
What causes temperature fluctuations on earth?
What is important and why?
Global warming is an important problem now.
Global economic stability is more important than worrying about global warming.
How important is global warming?
What should we do about it? Who should do it?
The Kyoto Protocol needs to be adopted by all nations.
The Kyoto agreements would threaten world economies.
How should the world respond to the data suggesting global warming is happening?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: How is digital learning going to change schools and education?
Answer: I think the question of how digital learning and the Internet is changing the way we educate and learn is perhaps one of the key investigations of our generation. Many of my students have done papers on some aspect of this topic, and they have uncovered some fascinating evidence. Some of the most exciting information involves studies which examine:
How does reading on a screen differ from reading from a print page?
Do people retain as much information from a video as from a live lecture?
Does online interaction with classmates and an instructor increase participation, especially of less extroverted students?
Does digital learning equal the playing field for underrepresented groups?
How can digital learning help people in developing nations catch up with people in developed nations?
Does digital learning help or hinder important skills like critical thinking?
How should traditional education change to keep up with digital learning?
Are students with no access to computers in the classroom (traditional learning) learning more than those who have constant access via iPads or computers?
Which is better, school-supplied digital devices or having students bring their own computer from home (assuming those without computers are supplied a school computer)?
Question: Is modern technology helping humans be more efficient or lazier?
Answer: Technology or social media topics are something that everyone wants to investigate because so many of us are worried about our own use of phone and social media. You will find a lot of research articles that will help you write this paper. Because so many of my students have done this sort of topic, I will give you a hint: the more specific you are in talking about the type of technology or behavior you are going to argue about, the better.
Question: I am tasked with writing a research article on Information technology. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer: Many of the topics in this article involve using information technology. To find a good topic, I'd suggest you start with the section which is labeled "Information and communication tech," but if you don't find anything there, you should look through the other sections for a topic which involves computers.
Question: Can you suggest a topic about computers and defense for a research paper?
Answer: 1. What is the role of computers in air defense?
2. What is the most important use of drones in warfare currently?
3. Does computer control of our defense systems make us more vulnerable?
4. How does the military prevent hacking attempts on their computer systems?
Question: What do you think of, "What is the impact of automation and the use of technology on the auditors after 115 years?" for a technology research paper topic?
Answer: This would be a good question if you narrowed it down to a specific industry.
Question: Where is the hardware and software borderline in cloud computing?
Answer: That is an interesting question. Here are some others on that topic:
1. How is cloud computing going to change the way we use computers?
2. Should companies move everything to the cloud?
Question: What do you think about sarcasm detection in social media? Do you have any suggestions about this topic?
Answer: This topic would be under the more overall topic of how social media can be improved or changed to work better. Here are some questions:
1. Will sarcasm detection make social media better for users?
2. Can sarcasm detection and other filters actually improve problems in social media use?
3. Is there a way to prevent social media to be used for personal gain or bullying?
4. How can we prevent problems in social media from ruining the platform?
5. Is there anything an individual can do to monitor their own social media use?
Question: What do you think of, "How does incorporating information technologies in the classroom affect students?" as a research paper topic?
Answer: Here are some other topic ideas:
1. Do students learn better when information technologies are incorporated in the classroom?
2. Is there a "best age" for introducing information technologies in the classroom?
3. How can information technologies be best used by teachers to enhance learning?
Question: Is there a type of intelligence developed through conventional reading and research which is being lost in the digital age?
Answer: Excellent question. Many of my students have been researching this topic recently. "Is Google Making Me Stupid" is a good article to start with in researching this topic.
Question: What do you think of the topic, "Do cell phones and social media make family relationships stronger?" for a research paper?
Answer: That seems to be a topic answer. I'd suggest you make the question more neutral:
1. How have cell phones and social media changed family relationships?
Question: What do you think of the topic, "How are robots changing healthcare?" for a technology research paper?
Answer: Here are some other questions about robots and healthcare:
How can doctors save time by using robots?
Can robots effectively help doctors give better health care in remote areas?
What is the best use of robots in healthcare?
Will robots eventually replace doctors?
Is robotic surgery better?
Question: What do you think of the topics, "Has media hurt or helped family communication?" and "Has it interfered with communication between friends?" for technology research papers?
Answer: You could combine these ideas with one of the questions below:
1. What has been the effect on personal relationships of an increasing reliance on social media to communicate?
2. How are young people's relationships changing because of social media?
3. Does social media interfere or help face-to-face communication?
4. How can we use social media effectively to enhance our personal relationships with family and friends?
Question: How would the following question work as a technology research paper topic: Can the use of iPad as a tool enhance children's social interactive skills?
Answer: Here are other topics on that subject:
1. How are schools effectively using iPads in the classroom?
2. Will using iPads in schools help or hurt children's social skills?
3. Can iPads help create a more interactive classroom environment?
Question: Can you suggest a topic about automotive technology?
Answer: 1. How will electric cars change automotive technology?
2. How will driverless cars influence automotive technology?
3. What is the biggest challenge now in the automotive technology industry?
4. What is the outlook for jobs in the automotive technology industry in (country name)?
5. Should students consider automotive technology for their careers?
Question: What do you think of "When will we have robots?" as a topic?
Answer: You have an interesting question but I think that it might be even better if you elaborated a bit more. Here are some possibilities:
Will robots ever be a part of the family?
Will robots take over most human jobs in factories?
What industries and jobs are most likely to be done by robots in the future?
Will robots replace humans as caretakers of the young and old?
Will robots become as intelligent as humans?
Are human-like robotic androids a real possibility in the future?
Will robots ever be able to do everything humans can do?
When will the average person have a personal robot?
Are devices like "robotic vacuum cleaners" and Alexa really robots?
What is a robot?
Question: Do you have any suggestions for the technology essay topic "How can the impact of digital advertising be assessed in developing countries?"
Answer: That is an interesting problem solution question. Here are some other possible questions on the same topic:
What is the impact of digital advertising in developing countries?
How can small businesses use digital advertising effectively?
What types of digital advertising are most successful in developing countries?
Can digital advertising be used to solve social problems in developing countries? I know some studies are being done about this last topic, and there is the wonderful example of the "Dumb Ways to Die" campaign which reached worldwide notoriety by using a catchy tune to urge people not to do things that would cause them to be hit by a train.
Question: My assignment was to choose a technology to question in my final project. I chose chip implantation in humans. Is this a sound topic?
Answer: A paper about chip implantation in humans is an exciting and vital topic to evaluate, and since there are already some experiments being done in Sweeden and elsewhere to see how efficient and successful this technology can be, you should have some current information to use for your research. If you are critiquing this practice, you might want to consider:
Is human chip implantation an invasion of privacy?
How safe is chip implantation for humans? Consider health risks and possible allergy problems.
Should you volunteer to get a microchip? What are the advantages or disadvantages?
Will microchipping keep us safer or put our finances and personal information in danger?
Question: What do you think of "Personal devices for improving productivity at school" as a research topic?
Answer: Using a question works better for your topic. Then your personal opinion or research is the answer. Here are some ideas:
1. Will personal devices improve the productivity of students at school?
2. Should schools provide personal devices or should students bring them from home?
3. How do personal devices affect student productivity?
4. How do personal devices affect the productivity of educators?
5. How to personal electronic devices affect the modern classroom?
Additionally, you can narrow down this topic by choosing a particular age group to deal with: elementary, high school, or college.
Question: Is the correlation between mathematics and music a legitimate research project?
Answer: Yes. Here are some ways to formulate that question:
1. What is the relationship between mathematics and music?
2. Is there a link between mathematics and music?
3. Should students try to study both math and music in college?
Question: What do you think of the topic, "To what extent is the development of new technologies having a negative effect?" as a research paper?