Many economics students pick the same topics for research papers semester after semester. Your professor, having read papers on these topics many times, may appreciate seeing a fresh topic and reward you with a higher grade. Picking something original also gives you a chance to do some fresh research. Consider topics that have been the subject of debate and controversy at the time you start your research.

Obamacare and the Supreme Court

One problem with the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," is that one section of the law states that tax credits and subsidies can be paid by "exchanges established by the state." Opponents of the law claim therefore that exchanges run by the federal government have no stated authorization in the law that allows the federal government to pay these tax credits and subsidies. Proponents claim that although the law explicitly authorizes only state-run exchanges, it also authorizes the federal government to establish those exchanges when the state does not, and therefore the federal government's authority is implicit in the meaning of the act.

Without attempting to determine the relative merits of each side in this case that comes before the Supreme Court in 2015, quantify the effect of a Supreme Court determination in favor of the law's opponents. How many states are involved? What are the dollar amounts? Will the ultimate effect of this reversal increase or decrease state and medical industry costs? By how much and why? Try to put aside your own political views of the matter, and base your conclusions solely on the data.

Immigration and the California Agricultural Industry

Immigration is another controversial matter in the U.S. California has the largest agriculture industry in the nation. Ninety-five percent of all California agricultural workers are Latin American immigrants, many of them in the country illegally.

If opponents of illegal immigration succeed in removing these workers from industry, either through deportation or immigration checks, what effect may this have on California's agriculture industry? Go beyond the immediate labor shortage and consider both negative and positive secondary effects. For example, could this increase farm automation and improve manufacturing output in this area? As these workers lose their jobs, what effect may this have on California retail sales, medical industry and law enforcement? What about state tax revenue? If you live in California, consider interviewing agricultural workers and farm owners, both those opposing and supporting tighter immigration policies.

Indian Gaming and Atlantic City

In the second decade of the 21st century, Atlantic City has suffered severe economic problems resulting from the decrease in gaming revenue. Is there any data-based relationship you can draw between this decrease and the increase in Indian gaming casinos on the Eastern Seaboard? Are there other possible reasons for this decrease? Can you quantify these? A related approach could consider whether or not this is a classic zero-sum game, where a revenue increase in one gaming area decreases revenue in another. Use historical precedents to support your conclusions.

Oil, Electricity and Automobiles

Late 2014 and early 2015 have seen unprecedented drops in the cost of crude oil worldwide and consequently in the cost of U.S. gasoline. Can you link this drop with any consequences in the U.S. electric car industry? Present data-based conclusions. Begin by correlating electric vehicle sales with gasoline costs. Because electric vehicle sales have been increasing, the correlation will need to be dynamic -- electric vehicle sales could continue to increase at the same time that lower gasoline costs may negatively affect sales.