Subjects covered in 9th grade offer a wealth of possibilities for research involving everything from avid people-watching to delving into journal articles by anthropologists and historians. Popular topics reflect curriculum requirements combined with interests and social preferences of the age group. Many work well as the focus of team activities.

Behavior

When students examine expressions of emotion, they find some that are universal.
When students examine expressions of emotion, they find some that are universal.

Human behavior provides a wealth of research topics related to the social studies and biology classes taught in ninth grade. Popular topics include how to spot a liar, expressions of emotions, the meaning of certain gestures and ways that people signal fear or stress. Because 14 might be characterized as "the age of rapid changes," curiosity about one's own behavior, as well as that of others, flows naturally.

Science and Persuasion

"Does the baby care if it's Mozart?" is a provocative topic for a biology paper.

Science topics that invite debate offer a great opportunity for students to "duel" with research. Many research areas touched on in biology studies arouse a sense of values as well as curiosity. Topics such as stem cell research, evolution, abortion, sterilization and gene therapy invigorate thinking --- and emotions. For a science class, remind students to go first to the scientific literature, not to the articles that are designed to promote a point of view. Ideally, the curiosity about points of view will help drive them deeper into the science.

Yesterday and Today

Research whether the crews who built the pyramids were paid a fair wage.
Research whether the crews who built the pyramids were paid a fair wage.

History studies always stimulate comparisons and contrasts of current situations with those of days gone by. Historical and historically speculative topics such as "How did the Roman Empire treat terrorists?" and "What might have happened in Egypt if the pyramid builders had collective bargaining rights?" make research into the past relevant to today.

Geography --- Up and Down

Exactly where is this crater in relation to any other crater on the face of Earth's moon?
Exactly where is this crater in relation to any other crater on the face of Earth's moon?

Geography research topics now include lands above the clouds and below the streets. With the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sharing photos of the earth's moon and other planets with the world, students can include extraterrestrial worlds in geography research papers. "National Geographic" points the way toward research topics that examine the geography of the world beneath our feet in such articles as "Under Paris" in the February 2011 issue.

I'll Tell You How to Do It

You can research how you transform a wreck into your favorite car.
You can research how you transform a wreck into your favorite car.

A fun exercise in research and composition skills also involves "how to." It not only involves critical thinking, buy it also invites the author to explore alternatives to standard ways of doing things. The research topic could be anything from taking a bath to rebuilding a vintage automobile. Using digital photos to document the process adds to the research product.