Defined as any science that analyzes the nature and properties of energy and nonliving matter, physical science gives students a wide variety of topics to write about in their research papers. The fields of chemistry, physics, astronomy and geology are filled with interesting subjects that make for compelling research studies.

Chemistry

The field of biochemistry continues to yield remarkable breakthroughs that change the way we live our daily lives. Researchers have developed a simple method for creating short protein chains with spiral structures that dissolve in water, two useful traits not usually found together. Scientists believe these structures could have applications for self-assembling nanostructures that act as delivery agents for medication. A research paper on this discovery's potential medical ramifications would be both current and informative for students looking for an innovative topic.

Physics

When the topic of pollution comes up, most people focus on the damage we inflict on the planet through the use of fossil fuels and excessive waste. Often overlooked, light pollution affects 90 percent of the global population in such massive ways as animal endangerment and energy inefficiency, to such minor annoyances as the disruption of stargazing. A research paper that focused on how much energy large metropolises waste lighting the night sky, and what steps could be taken to eliminate such waste, would make a compelling topic for students to explore.

Astronomy

Known to comic book enthusiasts as what changed mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner into his hulking alter-ego, the phenomenon of gamma ray bursts are still not completely understood by astronomers. Capable of emitting as much energy in a few seconds as an entire galaxy of stars emits over several years, gamma ray bursts contain more power than anything previously discovered by astronomers. The theories that best explain these intense bursts, the effect they have on nearby stars and how this changes our understanding of the universe are all questions that could be addressed in a research paper on this powerful topic.

Geology

As humanity looks to wean itself from fossil fuels by searching for alternative sources of energy, geothermal energy has been championed by scientists as a clean source of power that deserves further examination. What are the practical applications of geothermal energy, how abundant are sources of geothermal energy and what are the environmental hazards of tapping into this alternative fuel source? These questions could provide the basis for a research paper for students interested in this topic.