Occasional papers are essays or reports that contribute to the debate on a certain topic. The perspective of an occasional paper is the author's and is supported by strong research. If the paper is authored independently rather than by a team of authors, the work should incorporate material from case studies that support the author's stance. Topics for occasional papers can range from discussions of new research methodologies to informed viewpoints on policy or economic issues. The forms of occasional papers can include conference papers or essays.


Selecting an appropriate topic for an occasional paper is largely dependent on its intended use. Occasional papers for governmental institutions tend to be largely politically based and include contributions from external experts and collective research projects. Similarly, private organizations often publish occasional papers scripted with outside evidence to disseminate ideas and findings to the public. Occasional papers also are assigned in classrooms to encourage student exploration and reflection of ideas through writing.

System Change

The surge of organizations retiring old methods and increasing their use of technology has resulted in multiple system changes. This presents many opportunities for discussion. For instance, occasional papers could elaborate on the ways in which telemedicine could be used to provide underserved populations with greater access to health care. In education, discussions could revolve around how educational institutions are using e-learning technologies to provide more personalized learning solutions. Rising to a global level, the employment of technology in natural disaster responses could provide a good base for occasional papers.


Discussions encompassing evolution and the study of society are innumerable. For students studying sociology, analyzing whether human nature shapes society or society shapes human nature could serve as an occasional paper assignment. Moving toward the political spectrum, a continuous point of contention among parties and an issue for debate is: Should society be driven by what gives the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people?

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Global Transformations

Global changes could entail research and writing on international policies or environmental issues. Assessing the global impact of the recent wave of revolutions across the Middle East is certainly a cause for greater analysis and thought. Likewise, evaluating the current and future impact of Japan's 2011 earthquake can motivate reflection and writing.