Political Science Research Topics

Choose a topic that will engage you.

The easiest way to do well in a subject is if you enjoy what you're doing. Whether you're a political science major or just trying to gain a few credits, choose a topic that relates to your interests. Political science is a broad field that overlaps with gender studies, philosophy, sociology, history, economics, anthropology, geography, literature and more.

1 Write What You (Don't) Know

The more you already know about a topic, the better you're likely to do on your research paper. But curiosity is a strong motivator. Find a topic you have some knowledge of but choose a specific perspective you'd like to explore more deeply. For example, if your studies are in communications and you're in a class on colonial history, you could study former media portrayals of colonialism or perhaps even current trends in censorship among post-colonial states.

2 Keep it Focused

The further you get in your university education, the more focused your research needs to be -- which is why doctoral dissertations can end up with names like "Pornography in England from 1890-1924." In an undergraduate course, your professors are trying to give you a broad idea of the foundations of political science and encourage interest in world events and philanthropy. Upper division courses expect you to get into more detail, whether it's explaining the functioning of specific electoral systems, tracking connections between political organizations, or comparing welfare systems between neighboring countries. A topic like "How government works" is arguably too broad to address in a book, let alone a class research paper. You can narrow it down by thinking of a question that you will answer in your paper. "How the E.U. Has Changed European Governments' Responsibilities" might be better, since you're able to keep your examples to two or three sample countries. The paper's length will determine how broad or in-depth your focus will be. Estimate whether you can answer your question in the space you have.

3 Be Realistic

It's useful from a practical standpoint to choose a topic for which there is information readily available. Consider how much time you have to research obscure topics and what resources you'll use. If you keep searching, but can't find anything on your subject, it's easier to switch topics than take on the challenge of coming up with the material yourself with few resources -- especially if you want to appear credible.

4 Make a Point

As frustrating as it can be, many professors in political science will insist you make an argument in your paper. This doesn't mean it's not possible to inform readers by giving them a broad overview, but your argument helps you focus your paper and gives the reader a structure to follow. A paper on "Economic Motivations for the Iraq War" is much more compelling -- and more focused -- than "Characteristics of Modern War," though some professors will allow you to be more descriptive than persuasive. Ideally, you'll want each sentence to build from the one before it in a way that ultimately supports your argument. It's important to describe the opposing argument and refute it. It's also important to remember than an "argument" is not the same as an opinion. You'll need hard evidence to support your position, and they need to be backed up by credible sources. It can be tricky navigating the difference between your own view and what the facts show, but remember it's political "science" and try to refrain from giving your own interpretation of events without adequate supporting evidence.

Colette Phair has written and edited for nationally distributed publications and several nonprofit organizations. She is the author of "Nightmare in Silicon" and has published short fiction alongside the likes of Neil Gaiman and Joyce Carol Oates. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics from the University of California Santa Cruz.