Got this note from a friend:
Got myself enrolled in a writing class and I don't have the slightest idea of what my research paper would be. The instructor gave some areas like history, technology, and international issues but nothing at all. He mention about a Christian movement to retake Portugal by the Moors or something after a major shakeup that devastated the Catholics due to a big earthquake that destroyed a good number of cathedrals and killed lots of devout Catholics in the process.
A good topic would be something that made an impact or contributed to major shift in how we have progressed as a whole. I think you got the idea, if you have a few ideas and I can tackle it, then I would make a paper on it.
And my response...
Glad to hear you've entrolled in some self-improvement classes. Is this part of a community college program? Sometimes I envy the opportunities in the States. But anyway....
Topic? I guess it really depends on what the scope of the research paper is and how long your teacher wants it to be. These are the practical considerations. Too broad, and you'll never finish it on time; too narrow, and you won't have enough material. You should also consider your teacher's background (as well as yours). If you choose a topic like the Philippines, he might not appreciate it enough. I leave it up to you to gauge.
If you're looking for a historical topic, might I suggest a quick read of "The Ancient Engineers" by L. Sprague de Camp. I'm sure you can find that in your library. It traces the development of engineering technology from its military/religious roots up to the rise of civil engineering during the Roman period. Then you can select a narrower topic from there. Another good book is "Guns, Germs, and Steel."
On more contemporary topics, you might want to look at the outsourcing phenomenon. Read through Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat." You'll actually have some good insight here, having come from the Philippines and yet now living in the United States. Maybe a little of your own experiences as well, adjusting to life there. Do try to gauge your teacher, though; outsourcing and offshoring are sensitive topics.
Other issues of contemporary interest: genetics, stem cell research, space tourism, the clash of civilizations. Try looking at Slashdot for hot-off-the-press geeky topics.
I hope this helps.
Not enough time to blog so just posting bits of neutral correspondence. Any other interesting ideas?