A research paper assignment gives students a chance to practice exploring a variety of subjects and use writing skills to present information. Writing standards at the eighth-grade level focus on explanatory texts that are well-organized and include research from outside sources. Topics in any of the core subject areas can be adapted for a research paper.
English and Literature Topics
Literature standards during eighth grade focus on the comparison of texts, both written and performed. Assign students to compare the structure and style of two of a writer's works. For example, they might compare John Steinbeck's "The Pearl" and "Of Mice and Men." Evaluation of two works by the same author allows students to compare and contrast the the historical context and basis for the writings. A similar research paper could compare the screen or stage adaptation of a book. Students could research an author's process and the elements of playwriting or screenwriting that were added to a story.
Social Studies Topics
Eighth-grade students study the founding of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War. Topics for research include reasons for the Declaration and biographies of its writers. Because eighth-grade classes also examine the Constitution, students can research its context, its writers or current cases involving Constitutional rights. Eighth graders also study political systems -- particularly in the United States -- so research paper topics can include a discovery of different types of political systems around the world or a look at the historical reasons for the formation of the system in place in the U.S.
Science curriculum for eighth graders examines the structure of matter, providing opportunities to research elements, including how they were discovered, their structure, common compounds formed and the state of matter in which they occur. Eighth-grade students also study Earth in the solar system; they can research specific planets, including appearance, position in relation to the sun, size and composition. Research also can focus on galaxies or moons.
Physical Education and Arts Topics
In physical education, eighth graders begin to create their own fitness plans. So, a research project might be developing a personal exercise and nutrition program. In the arts, students study dance, theater and music. Research can include history, cultural variations and key figures in the development of a particular art form.