Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
This page has some tips on choosing a topic and some ideas to get you started thinking about a good topic.
What makes a good topic?
A good research topic will be
- Specific: you can deal with it in the short space of your paper
- Researchable: there are primary sources, books, and scholarly articles on the topic
- Factual, not depending on personal opinion: you can demonstrate the correctness of your thesis
Examples of a broad topic narrowed to a specific one:
Architecture -- Influence of Roman architecture in the United States -- Influence of the Pantheon on some specific buildings in the United States
Government -- Influence of Roman form of government on the Founding Fathers and the shapers of the American Congress -- What does the Bill of Rights owe to Roman political philosophy or practice?
American visitors to Rome in the 19th century -- Did American attitudes change? -- Compare the writing of a visitor to Rome in the early 19th century with Mark Twain's writing about Rome later in the century
SEE SOME TOPIC IDEAS IN THE BOX BELOW
Research Topic Ideas
Art & Architecture:
- How did Roman architecture influence the design of American public buildings?
- How did Roman architecture or the imagined idea of Roman architecture influence American domestic architecture and gardens?
- Did Roman portraiture have any influence on American portrait painting?
- Did American landscape painting incorporate classical elements?
- Did women's fashions and hairstyles imitate classical forms or imagined classical forms, and if so, did those elements from from knowledge of Rome or from European classicizing styles?
- Which Roman authors were cited or quoted regularly in public writing? (Select a year or a topic and read newspaper articles and other writings on it. List and analyze the classical authors quoted or referred to).
- In public writings, was the influence of Roman writers the same in the northern and southern colonies? (Select a year or a topic and read newspaper articles and other writings on it. List and analyze the classical authors quoted or referred to and compare articles from the North and South.)
- Travel writing:
- Select one writer who wrote more than one book about his/her travels in Italy. Analyze and compare the treatment of classical themes.
- Select two or three writers who wrote books or articles about Rome [or another specific place]. Analyze and compare their treatment of places and classical themes.
- Edward Gibbon:
- Select a particular place or theme in Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Analyze it in detail, incorporating ancient writers and monuments into the analysis.
- Investigate the influence of Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on American writers.
- Cicero: Read a selection of Cicero's works and a selection of American political writings. How did Cicero influence American ideas?
- Trace the influence of Roman political writing on one or more American political documents (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, state constitutions, etc.)
- Trace the influence of Roman political forms on the development of the Congress and electoral laws.
- Select a political leader and examine the influence of Roman political thinking on him (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are the most obvious, but there are many possibilities.)
- Was there any classical influence in regard to citizenship, race, or ethnicity in the American colonies or states?
- Did American relations with American Indians owe any ideas to Roman relations with conquered peoples or barbarians?
- Did agricultural manuals in the early American colonies or states owe any debt to Roman agricultural writers such as Cato the Elder?
- Did American attitudes to the value and status of farming as an occupation owe anything to Roman attitudes?
- What was the influence of Roman educational ideals on the development of the American education system?
- Who should be educated?
- What subjects were necessary for a leader (or a worker, or a woman) to study?
- Why were the classics valued and what made them fall from popularity?