When searching for the perfect research topic, it's important to find an issue that you feel affects you. Chemistry research may focus on health risks of certain chemicals or the effects of those chemicals on the environment. Your goal should be to choose a complex topic, fairly explain all relevant sides of any related debate, and determine what changes society should make based on the information you have discovered.
Food dyes -- used in foods as diverse as fruit roll ups, matza balls, and salad dressings -- are a hot topic among food manufacturers and nutrition lobbyists. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) runs extensive tests on food dyes in order to ensure that they are safe, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other nutrition experts believe that the research is insufficient to prove the dyes' safety. Learn more about this controversy, including the chemical makeup of each dye, the studies showing that these dyes act as carcinogens in rats and other animals, and the existence of some allergic reactions, such as e.g., eczema or anaphylaxis, that often go undiagnosed.
Pesticide use has become more and more controversial over the years, with some farms opting for organic methods of growing produce and some governments outlawing certain types of more harmful pesticides. Do some research to find out exactly how pesticides affect water quality, and what farmers -- or even homeowners -- can do to minimize those effects. You also can examine how pesticides that enter the water can affect plants and animals living in connected habitats, as well as the health of humans who drink the contaminated water.
The Chemistry of Leavening
Anyone who bakes is familiar with several types of leavening agents, including yeast, baking powder and baking soda. While it's easy to follow a recipe, when creating your own it's important to recognize the differences between such leavening agents. A strong research topic would address the differences in the chemical makeup, leavening ability and practical uses of each product. Other possible products to include in your research are potash, sourdough, bakers' ammonia and potassium bicarbonate.
Environmentally-Sound Energy Sources
Although most people now recognize the importance of using renewable energy for fuel, most of the world's energy still comes from fossil fuels like petroleum, coal and natural gas. It would be interesting to research the chemical reactions that enable each type of energy to work, from solar energy to water power, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each energy source. Discuss why many industries and individuals continue to rely on fossil fuels instead of alternative energy sources. You may want to conclude with a section about what changes could be made to convince society to use more renewable energy and cut down on the use of nonrenewable energy sources.
- U.S. Energy Information Administration: Energy Perspectives
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Leavening Agent
- Montana State University: Health Effects of Pesticides in Your Drinking Water
- Pesticide Safety Education Program at Cornell University: Pesticides
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: A Rainbow of Risks
- Chemical and Engineering News: Food Coloring
- Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images