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In choosing a topic for your research paper in a business course, keep in mind that the research paper is fundamentally different than the essay. An essay is generally more limited in scope and will have a narrower thesis statement that can be covered in the relatively short space of an essay. On the other hand, your research paper will draw upon what you already know about business and necessitate that you investigate and/or experiment further in order to increase your knowledge. Therefore, the scope of your paper will be greater, and you will want to rely upon a number of resources. The goal is to gain a greater understanding of a particular topic through the process of the research itself. Needless to say, the first step - choosing a topic - is often one of the most difficult for students. Below you will find some ideas to guide you and get you thinking about research-paper-length type topics.
Conduct research on a particular investment, such as stocks, bonds, CDs, annuities, mutual funds, real estate, or even a savings account. Determine the degree of safety, possible returns, and liquidity. First, consider your values to decide what your financial goals will be. An important early step is to establish a realistic objective. Then you need to determine what funds you have available as well as funds you'll need to secure. What options are available to you to help you raise funds for investment (such as a retirement plan)? Next you should evaluate the possible risks and return, including taxes for buying/selling. How could you diversify your investments? Your research should include a variety of sources, including government publications, periodicals, and the Internet.
Narrow the scope of your research to include a general partnership, a limited partnership, or a limited liability partnership. What advantages does the partnership have over the sole proprietorship (e.g., a larger skill set, increased knowledge base, multiple sources for capital, etc.)? You should also discuss disadvantages, such as having to share profits and the possibility for disagreements, as well common disadvantages, like having unlimited liability and dependence on a relatively small ownership for existence of the business. Partnerships are more complex in terms of division of responsibilities, and conflicts of interest may arise. Certain advantages, such as tax benefits, should also be considered.
Once you have a vision and objective for a particular theoretical product or service, it's critical to determine whether or not the objective is financially attainable and realistic. Consider your start-up capital, including inventory, equipment, supplies, and start-up costs such as legal and banking fees, permits and licenses, insurance, marketing, etc. The way you estimate these costs is important to your financial plan. What will happen if your revenue is not high enough to support your operating costs in the early stages of the start-up? Will your reserve capital be able to offset such scenarios, and how will you secure those reserves? Your research should investigate the current environment for your product or service, adhere to your objective, determine and quantify what resources you'll need (including their costs), estimate a budget for at least 12 months, and try to identify potential risks. What might a three-year balance statement for your business look like?
A first course of action should include direct contact to the company. If the matter can't be solved that way, perhaps a dispute resolution or consumer agency can help. If you're still unsatisfied with the results, legal action may be necessary. What are some of the legal alternatives available? Small claims court is one alternative for civil matters where the dispute does not exceed a certain monetary limit. What are the advantages of small claims court, and what are the fees? If you share your dispute with a group of individuals, a class-action lawsuit is another means of dispute resolution, particularly if the amount you're disputing is trivial on an individual basis but significant on a larger scale. What kinds of lawyers take on consumer-related cases, and are there any legal-aid societies available for such instances? Take into consideration the benefits that a product or service provider gains by satisfying disputes with its customers.
Using another firm's business model, product, or practices is another type or business ownership that comes with its own set of considerations. For the franchisor, how is having a franchise advantageous over a "chain store"? The franchisee must pay royalties and fees for training in return for a stake in the franchisor's business. Consider also that even mid-size franchises require sizeable start-up costs. Why is the franchise considered a "wasting asset" in terms of it being a business opportunity? What is the timeframe for the franchise, and will it be worth the investment? Discuss each party's obligations and interests in the relationship, such as trademark protection, protection of the business concept, and standardization.
Electronic commerce, e.g., virtual storefronts and online catalogs, not only allow consumers to shop from home, but they also provide additional benefits, such as the ability to research similar products, get reviews from other customers, compare prices, etc. On the other hand, some smaller businesses, such as travel agencies, can't compete with the huge online presence of larger firms. Compare some of the trends in a particular market, considering its success both before and after the mainstream introduction of ecommerce. Also consider the effects other technologies involved with ecommerce, such as electronic fund transfer and data collection systems, and discuss the integrity involved with such activities. Does the government have any role in the regulation of ecommerce, such as monitoring online pharmacies?
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