Can funny research paper topics ruin your project?

Students naturally want their research paper topics to be memorable. As a result, they try many different tactics to make sure their research papers stand out. However, sometimes these tactics can backfire—a paper may stand out, but in a negative way that hurts their final grade. One of the strategies which can be difficult to implement successfully is the use of a funny research paper topic.

Common Mistakes Using Funny Paper Topics

It’s not impossible to successfully use a humorous research paper topic without ruining one’s project, but it does take a certain level of finesse. The most common mistake is choosing a topic strictly for its humor value. This is a problematic choice for the student because a research paper topic must first fulfill the basic requirements of being a topic for a research paper—that is it must be supportable, arguable, clear, and straightforward. If it is not, then it doesn’t matter how funny the topic is, it will most definitely result in a lower grade on the project.

If the topic does, however, conform to the basic requirements of a research paper, then the student may be able to proceed with a funny topic. However, there are some other things to consider before doing so, most notably whether or not the type of humor is appropriate for the audience or for the discipline. This may depend somewhat on the personality and sense of humor the professor has, as well. The humor should not be obscene, too juvenile, or offensive in any way whatsoever, regardless of any of the above.

Finally, the student needs to ask themselves whether or not the humor of the topic detracts from the paper’s overall message. It is not as important to be funny about the topic as it is to write a high quality paper that does justice to the research the student has done, and the student needs to be honest with themselves about this. If the humorous aspect of the topic detracts from the overall paper, the student needs to consider dropping the joke, and focusing on a serious paper.


A humorous topic won’t necessarily ruin a student’s project. However, students that wish to incorporate humor in their topic would be well advised to proceed with caution, as there are several pitfalls common to doing so. It’s best to include just a humorous quote or two, rather than link the topic to something funny.