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.

Fast Track : Problem-Based Practice Topics

A student's guide to high-performance research

Problem-based Practice Topics

Choose one of the following problems to test your information retrieval skills!

1) Choosing the Best Exercise

Problem Statement: You've decided you need more exercise, but you're not sure what's best for you. What are the pros and cons of walking, weight training, swimming and yoga? What do you want the exercise to do for you? What kinds of exercise are best for that? How much exercise would you need to do to meet your goals? How would you fit it into your existing schedule?

2) Becoming a Vegetarian

Problem Statement: Some of your friends have been trying to convince you to become a vegetarian. Why would you want to or not want to be a vegetarian? What advantages and disadvantages are there to being a vegetarian? What changes would this cause in your life?

3) Living Close to Power Lines

Problem Statement: Your parents are thinking of buying a new house that's very close to some major power lines. You've heard that some people thing these power lines are dangerous and that they might have even caused the death of some cows. You need to find information about the safety of major power lines to people and animals. Where would you look? Are there organizations that have information on this?

4) Investigating Internet Service Providers

Problem Statement: You've just gotten a computer and you need to get Internet service for your apartment. Should you choose a local company or a national company? What services are important to you? How do you find what company is right for you? How much are you willing to pay?

5) Taking a Class via Distance Education

Problem Statement: You need to take a summer class, and you learned that the class you need is offered on campus and via distance. However, you're not sure if you want to stay on campus and take it or if you should take a summer job in your hometown and take the course via distance. You're worried about whether or not you'd be a good distance learner and would be successful in the course. What does it take to be a successful distance learner? Is it for you? Would you be better off taking the class on campus or via distance?

6) Creating a Common Campus Experience

Problem Statement: You work on a committee that has been charged with bringing a contemporary author/musician/artist/talented person/politician to campus to create a "common experience." You need to propose someone who would appeal to the general university population. The person will be invited to discuss his/her work with students in classes, in an open forum, etc. Who would you select and why?

7) Buying a Tablet

Problem Statement: You have been awarded a technology grant for $1000. Or perhaps more realistically, you have saved $1000 to buy a new tablet. You can use the money any way you would like. You can choose from an iPad 2, Xoom, Galaxy Tab, Sony Tablet, or Kindle Fire. Which would you choose? Why?

8) Getting your Security Deposit Back

Problem Statement: You and your roommates are having trouble getting your security deposit back from your landlord. You insist that the apartment is in better shape now than it was when you moved in. What are your rights as a tenant? Why can a landlord keep a security deposit? What do you need to do to get it back? What are your options?

9) Facing a Problem

Problem Statement: No matter where you live, work, or go to school, you are faced with some kind of problem: unfair working conditions, lack of adequate public transportation, or noisy neighbors, for example. Problems don't always have to be earth shattering; they can also be things that just consistently annoy you. However, let's assume you have more debt than you would like to have. What are some debt reduction strategies?

10) Understanding the Media and its Impact

Problem Statement: Media is part of our everyday lives. Think about the types of media you come into contact with on a regular basis. How does the portrayal of violent acts and/or language shape our values as individuals and as a society? Craft and conduct a small study of your own to determine the various types of media in your daily life and how much time is spent on each. Based on this evidence and at least one scholarly article about media and society, what conclusions can you draw?

11) Planning a Spring Break Vacation

Problem Statement: You are getting ready for spring break and you want to get away with some friends for a sun-filled vacation. Find out what is important to you and your friends. Do you want a place with lots of other college students or a less populated place? Do you want to stay in the States or go abroad? If so, what needs to be done to leave the country? Investigate travel and lodging availability and costs, entertainment options, etc.

12) Saving the Tennis Team

Problem Statement: Your university has just canceled the men's tennis team because of Title IX. You are an avid tennis enthusiast and would like to do what you can to change this. Find out as much as you can about Title IX and use this information to plan and organize a campaign to protest this decision.

13) Using Credit Cards

Problem Statement: You've been asked to sign up for two credit cards and have accepted both of them because you wanted the free Frisbee and coffee mug. You've heard of credit card debt but aren't quite sure how that could happen to you. Do some research about credit card debt with a particular focus on college students to identify if this is really a problem or just media hype.

14) Getting Enough Sleep

Problem Statement: Your roommate has been going around the clock, taking classes during the day and working at UPS at night. She has been making poor decisions lately and is falling behind. You've really enjoyed getting to know your new roommate and want to do what you can to make sure he/she stays in college. You remember hearing something about the adverse affects of sleep deprivation and how the symptoms can be parallel to those of alcohol. Find out what you can about sleep deprivation to see if your roommate's symptoms match.

15) Gaining Weight: the Freshman 15

Problem Statement: You have been asked to give a report on the idea that all first-year college students gain weight (the so-called "freshman fifteen"). You need to know if this is true, and if so, why it happens and what can be done about it.

16) Understanding Environmental Hazards of Factory Farms

Problem Statement: A large egg company has recently announced that they are going to build the largest egg farm in the nation on land located very close to town and the university. Some university and community members are very concerned about the environmental impact and loss of property values. The local PETA chapter is also raising concerns. You are working with the student government to find out how other egg farms have affected communities.

17) Living on Campus

Problem Statement: Your parents and you have been arguing about whether you should live on campus or off next year. You think it will be cheaper and quieter if you have your own room in a house with your friends, and therefore you'll get better grades. Your parents think the exact opposite. You need some hard facts and research.

18) Paying College Athletes

Problem Statement: College athletes are currently not allowed to accept payments from colleges and universities to play sports. However, college athletic programs make a lot of money for schools. Do you believe college athletes should get paid because they are bringing money to the university? Find out the main arguments for both sides of this issue.

19) Standardized Testing

Problem Statement: Standardized test scores, such as those from the ACT, SAT, or state graduation tests, are one way to compare students from different schools. What are some other ways to compare students from different schools? Is one way better than the others? What are the arguments against using standardized testing in schools?