Good topics for an investigative essay might be whether abstinence programs work, whether airport security has become too invasive, or whether genetically modified foods should be labeled. The topic should be manageable, current and debatable, according to Aims Community College.
In the hierarchy of written reports, investigative essays exist somewhere between an opinion essay and a research essay. An investigative essay requires drawing on credible outside sources and producing a bibliography, but it also allows for the incorporation of personal experience and opinions, which are usually more appropriate for an opinion piece in journalism. Partially for this personal connection, instructors often assign investigative essays as a first step toward writing an argumentative essay, which allows students to gain an understanding of topics that are currently being debated in the culture at large, according to Aims Community College.
Individual educators have different requirements and sometimes offer specific formatting guidelines for investigative essays. While the specifics vary, this usually includes paper length, acceptable research sources and specific topic lists. It is best to check with the instructor who assigned the essay before selecting a topic to ensure these restrictions are observed, as illustrated by the requirements posted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.