Path Soc Essay Topics

In 2006, as part of the Societies Centenary Celebrations, a book 'Understanding Disease: A centenary celebration of the Pathological Society' was published. The following is the Introduction to that work with links to PDFs of the Chapters.

'The Centenary of an organisation such as the Pathological Society should not pass without being appropriately marked. It is in an effort to do this that we have collected together a series of Chapters that cover diverse aspects of the Societies history and the history of pathology. We have also included the thoughts and reminiscences of current and past Members. We have endeavoured to cover the major events and themes of the Society and hope that there is something of interest for all Members. We thank all that contributed the articles to be found in this work and all that have worked so hard to ensure that this project came to a timely fruition. The Societies Administrative staff, Roselyn Pitts and Julie Johnstone, played a huge part in gathering key information and helping with untold numbers of questions about Minutes, Meetings and the paraphernalia of the Society. This project could not have been completed without their hard work and enthusiasm. Miss Andrea Baier, Mr Jeremy Theobald and Miss Louise Ryan of Wiley’s have worked tirelessly to help with the production issues and the completion of this project in the completely ridiculous timescale set by the Editors. Getting this work published in the Centenary Year would not have been possible without their efforts and those of others within Wiley’s. Of course it goes without saying that the rush was the fault of the Editors: we have known for nearly 100 years when the Centenary would be!

Chapter 1 is a short biography of the first Secretary of the Society, James Ritchie. This is followed (chapter 2) by a re-print of the first History of the Society that was written by J Dible and published in the Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology in 1957 (J Path Bact 1957;73 Supplement 1-35). At the Committee meeting of July 1981 held at Ninewell’s Hospital in Dundee, it was proposed that the article by Dible describing the first 50 years of the Society be reprinted and published in a monograph along with a 75thAnniversary appreciation that had been written by Alan Lendrum. It was reasonably recorded in the Minutes ‘that it was hard to predict likely sales’. Six months later (January 1982, Churchill College, Cambridge) the Committee took a less enthusiastic approach and decided to not re-publish Dible’s article of 1957, but only to publish the new Lendrum appreciation. By July of that year enthusiasm had further waned and it was now decided to not publish even the Lendrum article as a stand alone pamphlet, but rather for it to appear in the Journal of Pathology with an introduction by the then General Secretary, McEntegart. Sadly this never happened, perhaps because the Society was in turmoil after the untiumely death of its Treasurer and the Editor of the Journal of Pathology, WG Spector. Consequently the 75th Anniversary appreciation, that takes the story of the Society from the end of the Dible history through to the beginning of the 1980s, languished in the Society archive, and has never before been seen in print, but can be found here (chapter 3). We thank the family of the late Alan Lendrum for permission to publish his insightful commentary.
Chapter 4 considers the finances of the Society and is written by Munro Neville: the first of three contemporary Treasurers who happened to be Scots and have unimpeachable credentials as men of extreme prudence! The evolution of the Society over the past 25 years is the theme taken over the following 3 chapters where they provide perspectives on the meetings, people and events of the 1980s (chapter 5 by Walker), 1990s (chapter 6 by Levison), as well as the recent years of the Society (chapter 7 by Hall & Burt). Scattered through the volume are to be found short vignettes and anecdotes proffered to the editors by Society members. We have published as many as we could find space. They appear unedited and provide an interesting, and sometimes amusing, perspective on the changing nature of the Society and its meetings.

The next two chapters consider the linked issues of the fortunes of the Society's Journal and the waxing and waning of Academic Pathology. The Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology has an impressive pedigree and is now available back to its inception online. In 1969 it became the Journal of Pathology with the foundation of the Journal of Medical Microbiology and later reviews in Microbiology. In recent years the Journal of Pathology has regained its pre-eminence as one of the premier pathology Journals, a position we guard jealously and are very proud of. This history and achievements of the Journal are discussed by the former Editor in Chief, Simon Herrington (chapter 8). In contrast to the upward trajectory of the Journal, Academic pathology in these islands has been under threat. In chapter 9, Nick Wright has written a discussion of the aetiology and pathogenesis of this and considers the macroscopic and microscopic features, the functional consequences, the prognosis and various remedies.

For most of the history of the Society there was an active Microbiology component to the Membership. Sadly for much of the last 3 decades there has been some degree of tension between this group and the more numerous tissue pathologists. This came to a head towards the end of the 1990s and in 2002 this group amicably moved away from the Society and joined the Society for General Microbiology. The huge contribution of microbiology to the Societies affairs and this later amicable separation are detailed in chapter 10 by Brian Deurden and Gerry Collee. Our relationship with another group, the Royal College of Pathologists is covered by James Underwood (former President of the RCPath and former meetings secretary of the Pathological Society) who provides a potted history of the College in chapter 11.

Change is something we all experience and few of us truly enjoy and change is the theme of the next 5 Chapters. Many have reservations about some aspects of modern educational theory and it has certainly impacted on pathology in medical education. In chapter 12, the changing role of pathology in the undergraduate curriculum is the theme taken by Paola Domizio, who is both a pathologist and Professor of Medical Education. There has also been radical change in the training of pathologists: change that continues apace. This are is discussed by Patrick Gallagher in chapter 13 and leads into a discussion of the changing work patterns of pathology by Chris Elston, Alistair Burt and Neil Shepherd in chapter 14. One of the most important changes in diagnostic practice as well as in research has been the impact of antibodies. In chapter 15, Elisabeth Soilleux and Kevin Gatter concisely review this revolution and define the state of the art, circa 2006! Neuropathology has similarly changed and the history of this important sub-speciality is reviewed in chapter 16 by Dame Ingrid Allen.

But what of the future? Further change will ensue without question. There are those who view the march of molecular biology to be central to the future of the discipline, while others might view the conventional H&E stained histological section to be the cornerstone of current and all likely future practice. Chapter 17 considers whether the H&E will be replaced by ‘chips’ or whether the H&E will hold sway! Readers will have their own views! In chapter 18, John O’Leary has taken the ideas a step further and has placed himself 20 years in the future and considers the state of pathology as the Society moves towards its 125th birthday. This is a challenging chapter and argues that the range of skills we need must widen considerably for Pathology to survive. Historical data are presented in numerous appendicies. The Society is committed to raising the profile of pathology, fostering the discipline and working with other organisations to promote the understanding of disease. Certainly the Society faces challenges and as we celebrate our Centenary we hope that his volume provides perspectives on the past and stimulates some thought and debate about our future.

Peter Hall, Former General Secretary (2003 - 2008)
Nick Wright, Past President (2001 - 2007)

Do not assume that choosing a research problem to study will be a quick or easy task! You should be thinking about it at the start of the course. There are generally three ways you are asked to write about a research problem: 1) your professor provides you with a general topic from which you study a particular aspect; 2) your professor provides you with a list of possible topics to study and you choose a topic from that list; or, 3) your professor leaves it up to you to choose a topic and you only have to obtain permission to write about it before beginning your investigation. Here are some strategies for getting started for each scenario.


I.  How To Begin:  You are given the topic to write about

Step 1: Identify concepts and terms that make up the topic statement. For example, your professor wants the class to focus on the following research problem: “Is the European Union a credible security actor with the capacity to contribute to confronting global terrorism?" The main concepts is this problem are: European Union, global terrorism, credibility [hint: focus on identifying proper nouns, nouns or noun phrases, and action verbs in the assignment description].

Step 2: Review related literature to help refine how you will approach examining the topic and finding a way to analyze it. You can begin by doing any or all of the following: reading through background information from materials listed in your course syllabus; searching the USC Libraries Catalog to find a recent book on the topic and, if appropriate, more specialized works about the topic; conducting a preliminary review of the research literature using multidisciplinary library databases such as ProQuestt or subject-specific databases found here. Use the main concept terms you developed in Step 1 and their synonyms to retrieve relevant articles. This will help you refine and frame the scope of the research problem. Don’t be surprised if you need to do this several times before you finalize how to approach writing about the topic.

NOTE: Always review the references from your most relevant research results cited by the authors in footnotes, endnotes, or a bibliography to locate related research on your topic. This is a good strategy for identifying important prior research about the topic because titles that are repeatedly cited indicate their significance in laying a foundation for understanding the problem. However, if you’re having trouble at this point locating relevant research literature,ask a librarian for help!

ANOTHER NOTE:  If you find an article from a journal that's particularly helpful, put quotes around the title of the article and paste it into Google Scholar. If the article record appears, look for a "cited by" reference followed by a number. This link indicates how many times other researchers have subsequently cited that article since it was first published. This is an excellent strategy for identifying more current, related research on your topic. Finding additional cited by references from your original list of cited by references helps you navigate through the literature and, by so doing, understand the evolution of thought around a particular research problem.

Step 3: Since social science research papers are generally designed to get you to develop your own ideas and arguments, look for sources that can help broaden, modify, or strengthen your initial thoughts and arguments [for example, if you decide to argue that the European Union is ill prepared to take on responsibilities for broader global security because of the debt crisis in many EU countries, then focus on identifying sources that support as well as refute this position].

There are least four appropriate roles your related literature plays in helping you formulate how to begin your analysis:

  • Sources of criticism -- frequently, you'll find yourself reading materials that are relevant to your chosen topic, but you disagree with the author's position. Therefore, one way that you can use a source is to describe the counter-argument, provide evidence from your review of the literature as to why the prevailing argument is unsatisfactory, and to discuss how your own view is more appropriate based upon your interpretation of the evidence.
  • Sources of new ideas -- while a general goal in writing college research papers in the social sciences is to approach a research problem with some basic idea of what position you'd like to take and what grounds you'd like to stand upon, it is certainly acceptable [and often encouraged] to read the literature and extend, modify, and refine your own position in light of the ideas proposed by others. Just make sure that you cite the sources!
  • Sources for historical context -- another role your related literature plays in helping you formulate how to begin your analysis is to place issues and events in proper historical context. This can help to demonstrate familiarity with developments in relevant scholarship about your topic, provide a means of comparing historical versus contemporary issues and events, and identifying key people, places, and things that had an important role related to the research problem.
  • Sources of interdisciplinary insight -- an advantage of using databases like ProQuest to begin exploring your topic is that it covers publications from a variety of different disciplines. Another way to formulate how to study the topic is to look at it from different disciplinary perspectives. If the topic concerns immigration reform, for example, ask yourself, how do studies from sociological journals found by searching ProQuest vary in their analysis from those in law journals. A goal in reviewing related literature is to provide a means of approaching a topic from multiple perspectives rather than the perspective offered from just one discipline.

NOTE: Remember to keep careful notes at every stage or utilize a citation management system like EndNotes or RefWorks. You may think you'll remember what you have searched and where you found things, but it’s easy to forget or get confused.

Step 4: Assuming you've done an effective job of synthesizing and thinking about the results of our initial search for related literature, you're ready to prepare a detailed outline for your paper that lays the foundation for a more in-depth and focused review of relevant research literature [after consulting with a librarian, if needed!]. How will you know you haven't done an effective job of synthesizing and thinking about the results of our initial search for related literature? A good indication is that you start composing your paper outline and gaps appear in how you want to approach the study. This indicates the need to do further research on the research problem.


I.  How To Begin:  You are provided a list of possible topics to choose from

Step 1: I know what you’re thinking--which topic from this list my professor has given me will be the easiest to find the most information on? An effective instructor should never include a topic that is so obscure or complex that no research is available to examine and from which to begin to design a study. Instead of searching for the path of least resistance choose a topic that you find interesting in some way, or that is controversial and that you have a strong opinion about, or has some personal meaning for you. You're going to be working on your topic for quite some time, so choose one that you find interesting and engaging or that motivates you to take a position.

Once you’ve settled on a topic of interest from the list, follow Steps 1 - 4 listed above to further develop it into a research paper.

NOTE: It’s ok to review related literature to help refine how you will approach analyzing a topic, and then discover that the topic isn’t all that interesting to you. In that case, you can choose another from the list. Just don’t wait too long to make a switch and be sure to consult with your professor first that you are changing your topic.


III.  How To Begin:  Your professor leaves it up to you to choose a topic

Step 1: Under this scenario, the key process is turning an idea or general thought into a topic that can be configured into a research problem. When given an assignment where you choose the research topic, don't begin by thinking about what to write about, but rather, ask yourself the question, "What do I want to know?" Treat an open-ended assignment as an opportunity to learn about something that's new or exciting to you.

Step 2: If you lack ideas, or wish to gain focus, try some or all of the following strategies:

  • Review your course readings, particularly the suggested readings, for topic ideas. Don't just review what you've already read but jump ahead in the syllabus to readings that have not been covered yet.
  • Search the USC Libraries Catalog for a good, recently published book and, if appropriate, more specialized works related to the discipline area of the course [e.g., for the course SOCI 335, search for books on population and society].
  • Browse through some current journals in your subject discipline. Even if most of the articles are not relevant, you can skim through the contents quickly. You only need one to be the spark that begins the process of wanting to learn more about a topic. Consult with a librarian and/or your professor about the core journals within your subject discipline.
  • Think about essays you have written for past classes and other coursework you have taken or academic lectures and programs you have attended. Thinking back, what most interested you? What would you like to know more about?
  • Search online media sources, such as CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, or Newsweek, to see if your idea has been covered by the media. Use this coverage to refine your idea into something that you'd like to investigate further but in a more deliberate, scholarly way based on a particular problem that needs to be researched.

Step 3: To build upon your initial idea, use the suggestions under this tab to help narrow, broaden, or increase the timeliness of your idea so you can write it out as a research problem.

Once you are comfortable with having turned your idea into a research problem, follow Steps 1 - 4 listed in Part I above to further develop it into a research paper.


Alderman, Jim. "Choosing a Research Topic." Beginning Library and Information Systems Strategies. Paper 17. Jacksonville, FL: University of North Florida Digital Commons, 2014; Alvesson, Mats and Jörgen Sandberg. Constructing Research Questions: Doing Interesting Research. London: Sage, 2013; Chapter 2: Choosing a Research Topic. Adrian R. Eley. Becoming a Successful Early Career Researcher. New York: Routledge, 2012; Answering the Question. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Brainstorming. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University; Brainstorming. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Chapter 1: Research and the Research Problem. Nicholas Walliman. Your Research Project: Designing and Planning Your Work. 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2011; Choosing a Topic. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University;  Coming Up With Your Topic. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; How To Write a Thesis Statement. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Identify Your Question. Start Your Research. University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz; The Process of Writing a Research Paper. Department of History. Trent University; Trochim, William M.K. Problem Formulation. Research Methods Knowledge Base. 2006.

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