Hot topics among economists or among policy makers? The former can be found by looking at what is being published in economic journals. The later can best be found by reading what issues are important where you do research and deciding what you are interested and knowledgable of can address that. Talking to an economics department (or perhaps a public administration program) where you live may assist that.
I think Thomson Reuters is an organization that releases a series of reports on different topics. There are, although I don't use them since I dont do academic research any more, a number of indexes in various fields that list how many times various articles have been cited. I suspect there are the same covering how often topics have been cited in journals. If you want to know what is hot academically, that is a good place to start.
Thomson Reuters Datastream is one of the best databases for empirical economics/finance. It costs about $40,000 a year for 1 terminal - pretty standard for the major databases.
I was wondering if you have access to it because I thought you might be considering empirical research. Without a good database this really can't be done unless you find a collaborator that has access to one.
Also if you have 0 research experience don't bother starting a single-author project. Your work will be of too low quality to get published anywhere. Go get an RA job.
@derksheng, I beg to differ. I know of one whose paper got published. I'm recently doing energy (consumption demand of wood energy in our locale) related research--but I want to delve on Financial Economics aspect. That's why as early as now I want to think of a research problem on that aspect as I'm expected to finish that energy-related research by January.
@derksheng, I really want to propose to our University Library to purchase an access. But maybe I have to bring people with me first---I should talk first to Finance teachers in our University. But this might be too long.
With a background in economics and the current state of the American economy, an interesting research topic that might fit your needs could be economic depression. The reality is that America has gone through several depressions since it was founded in 1776, and the chances are very good that it will go through many more in the future. You may also want to take a look at other world powers in history and their economic fluctuation during the course of their time in power. You could, for example, compare the Roman economic history to the American economic history and our likelihood of going through another depression in the future.