Criminal justice is one of the most important academic disciplines in the faculty of social science. Enrolment in criminal justice studies keeps on increasing each year. In the year 2016, more than a hundred thousand students in the United States graduated with a degree/diploma in criminal justice. This number has steadily been increasing since 2010, which shows increased interest in the study of crime and criminal-related activities.
There are different career paths in criminal justice. Some of the major areas in criminal justice include:
- Ideology and history: criminology, the architecture of prisons, competition definitions of justice, Victims’ rights and families, restorative justice, reforms versus punishment among others.
- Life in prison: incarceration rates, recidivism, prisoner abuse, rehabilitation and education among others.
- Criminal justice and money: prison labor, private prisons, white-collar crime, and fraud and so on.
- Policies, procedure and laws: Three strike rules, mandatory sentencing, jury selection, and jury nullification.
- Race and racism: Racial profiling, White supremacy and hate crimes among others.
- Criminal justice and community: juvenile justice, activism among others.
From the above topics, criminal justice covers every aspect that touches on our lives. As a criminal justice student, you must be able to understand these topics and emergent issues related to them. We can synthesize the topics listed above and understand ways in which they affect us is by conducting a research study.
Research studies are the heart of any academic discipline. The main reason why we spend time analyzing different issues that affect our lives in the society is to develop better interventions that can help address them. Criminal justice research studies enable us to acutely understand the problem and develop positive solutions. In several occasions, your instructor will ask you to write a criminal justice research paper that comprehensively discusses a problem. You need positive skills on how to prepare, organize and write an effective criminal justice research paper in order to pass the course. It is important to point out that a research paper is different from other types of writing such as a term paper or an essay. This piece offers you a step-by-step guide on how to write a criminal justice research paper the best way possible.
Purpose of Writing a Research Paper in Criminal Justice Studies
First, it is important to outline some of the reasons why you should take your research paper seriously. Writing a research paper serves important purposes in the field of criminal justice. Below are some of the reasons for writing a criminal justice research paper:
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- Solving a Mystery: As previously explained, the field of criminal justice is full of unsolved problems. Not so much is known about why people commit a crime or the underlying reasons why some children from some certain social backgrounds are more predisposed to criminal acts than others. You get to solve these mysteries when you write a research paper. In other words, you want to provide answers to questions that you and other people including the law enforcers have concerning different issues.
- Sharing “Intelligence”: You will be hearing the phrase “sharing intelligence” more often than you think in your career as a law-enforcer. It simply means that you distribute the information or insight you have about an issue with the rest of the criminal justice system. This is exactly what you are expected to do during your academic research work. You write research papers to share what you have discovered about a criminal justice issue with the rest of the world. For instance, you may need to share your ideas and suggestions on the issue of the death penalty or child pornography with the relevant policy-makers in order to guide them on their decision-making process. We can only know about what you think about an issue through your research papers.
- Earn Grades: Writing a research paper is a prerequisite condition for earning grades in criminal justice studies. Your professor needs to assess you based on your ability to identify and synthesize a problem and articulately present a solution. It is necessary to get the results right for better grades.
- Reflect: Before you embark on writing, you must take some time and reflect. Try to think of the purpose of the research and the value it seeks to bring to you as a criminal justice professional. Besides earning the grades, you should appreciate the broader purpose of your research paper. Reflect on questions like: who would benefit from my research paper? How would it solve a social problem and make the society a better place?
- Brainstorm: In this case, brainstorming is different from reflection. Reflection is more about looking at the bigger purpose of the activity and relating it to your personal and professional objectives. On the other hand, brainstorming is topic-based. You should endeavor to brainstorm about the topic and the research question that you have while taking notes. If you are discussing the influence of the prison systems on individual behaviors, attempt to write the random ideas that come to your mind down. This will help in your proceeding research writing steps.
- Consult: Understand and appreciate the fact that no one is a custodian of knowledge. The problem you wish to solve may have been elusive for a long time. You need ideas and suggestions from different people. Be humble enough to seek support from your professors, peers and even external sources such as lawyers, security consultants and others.
- Research: A research paper requires an extensive exploration of issues that surround the research question. You must consult different primary and secondary sources. Select the databases that have the most relevant information that relates to the topic you intend to explore.
Format and Structure
- The number of components in a criminal justice research paper may vary depending on the nature of the study. However, most research paper often includes the introduction, literature review, findings, discussion, conclusion and recommendations.
- The introduction contains the general background of the problem, the research question, research objectives, purpose of the study and thesis statement.
- In the literature review section, you are expected to report on and discuss the findings of different past empirical studies. Try to show how scholars argue and counter-argue on the research problem.
- Methodology section specifies the data collection methods, research design participants among other element.
- The findings sections comprise the results of your study. Include what you have discovered from the review of the literature and from the primary sources.
- The discussion includes the interpretation of the findings as well as implications.
- The conclusion and recommendation section recaps on the research problem, the thesis statement and summarizes the findings before suggesting the way forward.
Steps in Research Writing Process: How Our Writers Work on Criminal Justice Research Papers
Developing your paper from a folder of brainstormed ideas to a fully polished research paper requires a critical attention to different aspects. It is important to point out that not every criminal justice research paper are the same. However, they all follow a similar process that begins by choosing a topic and ends in editing and proofreading the final copy. The steps include:
- Choosing a suitable topic;
- Planning and schedule how to research and write the paper;
- Conducting an extensive research;
- Organizing the data collected;
- Drafting your research paper;
- Editing and proofreading the paper.
Step One: Choosing a Topic
Do not forget the importance of a research topic in any research paper that you will ever write in criminal justice. Your professor will spend as much as they want on rejecting your topic until you get it right.
You need a topic that is relevant, appropriate and researchable. The aim of your research is to identify a problem, analyze it and suggests solutions. This implies that your topic must be linked to the research question that you have.
As previously noted, criminal justice is a wide area of study with numerous topics to research on. Do not limit yourself when developing a topic. Frame your research question in a way that allows you to classify in a broader system of topics. Some of the topics you can focus on include:
- Gang identify
- Police brutality
- Political prisoners
- Drug war
- Death penalty
- Sexual crimes
- Domestic violence
- Immigration issues
- Civil rights
Step Two: Planning and Scheduling
- Scientific research studies are often tentative. You must take your time and plan well on how you will go about the whole process. Take your time and develop a research plan and schedule that will guide on how to collect the required data, analyze and write the research paper.
- The reason for this scheduling is because you do not need to be overwhelmed with a lot of work when the deadline approaches. You need to allocate enough time for every activity to ensure that you meet all your objectives.
- You should also organize the tools and resources that you will require to complete your research process. For instance, you should state when and where you would conduct your consultations. Research projects in criminal justice may run for weeks or even months. This means you may need to organize yourself for the daunting task.
Tip: Allocate adequate time for demanding tasks.
Step Three: Conducting Research
- Unlike essays or term papers, a research paper requires “hard evidence”. You must understand that your opinion may only matter if it is supported by facts.
- You need to go out and find these facts and evidence to support your arguments.
- You will most likely use primary and secondary sources. These may include books, journals, research reports, periodical, news articles, and interviews among others. Be careful to include only those that are credible and authoritative.
- The primary sources should provide your research with first-hand data. For instance, your interview with an inmate may present real-life experiences in prisons. In most cases, surveys are used in criminal justice research studies because they are convenient and guarantee confidentiality.
Tip: Try to evaluate the reliability and credibility of your sources. The credibility of your research paper is likely to be compromised if the sources you use are fake or unreliable.
Step Four: Organizing Research Data and Findings
- The work is not done until you have noted down the findings in an organized manner in your paper.
- You will need to decide which sources you should include in your paper.
- You will also be required to evaluate the information you have acquired and determine whether they support your hypothesis.
- Depending on what you deem right, you may decide to modify your thesis or conduct more research to find evidence that supports your position.
Tip: You should not stick to the initial thesis that you set in the beginning if the evidence you have contradicts it. Be free to change your thesis until the evidence you have positively supports it. It would wrong to attempt to force the evidence you collected to fit your thesis.
Step Five: Drafting your Research Paper
- Once you have completed step 4 above, you are now ready to bring together your research findings with your critical analysis in your first draft. Use the data and arguments by scholars in previous studies to develop your thesis.
- It is important that you discuss each source in detail and properly cite them as you try to support your thesis.
- Do not forget to adhere to the standard conventions when citing your sources. For most criminal justice papers, your lecturer will often ask you to use the American Psychological Association (APA) referencing style. However, this does not mean you cannot have instances where you are required to use other conventions like MLA or Harvard styles.
Tip: Never forget to properly acknowledge every source from where you obtained an idea. Plagiarism is a very serious academic and legal offense!
Step 6: When you are done writing, edit and proofread!
- You do not want to submit a research paper that has information you are not aware of. To ensure your idea, findings and arguments are well reflected in the paper, proofread.
- You need to take at least an hour after drafting the paper before you revisit it.
- You may also divide the proofreading sessions into three. The first may involve going through the introduction. In the second session, you may need to handle the main body and the last session you edit the conclusion and recommendations.
- It is necessary to share the paper with a friend or classmate for purposes of peer review.
Key Takeaways from Our Writing Experts:
- Research papers are very important in the criminal justice studies. You need to write research papers for academic and professional purposes.
- Writing a research paper involves six fundamental steps. It begins with choosing a topic and ends in proofreading the final work.
- A research paper may have different parts depending on the nature of the study. However, the common ones involve introduction, literature review, findings, discussion, conclusion, and recommendations.