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How to Write a Thesis in Criminal Justice: Ultimate Guide

Wondering how to write a master thesis in criminal justice on the topic of your choice? A master thesis in criminal justice is often considered to be a ticket to labor market. It has to be an original contribution to this interesting field of studies which means that you need to provide an answer to original research question which hasn’t been exhaustively discussed in previous publications. Writing this final project can be really challenging because you need to do more than just reproduce what other scholars have written on your topic. A thesis is a long-form research paper that develops the original thought and presents new insight within the academic field.

To help you get started, we offer you a complete guide on how to write a thesis in criminal justice where you can find recommendations on choosing an interesting topic, formulating a good research question, creating a research proposal, writing a draft, revising, editing, and proofreading. If you face problem with completing other academic projects, check our full guides to all writing assignments out there.

Specifics of Writing a Thesis in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice is a cross-disciplinary field that examines causes of crime, making laws, and efforts to control crime made by society through systems of criminal and juvenile justice. Writing in criminal justice involves creating well-documented arguments and formulating a defensible thesis statement supported by evidence. An effective thesis statement should be easy to understand, clear, concise, and supported by research and evidence. Students who take criminal justice courses are asked to summarize scholarly articles, synthesize research material, and apply different theories to analyzing particular cases.

Being an empirical field of studies, criminal justice uses carefully collected and documented evidence to support arguments. This evidence is divided into 2 categories:

  • quantitative data expressed in numbers and drawn from statistics, surveys, content analysis of documents, and experiments;
  • qualitative data is based on texts, interviews, and observations, and can be used to understand behavior patterns.

Students who take part in a criminal justice Masters’ program are required to write a thesis on topic of their choice and defend it over the course of their final year. The goal of a thesis is to develop new knowledge on a specific topic through broad research. Writing a thesis gives every student an opportunity to prove his/her deep understanding of an academic field of criminal justice as well as abilities to do research and draw conclusions. Your thesis in criminal justice must be formatted using APA style guide.

Your thesis should be based on the analysis of appropriate data to explore an empirical problem, examine a phenomenon or test a theory or hypothesis. And you should use appropriate field-based, laboratory-based, phenomenological, naturalistic or experimental methods or a combination of different methods.

Choose a Winning Topic for Research

If you decide to write a thesis in criminal justice, you should start planning your paper as early as possible. Identify a broad topic using general terms. You should choose a topic you are passionate about and narrow it to make it specific and manageable. Look for an overview of your topic in criminal justice in encyclopedias and select some specific aspect of your general topic. Then you will need to identify scholarly sources and read them critically to come up with an interesting research question or a realistic hypothesis.

For example, when writing a project about racial disparity in the criminal justice system in the USA, your thesis statement/hypothesis may look like this one:

‘Racial disparity in the US criminal justice system is a persistent complex problem that exists due to legal and extralegal factors and results in differential treatment of people based on race by the criminal justice system. Racial disparities in case outcomes are driven by such case characteristics as prior criminal history and seriousness of the arresting offence.’

Selecting a good topic can be a difficult task so here are 15 powerful thesis topics for your consideration.

  • History and Philosophy of Criminal Justice System;
  • Correlation Between Ethnicity, Race, and Criminal Justice;
  • Law Enforcement System: Ethics, Organization, Police-community Interaction;
  • History of the Death Penalty in the USA;
  • Data Analysis in Criminal Justice;
  • Identification of Local Crime Cycles and Trends;
  • Causes of Crime and Crime Victims;
  • Criminological Perspective on Sexual Offending;
  • Women in the Criminal Justice System: Victims, Offenders, and Professionals;
  • Changing Attitudes to Punishment;
  • Juvenile Justice in The USA;
  • Psychology of Crime;
  • Crime Control and Crime Prevention;
  • Impact of Globalization on Criminal Justice;
  • Statistics in Criminology.

When writing your thesis, you will go through all the steps involved in doing research:

  • Formulating a research question;
  • Creating research design and doing research to collect data;
  • Analyzing gathered data;
  • Creating the final thesis.

Your research can be done in different ways, including empirical socio-legal research that brings new insight on a criminal justice topic, literature research for developing recommendations or a policy plan, evaluation research which examines and analyzes implementation of a specific law or policy or effects of a specific law or policy, meta-analysis to determine effectiveness of a specific criminal justice law, policy or intervention. Keep in mind that research is a cyclic process that is going on as you are writing your thesis.

After choosing a topic and conducting preliminary research, you will need to select a thesis committee and submit a research proposal briefly describing the project you are willing to conduct.

Create a Research Proposal for Your Thesis in Criminal Justice

The goal of a research proposal is to convince other people that you have a worthwhile research project and that you have a plan how to complete it. Your research proposal should include all the key elements of the research process and all the necessary information to help readers evaluate the proposed project. In your research proposal and an oral defense, you need to address the following issues:

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?
  • The purpose of your study, its theoretical and practical significance;
  • The research question or hypothesis;
  • Literature review describing basic findings of related studies;
  • Methodology for collecting data and methods for data analysis;
  • A proposed timeline for completing your thesis with deadlines for completing each section.

Your final thesis may have the following structure:

  • Abstract provides a brief overview of the entire thesis;
  • The introduction indicates the gap in the existing knowledge and includes a hypothesis;
  • A literature review evaluates the previous research on the topic;
  • Methods section outlines methods for collecting data and analyzing results;
  • The results section presents findings;
  • Discussion chapter comments on the results and interprets them;
  • Conclusions section emphasizes that research objectives have been achieved.

Recommendations on Writing Chapters of a Thesis in Criminal Justice

The abstract is typically written when the entire paper has been completed. It’s a concise summary of a thesis which shouldn’t be more than 350 words. In this document, you state the problem, tell about investigation, and present general conclusions. This part of your thesis shouldn’t include any graphs, tables or illustrations.

The introduction presents research in detail. It should clearly state your theme, your goals, research question or hypothesis. It’s important to provide necessary background information to ensure that even non-specialists will be able to read and understand this part of your thesis. You can also provide a quick review of the existing literature.

The literature review is a separate section which provides analyses of the previous research on the topic. It’s not a simple collection of summaries so you should approach it in an analytical, comparative, and evaluative manner. Analyzing the previous literature, you will provide the basis for a detailed formulation of the problem, setting of the goals, and the definition of the concepts. The content of this chapter is the ground to comparing results and making conclusions.

The methods section justifies the choice and the use of data collection methods as well as methods of data analysis. You can use qualitative or quantitative data collection methods or their combinations. Your task is to tell your readers how you conducted your research so they will be able to replicate your study.

The results section highlights the main research findings by presenting facts of their results without analyzing them. You will do analysis later when writing your discussion chapter. You should also present unrealized hypothesis and negative results. You can illustrate the key results with tables, direct quotes from the data, and figures.

Discussions section gives a critical analysis of how the thesis goals were achieved. It’s the most important section in your thesis. You need to comment on your results and explain them to your readers. It’s critical to relate the results from your study to previous theory or research to emphasize how they feel the gap in the existing knowledge. You should also mention limitations of your research and provide recommendations about future directions.

In the Conclusion section, you need to describe the overall contribution of your thesis to a broader field of studies. You have to provide conclusions about your hypothesis and goals presented in the introduction. You should also tell about the significance of your study, its strengths and limitations. Besides, you may provide suggestions on how your findings could be applied to solving real-life problems and tell about possible directions for further research.

Revise Your Thesis in Criminal Justice

Revision stage is very important because it allows you to sharpen your focus and argument and make it clear to your readers. At this point, you can also improve and further develop your ideas. Revision happens before editing and requires from you think large-scale.

Here are some tips on using effective strategies for revising your thesis.

  • Make a reverse outline of your draft. When your thesis has been written, create an outline of your thesis paper which will help you better see the paper structure and logical flow of your ideas. Rearrange your paragraphs if you notice some gaps in logic.
  • Develop a check-list of what to look for according to guidelines for your thesis paper.
  • Use highlighter approach to visualize where specific information is located and how it works as a whole throughout your project. Use highlighters of different colors to isolate various content elements of your thesis paper to see how they go together in your draft.
  • Apply paragraph-level revisions to see whether all paragraphs are well-organized and effective. Review each paragraph separately to examine such elements as a topic sentence, transitions, progression & logic, focus, and length. Make sure that each paragraph starts with a topic sentence that informs your readers about the main point and that there are transition words and phrases that allow readers to follow your logic. Divide a paragraph into two if you notice it’s too long or covers too many points.
  • Cut & rearrange. Print your thesis and cut your thesis into individual paragraphs with scissors. Then you will be able to physically rearrange paragraphs in your draft to see the best option for organization and the development of ideas in your argument.

First, revise your thesis as a whole and make changes to improve the flow and the logic. Then revise paragraphs and separate sentences. Read your thesis aloud sentence by sentence and find places where you lost focus or which are too vague so they need fixing. Follow these tips to ensure that you write good sentences:

  • Look for places where you use the same word twice in the same paragraph and find alternative ways to express the same idea.
  • Use strong verbs in active voice.
  • Make sure you use different sentence patterns in a paragraph. Mix complex sentences with simple and compound sentences for a variety.
  • Try to avoid using too many sentences which start with there is and it is to make your paragraphs more engaging.
  • Use a thesaurus and a good dictionary to find the precise words to convey your meaning.

Finally, proofread your thesis in criminal justice and fix all minor grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes and typos and check your formatting to ensure that it is consistent.

Writing a thesis in criminal justice can be a labor-intensive but rewarding experience. Its preparation can give you a taste for real-world research and be useful if you pursue a research or academic career. We hope that our easy writing guide will help you successfully complete your project from the beginning of the proposal to final defense and graduate with a Master of Arts degree.