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How to Write a Research Paper for a Criminal Justice Course


1. Balance knowledge of the subject derived from scientific literature

2. Demonstrate an understanding of the latest research in the field in summary form

3. Critique the controversies that exist (where applicable), and critique the fundamental conclusions

4. Offer personal views on the topic, backed-up by your literature survey and analysis

5. Point out questions from the research that await further study

Your paper should have a predetermined structure. You must decide before hand whether to arrange your paper logically, chronologically, or according to some other sequential scheme.

The easiest way to decide on an arrangement for your paper is to prepare an outline. While preparing an outline takes time in the beginning, it will save you valuable time (and energy) when writing the paper.

The body of the paper should be 10-16 pages (approximately 3,000 to 4,000 words, excluding title page and reference pages), double-spaced, using standard Times New Roman 12-point font, and 1-inch margins all around. The paper must adhere to APA style (6th ed.). Please also refer to the Sample Research Paper on the course homepage.

Avoid the tendency to choose too broad a topic. This will make it difficult both to cover the topic in the limits set, and to focus your personal views. Consider putting your topic into the form of a research question. For example, a broad topic such as “psychopaths” might become “Can psychopaths change?” This narrower focus allows you to examine the effectiveness of treatment and the follow-up statistics on re-offending for this population.

Postpone choosing a topic until you have done a bit of research into the area. This does not mean that you should do extensive library research on numerous topics, and then choose the one that works best for you. Do choose something that interests you, as this will help you maintain motivation throughout the assignment.

Scan the chapters in the textbook, and go into further depth on a topic that is covered in the course. Discuss possible topic ideas with others to see what reactions and insights they have to offer. Then follow up with a phone call or email to your tutor, who can offer additional insights, and can guide you to specific resources.

1. Identify types of sex offenders.

2. Does the public accept the role of expert witnesses in courts of law?

3. Should criminal juries be required to render a unanimous decision?

4. Is the “insanity defense” overused or underused in Canada?

5. Rules of police investigation: How far should the courts let the police go?

6. Lie detection in courts: Should polygraph results be accepted?

7. Can children be reliable courtroom witnesses?

8. Canadian vs. American juries: Are they different?

9. Punishment or treatment: What is the role of prisons?

10. Spousal abuse in Canada: Are we addressing the problem?

11. You be the judge: How do you weigh the facts in handing out a fair sentence?

12. Are people treated fairly in the criminal justice system?

13. Is criminal profiling sufficiently developed to be helpful in investigations or to be accepted in courts?

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