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CRJU3020: Research Methods In Criminal Justice: Intro

This guide will help you find information and resources on research methods. Click on the various links to access library resources plus reliable, relevant websites.

Choosing a topic

Research topics can be developed by: 

  1. Updating a previous study. Was a study conducted 30 or 40 years ago and the environment has changed?
  2. Is there a gap in the existing literature?
  3. Are there competing explanations of an idea that could be tested?

In order to identify a research topic the scholar will have to first broadly understand the idea or phenomenon. What is the idea about, what has already been written about it? Or the reverse, how can the scholar confirm that nothing has been written on the topic?

As you explore your idea, the literature review begins to develop...

The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method is not one single thing. It refers to the ideas, rules, techniques, and approaches that the scientific community uses.

From p. 9 of:

Writing in Criminal Justice

Why a literature review? You are trying to determine what evidence exists on your research idea.

A literature review is a component of the research process in which the author summarizes or synthesizes the ideas and arguments made by scholars. In the social sciences a literature review can be organized in a number of ways including by topic, chronological, or by methodology .   The more focused your research topic the more straightforward the literature review will be.

Remember that the literature review (a.k.a. the lit. review) is, in essence, a paper in and of itself. It has an introduction; a body and a conclusion. It is NOT an annotated bibliography.

  • The introduction informs the reader how you have organized your literature review.
  • The body is the presentation of the resources you have reviewed.
  • The conclusion is your statement about your review. What does the literature tell you? What perspective are you going to argue for?

Caution: Make sure that the choices you make in writing a literature review reflect the requirements of your assignment. Be sure to consult with your Professor.

Relevant Resources

Before you use a resource in your paper, you need to determine if it is credible.  There are many approaches but this is one I find easy to remember:


C -  Currency: When was the page created? Or when was the article or book published ? If it is a website, are the links still active? Given your topic, how recent do your resouces have to be?

A – Authority: Who is the author? What are the author's credentials? If it is a website, what is the domain name for the site? (e.g. .edu; .org) If it is in print, is it from a reputable publisher?

B – Bias: What is the purpose of the resource? Is there a position/opinion presented? If it is a website, what types of sites are being linked to? Are they random or well-known sites? If it is a print resource, who are the advertisers?

L – Level: Do you feel comfortable using this site for a college-level assignment? Is the site popular or intended for specialists?

E – Exploration: Verify the information in other sources. You are reading a lot on your topic, and soon you will be able to identify certain universal ideas and trends in your area. Match what you have learned against the resources you are considering - does it jive?

! - Is the resouce available in time for it to be properly read and incorporated into your paper?