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Criminal Justice - General Introduction: Research Hints

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Literature Reviews

A literature review is a component of the research process in which the author summarizes or synthesizes the ideas and arguments made by scholars on a particular topic or subject.

Galvan, J. L.  (2006).  Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences. (3rd ed.).  Glendale, CA: Pyrczak. Ref. H61.8 .G3 2006  Circulating copy in stacks. 

Pan, M. L.  (2008).  Preparing literature reviews: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. (3rd ed.).  Glendale, CA: Pyrcazak.  Q180.55.E9 P36 2008

Rosnow, R. L. & Rosnow, M.  (2009).  Writing papers in psychology.  (8th ed.).  Australia: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.  BF76.7 .R67 2009

Research within Criminal Justice

The best Research Tip to remember is how multi-disciplinary Criminal Justice is! Do not restrict yourself to databases that begin with "Criminal" -- think about your topic -- your research will probably be best served by also looking in the psychology, sociology, social work, etc. databases.

For all databases - click here.

If you found a couple needed articles in Criminal Justice Abstracts using specific subject headings - for example - "Problem Youth AND Family Court" - take those same phrases and use them in another database, for example -  Social Work Abstracts or PsycInfo. Because the focus of the database is different, it will introduce you to a different set of journal titles. 

Research Tips

Brainstorm possible search terms for your topic. Keep in mind that you may need to simplify long phrases by breaking them up into separate search terms or smaller phrases.  Here is an interactive tutorial that provides detail about the brainstorming process. 

Advanced Search. Combine your search terms with connecting terms (called "Boolean operators"), such as AND and OR. Use AND between terms to narrow a search and OR between terms to broaden a search. Or use the wildcard options that allows you to search for variations of a term [More Detail]

Do preliminary searches before settling on a topic. Don't assume there will be a lot of information on your topic. Do a few searches before committing to a topic. You may find that you need to narrow or broaden your topic.

Read through background information.  Taking a few minutes to read about your topic in a specialized encyclopedia, dictionary or handbook may be one of the most effective and time saving research tips on this list. You will probably refine and refocus your topic several times before you finalize it.  Some specialized reference sources, located on the second floor of Library North, are listed under the Books tab above.  These books are good places to start your research when you know little about a topic, when you need an overview of a subject, or when you want a quick summary of basic ideas. They are also useful for discovering the names of important people and can familiarize you with the vocabulary of the field. Encyclopedia articles are often followed by carefully selected bibliographies or lists of references to other works, useful items to have as you begin looking for additional information.

Focus on scholarly sources. For most research assignments, you will want to use primarily scholarly or peer-reviewed sources. Such articles are typically not freely available on the Web and cannot be found by searching Internet search engines like Google or Yahoo. See the Articles tab above to find more information about identifying scholarly articles.

Books vs. articles. Books (including reference books) may be helpful for background information and for familiarizing yourself with a topic. Articles, on the other hand, are more current and typically address a very narrow piece of a topic, such as details of a specific study. The scope of your assignment will determine what types of sources are best. Many class projects will involve identifying primary empirical research, which is available primarily through articles.

Keep a log of your search process. It's often helpful to know what sources you've consulted and whether they were helpful. Keeping a search log is an easy way document what sources and search terms "work" and which ones do not. 

Cite as you go. Even if you're not sure whether you will use a source, it's much easier to note the citation information up front than to decide you need it later!  Carefully citing will also allow you to avoid plagiarism.  See this interactive tutorial to learn the basics of paraphrasing and citing appropriately.  More information about citing in APA format can be found through the Articles tab above.

 

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