Research Paper Instructions

Research Paper Instructions

You will prepare an 8-12 page research paper that provides you with an opportunity to more fully explore course issues, examining a narrow aspect of the course material in an in-depth and focused way. For the paper, you will identify a potential research problem of interest in criminal justice and write a research paper proposal. You will not conduct actual research, but you will write the paper in a way that is similar to what would be written if actual research were conducted. Instead of reporting actual results from actual research, in your paper, you will identify for the reader results you would expect to see were the actual research conducted. Offering an anticipation of results is analysis and in this case, it is in part what makes your paper a research proposal.

To do this assignment, you will find at least three journal articles dealing with a criminal justice research problem that you identify. The most logical place to look for quality supporting articles that are scholarly is in the journal article area of the online university library. You will likely need more sources than that overall, but that is the starting point for identifying the paper topic. In addition, you will need to find and use at least one descriptive statistics table, obtained from one of five sources of secondary data (listed below) commonly used in criminal justice research. The websites may be found doing a Google search using the following key terms: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, ICPSR, Bureau of Justice Statistics, FBI UCR, and General Social Survey. No other sources for descriptive statistics is acceptable for this research paper. If you are unable to find descriptive statistics at one of these five websites to use in your research paper, than your topic selection is not acceptable and an adjustment in the topic is needed.

The paper must follow the APA Publication Manual 6th Edition in respect to double-spacing and 12-point font, as well as inclusion of title page, abstract, level one, two, and three headings, in-text citations, and a reference section. The paper must contain a minimum of 8 pages of content, which does not include front matter (Title Page and Abstract) or back matter (Reference section or appendices). The paper should not exceed 12 pages, as the idea is to present your deep understanding of the material in an efficient manner. Papers that do not meet the minimum 8 page count will not meet minimum standards for this assignment. In order to meet the minimum 8 page count, content that starts on page 1, is double-spaced with 12-point font, will end somewhere on page 9 or later. A paper that ends on page 8 of content is a 7+ page paper, not an 8+ page paper. Papers that exceed 12 pages of content may be penalized. A Table of Contents is not appropriate for this assignment. There are many ways to approach the idea of level one, two, and three headings, which will vary from paper to paper. As a general scheme, it is common to think of the level one headings as Abstract, Introduction, Literature Review, Discussion, Conclusion, and References. Level two headings within those sections will be derived from the content you are presenting, usually representing the main idea of your subsection. Level three headings are not always needed. When they are used, level three headings divide level two headed material into smaller, more digestible areas of focus. The paper must be submitted as a Word document. Please double check that what you intended to attach is indeed attached, and that it is in the required format. If an extension reads anything other than .doc or .docx, I may not be able to open it. A submission that is not attached or not capable of being opened is the same as not being submitted. Please see the course section for further information regarding the course Late Work policy.

The following format should serve as the umbrella format for your paper: Title Page, Abstract, Introduction, Literature Review, Research Methods, Results, Discussion and Conclusion, and References.

Title Page

This is front matter and not part of the page count. Please include the title of your paper, the course information, and your name.


This is front matter and not part of the page count.

Title of Paper


(1-2 paragraphs)

_____The opening paragraph should start by describing the broad topic of criminological interest that you are researching (e.g., gangs, school shootings, etc.).

_____Include relevant statistics to provide an overview of the topic and describe the scope of the problem/issue and why it is important to study.

(1-2 paragraphs)

_____Transition sentence that links the broad idea described in the first paragraph(s) to the narrower ideas that will be examined in your study.

_____Discuss the main outcome(s) of interest for your study. You are really discussing your dependent variable here, but do not call it your dependent variable. You won’t use the terms dependent/independent variables until the Methods section.

(1-2 paragraphs)

_____Transition sentence that links the paragraphs describing the outcome of interest to paragraphs about factors that may affect that outcome.

_____Discuss some of the factors that you propose to examine as having an effect on the main outcome(s) of interest for your study. Here you are really talking about the independent variables. Again, don’t use the terms dependent/independent variables until the Methods section, just discuss the factors you think you will find have an effect and briefly state why you conclude they will affect your dependent variable.

(1 paragraph)

_____State your research question. For example: The primary research question addressed in this study is, what factors influence the delinquent behavior of adopted youth?

_____Identify the overall purpose of your proposed research (e.g., exploration, description, explanation, or application), and explain why that’s the purpose.

_____Provide a little information about how you propose carrying out the research (e.g., quantitative or qualitative; who will the subjects be; units of analysis).

Literature Review

_____This section will roughly be about 3-4 pages.

_____Re-state the purpose of your research at the beginning of this section

Example: The purpose of this research is to determine the effects of prevention activities on gang-related homicides. This section will review the literature on gang violence and prevention activities.

_____At least 3 journal articles are discussed.

Do not start any sentence or paragraph by saying “The first article found… The second article stated…” That approach is called an article by article explication, and it is not traditionally accepted in scientific research. The preferred approach is instead a thematic literature review.

_____Insert a subheading (clearly distinguished from your major heading): Theoretical Perspective

_____Identify a criminological theory or theories that you think applies to your study, and discuss it in 1-2 paragraphs under the subheading. Be sure to cite the theorist and/or authors who used the theoretical perspective to research your topic.

_____Follow the formatting guidelines


Several studies have examined gang violence (Author, year; Author, year; Author, year). One study of 123 police departments used ordinary least squares regression analysis and determined that departments’ use of gang violence prevention methods such as working with local churches negatively affected the level of gang-related homicides (Author, year). Similarly, Author (year) found that gang violence is reduced when community organizations involve local citizens in violence reduction activities. *note, the aforementioned studies aren’t real*


Few studies examine school shootings systematically, although the Secret Service has examined several shooting incidents as case studies and determined there is no psychological profile for a typical school shooter (Vossekuil et al., 2002).

Research Methods

_____Re-state the research question for your project at the beginning of this section.

_____Subheadings: Data and Sample, Dependent Variable, Independent Variables, Hypotheses, Analytic Strategy

Data and Sample

_____Summarize in 1 paragraph how the data you will be analyzing will be obtained. (e.g., who will be sampled, how will the questionnaire be administered, how long is the survey, what is the anticipated response rate, if conducting a survey.

Dependent Variable

_____Identify the dependent variable for your study. There should be just one.

_____Include the exact wording of the survey question from which your dependent variable is derived. For example: The dependent variable that will be examined in this study is gangs financing themselves through street-level drug sales. Respondents had to answer yes or no to a question asking, “Do your gangs finance themselves through any of the following sources?” and street-level drug sales was one of the options.

Note: If your variable(s) are derived from a database rather than a survey, simply explain how data for the dependent variable(s) were collected and defined.

_____Explain how the dependent variable(s) are coded. (For example: Responses to this survey item were coded as 0=No, 1=Yes).

Note: Look at the codebook

_____State the level of measurement for the dependent variable.

Independent Variables

_____Identify the independent variables that will be included in your study. You must include at least 3 independent variables. You can include more.

_____Do not use the survey question number, or variable number in your descriptions

_____Include the exact wording of the survey question or explain the sources of data from which your independent variables are derived, and how they are defined.

_____Describe how each variable will be coded. What numbers correspond with the response categories?

_____ State the level of measurement for each independent variable.

_____Include a transition sentence explaining that your research will examine whether the independent variables you identified affect the dependent variable.


_____Begin with a transition sentence explaining that in this section hypotheses are identified that will be tested in the study.

_____Include a hypothesis for each independent variable, indicating what you think its relationship to the dependent variable will be.

_____After each hypothesis is stated, add a sentence or two explaining why you think that relationship will hold true. Provide citations for all statements that are not common knowledge.

_____Do not state opinions.

Analytic Strategy

_____Determine what strategy involving bivariate and/or multivariate analysis you propose using to analyze the data.

_____You are required to identify a bivariate analysis (e.g. cross-tabs with chi-square, t-test, correlations). Each IV must be analyzed in relation to the DV.

_____Proposed multivariate analysis (e.g., regression) is optional.


_____About 1-2 pages.

_____Provide a brief conclusion of what you expect to find as results if you were to actually conduct the research. You won’t actually know, for sure, as that is why we do research, but please at least identify what your initial tentative expectations are.

Discussion and Conclusion

These instructions are more general, and less specific than previous sections. You have some leeway to write in the way that you want to discuss your anticipated findings, and the importance of your research.

_____Discuss your expected findings.

_____What other factors might be affect the dependent variable that is not included in your proposed research?

_____What were the expected limitations of the data? What kinds of data would be more ideal to test your hypotheses?

_____What are the expected implications of your findings? (Think about practical implications for policymakers, law enforcement, teachers, doctors, etc.)

_____What should future research examine based on your expected findings? In other words, why is the topic still important? What other variables/relationships should be examined?

_____Provide a clear conclusion


This is back matter and not part of the page count. Please follow the examples in the APA Publication Manual.