Thus, you will pick a topic that relates to an injustice or problem with the Canadian criminal justice system. For instance, while we have been learning about the operations and functions the criminal justice system throughout this course, we have also been learning about some of the problems with it such as:
· Systemic issues of racism and the police
· Police, mental health, high rates of suicide, and workplace harassment
· The special verdict of NCR and the impact on victim’s families
· Segregation in prisons (structured intervention units) and the impacts on prisoner’s mental health
· Violence inside prisons
· Drugs and contraband in prisons, including the use of drones
· Self-harm and suicide in prisons
· Mr. Big Stings, false confessions, and wrongful convictions
· Systemic discrimination and wrongful convictions
· Victim blaming
· The mass incarceration of Indigenous peoples in prisons
· The racialized nature of incarceration practices
· The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
· Racism embedded within the Canadian court structure
For your paper, you may want to look more closely at one of the issues we learned about in this course, such as one of the issues identified above, or you might want to choose something completely different. This is up to you.
Once you have selected a topic, begin by sketching out key ideas you are interested in. Then start your search. You will need to see what literature has been written on your topic. In order to find information on your issue, a good place to start is with the KPU Library Website.
Our Criminology Librarian here at KPU, Chris Burns, created a helpful video lesson titled “Welcome to the Library for CRIM Students.” She created this in order to provide you with an introduction to library’s resources. It is 20-minutes long and walks you through the Criminology research guide, and briefly shows the Law research guide, as well as the APA Citation Styleguide. It also emphasizes ways to get in touch with a librarian for help. Watch this video for a helpful guide on getting started.
Also, I know some professors do not recommend it, but simple “google” searches on your topic can also bring up good information to use. As a personal preference, I do recommend it, as I find it helpful, especially for finding recent news articles. However, you need to be mindful that you are not citing just any website for evidence or research. Along similar lines, you need to be mindful that you are not citing from a bogus website claiming to be “research,” but is not be research at all, but just opinions, or worse, a website run by hate groups or some type of site with a strong political agenda that is swaying data to fit with their propaganda. I suggest using “Google Scholar” if you want to look up scholarly research on google. However, when it comes to finding scholarly sources, using the library website is always best. Watch this video tutorial titled “How can I tell if my source is scholarly?” which explains how to identify scholarly resources.
How to Write a Criminal Justice Focused Research Paper: The Basics
Once you have identified some scholarly articles, start reading them and taking notes. Begin by trying to identify the major arguments being made. Take note of any themes. Also, think about the various articles, chapters, or books you have read and ask yourself if they are providing similar or different views on the topic. Once you have identified what the literature is telling you about the topic, and you feel you know this well, then start to question what you have read. This is your time to be critical. For instance, did you find some recent news stories that seem to contradict their findings? If you identified differing perspectives, conclusions, or competing evidence in the literature, point this out, and think about why this might be.
After you have your rough notes written down, I suggest you then start to form an outline. Many times, these rough notes turn into an outline as you jot key themes down. The central components to a university paper are usually introduction, body, and conclusion. Sometimes you will be asked to include additional sections as well. Such as with our paper assignment I have asked you to include “recommendations” after your conclusion.
You will want to use sub-titles throughout your paper. “Introduction,” “conclusion,” and “recommendations” are good to include as sub-titles in your paper, but you can also add to them. For instance, you might want to have something like this as your introductory subtitle: “Introduction to Wrongful Convictions in Canada” instead of just “Introduction.”
The introduction will be where you are setting your paper up. The introductory paragraph will begin with a solid statement that introduces the topic. You might want to begin with a statistic that highlights the urgency of an issue, a statement that shares a major concern in the literature, or a sentence which provides a thought-provoking line about research evidence, as examples. This first sentence is important, as it will be the first sentence that aims to draw the reader into wanting to read your paper. The introduction will establish the context for your paper. It will outline your main points and key argument, followed by preparing the reader for how you are going to be explaining your argument. This will be a roadmap for the reader. You want to tell them where the paper will be going, and what you plan on covering, and in what order.
The body of the paper forms the core. Throughout the body of your paper you will have 2 to 3 subtitles that will divide your research findings into themes. You will want to come up with a logical way to present the material you found. Usually here however, people will not use “body” as part of their sub-title, as after your introduction it is assumed that you are getting into the body of your paper. The sub-titles you choose for your body will be unique titles that you devise based on your research gathered. You will thematically group your research, and the subtitles will reflect these thematic groupings.
You will then state your conclusion, and again, like your introduction, your final subtitle will contain an indication that this is the final section, and here it is a good idea to include the words “Conclusion.” This signals to the reader that you will be summarizing and pulling together the main argument of your paper. In this conclusion you will re-state the main points of the paper, summarize the findings of your analysis, and provide your overall final reflections based on the big picture. Finishing your conclusion with a thought-proving statement can also make your paper more intriguing.
Finally, you will include a section on recommendations. Not all university papers will require a recommendations section, however when writing criminal justice focused papers this is not uncommon. This is because, when writing in the field of criminal justice, many times you are looking to see how the system can be improved or changed, so you want to leave the reader with suggestions for next steps. Notably, many scholars who write in the criminal justice field will sometimes be writing with policy makers in mind. Thus, they want to bring together the most up-to-date research on a criminal justice issue in order to provide advice on how to solve the problem. This might take the form of suggestions for policy changes, changes to legislation, or recommendations on creating new programs, or directing more resources to supporting current ones.
Forming Your Argument
In your paper you will ultimately be forming an argument or taking a stance on an issue. For this assignment you are arguing that there is a problem with the Canadian criminal justice system. Again, you will choose which problem you want to focus on for your paper. It is common in criminal justice writing to identify a problem in the criminal justice system, and then form your argument for why this is, based on evidence. For our paper, your “evidence” will be scholarly literature that you are gathering. Thus, this means that you are gathering scholarly research to form your argument. You will use this scholarly research as your evidence to back up your argument.
For instance, your argument might be that police services in Canada are structurally racist. If you were to just state this argument, yet provide no evidence to back it up, then you would not have a strong argument or paper. This is why you gather evidence to show your reader why this is true. This will be presented thematically in the body of your paper. You are proving to your reader that there is a problem with the Canadian criminal justice system, in this example, a structurally racist police system, and present the evidence in a logical way to make your point. Hence why it is also very important to use scholarly resources. Anyone can make an opinion, but if you do not have credible evidence to back up your argument, it will fall apart. This is also why you are cautioned not just to rely on news media or unsubstantiated websites to form an argument. This is not to say that some of these websites will not bring together relevant facts or good arguments. The website might have good points you resonate with, but it is your job as a criminal justice researcher to evaluate the credibility of your argument. Part of this will be gathering reliable research and data to form this argument. This is also why I mentioned earlier not to cite data from news media stories. Always go to the original sources of a research study, that way, you as a criminal justice researcher, can see the original study. Remember, as we learned in our media representations of crime class, news outlets many times have political agendas, so data can be presented very differently depending on which news website you are reading it from.
Objective vs. Subjective
When writing you want to try and be objective. This means you want to present your material in a way that is neutral, and based on research, evidence, statistics and facts. The opposite of this would subjective, which you want to avoid. Subjective writing is based on opinions, feelings or assumptions. Writing objectively makes your paper more reliable. Notably when writing in the field of criminal justice, you do not want to come off as biased, as then your recommendations will not be taken seriously.
In the field of criminal justice, one of the common citation styles used is APA. APA stands for the American Psychological Association. For this paper you will use APA style in-text citations as well as include a reference list using APA style. Watch this video tutorial titled “How to cite in APA style,” that explains how to cite using APA style.
As we learned in the video you will have both in-text citations, as well as your citations at the end of your paper in your reference list. The video showed you that for in-text citations you would put the following at the end of a sentence when citing (Fergusson, 2002). This would look something like this:
There is no connection between television violence and violent behaviour (Fergusson, 2002).
However, this can also be stated as follows:
According to Fergusson (2002), there is no connection between television violence and violent behaviour.
Or you can use other similar ways to start a sentence, such as:
As stated by Fergusson (2002)
Or if you are comparing two publications you can write something like this:
Similar to Fergusson (2002), Smith (1999) identified
Remember, that if you are quoting directly and using exact words, then you must put the sentence in quotes and include a page number. Such as:
“Violence is violence, and television is not a source” (Fergusson, 2002, p. 4).
However, be careful not to have too many quotes. Always try to write things in your own words. Too many quotes can be distracting. Usually you will only quote something if it is “quotable,” meaning that the way the author has written it cannot be said better in any other way. Or if you were to write it in another way, it might lose some of its impact, influence, or meaning.
Like with any university writing assignment, plagiarism is very important to avoid. You want to always make sure you are citing all work and ideas that are not your own. Watch the following video tutorial titled “Understanding Plagiarism,” that explains what plagiarism is and how best to avoid it. While watching, answer the following questions in your notes:
1) What is the foundation of academic integrity?
2) What is plagiarism?
3) Are all forms of plagiarism intentional?
4) Is unintentional plagiarism less serious?
5) What are the various forms of plagiarism?
6) How much should your work be changed when paraphrasing?
Research Paper Assignment Particulars
Papers are to be 5 pages total, double spaced, using Calibri font size 11. The 5 pages does not include your title page and bibliography, these are additional pages. Papers must stay within the 5-page guideline. Thus, they cannot be 4 or 6 pages. There will be a leeway of 6 double spaced lines (or one paragraph) over or under the 5-page guideline. The title page must include your full name, the date, the name of the course assignment, the course name and course code, and your instructor’s name. Margins must be the Microsoft Word default margins. Page numbers must also be included at the bottom right hand corner of each sheet. At least four scholarly resources must be used, including both books and journal articles, however, not including the required readings (though you are encouraged to use your readings in addition to the four other sources). You may also cite materials that are not scholarly—and there is no limit to how many documents you would like to cite.
The following should be used as a guide for your paper, and must include these four components:
1) Introduction: state the main goal and argument of your paper, provide a road map for the reader, and outline what this paper will cover and explain.
2) Body: identify key scholarly resources, provide an overview and summary of relevant scholarly literature, outline major patterns and themes identified in your sources, and provide a critical and in-depth analysis of the issue(s) based on research evidence.
3) Conclusion: re-state main points of the paper, and summarize the finding of your analysis.
4) Recommendations: leave the reader with final recommendations for change or guidelines for action.
Papers will be graded for insight, analytic skills, synthesis, inclusion and organization of relevant materials, proper APA citation, bibliographic references, and clarity of expression. Please proofread your paper to ensure there are no spelling, grammar, or typographical errors. Remember to proofread! Both form and content will be taken into consideration in the grading of this paper. The grading rubric for the research paper is as follows:
Research Paper Component
Topic concerns an injustice or problem regarding the Canadian criminal justice system
Five pages double spaced, MS word default margins, Calibri font size 11, complete title page, and page numbers
APA style in-text citation and reference list
Clear introduction with the main goal and argument of paper stated. A road map is provided for the reader, including an outline of what the paper will cover and explain.
Concise body identifying key scholarly resources; providing an overview and summary of relevant scholarly literature; an outline of major patterns and themes; and a critical and in-depth analysis of the issue(s) based on research evidence
Coinciding conclusions and recommendations, with main points summarized, and finishing with recommendations or guidelines for change or action
Critical reflection, insight, analytic skills, synthesis, inclusion and organization of relevant materials, and clarity of expression
Readability, flow, logic, spelling, and grammar
Last modified: Thursday, 23 July 2020, 1:33 PM
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