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Criminal Justice: Criminal Justice Home

This page provides research tools and information specifically for CRJ.

The Research Cycle

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Explore Your Topic

Topic - A need for information, a question, or a curiosity.

Start broadly and narrow as you go. When we start with a specific conclusion in mind, we tend to zoom in on information that agrees with our conclusion and ignore information that contradicts it. So it is usually better to think of a what-if question or maybe to look hard at a gap in information you may have noticed.

Explore and refine your topic here with background information from broad sources like encyclopedias and books. You'll also find materials-data here and news sources to spark curiosity.

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Develop & Refine

Clarify your question & turn it into a research question using reference sources

Broad resources like the ones you'll see on the Exploration page place your topic in the context of the broader discipline that you study, reveal useful search terms, and - best of all - stimulate questions that inspire your writing.

Important Considerations
  • The shorter the paper, the more specific the topic.
  • Is there a specific area within the broader topic that you're curious about or even irked by?
  • Is there a cause-effect relationship that you're curious about?
  • Look for unanswered questions.
  • Are there time periods or groups of people within the discipline that strike a chord for you?
  • If you think you've got a topic worth writing about, try to explain it informally to a friend. Are there gaps in what you know? Did any questions come up?

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Find Materials

Find materials that discuss your topic

Scholarly resources provide verifiable, solid information to inform and support your argument. It is probably best to compile more information than you think you'll need, because some of what you pick up will turn out to be less relevant than you hoped. You'll find these types of resources on the Books and the Articles pages.

Don't forget to grab the citations for the information you've found. It saves time and energy later.

If you can't seem to find enough material, it may be time to back up to step 1 (broaden your topic), 2 (consider why your topic is important to your discipline), or 3 (keep searching).

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Read & Evaluate

Read & evaluate what you've found

While you're reading, be sure to highlight, copy-and-paste, or otherwise compile the most pertinent information as relates to to your topic. In other words, pull out support material to build your argument. It's probably best to compile all this info in a fresh document because it sets up the next step and makes it easier.

Don't forget to note the sources alongside the points in this document because it saves time and energy during the documentation step (not pictured) later.

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Write & Document

Organize the Info You've Found, Your Ideas, What You Think It All Means, & Write!

If you've followed along so far, you should have a sandbox document full of paraphrases and direct quotes. Now it is time to sort those (already cited) facts & quotes into an argument or outline to guide and shape your writing. Sometimes a computer document is too big and messy. If so, try printing out your mess, cutting out the individual points, and spreading them out on a table.

Anyway, once you've arranged these points in a progression that makes sense to you, all that's left to do is to connect the dots with your own words.

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