Most of the assignments will mirror the actual writing needs of the professionals in the field of criminal justice.
A research paper in criminal justice requires the student to identify a topic or issue then to research what has been written about the topic or to explore the data that have been complied about the topic - that is, review the secondary sources. Primary sources could include interviews or surveys. In most cases, students will take a stand or angle on the topic and present an argument about it. Theories may be used to support the claim. For example, in policing courses, student might investigate whether officers from different racial and ethnic backgrounds make decisions differently. To obtain information, interviews and published materials would be critical. Or a student might investigate whether the focus of racial profiling shifted from African Americans to Muslims after September 11, 2001 or if black- white relations are inflamed by the shooting and killing of an African American youth by a white male neighborhood watch enthusiast. In corrections courses, students might study the suicide rate of inmates and how or if it is connected to time spent in solitary confinement. In fact, a student might expand that topic to explore what the practice of solitary confinement says about US law and society.
An assignment may ask students to “apply” a particular theory to a real or imagined case. The student is expected to describe details of the theory and how specific components correlate or parallel a situation or a person’s behaviors. For example, a student may choose to describe “community policing” as it is generally understood and discuss it in his or her neighborhood as an effective program to deter a string of break-ins. That paper would specify how the author and various neighbors were effected or involved; what their role was and what actions they took responsibility for. Data to indicate the decrease in crime rates relative to break-ins would also be included. The usefulness of community policing would, likely, be endorsed.
Argument or Position Papers:
Argumentative papers depend on the author’s presentation of two sides of an issue AND his/ her position on that issue. The author does not simply state a personal opinion; he “arrives” at his conclusions after careful weighing of the two sides. Both sides are presented in a balance manner, but the author “sides” with one as he explains his perceived deficits in the other. Cases and theories may support her opinion AS she argues in favor of one side of the issue at hand.
For example, a student interested in women in prison, may research the consequences of incarceration on the women’s families, especially their children. The student may discover data that reveals higher rates of depression, substance abuse, academic failure of these children and be led to a thesis that advocates for closer monitoring and support of the school-aged children of incarcerated women.