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Assignment | Criminology Final Project (Johnson): Getting Started

CRIJ 1307 | Prof. Jermaine Johnson (Fall 2021)

Your Assignment

For your final project, pick a crime topic/issue from among those discussed in the course or something that interest you. Be sure to go into depth about your topic. Your topic should be manageable enough so that you can read all of the major articles pertaining to.

Your Goals:

  • Narrow your topic to a manageable level
  • Identify and apply a criminological theory to your topic
  • Research! Locate the major articles for topic
  • Minimum 8-page [2,000 words] paper in APA style
  • Presentation

Example Mind Map Process

Start off with your overall central topic: in this example, we're starting with flooding. What comes to mind? Major storms that have created flooding here (Allison, Harvey, Imelda), the recovery efforts (FEMA, flood insurance, mold remediation), the possible causes (climate change, land development)...

You're trying to accumulate lots of ideas at this point! Big picture. Make connections, and write whatever comes to mind. When you start getting stuck, turn to Google, Credo Reference, and Wikipedia to get more ideas.

Once you've filled out the map of your topic a bit, look at where you have the most ideas: this is probably the strongest aspect of your topic, and what you should focus your research on.

All those other ideas? We're not going to use them. We want to deeply explore one narrow aspect of the big topic, not try to talk about everything to do with the big topic ever. (That's the job of probably a multi-volume book, not a short essay!)

It's important to still go through this process, though, even if we aren't using most of the ideas, because a) we have to see all this to figure out which thing we're targeting, and b) it still gives us context for how we actually understand the overall topic -- everything is connected! Plus, if we decide we hate our chosen topic, we can come back to drawing board and go another direction easily.

This end result of our mind map is the research topic we'd look into further for the paper: how construction practices affect natural drainage systems and how this could improve Houston's drainage. This is what we research! Based on these ideas, and a bit on our research, we'll figure out questions to ask in that vein (which our research will provide answers for).

Digital Mind Maps

Visualize how your ideas relate to each other, either on some scrap paper or digitally.

Developing a Search Strategy

Develop Your Search

Once you know your topic and your research question, you need to figure out how you're going to find more in-depth information.

First, pick out the key terms from your research question: 

What effects on the education system does racial discrimination have?

Next, you'll want to brainstorm some related and alternate terms for these keywords to give you some variability in your search strategies.

 Effects Education Racial (Race) Discrimination
Impact Public schools Ethnicity Prejudice
Results Charter schools Specific examples: black, Hispanic, etc Bias
Graduation rates K-12/primary   Advantages/
Completion rates Secondary school   Inequity, inequality
Retention rates School funding   Affirmative action
Education gap Socioeconomic clusters in school zoning    


Topic, Research Question, Thesis

First, you develop and narrow down your topic -- the general idea of what you're going to be researching. From that, you need to develop your research question, i.e. what is the question you are attempting to answer by doing your research? This, in turn, will form the basis for your paper's thesis (your claim/argument/answer) which you'll explicitly state in your introduction.

From your central topic, you develop your research question(s) to investigate, and then finally develop a thesis statement which answers your chosen question.

Related Guides

Research Process

Research process steps, from narrowing your topic, developing your argument, and producing your drafts