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How to Write an Outstanding Research Paper on Criminal Justice


College and university courses of criminal justice are highly focused on developing your writing skills because they are essential for a successful career in this field. To produce an excellent research paper on criminal justice, you will need to follow both general and course-specific requirements.

  • Write in a formal style.
  • An informal or creative style may be appropriate for other subjects, but not for criminal justice, which is mostly set in official and bureaucratic contexts. Use language and constructions similar to those in government documents and law review articles. You need to demonstrate a perfect understanding of legal terminology, and the ability to use it correctly.

  • Take a stance.
  • Criminal justice is one of the disciplines that are “political” rather than exact. In this field, multiple opinions are possible on most issues. Books and articles by different authors may draw opposite conclusions from the same data. The two main reasons for these discrepancies are conflicting ideologies (conservative, liberal, or libertarian views of authors) and levels of analysis (macro or micro). Decide which side you find more persuasive, and argue for this view in your paper.

  • Use appropriate sources.
  • Your arguments should be based on empirical and statistical data. Derive it from books, journal articles, statistical reports, legislative histories, statutes, appellate cases, administrative regulations, government documents, laws, and treaties. Aim to include as many specifically legal sources (laws, statutes, or proceedings) as possible in your bibliography.

  • Maintain the distinction between criminal justice and criminology.
  • These two fields of knowledge are often confused by students. Criminal justice deals with legal policies and practices, official decisions, administration, and leadership. Criminology has a narrower focus on causal theories, explanations of crime, and offender typology. Consider this distinction when choosing a topic for your research paper.

  • Find an underexplored topic.
  • It is hardly possible to discover a completely new and fresh research topic in criminal justice, but there are lots of questions that provoke controversial responses. Should there be capital punishment or not? How should the prison system be reformed to make it more effective? Look for bits of empirical evidence that cast new lights on this problem.

  • Create a strong introduction.
  • Assume that your readers do not know the facts you are building your argument on. They may actually not know much about it, even if they are your law professors; no professors can read every new piece of writing that is published in their fields of expertise. In your introduction, explain what you have discovered while doing your research and how it can help solve a pressing problem.

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