It is said in the syllabus that you are required to present a 8 to 10 page double space (Font 12) research project. The project is worth 15 points and represents 15% of your overall grade. It is an important project. The project will be written in a journal article format and will report the results of a survey research consistent with the knowledge gained in this course or based on other related knowledge. Pick up any journal article written according to the APA style, and see the format that is used, that is, the different sections of the journal, the font, the space between lines, the reference system, etc.
The project should follow the following structure, that is, every paper should contain the following 11 items:
(1) a cover page which contains the title of the project and the names of the authors as specified at the end of these instructions.
Each paper needs to have a title. In this case, the title could be one of the following, depending upon which one you choose:
“Examining the use of excessive force by law enforcement personnel during encounters with minority populations in the state of Texas, myth and/or reality.”
(2) a table of content
(3) an abstract. An abstract is a succinct description of the whole research project. It includes the purpose of the study, the methodology used (describing the procedure, the population, the sampling, the data source -in this case, it probably will be secondary data or data from Agencies- the analysis), the key findings and the implications or recommendations. All this should be said in less than 150 words (about a third to a half page).
(4) a clearly stated research question (what the researcher wants to investigate), the importance and relevance of the topic. In chapter 3 of the textbook we discussed this issue. In this case your research question should be related to the title.
(5) a complete literature review: you should put together a review of the literature related to the topic to be investigated. It means that you have to go to the library or go to the internet and read articles or books that have dealt with the topic you are investigating. The literature review helps you learn about what has been said by previous researchers on this topic, what were their findings, what were their successes or shortcomings (limitations), what new orientation they propose, so that you, as a junior researcher, can see what stone was left unturned, and you can fill that gap in your present or future study. Once you get a good idea or finding or discussion from those previous studies, you can include them in your study as an argument or counterargument in what you are doing. If you quote somebody or paraphrase someone else, you need to give a proper reference, that is, you have to give the credit where it belongs. Generally, every scholarly paper you read always starts with the literature review before going into the methodology and data analysis; this is a good model you must follow as you write your paper. We do this to avoid to re-invent the wheels: your work should lean on the work of others who have done similar research before you. Remember that a good literature review takes the shape of a reversed pyramid. That is, you start with a broad area, and you narrow it down to the point you like to focus your study on. What you would like to do here is to find the gaps or some of the good ideas that you can explore in your study to make it stand out. The gaps could be in the methodology, the sample, the sampling technique, the analysis or an aspect that the previous researcher completely overlooked. It is advisable to start with the most recent articles and to go backward in order to capture the most recent findings. For example, start with the articles written in 2019 and move back to those of 2018, then 2017, then 2016, then 2015, etc. You may easily have three or four pages here, as this is one of the most critical parts of this research project, and one that will take you more time to complete.
(6) hypotheses: after you have reviewed the literature you should state your hypotheses in relation with your research question. This is nothing else than what you would like to test (evaluate) with the data that you use. This is a statement of a relationship between two or more variables to be tested. The data will allow you to reject or retain the hypothesis. You may have one, two, three or more hypotheses, depending upon your interest and your data. Having one or two may be more manageable for this kind of time sensitive exercise. For example: There are more minority population in the Justice system in Texas than the white majority. Or, law enforcement personnel use more excessive force on minority populations than on white majority, etc…
Normally, after you examine the data you have collected, you should be able to see through the data whether or not there is good reason to believe these hypotheses.
(7) a method section explaining the population under investigation, the sampling method and procedure of data collection, the source of data used. This is an area where the researcher is the more creative. Are you going to use experimental designs or other types of data gathering strategies (survey, interview, participant observation…). For the purpose of this project, it is required that you use secondary data or data from Agency records (see Chapter 10 in the book).
N.B.: It is a type of academic dishonesty to use a paper or a research that was previously done for another class, or school (and for which a credit was claimed), as a research project for this class; or to use a paper written by others. What I want to see is how you apply the knowledge gained in this course to start something original.
Choose a sample wisely, that is, a sample that is appropriate for the types of data you want. Next is the question of how the sample is selected. Statisticians would recommend a random sample. If you use one like this, explain what sampling procedure you used (the book gives you different sampling techniques); if you did not, justify why the departure from randomness and how it will affect the generalizability of your findings. This is often one of the concerns reported in the limitations of the study. What you do here is to provide the reader with enough information for him or her to replicate whatever you have done; that is why, in writing this section, you should provide enough details.
(8) a statement of compliance with the regulation on the protection of human subjects. In chapter 2 we learned about how human subjects have been abused in research, and the precautions that are to be taken when one is engaged in a research involving human subjects. If you think that your investigation will cause some harm or embarrassment, discomfort to the respondent, then you need to seek the consent for their voluntary participation, and you have to submit a protocol to the Institutional Review Board (IRB). In the present case we do not have enough time to go through this IRB process and we are likely to use secondary data with no people’s names, so we mention that as a reason for not going through the IRB.
(9) data analysis procedure: Describe how your data will be input (it goes even to describe what software you will use –SPSS, SAS or Excel or others) and analyzed: what statistical procedure will be used. Normally, in this section, you tell the reader what procedure you will use (frequency, percentages, t-test, regression, correlation, ANOVA, etc), and why it is the appropriate procedure. Since most of you are not yet fluent in statistical analysis, you will be fine if you perform the basic descriptive statistics, such as frequency tables, means comparisons, contingency tables, or the likes whatever you can afford thru Excel or SPSS.
(10) a results section: you report the results of your analysis as they appear in your computer printout. They can be in narrative or tabular form followed with a narrative explaining the table.
(11) discussion, implications, limitations and recommendations. Here is where you explain the result you obtained, whether or not they are significant in relation with your hypotheses – whether or not you have enough confidence to retain or reject your hypotheses. The analogy is that of a spin doctor, who tries to give his or her interpretation of the findings. You also will show here if your findings confirm or not (are consistent with) the findings by others that you reviewed in the literature. You can use sources from your literature review section or some additional sources to support your arguments.
Talk about the implications of your findings, and the limitations of your study – these could be due to your sampling, your data source or your analysis. Finally, what do you recommend that society should do or future researchers should do in the light of your findings? This can be increasing the sample size, diversifying the sample, trying the study with a different population, using different data analysis technique, changing the existing policies or proposing new policies, etc.
Just remember that the American Psychological Association (APA) style is required for writing all papers in the area of criminal justice and criminology. It is important for you to review the manual to see how the other sections of the research paper are presented. Remember, too, that if your research is well conducted and well presented it could be sent to a journal for publication. You could obtain a copy of the Publication Manual for the American Psychological Association, (the 6th edition) or review its content as needed in the Library.
About the American Psychological Association (APA) style
There are many styles used to make reference; the biomedical style, the sociological style, the American Psychological Association (APA) style, just to name a few. The Department of Administration of Justice has adopted the APA style in all of their written works. We all, students and teachers, need to know how to use it. And take it from me: I am not inventing it, or making it unnecessarily burdensome (or being too picky or meticulous about it); it is a guide by which we all have to abide. If you do it your own way, the publisher will reject it or will pressure you to get it right. There is only one correct way to do it, not two; just follow the manual carefully as it explains, and gives example for, each case.
To get acquainted to the process, you need to read a couple of well-written scholarly papers and see how the literature review section is presented, and have an idea of how many sources have been cited. I do not expect you to cite as many, but your literature reference should not have fewer than ten sources. Obviously more is better.
Each time a source is cited in the body of the report, there must be a reference item on it in the reference page. Remember: no name or source shall be in the reference page that was not cited in the body of the report, as much as no name or source shall be in the body of the report that is not listed in the reference page. The APA style recommends that you cite the last name of the author(s) in the body of the report plus the year of the publication on the side of the citation, and the complete reference in the reference page in the back of the report. It should include the last name, the first and middle initials, the year of the publication, the title of the article, the journal title, the volume, the issue number, and the pages. For a book, the reference should include the last name, the first and middle initials, the year of the publication, the title of the book, the publisher, the place of publication, the edition number, the page, etc.
To know all the details, you must read the relevant pages of the APA manual, the 6th edition. It is this last edition that we all must follow. Don’t go back to the previous editions as things keep changing from one edition to the next. The latest edition always overrides the previous ones. Please take time to read the relevant pages: this is not a waste of time. Many students do not take time to learn those details and end up with a sloppy job. When you present your paper, the strict respect of the APA style is the first thing I pay attention to.
For example, in the 6th edition of the APA manual, you may read specific pages for a complete understanding of the APA style. You should be able to see how the reference in the text (body of the report) is made, whether it is by one single author or by multiple authors, groups of authors, no authors, authors with the same surname, etc. When you use direct quotes, show the page number from which the quote was taken. I generally recommend that you keep direct quotes to the minimum; do not make abusive use of them unless there is no other way to express the idea. For the exercise is to lead you to write well in your own words by paraphrasing, instead juxtaposing other people’s idea word by word. Paraphrasing is also a way for you to show the reader that you are competent enough in the field to understand, and/or interpret, and express it in your own words what the author has written.
There is also a section that tells you how the reference list should be presented. Pay attention to the indentation (first line of the reference item), the last name first, the coma, then the space between the last and the first initial and middle initial, then the ampersand (“&”) instead of the (“and”), the year in parentheses, the dot, the title of the article (in lower case but the first letter), the title of the journal (in italics, initial letter of the word capitalized) followed by a coma, the volume of the journal (italicized), the issue number (not italicized) in parentheses aside the volume, if available, the page number, etc.
See also similar detailed instructions for books and other sources, including electronic sources. Present your list of reference alphabetically according to the last name of the author, then first name, etc. Articles from the same author are arranged by year of publication, the earlier year first, etc. You will see also a section on how to make reference for Articles in an Internet-only journal.
I know this is a tedious job but one that you all must become familiar with; there is no other way around. Take that pain now; it will make your work much easier later.
Practical Concerns and General Remarks about the Paper Submission.
1. Have a cover page which includes:
Title of the Assignment: Research Project
Topic: Title of the Project
Submitted by: Your name (or the name of each member in the group)(*)
To: Name of your Instructor
Course Name and Number:
Term: Fall I 2019