The necessary first step in a project such as this is to select a topic to explore. You should pick a topic that you have some interest in, but more importantly, your topic should be one that has been well studied by criminologists. If you are unsure about a topic, take a look at an introductory criminal justice textbook. All the issues they discuss, from theory testing through alternatives to incarceration, are discussed in the context of the results of empirical studies. Also, you could go online to the library and look at the types of things written about in CJ academic journals. Penn State’s library system contains the full spectrum of criminal justice/social sciences journals, including those with full text. Any article not available online can be easily obtained through Penn State interlibrary loan.
Identify your research topic, and formulate your conceptual and concrete hypotheses.
Decide which crime and justice related topics are of interest to you. For example, if you are interested in policing, you may want to explore an issue in law enforcement operations or management. You do not have to come up with a unique idea (there aren’t too many of those left in criminal justice!), rather you want to identify a problem or issue that deserves examination. Start general and narrow your topic down.
For example, if you are interested in police response to gang violence, you could look at gang violence eradication tactics, gang resistance education programs run by police departments, or the effectiveness of organized crime task forces. When you believe you have identified a suitable topic, submit it to the instructor for review.