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CRJ/SOC/AAAS 473: Race, Crime, and Justice

Research Guide for CRJ/SOC/AAAS 473

Picking Your Topic IS Research

Once you've picked a research topic for your paper, it isn't set in stone. It's just an idea that you will test and develop through exploratory research. This exploratory research may guide you into modifying your original idea for a research topic. Watch this video for more info:

Strong Research Topics/Questions

A strong research topic/question covers a well-defined and well-studied area of research.

Strong research topics/questions are:

  • focused
  • clear and simple
  • manageable
  • consistent with assignment requirements
  • of interest to you

Developing Your Research Topics & Questions

A broad topic has literally thousands of articles on it, and you won't be able to adequately cover it in your paper. It will be far easier for you to research and write your paper if you develop a strong, focused research question or topic:

Do some exploratory research on your topic idea, in your course textbook, class notes, and Summon to identify specific issues, arguments, and analytical approaches in your research area and then identify possible relationships between them. 

Ask yourself questions about your topic idea. What concepts, issues, or other aspects of this topic interest you? What have people said about it? What gaps, contradictions, or concerns arise as you learn more about it? What relationships are there between different aspects of the topic?

Focus your topic: Use the information from your exploratory research to identify a few of the specific aspects that interest you and then use the questions you had about those to focus your research topic or question.

Choose a current topic: Your goal is to summarize and evaluate current findings of an area of research. Pick a research topic about which articles are continuing to be published. Avoid defunct or little-known areas of research. 

Write about what interests you: Professors want students to write about topics that they care about. If you're interested in the topic, it will be more fun for you to write your paper and probably more fun for your professor to read it, too.

Ask Dr. Early for feedback on your research topic or question.


General topic: African Americans

Do some preliminary research: I look through my course textbook to learn more about African Americans and to identify specific issues I may be interested in researching

Focus your topic: I write down what interests me about my topic as I learn more about it, then use these to focus my research question:

  • specific issues like suicide or homicide rates
  • specific causes like mental health problems or neighbourhood violence
  • specific factors like religion or socioeconomic status

Research Question: Does religion in the African American community buffer against suicide?

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