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SOC 488 Capstone: "Case Studies in Criminal Justice"

A research guide to support research by students of Dr. Corey Colyer's Spring 2023 capstone course.

Encyclopedias & Handbooks

You can also check for background information in dictionaries, handbooks and encyclopedias

Starting Your Research

Step 1: Brainstorm Your Topic

Brainstorming your topic is the start of any research process. This is when you're trying to figure out what topic you're interested in and see what kind of information is out there about it.

Background Information

Background information can help you prepare for further research by explaining all the issues related to your topic, especially when you're investigating a field that's unfamiliar to you. Getting more background information on a topic enables you to:

  • Brainstorm your topic
  • Collect keywords or important terms, concepts and author names to use when searching databases
  • Start thinking in broad terms, then narrow down your topic. 
    • Remember: Finding more specific aspects of your topic that you want to investigate is essential for getting a more manageable results list when searching. Less, but more relevant, information is key.
  • Develop a manageable research question—that is, a question that you would like answered about broad topic.

The following resources are great places to get the background research necessary for later steps in the research process:

Step 2: Develop Your Research Question

When starting your research, it is important to develop a research question to keep your searches structured and to keep the scope of the resources you find relevant. A research question is a question that you would like answered about broad topic.

Things to consider:

  • What questions do you want to answer? Are these questions new and innovative?
  • What audiences do you want to reach and how do you want them to be influenced?
  • What is the purpose of the research you want to use to test your hypothesis?

Step 3: Define Your Search Strategy

Keywords are phrases or terms that search engines use to find resources by matching search terms entered to indexed terms in the record. Build your keywords by pulling out the main points of your research questions and by developing additional terms that describe the articles you are hoping to find.

Developing your Topic