Learning Objectives Introduction Writing a Paper

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In memory of my mother, who always believed in me. —Caroline Ferree

To my husband, John, and my daughters, Emily and Audrey. —Heather Pfeifer




This workbook is designed specifically to help criminal justice students improve their research and writing skills. It can be used as a class text and as a reference guide for students to use outside of class. By using this workbook, students will learn how to find academic sources through library research, how to organize research material and use it to write a paper that follows APA Publication Manual (6th edition) rules, and how to create a reference list for a paper. This workbook will also help students prepare for entering the job market, by discussing how to write a professional résumé and cover letter, how to prepare PowerPoint presentations, and how to write a variety of professional reports.

To help students practice the different research and writing skills that are covered in this workbook, most of the units include handouts that they can refer to when working on a paper, as well as exercises that will help them to practice the skills that were introduced in that unit. In addition, each unit in the workbook includes fill-in-the-blank examples for students to answer. Finally, at the end of each unit there are blank pages on which the students can write notes.

For some students, this workbook will serve as the main text for a research and writing course that they must complete within their specific degree program. As such, there are handouts and class exercises included at the end of each unit. For other students, this workbook will be used as an ancillary to the main text. In this case, the instructor will incorporate one or more of the units from this workbook into his or her regular course content to teach specific research and writing skills (e.g., plagiarism, APA rules of citation). Because the instructor might teach only specific units, he or she will tell the students which handouts and which units to use.

An Instructor’s Manual (978-1-2841-2427-9) is available for adopting institutions and contains lectures corresponding to the chapters of the Student Workbook. Every lecture includes detailed lesson plans, Notes to the Instructor, PowerPoint presentations, in-class exercises with answers, and reference guides. Also contained in this in-depth teaching tool are a sample syllabus, grading rubrics, homework assignments with answers, and a midterm exam with answers.




Very few people enjoy writing. Organizing what you want to say and presenting it in a coherent manner that conveys to the reader what you mean is hard work. Writing well is extremely difficult, because it requires a lot of time and mental effort, as well as an ability to view one’s own work critically. I have written many manuscripts in my 20-plus years in academe, and I can promise you that I never sat down at my computer and said, “Boy, I sure am looking forward to spending the next two (or four or eight) hours writing! I’d much rather be writing than playing basketball or watching television or eating or cleaning the bathroom.”

But just as cleaning the bathroom is something that must be done, writing is a task that college students and criminal justice professionals must do. Everyone has to write, because writing is one of the primary ways by which we communicate with each other. Writing is especially important in large organizations, where it is not possible to simply speak to everyone who needs to hear what you have to say. Students must be able to communicate with their professors in order to demonstrate that they have mastered a subject. Police officers have to write accident reports and warrant applications. Probation and parole officers have to write reports. Lawyers must write briefs.

Writing well is an essential skill in the professional world, including criminal justice. So how does one become a good writer? The same way a person becomes a great guitar player: practice, practice, and more practice. This means writing, rewriting, receiving feedback, and revising what you have written based on this feedback. Your professors do not make you write because they enjoy reading what you write. (If you think writing is hard, you should try editing someone else’s writing!) However, professors continue to give students writing assignments, so there must be a reason, assuming it is not their desire to suffer and see you suffer. The reason is that they recognize that good writers are not born with that talent; they acquire it. To be a good writer, you must write and write and write some more. You must have your writing evaluated by others so you can see what you are doing well and what you are not doing well.

Which brings us to this wonderful little book you hold in your hands. It has no doubt been assigned as reading for a class in criminal justice, perhaps a “writing intensive” class or “senior seminar” class that emphasizes writing. When you picked it up from the shelf at the bookstore, you might have thought to yourself, “Jeepers, I am a criminal justice major—I understand the need to read books that deal with one of the aspects of the criminal justice system, but a book about writing? Oh, boy.” Well, before you set it aside, I encourage you to examine the table of contents and give some thought to what I have to say in this Foreword. There is much that you can learn in these 300 or so pages that will help you both in college and in your career.

If you are skeptical about what I have to say, ask the next criminal justice professional you encounter whether writing matters. I have had many criminal justice professionals (including police officers, probation and parole officers, correctional officers, and lawyers) speak to my classes over the years, and I always ask them what is the most important skill that a person entering their profession needs. They invariably mention the ability to communicate, both orally and in writing. So it is not just your professors (whom you, perhaps mistakenly, assume enjoy writing) who will tell you that writing is an essential skill; those who are out working in the “real world” will tell you the same thing.

Use this book to become a better writer. Everything you need to improve your writing—in your criminal justice classes and beyond—is here. And know that if you work at it, you will become a better writer. Becoming a better writer is not easy, but it is possible if you are willing to put in the time. And remember, there are real, tangible benefits to taking the time to work on improving your writing. Good writers get better grades on papers, and they receive better grade point averages. Good writers get noticed by their superiors in criminal justice agencies, and they are rewarded with promotions. Writing matters.

Craig Hemmens, JD, PhD Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, Washington State University Craig Hemmens is Chair and Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology at Washington State University. He holds a JD from North Carolina Central University School of Law and a PhD in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University. Professor Hemmens has published 20 books and more than 200 articles and other writings on a variety of criminal-justicerelated topics—and Bruce Springsteen. He has served as editor of the Journal of Criminal Justice Education and as President of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.




I would like to thank Kim Wiklund for her endless patience, continuing support, and unwavering sense of humor throughout the course of the writing of this book. Her contributions were invaluable. I would also like to thank my coauthor, Heather, for asking me to help her grade student papers over a decade ago, which set into motion the creation of a research and writing class for criminal justice students and, ultimately, this manual.

— Caroline Ferree

I would like to thank my mentor, David Barlow, for helping me discover my love of teaching and encouraging me to write this manual. I would also like to thank my graduate assistant, Vickie Sneed, for assisting in pulling together the new material for the second edition. Most importantly, I would like to thank my coauthor, Caroline, for remaining in the trenches with me and helping bring this project to fruition.

— Heather Pfeifer

We would also like to thank the following individuals who reviewed the manuscript:

James Blair, South Texas College Bobby Craven, Bartow Criminal Justice Academy Jim Dudley, San Francisco State University Aric W. Dutelle, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Sara Ellen Kitchen, Chestnut Hill College Connie M. Koski, Longwood University Gina Robertiello, Felician University Kathy Sperry, PhD, Texas Technical University



Unit 1 Introduction


Learning Objectives Introduction Writing a Paper: An Overview

Academic Writing: General Rules The Importance of Good Content and Good Presentation

Library Research: An Overview The Research Paper: Primary Versus Secondary Research Academic (Scholarly) Sources Identifying Academic (Scholarly) Sources Nonacademic Sources Rules to Follow for Selecting Sources Suggested Databases for Library Research

Two Styles of Papers The Analytical Paper (Informative Paper)

Writing an Analytical Paper The Argumentative Paper (Persuasive Paper)

Narrowing the Scope of a Topic The Thesis Statement

How to Write a Thesis Statement The Problem Statement

How to Write a Problem Statement Writing a Policy Paper

Learning Objectives

At the end of this unit, students will be able to do the following:

State the general rules about academic writing. Identify academic sources and the databases in which to find them. Identify the differences between analytical (informative) and argumentative (persuasive) papers. Narrow the scope of an overly broad topic. Create a thesis statement for an argumentative (persuasive) paper. Write a problem statement for an argumentative (persuasive) paper. Identify the information to include when writing a policy paper.


Using the Student Workbook, you will learn how to write a paper in an academic style. Specifically, you will learn how to find academic sources through library research, organize the materials, and use proper grammar and mechanical rules to write a paper and reference list in accordance with the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), Sixth Edition. You will also learn how to write different types of professional correspondence, including a résumé, a cover letter, and professional email inquiries. In addition, you will learn tips on how to create a professional social media profile to help you be better prepared when you enter the job market. Finally, you will learn how to prepare a PowerPoint presentation, as well as several field reports, including a police report, a risk/needs assessment instrument, and a child protective services report.



Writing a Paper: An Overview

As a criminal justice student, you may be asked to write several different types of papers and prepare a variety of reports. When you complete these assignments, you must write in an academic style. How to write in an academic style will be covered in detail in Unit 5, “Mechanics of Writing: From the First Draft to the Final Paper,” but for now, here are a few general rules.

Academic Writing: General Rules

Academic writing is more formal than other writing styles.

Do not use contractions. Do not use slang. One example of slang is writing “kid” instead of “child.”

Example: Essay Question Group


Question1 of 1


Question 1

Write two examples of slang you should not use and the correct words you should use in their place.



Submit Check Answer Show Feedback Hide Feedback Retry Reveal Answer Next Question Print

Do not use flowery language; state things simply and clearly. One example of a sentence written using flowery language is, “The attorney’s closing argument was wonderfully eloquent and strong.” This should be written more simply as, “The attorney’s closing argument was strong.”

Example: Essay Question Group


Question1 of 1


Question 1

Write an example of flowery language and the correct (simple) way to write it.



Submit Check Answer Show Feedback Hide Feedback Retry Reveal Answer Next Question Print

Present all of the information in a neutral and objective tone; you must not include your personal opinions. Thus, you should not use “I,” “my,” “we,” “us,” or



“our.” Include only information that comes from academic sources, not from your own knowledge. Cite all of your sources in your paper in APA style, consistent with the Publication Manual (6th edition). You will learn how to do this in Unit 8, “Citing in the Text in APA Style.” Create a reference list, prepared in APA style, consistent with the Publication Manual (6th edition). It must include all of the sources you cite in your paper. You will learn how to do this in Unit 7, “Creating a Reference List in APA Style.”

The Importance of Good Content and Good Presentation

In addition to writing your paper in an academic style, you must also concentrate on the content and presentation of your writing. An effective paper must be strong in both. To understand what this means, imagine the two scenarios in the following example.


Scenario #1: You go to a wedding where there is a beautiful cake. It has fluffy, white frosting with lots of colorful flowers. It is perfectly shaped and looks spectacular. However, when you are given a piece to eat, it is dry and has no flavor. You are disappointed, because it looked so good that you thought it would taste equally great. Scenario #2: A little girl wants to make her mother a birthday cake. With the help of her father, she follows a recipe for a chocolate cake. She insists on frosting and decorating the cake herself. When she is finished, it is lopsided and the frosting is uneven. But it tastes delicious.

How do each of these scenarios compare with writing a paper that has both good content and good presentation? In the first scenario, the presentation is excellent, but the content is poor. This can describe a paper that is well written but that lacks content. For example, the grammar and mechanics might be correct, but it is missing important information or it contains only a superficial discussion of the topics.

In the second scenario, the presentation is poor, but the content is good. This can describe a paper that has the essential information (content) but has poor grammar or many mechanical errors. In this scenario, the paper might be hard to follow because the errors distract the reader from the content.

The bottom line is that neither of these papers is going to earn a good grade! A good paper must be strong in both content and presentation.

By using the Student Workbook, you will learn how to construct a paper that is strong in both content and presentation. You will also learn how to do library research to find the information you need to write your paper and to present that information in a well-organized, well-written manner that is consistent with the citation standards of the Publication Manual (6th edition).



Library Research: An Overview

One type of paper you may be asked to write is a research paper. Students are often confused about what this means. It is important that you understand what a research paper is so that you will know how to write one when you are assigned to do so. It is also important that you know how to conduct library research to find the best sources for your paper. This information will be covered in detail in Unit 2, “Criminal Justice Library Research” but we will discuss some general information about it here.

The Research Paper: Primary Versus Secondary Research

When you write a research paper, you will summarize and critique research that has been conducted by other people. In other words, you will formulate a thesis statement (which you will learn how to do later in this unit) and do library research to find published literature on your topic. You will then read and summarize that information. This is called secondary research. It is different from primary research, in which researchers collect and analyze data, make findings about it, and draw conclusions from it. Typically, scholars in the field write papers using primary research.

Note! For the purposes of this workbook, the terms “research” and “library research” mean the same thing.

Academic (Scholarly) Sources

When you do your library research for your paper, you should obtain your information only from academic sources unless your instructor tells you otherwise. An academic source is also known as a “scholarly source.” It is empirically based; that is, it is grounded in research and is not simply someone’s personal opinion. Moreover, an academic source is one that has been “peer reviewed” by experts in the field for its accuracy and quality. Some examples of academic sources are as follows:

Peer-reviewed journal articles. These are articles that have been “cleared” by scholars in the field before publication. For example, when an author sends an article to the editor of a journal to be published, that editor does not decide whether to publish it or not. Instead, he or she sends it out to several reviewers who read it, make comments, ask questions, and make publication recommendations. Sometimes the reviewers also recommend certain changes that should be made before it is published. The reviewers then send their reports to the editor, who contacts the author. These same steps are followed for the publication of grant proposals and research reports. Three examples of peer-reviewed journals are Justice Quarterly, Criminology, and Crime & Delinquency. Scholarly books. These are good resources because they often present a wide range of information on a topic written by experts in the field. A scholarly book can be a summary of multiple authors’ (or a single author’s) own research, or it can be a volume of related essays—similar to an anthology—written by several authors and compiled into a book by an editor(s).

To determine if a book is scholarly, read the preface or introduction to see if it lists the authors’ credentials (e.g., PhD) or affiliations with educational institutions or government agencies. If the authors’ credentials or affiliations are stated, it is probably a scholarly book.

Research reports published by government agencies. Two good sources for research reports are the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The BJS will likely have any crime-related statistic you require. Other good sources for research reports are state government agencies that have a publishing or research department, as well as independent social research agencies. Law review articles. Published by law schools, law review articles are a good source if your topic is law related. However, their scope is typically limited because their focus is exclusively on the law. White papers. A white paper presents an agency’s or organization’s social or political position on a particular issue. Its purpose is to educate the public on how and why the agency views the issue the way it does. White papers occasionally make recommendations on how an agency thinks an issue should be handled.

For example, in March 2011, the White House released a white paper that addressed the issue of the sale of counterfeit drugs through online pharmacies. This paper included recommendations on how Congress could help curb the problem by passing more stringent legislative penalties (Espinel, 2011).

Identifying Academic (Scholarly) Sources

Sometimes you will not know if a source is academic (scholarly). In such cases, there are certain things you can check to help you determine whether it is a scholarly source.

Names of authors. Scholarly sources have named authors. If an article is attributed to “Anonymous,” it is not scholarly. Length. A scholarly article is typically 5–30 pages long. If the article is very short (e.g., one page), it is not scholarly. Pictures. Scholarly articles typically do not have pictures. Reference list. Scholarly articles are research articles, and, as such, the authors must include a reference list of their sources. If an article does not have a reference list, it is not scholarly. Biographies. Scholarly journals often include author biographies. Nonacademic journals do not. Note, however, that you should not rely solely on this factor to determine whether the source is scholarly, because not all scholarly articles include biographies. Credentials (e.g., JD, PhD) after the authors’ names. As with biographies, scholarly journals often list author credentials; however, they do not always do so. Again, you should not rely solely on this factor to determine whether a source is scholarly.

Nonacademic Sources

Nonacademic sources do not require the same in-depth review process that academic sources do. In fact, some sources, such as Wikipedia, allow anyone to post an entry, and there is no oversight to check the accuracy and reliability of the information. Accordingly, you should not use any of the following to write your papers unless your instructor approves their use:

magazines (e.g., Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report); newspapers (e.g., New York Times, Washington Post); encyclopedias or Wikipedia; textbooks; or trade journals (e.g., Police Chief).

There are two exceptions to this list:

1. You can use encyclopedias specific to criminal justice or criminology, such as the Encyclopedia of Crime & Justice, the Encyclopedia of Criminology, and the Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. These academic resources provide overviews of specific topics that relate to crime and the criminal justice system, and using them may help you better understand your topic.

2. When you write an academic style paper, you can use a recent case profiled in the news to introduce your topic. For example, if you are writing a paper in which you argue that the death penalty should be abolished, you may use a recent newspaper article about an inmate who was freed from death row because new DNA evidence exonerated him. You could also use a magazine article that discusses problems that states have had with lethal injection executions. However, remember that this type of information comes from nonacademic sources. Therefore, check with your instructor first to ensure it is an appropriate source for you to use.

Rules to Follow for Selecting Sources

As you do your library research, there are several ways to ensure that you find the best sources for your paper.

Read abstracts. Abstracts give you a summary of the article or report, which will allow you to determine whether it is on point with your research question or thesis statement. Focus on current research. Criminal justice research is continuously evolving, so you should limit your research to the most current research available. A good rule of thumb is to find sources published within the past 10 years unless your instructor tells you otherwise. Focus on current statistics. When you write your paper, you should present the most recent statistics available that are related to your topic. Note, however, that in some instances, the most “recent” statistics are not very current. For example, there is approximately an 18-month lag in the annual criminal statistics published by the FBI (Uniform Crime Reports).



Keep it in the United States. Unless you are writing a paper on an international topic or are comparing a U.S. policy or practice with that of another country’s, you should use research that has been conducted only in the United States.

Suggested Databases for Library Research

When you conduct your library research, you should do so in criminal-justice-related databases and websites only, unless you instructor tells you otherwise. Students often use databases such as Wikipedia and search engines such as Google and Yahoo! to conduct their library research. However, there is little oversight of these websites and search engines, and entries may be made by anyone. Thus, most of the information contained in them is not academic and should not be used when you write your research paper.

A few good databases and websites that you can and should use include the following:

Criminal Justice Abstracts ProQuest Criminal Justice National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)

We will discuss in detail how to navigate these databases in Unit 2, “Criminal Justice Research.”

Note! Although there are many good criminal justice databases and websites to use for criminal justice research, do not limit yourself to these sites. Many criminal justice issues are multidisciplinary, and you can find criminal-justice-related research in the works of other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, and education. For example, if you are writing a paper on school violence, you could conduct a search in the education databases, such as Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), as well as in the criminal justice databases. Moreover, different disciplines approach topics from different angles and, therefore, may provide you with valuable information. If you do use databases from other disciplines, remember to use your checklist to determine whether the articles you have found are scholarly.



Two Styles of Papers

There are two styles of academic papers: the analytical paper (sometimes referred to as an informative paper) and the argumentative paper (sometimes referred to as a persuasive paper). The purpose of both types of papers is to educate the reader.

The Analytical Paper (Informative Paper)

An analytical paper is sometimes referred to as an informative paper because it informs the reader about a topic. In this section, we will refer to it as an “analytical” paper.

When you write an analytical paper, you will choose a topic, write a question about it that interests you, present a summary of the literature on that topic, and state a conclusion to your question. Importantly, when you write this style of paper, you will not just “regurgitate” the literature. Instead, you will critically assess it and, using that information, draw your conclusion. Moreover, you will not try to “persuade” your reader to adopt one point of view or another; you will merely present your information neutrally and then state your conclusion based upon the literature.

Writing an Analytical Paper

The first step in writing an analytical paper is to state your topic; this is usually done in the form of a question. For example, if you are interested in writing about drug courts, your question may be, “Do drug courts offer a viable alternative to incarceration for nonviolent offenders?”

After you have created your question, your next step will be to educate your reader about your topic. The best way to do this is to find (and use) academic sources that answer the following questions: Who? (or What?), Where?, When?, and Why?

Example: You are writing a paper about drug courts. Using information drawn from the literature, you could discuss what they are (definition), who they are designed to help, who is involved in the courts (e.g., attorneys, social workers), how they are incorporated into various states’ judicial systems, when they were created, and why they were created.

After you have educated your reader, your final step will be to write your conclusion. In it, you will answer your research question and state any future implications. When you do this, remember that you are writing your position. You should not try to sway your reader to adopt it.

Example: You have decided that drug courts are beneficial for drug offenders who have not been charged with violent crimes. You could write, “Drug courts are a viable alternative for nonviolent offenders. Therefore, more resources should be allocated to these programs so that offenders can receive treatment in the community rather than in jail.”

Note! When you write your conclusion, do not write, “I think that drug courts are a viable alternative to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.” The word “I” should not appear in your paper. Instead, simply write, “Drug courts are a viable alternative for nonviolent offenders.”

The Argumentative Paper (Persuasive Paper)

An argumentative paper is sometimes referred to as a persuasive paper because it attempts to persuade the reader to adopt the writer’s position on an issue. In this section, we will refer to it as an “argumentative” paper.

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