Please read this handout carefully. This assignment requires you to carefully develop a research plan that examines the research question you choose in the field of criminology and criminal justice. The nature of the research topic may be associated with several options of the research design. You may want to select a research design that best suits your question and that maximizes the various aspects of validity and reliability as discussed in class. Note that you are not required to physically carry out this research proposal. When you finish writing the proposal, your work is done for this assignment. The research proposal should include the following sections: I. Introduction (1 or 2 paragraphs) (5% of the grade) You should begin by posing a research question and giving an introduction of why this question is important to the proposed study. For example, depending on the topic, you may discuss how the findings of the study will help us understand crime-related problems or institutional practices. You may also address whether the findings will promote a change in public policy. Still, you can talk about how the findings will improve community safety or promote fairness. Briefly discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal. II. Literature Review (1-2 paragraphs) (20% of the grade) In this section, you must conduct a literature review of scholarly journal articles that have addressed your research question over the past twenty years. Find 3 sources (which cannot be the same as those for the journal article review assignment and those for required reading material) to review that contain research methods discussed in our class. Provide an appropriate amount of discussion about the three sources. Write this section concisely and discuss only the information from the article that is directly related to your topic (primarily empirical findings of each article). Also very briefly discuss the theoretical framework used in these studies and use your own words to summarize their major research findings. You may also discuss their strengths and weaknesses. The articles you select must be scholarly work (e.g., journal articles) that use research methods discussed in our class. Articles from newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and government reports are not considered scholarly work. However, articles or chapters from an edited book with appropriate research methods similar to those discussed in our textbook are acceptable for this assignment. III. Methodology (3.5-4 pages) (60% of the grade) Because our course is designed for research methods rather than statistical applications, you are not required to analyze your data and present findings. However, you need to detail the method you will use for your project in this section and address ethical concerns in the next section. Your methodology section, depending on your research design, should generally include: a. the conceptualization of key terms included in the research question; b. one testable hypothesis and the justification of how the hypothesis relates to the theoretical framework and the existing literature in the previous section; c. the way of collecting data for the project (e.g., where do the data come from? Or where is research conducted?), the number of subjects, sampling methods, a discussion of external validity, and the desсrіption of your chosen research design; d. the desсrіption and operationalization of the independent variable(s) (IVs) and dependent variable (DV, only one for this assignment). Although special instructions are given for each type of 1 design (see below), you should determine, to the best of your knowledge, whether discussions of the above items are needed in the absence of such instructions. Note that you should not select evaluation research as your research design for this assignment. Select only ONE of the following designs for the assignment. Experimental/quasi-experimental methods: a. State the characteristics of your research subject, the number of subjects included in the project, and the method by which you select them. Discuss the external validity of the experiment and techniques that you can use to maximize this type of validity. Address the problem with the subjects’ reluctance to participate in the experiment. b. Explain how you will design your experiment. Be sure to explain which type of experimental design will be used, whether you will have control groups, whether you will have a pre-test, and whether random assignment will be used. Make sure you explain why you make these decisions and why they will make your research sound. c. Discuss what treatment will be administered and how it will be administered. Also discuss what the pre-test and the post-test will consist of. d. Identify the issues that would be arising in your experiment (e.g., rival threats to internal validity and reliability of variables) and discuss how you would minimize the biases introduced by these potential threats. Survey methods: a. Identify concepts that you need to measure. List five independent variable(s) (IVs) and one dependent variable. b. Operationalize your IVs and DV. Include five sample survey questions, with response categories, that you will use for the project. c. State what type of survey will be used and explain why you would like to use this type. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this type of survey. Discuss what your time frame is. d. Explain how you will select your respondents. What is your sampling design? How will you select the sample from the population? Are you using a probability or non-probability selection? Why? How many respondents will be in your sample? What response rate do you expect to get? What efforts will you make to maximize response rates? Content Analysis: a. State what type of content will be studied and how much of it you will analyze. Explain your sampling strategy (e.g., how exactly will you decide with “texts” to study, and how will you select these texts?). b. Specify at least three concepts that you will measure. Conceptualize these measures and specify which one is your dependent variable. Then operationalize your three concepts and indicate whether and how you will measure frequency, directionality, intensity, or special dimensions for each variable. c. Create a brief coding sheet that you could use to record your data. 2 d. Identify difficulties that you anticipate facing as you code your data. Discuss implications this has for the reliability and validity of your results. Existing/secondary data: a. Identify and briefly describe your data source(s). b. Specify how many years of data are available in the data source(s), and how many of these years you will include in your analysis. c. If information is available, specify how the data were collected. (If no information is given, please indicate this.) d. Describe concepts that you will need to measure. List at least five independent variables and their variable attributes that you will use from this source. List one dependent variable and its variable attributes that you will use from this source. Indicate how each of these variables is measured and conceptualized. e. Identify difficulties that you anticipate facing as you go about using existing data to answer your research question. Discuss implications this has for the reliability and validity of your results. Field research methods (participant-observation, interview, or focus groups): For participant observation: a. Describe the social setting(s) you will do your research in, the time of day you will conduct these observations, the length of time these observations last each time, and the length of time your entire observational period might last. b. Explain why this setting is an appropriate place to investigate your research question. Discuss your needs for observation and measurement. c. Given your research topic, discuss the possibility that you have trouble getting access to the social setting in which you want to do your participant observation and the steps that you will take to gain access. d. Discuss where you will fall on the complete participant to complete observer continuum. State what role you will have in the setting, how your presence in the setting might affect what you observe, how you will minimize the possibility that your presence in the setting will bias your observations because people will act differently than they normally do. e. Explain how you will gather your data (e.g., video tapping; speaking your notes into a recorder; taking photographs; take notes in the setting, when leaving the setting, or both.) For interviews or focus groups: a. Describe your respondents, the sampling strategy, the method of recruitment, the number of total respondents you plan to have, the number of people in a focus group, the number of focus groups you plan to have, and the approximate length of each interview that will last. b. Given your research topic, address the problem with the subjects’ reluctance to participate in your interview of focus groups. Provide some strategies for dealing with these difficulties. 3 c. Describe the places you will conduct the interviews or focus groups and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of conducting them in these locations? Specify steps you will take to ensure that both you and your respondents feel safe and at-ease in this setting. d. State your research questions for respondents and list the main constructs you will include in your interview guide. Design at least five interview questions that you will ask your respondents. At least one of these questions should specifically be about your main topic of interest (DV). e. Explain how you will gather your data (e.g., recording the interviews, taking notes during the interview/focus group, or doing both strategies). IV. Ethics (1-2 paragraphs) (8% of the grade) In the last section, you should discuss ethical concerns you might be faced with. Depending on the method you select, ethnical concerns may vary. Other requirements (7% of the grade): Your paper must be typed and double-spaced, with a standard Time New Roman, 12-pt font size and one- inch margin on each side. Number the pages of the paper. Spacing between paragraphs and between lines must be adjusted to 0-pt. Remove unnecessary spacing between lines. No title page or abstract should be used; instead, place a brief title of the research question on the first line of the first page, have your name on the second line, and begin your writing from the third line. Please strictly follow these formatting requirements. It must be at least 6 full pages in length. The reference page is not included in the page limitation. If information that you use comes from the idea or work other than your own, you must provide appropriate citations in the text and also on separate reference pages. You must correctly cite your sources (e.g., books and articles) based on an appropriate academic citation format. The APA citation style is preferred. Note that you should substantially paraphrase any information from the references and avoid copying it directly to your paper. You must complete this assignment individually, and the work has to be original. The research proposal is not a journal article review, but it always includes a section for the review of the literature (i.e., reviewing past research), which is the 2nd section you are required to write (called “literature review”), and it should occupy a small portion of your entire research proposal. The review of the three articles or sources you are required to find should be limited to 1-2 paragraphs in total and be discussed only in the “literature review” section.” The literature review section is simply to give the reader an idea of what research has been done on a topic similar to yours. You should address the most important points or findings discussed in each of the three sources. Never put the title of the article in the text. This is inconsistent with any citation style. 2) Sometimes you can use research in the 3 articles/sources to justify why you want to empirically examine the same topic. For example, those studies might conduct research or collect data in Tucson, AZ, Omaha, NE, and Colombia, SC, so you can argue that there is no research conducted in Buffalo, NY, and that is why you want to conduct research in this city. For another example, you may want to examine an outcome that involves judicial discretion. Maybe the studies you have found are all relevant to judges’ sentencing decisions, so then you can argue that you want to conduct research on judges’ bail decisions. 3) Then in the ″methodology″ section, you are not going to extensively discuss those three articles/sources again. You may use some information from them only when it is necessary and to the minimum and only when you use them to justify your use of independent variables, the dependent variable, a research design, sampling procedures, etc., if you do borrow the ideas from them. However, you basically need to propose your own research plan. The “methodology” section is all about your own plan. 4) Regardless of the research design you choose, every student must answer all 4 questions (a to d) at the bottom of p. 1 of the handout, including some sub-questions mentioned in each of them. These questions apply to every type of research design. Failure to answer those questions will result in a huge reduction of points. Depending on your research design, you should clearly hypothesize a specific location or place where you will get or collect the data, such as “Pittsburgh, PA,” “Queens County and Eric County, NY,” “SUNY Buffalo State,” “Boston Police Department, MA,” “Douglas County Court, NE,” etc. Also hypothesize the time period for the data that have been collected or the time frame for the survey or experiment to be conducted in the future, such as 2019, “2010-2016,” “from December 1, 2021 to January 15, 202w,” etc. Because this is just a proposal and you are not going to physically carry out the proposal, you do not need to worry about how far the distance will be or how long the period should/will be, but his sort of information simply must be part of a research proposal. 5) You should choose one of the research designs listed on pp. 2-4 of the handout and discuss all specific questions related to each of them. Note that if you decide to use experimental/quasi-experimental methods, you should select either the experimental design or the quasi-experimental design because they are not compatible with each other and you should discuss why (e.g., the major difference between experiments and 1 quasi-experiments. Be sure to state the specific type of quasi-experimental design if you do choose this method. 6) Every student’s proposal should have one or more independent variables (i.e., factors), depending on the specific questions under each research design on pp. 2-4. Every proposal should also have one (and only one) dependent variable (i.e., the outcome). 7) For survey methods and existing/secondary data, one of the questions is to list 5 independent variables. For your own research proposal, you are not to identify the 5 independent variables from each article/source, but you need to think about the 5 independent variables you want to use in your proposal. You can borrow ideas from those articles and see what independent variables might be relevant. One of these variables serves as your main independent variable of interest, which is from your research question. Then you need 4 more independent variables, Certainly, you can be creative and think about some by yourself without borrowing any from those articles. For example, assume that a research question is to see whether pretrial detention affects sentence severity. The main independent variable of interest is pretrial detention. Type of crime charged, criminal history, employment status, and gender may serve as the remaining 4 independent variables that likely affect sentence severity. In other words, we can use defendant and case characteristics as the independent variables. The dependent variable in this example is sentence severity. Please note that if you choose survey methods, the independent and dependent variables are derived from survey questions; thus, the 5 sample survey questions (Question b under survey methods) must correspond with your independent and dependent variables. The creation of response categories (e.g., the “multiple-choice” format, “yes/no” format, “how many” format, “how much” format, etc.) for a survey question also serves the purpose of operationalizing a variable simultaneously. 8) Based on the requirement of (d) at the bottom of p. 1 of the handout, every student must operationalize his/her independent and dependent variables. Operationalization means that you will make a variable (often being a concept) more specific and easily measurable for data analysis by creating a nominal (e.g., yes/no categories or multiple-choice categories without any order such as race and gender), ordinal (e.g., multiple-choice categories with order), interval (more like a ratio type but seldom being seen), or ratio (e.g., how many or mow much with 0 to mean “none”) variable (see Chapter 4, pp. 82-91 of the textbook). A variable attribute is the result of operationalization and is meant to indicate the categories, items, or types you want to include within a variable. The process from a variable to attributes is also called operationalization. For example, race is a variable, but White, Black, Asian, and Native American will be its attributes. Gender is a variable, but male and female will be its attributes. Income is a variable, but every amount of money earned and reported by a surveyee in 2020 is an attribute. Remember to make these categories mutually exclusive and exhaustive. If you are not sure about what is left, then create an “other” category to make the attributes exhaustive. 9) When operationalizing a variable, you are encouraged to be creative. There always are multiple ways. One way to get the attributes is to operationalize the variable as ″whether … or not.″ The attributes here are two categories: ″yes″ and ″no,″ because the word ″whether″ suggests a yes/no situation. The other common way is to 2 operationalize the variable based on “the number of …” or “the amount of ….” In addition to operationalization, you may need to conceptualize (or define) a concept if it is relatively broad. Some concepts may be clear enough, such as gender or education, so they do not really need the process of conceptualization and can often be used directly as variables. In this situation, a concept is just like a variable However, certain concepts, such as informal social control, attachment, excessive force, discretion, etc., are broad and therefore require conceptualization prior to operationalization. A number of students have sent me their research questions, and I have provided them with feedback about operationalization and conceptualization specifically based on their respective research questions. 10) Regarding ethics, be sure to check ethical concerns in Chapter 2. I have emphasized numerous times that this part is related to the ethical requirements a researcher (i.e., “you” in this research proposal) must abide by when designing research and collecting data. This part is not related to what police officers, judges, prosecutors, jurors, treatment program staff, and correctional officers have to do. The researcher has no control over police departments, courts, treatment programs, and the correctional administration. If you plan on using past records (i.e., existing/secondary data) and getting data from criminal justice agencies, meaning that you are not going to recruit subjects for surveys, experiments, or quasi-experiments, there still are some items in Chapter 2 that may apply, such as the level the IRB review that you should go through.
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