When tasked with writing a criminal justice research paper, term paper, thesis, dissertation, or writing homework, it is important to find a topic that interests you as well as provides you with ample research opportunity. The following list of criminal justice research topics will aid your brainstorming, but do not feel obligated to choose one from this list or think it must be the only choice. There are many possible criminal justice research paper topics and options for writing papers in this area.
An important part of research paper writing is conducting your research via the library, online sources, and interviews. A good criminal justice paper should use resources that are scholarly in nature (i.e., peer-reviewed journals or scholarly books).
Finding good criminal justice topics for research paper
Wondering what are some good research topics for criminal justice? or What criminal justice topics do I choose to write my paper on?
The following list of criminal justice research topics is not exhaustive, but contains many ideas to get started. Each topic includes suggestions for further exploration and information about the criminal justice system problems. It can be helpful to use this list when brainstorming ideas before choosing a topic for your criminal justice paper.
This list could also prompt you to do more research in one area that interests you and/or to explore a different area that is less familiar to you or that provides support for your topic.
Further, the list of criminal justice research paper topic ideas includes issues about crime and crime statistics in addition to theories about causes of crime. It would be possible to write a simple report about any one of these topics or assign a research paper that might focus on one of them. However, most criminal justice term papers are more complex and will require research and analysis to provide a perspective or explanation.
Some of the following criminal justice research topics will focus on crime, while others could be related to theories about causes of crime (e.g., social disorganization theory). Keep in mind that you will need to rely on evidence and data.
These criminal justice research topics focus on both domestic and international issues. You might also be interested in narrowing your topic so that it focuses only on the United States.
Criminal justice system problems paper topics
Below is a list of criminal justice system problems paper topics for your research writing:
- Blacks are treated differently in the criminal justice system.
- China’s criminal punishment system is a failure.
- Death penalty does not work as a deterrent to crime.
- DNA evidence reform is needed for the U.S. criminal justice system to survive and grow into an ethical one that serves all of its citizens equally.
- Drug laws and policy is a form of social control.
- The Federal System, an outlier in the world of incarceration, is currently facing a crisis with its over reliance on incarceration as a means to achieve public safety.
- Hate crimes should be considered crimes against humanity.
- Human trafficking is terrorizing the U.S., and most Americans are unaware that it’s happening within their borders or that victims include American children.
- Immigration detention centers are “black holes” where human rights violations occur daily without accountability
- Mandatory minimum sentences don’t reduce crime and do cost states millions of dollars trying to keep up with prison costs
- Nonviolent offenders make up two thirds of our prison population. They can be better reached through diversion programs.
- Prison overcrowding is dangerous, inhumane and expensive.
- Reentry for criminal offenders has become more difficult due to the ever-increasing number of collateral sanctions.
- Sentencing children to life in prison without parole is cruel and unusual punishment under international human rights law.
- The privatization of prisons creates incentives that increase incarceration rates throughout the U.S. while limiting accountability mechanisms that protect our constitutional rights.
- Terrorism suspects should not be tried in military commissions because they are unconstitutional, illegal, unfair and ineffective, according to Human Rights Watch’s recent study on the status of US justice system.
- Underfunding state prisons leads to terrible conditions behind bars (violence, rape, murder) which eventually affects public safety
- United States presents itself as a champion of human rights, but it has failed to ratify the three most important human rights treaties
- War on drugs should be replaced with war on poverty and treatment for addiction.
- Youth in adult prisons face physical and sexual abuse while serving time for crimes committed as minors.
- Civil asset forfeiture reform is needed to stop police departments from systematically extorting poor people and minorities via seizures of their property, houses, cars, etc.
Criminal justice research methods topics
Below is a list of criminal justice research methods topics:
- Crime statistics research methods: crime rate, clearance rates, profiling.
- Evidence-based policing: broken windows theory, hot spots policing, community oriented policing
- community-oriented policing: D.A.R.E., DARE officers, problem-oriented policing (POP), COMPSTAT
- Theory of criminology: social disorganization theory, strain theory, differential association theory
- Victimology topics: victim precipitation theory, victim impact statement
- Police deviance topics: police abuse of authority cases and/or allegations, race and police misconduct issues a key element in law enforcement scandals.
Criminal justice argumentative research topics
Below is a list of criminal justice argumentative research topics. If you are an undergraduate with no real idea of what to write about then one of the criminal justice argumentative research paper topics below is bound to spark debate in your criminal justice class.
Remember that you can always use a standard format to structure your paper. This means using an intro paragraph, explaining the topic, giving some background information if necessary and finally overviewing the main points discussed in this article. Remember not every paper topic requires all five paragraphs so just stick to what suits your assignment best!
- The death penalty has no place in criminal justice systems
- Why would anyone object to solving crime through pre-trial detention? Should people accused of crimes against society be given bail?
- Juveniles should not be tried as adults due to the unfair penalties
- The police should have limited powers to stop and search members of the public
- Prisons need a serious overhaul, starting with better rehabilitation for inmates during incarceration
- If a criminal is not physically dangerous then they shouldn’t be in prison – it’s that simple!
- Prison riots are almost completely pointless, all they end up doing is hurting innocent people who work within the system
- Not guilty verdicts should carry smaller penalties than other sentences given by the court. Punishing an innocent person will never make the problem go away
- Criminals from lower socio-economic backgrounds want to commit crimes, whereas those from higher socio-economic backgrounds wouldn’t dream of breaking the law. This means it is pointless sending people from higher up the social ladder to jail
- The death penalty does not deter potential criminals from committing crimes
- There are too many pardons issued for serious offenses even though a case could easily be made against them
- Police officers should have discretion over who they give out traffic fines to as some motorists simply cannot afford a ticket
- Probation sentences do more harm than good, they don’t help reintegrate criminals into society and often lead to the same problem happening again
- Some crimes such as theft and minor assault should carry lesser penalties. These acts aren’t as bad as rape or murder so why should they always be treated in the same way?
- Everyone accused of a crime should have a jury trial no matter how small the issue is
- Prisoners who go on a rampage and attack guards or other inmates deserve all they get!
- A plea bargain system would be a great idea because it would cut down on court cases clogging up the legal process
- News stories about young defendants should not be printed in the media if they are likely to prejudice a jury
- The mental health system needs to stop locking away dangerous criminals who have committed serious offenses against other people
- It’s pointless giving fines to serial fare evaders or persistent traffic offenders because they just don’t care, it’s only when there is physical pain that these people will think twice
- Crime statistics should never be used by right wing parties as proof of lower crime rates since the neo-liberal political agenda has created social conditions which promote higher crime rates.
- The justice system is too lenient on white collar crimes which affect everyone but very harsh on street level crimes. This makes no sense!
- Why should violent sex offenders get off with lighter sentences just because their victims were prostitutes?
Criminal justice reform research topics
Here is a list of good criminal justice reform research topics for research papers, dissertations, and term papers:
- Whether or not to legalize drugs.
- Whether sentencing length should be increased or decreased for certain crimes.
- Whether or not there should be increased collaboration between federal and state governments when it comes to enforcing drug laws.
- Arguments for and against the death penalty.
- Whether privatized prisons will lead to more efficient justice systems.
- What programs could help prevent repeat offenses after people have served their sentences and been released from prison.
- Creating job training programs for individuals who cannot afford a college education but would like to work in various criminal justice fields, such as law enforcement and corrections.
- How police officers’ salaries should be calculated (by hour, by year, etc.).
- The role of military troops during riots that take place at protests or other types of civil unrest (i.e., during the recent riots in Ferguson, MO).
- Police department diversity.
- The role of community policing in preventing crime.
- The impact police body cameras will have on the criminal justice system (both good and bad).
- How law enforcement can better serve people with disabilities, POWs, or military veterans who may be suffering from PTSD or other mental health conditions that could prevent them from making sound decisions during arrests.
- Arguments for and against legalizing prostitution (this is especially important to research because many sex workers are forced into the profession under threat of violence or other means; if prostitution were legal, their work environment would potentially improve exponentially).
- Whether parole boards should take into consideration the age of an individual being released from prison when determining how much time that person has left on his/her sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
- The relationship between discrimination against minorities and police shootings of unarmed individuals in certain communities.
- Whether or not juveniles’ criminal records should be kept confidential after their sentences have been served, in order to help them get jobs and housing when they leave the juvenile justice system.
Quantitative criminal justice research topics
Here are good quantitative criminal justice research topics for research papers:
- What are the effects of mass media on crime?
- What is the relationship between low self-esteem and delinquency?
- Does gender make a difference in criminal behavior?
- How does the level of education affect juvenile delinquency?
- What is the relationship between drug and alcohol abuse and crime?
- Does prison rehabilitation work?
- What is the impact of unemployment on crime rates?
- How long should criminals be imprisoned for?
- Should life imprisonment without parole be used as a sentence for juveniles who commit homicide, rape, or robbery crimes such as carjacking and kidnapping under federal law (18 U.S.C 924(a)(2)?
- Does capital punishment reduce violent crime rates compared to non-capital punishment countries like Singapore and Japan?
Criminal justice research proposal topics
When writing a criminal justice research proposal, it is important to choose a topic that has not already been thoroughly researched. Proposing a new, original idea will make the proposal more interesting for readers and improve your chance of successfully getting funding or grants.
One key consideration in choosing a criminal justice research proposal topic is whether the proposed study would be ethical. For example, if you are studying crime victims, find out if their participation in the study could place them in danger or cause them further distress. Also talk with potential funders to make sure they are comfortable with your chosen topic before you write any proposals for criminal justice research paper topics.
The following list of criminal justice research topics includes ideas for student papers as well as studies performed by actual criminal justice researchers:
- How often are criminal cases dismissed due to lack of evidence?
- What is the average cost of solving a murder case?
- Do criminals consider ethical implications of their actions before committing crimes?
- How many people are stopped at airport security for suspicious behavior each year?
- Is there a relationship between how much money states spend on corrections and the number of murders committed in those states?
- Does mandatory arrest reduce domestic violence more than just having officers warn the perpetrator not to commit further violent acts?
- Are police likely to use deadly force against African Americans, Latinos, whites or Asians during traffic stops in the US?
- Who is more likely to file false claims against the police: juveniles, adults or seniors?
- Is there a correlation between how long someone goes to prison for and their risk of committing another crime?
- What is the cost of crime to local and national economies?
- How much did the US spend on immigration enforcement in 2013?
- What role does gender play in decisions about whether to use force against criminal suspects by law enforcement officers ?
- Do “stop and frisk” laws reduce gun violence?
- What impact do the sex offender registry and notification laws have on sex crimes that go unreported?
- How often are children implicated in violent acts committed by adults?
- Who commits more serious crimes: men or women?
- Are there more gun-related crimes in cities that have higher rates of poverty and unemployment?
- Does sex offender registration work to reduce sexual assaults?
- Is the death penalty a deterrent for defendants who face it if they are convicted of murder?
- How effective is punishment as a deterrent for crime?
- Who reoffends when released from prison early due to good behavior: violent offenders, drug offenders, property offenders or non-violent criminals?
- Do prisons provide inmates with vocational training that would benefit them in finding employment upon release?
- What is the cost per hour of keeping someone incarcerated in state prison compared to supervising them parole/probation/under house arrest?
- Do longer prison sentences reduce recidivism rates and, thus, the overall crime rate?
- Does solitary confinement cause or exacerbate mental illness?
Criminal justice research questions
Criminal justice research questions a major challenge for a criminal justice professional is to understand the way in which punishment and corrections are used as a response to criminal behavior. Entrenchment in the task of research can be compared to that in other spheres, for instance in art. On the whole one could say that research is the process of gaining new knowledge that can be used to solve problems. That is why criminal justice research questions are an important element for the practice of criminal justice. A list of some important topics for criminal justice research is discussed below.
- Occupational stress among police officers.
- Criminal justice research questions and issues related to women and criminal behavior.
- The process of the administration of criminal justice in the society.
- Criminal justice research on the process of socialization.
- The way in which different cultures relate to criminal behavior.
- Corrections in juvenile delinquency cases.
- The process of police corruption, its reasons and ways for its prevention.
- The effectiveness of boot camps as a means of corrections.
- Juvenile crime prevention methods.
- Research design in criminal justice systems.
- Issues related to civil rights in the system of correction and law enforcement agencies.
- The role of prisons, jails and correctional institutions in society.
- The effectiveness of using punishment for crime deterrence effect with special reference to capital punishment.
- Issues related to crime reporting by citizens including victimization surveys, reporting crimes against women etc.
- Criminal justice research questions on juvenile delinquency.
- Theories of criminal behavior.
- Research on the effectiveness of gun control laws and their impact on crime rates relating to violent crimes like homicide, robberies etc.
Criminal justice policy paper topics.
Here are some examples of topics for criminal justice policy paper:
- State v Federal Drug Enforcement Laws
- The use of “Hobson’s Choice” in plea bargaining and why it is often upheld by the United States Supreme Court
- The process and implications of changing a Legislatures Bill into a Law
- The need for increased privatization within our corrections system
- The reasons that there appears to be such a high percentage of African Americans in our nation’s prison system.
- An examination of the decision to extradite someone back to the country where they were convicted of a crime, to face charges once again
- The juvenile justice system and whether or not judges should have discretion in sentencing juveniles who commit crimes
- Marijuana decriminalization and legalization with regards to criminal justice
- Whether or not the use of an eye-in-the-sky is lawful
- A re-examination of mandatory minimum sentences.
Criminal justice capstone paper topics
When writing a criminal justice capstone paper, choosing a good capstone paper topic is crucial because this paper will be the culmination of all the years you have spent in school studying this subject. It is important to come up with a good criminal justice capstone paper topic that challenges your knowledge and abilities as well as helps you develop further in your career or future studies. A good criminal justice capstone paper topic should interest you and motivate you to conduct a lot of research on it, though not necessarily easy.
Here is a list of good criminal justice capstone paper topics to write about:
- Should police officers be allowed to use deadly force?
- Does the death penalty deter crime?
- Do police practices need to be reformed? If so, how do you think they should be reformed?
- Is torture justified in some cases?
- Do people convicted of crimes deserve to serve their sentence in prison or should they serve community service instead? Why?
- How can we achieve justice for victims of crime?
- What is the best way to reform the criminal justice system to ensure that it works properly and efficiently while still protecting civil liberties at all times?
- Should juveniles who have committed a serious crime be tried as adults in court and face stricter penalties than adult offenders would face for committing a similar crime? Why or why not.
- Do the penalties for crimes committed by adults and juveniles need to be reviewed? Why or why not?
- What are some of the unsolved problems in criminal justice today? How can they be resolved?
- Some people believe that police officers who use excessive force should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Others say that police officers must continue using deadly force when necessary because they know about criminals better than anyone else. Discuss both views in your paper and provide arguments in support of one view over another.
- Criminals are often repeat offenders, so many people think it’s pointless to try rehabilitating them in prison. You disagree with this view and you think rehabilitation efforts should be made in prisons through education, drug and alcohol treatment programs, and other types of programs. Discuss both views in your paper and provide arguments in support of one view over another.
- There is a lot of concern about prison overcrowding these days, which makes it very difficult for prisoners to be rehabilitated when they’re living in such close quarters with each other. What is the best way to address this problem?
- Many states are building more prisons hoping this will reduce crime rates because they believe that it’s the only way they can imprison all the criminals who need to be imprisoned without running out of space. Should we build more prisons or should we focus on keeping offenders out of prison by using alternatives like community service and electronic devices instead? Discuss both views in your paper and provide arguments in support of one view over another.
- In some cases, criminals are not charged with a crime even if they have been caught committing a crime. Should this be allowed? Why or why not?
Criminal justice administration research paper topics
These topics provide the opportunity to explore criminal justice issues and theories. Students can look at systems such as police work, corrections, courts and juvenile justice. They can be informative and persuasive pieces of writing for various courses. Below is a list of criminal justice administration research paper topics for students to explore:
- A Comparative Analysis of Police Misconduct Committed By Officers Of Various Ethnicities And The Impact On Minority Communities
- A Study of Crime Victims’ Testimony At Sentencing Hearings In Domestic Violence Cases As Compared To Other Violent Crimes
- An Examination and Analysis of the Use of Deadly Force in Police-Involved Shootings From 2000-2016 Within the U.S.A
- An Investigation into Death Penalty Laws in the United States and Whether Capital Punishment Serves as a Deterrent for Criminals
- Biased Policing: Is Racial Profiling Really A Thing? Can it be Proven? Should We Change How We Address This Practice?
- Can We Define What A Career Criminal Is, And Does That Definition Change Over Time
- Closer examination of the New York Police Department’s use of Stop & Frisk in high crime areas and the effect on crime rates
- Courtroom Communication: How Legal Language Segregates Minority Communities
- Examining Crime Victim Cooperation With Police Investigations As A Function Of The Availability Of Victim Assistance Programs
- Examination of Juvenile Placement Trends Among African American Males Ages 13-15 Within The State Of California From 1994 To 2014; Consideration Given To A Comparison By Ethnicity, Race, And Gender
- Examining Racial Disparities In Arrest Rates For Marijuana Possession From 2002 To 2012
- Exploring the ways in which the media affects the public’s perception of crime in America
- Investigating Police-Involved Shootings From 2000-2016 Within The United States Of America And An Analysis Of Deadly Force Initiated By Race, Gender, And Age Group
- Law Enforcement Training On Dealing With Cultural Diversity: Are There Any Shortcomings That May Cause Problems In Policing Minority Communities?
- Racial Disparities In Arrest Rates For Marijuana Possession From 2012 To 2019
- Reporting Crime: A Look At People Who Have Recovered Property vs. People Who Have Not Yet Recovered Property Due To Fear Of Being Victimized Again
- Sentencing Decisions in Houston, Texas: An Examination of the Relationship Between Race, Gender and Age in Determining Punishment for Drug Offenses
- The Effectiveness Of Restorative Justice Programs
- Capital Punishment – What Factors Affect Whether A Defendant Is Executed Or Given A Life Sentence?
- DNA Testing As An Effective Form Of Forensic Evidence
- Felony Murder Rule And Its Impact On Blacks Throughout America
- How Prison Conditions Differ From State To State; Addressing The Over Crowd
Criminal justice ethics research paper topics
The field of criminal justice research includes many aspects that are interesting to explore. Criminal justice ethics is one aspect that interests many people, especially because it deals with how the officer treated different elements in our society. If you are looking for a subject to write about in your dissertation or thesis paper on criminal justice, then this topic should help you narrow down your search criteria.
Here is a list of good criminal justice ethics research paper topics:
- The criminal justice system and its impact on minorities.
- Police officers’ view of the court system with respect to racial profiling issues.
- Ethics in police interrogation techniques.
- Dilemma faced by police officers with regards to obeying orders from their superiors versus following their own moral conscience.
- Factors that encourage or discourage honesty among police officers, such as promotions and salary increase.
- Definition of authority and how it pertains to the law enforcement officer’s job function.
- Legal boundaries for arrest and search and seizure: whether there is an excessive intrusion into suspects’ rights during arrest and detainment procedures.
- Police brutality: causes, factors, legal implications, etc.
- Police officers’ perception of criminal justice system and its fairness.
- Ethics of police informants.
- The impact of identification parades, which are usually conducted using lineups, on witnesses’ ability to accurately identify the offender.
- Public opinion about truth serum or polygraph tests being used to extract confessions from suspects who have not been found guilty by the court, but the police believe that they are indeed involved in a crime.
- Ethical implications of exploiting criminals as sources of information for intelligence purposes.
- Legal boundaries for surveillance work done by law enforcement agencies/officers.
- Relationship between ethics and technology within the field of criminology. E.g., how ethical it is for law enforcement officers to use social networking sites to extract information that can be used in their investigation.
- Limits of intervention when law enforcement officers need to deal with a criminal who is mentally ill/deranged and may pose threat to society.
- Job satisfaction among police officers: what makes them satisfied/dissatisfied with their job?
- Police corruption: causes, factors, legal implications, etc.
- Concept of discretion and its impact on the integrity of law enforcement officials’ decision making.
- Ethics and morality in the field of criminology: how it has changed over time; whether we should adhere to absolute moral values or seek practical application of ethical norms based on need and circumstances instead.
How to start a criminal justice research paper
Criminal justice research papers are not difficult to write. You just have to know how to go about it. This article provides an overview of the five most important steps involved in writing a successful criminal justice paper. As you read this information keep the following points in mind before you start writing a criminal justice research paper:
- Find a good topic. The most important step is developing a good topic for your research paper, so please read carefully through all five steps before beginning work on your criminal justice research project.
- Carry out research. When you begin working on your criminal defense research project, start by collecting material related to your topic at the library and on the Internet. NOTHING is more frustrating than being stuck with no good resources for some aspect of your project (no computer manuals like this one when you need them).
- Keep your research paper outline organized. Develop a system for keeping track of the books, articles, websites and other materials you find to be useful when researching your topic. You may want to use color coded folders or binders. I have even seen people code their notes with different colors of highlighters. Do whatever works best for you.
- Start writing! Remember that it is much easier to develop good ideas when you are actually writing than it is when standing in front of a blank screen trying to get started. So just start typing . Your ideas will come if you write long enough, but they won’t if you keep putting off the actual task of writing because you are struggling with finding the perfect topic or developing a clever outline.
How to write a criminal justice research paper
A criminal justice research paper is a rather broad subject, and good criminal justice research papers can be written on almost any aspect of the criminal justice system. Before you begin, make certain your topic is narrow enough to be easily researched within the time frame (usually one week) allowed for your project. The more finite your essay topic (and especially if it has not been well publicized in other publications), the easier you will have collecting information related to it in the library or online.
Here are the steps of writing a criminal justice research paper:
Step 1: Developing a Good Topic
Your best chance for success in writing a successful criminal justice research paper is to select an interesting, well defined topic that interests you AND that will hold interest for anyone else reading your paper. Here are some tips on developing good topics:
- It is best to select a topic that uses an aspect of criminal justice, such as police procedure or jury selection, in a detailed but limited way.
- Keep your topic narrow enough so you can collect useful information from books and articles without spending all your time searching for sources.
- Do not select a vague or broad topic such as “Crime” or “Criminal Justice”.
Step 2: Outlining Your Research Paper Topic
Once you have selected your topic, the next step is to develop an outline for your paper. As with choosing a research paper topic, it is easiest if you can outline your paper’s materials before sitting down to write . An outline will help organize your thoughts and allow you to focus on collecting specific information. It will also be very useful when you begin writing because it helps ensure that all important aspects of your topic are covered in the paper. To create a research paper outline:
- Develop a list of questions or topics that need to be addressed in the body of your paper.
- Put your ideas into categories and create subtopics as necessary. You may find that your initial topic needs to be broken into smaller subtopics.
- Create a rough outline for each section . It is not necessary at this point to work out all the details or fill in all the blanks–nor would it be practical given that you will probably want to add information as you go along and adjust your argument accordingly. The most important part of an outline is the thesis statement.
- Make sure your outline encompasses everything you plan to address in the body of your paper.
- Check your outline for any gaps in your argument . Because everything should flow logically from one point to the next, you should only be left with statements that need further explanation or evidence.
It is okay if you find yourself moving things around and editing as you go along and finalizing your ideas (in fact, it is recommended). However, before sitting down to write, make sure your paper’s skeleton is well-formed.
Step 3: Writing the first draft
At this stage your research paper will begin to take shape as a finalized outline becomes a first draft of an actual paper. You will probably find that some sections are easier to write than others; depending on what sources were available, you may have more material for some areas than others. As long as you make an effort to include enough information for each section, it is possible that the final drafts of some sections will be longer than others–this is not a problem. The important thing is that your paper flows logically from one point to the next and that every major idea has been addressed.
Step 4: Revision.
Revise and edit until you are happy with what you have written. This is particularly important in the sections that address different areas of criminal justice policy because it will be difficult to demonstrate a clear, cohesive argument if one section does not logically lead into the next. As previously stated, the general strategy is to start from one point and work toward another so that each section builds on previous sections. However, this does not mean every sentence needs to directly reference the main topic; sometimes using an example or explanation can make ideas easier to understand even when they fall outside of the major “flow” (for instance: instead of simply discussing the justice system, you might reference policing policies and their effects on communities).
Step 5: Write the final draft
Type up the final version of your research paper. You can include additional information here if any major changes were made during the editing process (for instance: you could add new information that was discovered but did not fit into the original rough draft). At this stage, make sure everything is clear and follows the main argument throughout.
This is how you write a criminal justice research paper or term paper on any topic in 5 simple steps.