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⚖️ Chapter I. Criminology vs. Criminal Justice
Criminology. Criminal justice. The terms are often confused even by the people within the field. Nevertheless, criminal justice and criminology are two different spheres. Therefore, these terms are not interchangeable.
Criminology and criminal justice are indeed related. Say, you are pursuing career opportunities in either of the fields. Then, you need to be able to answer the question: what’s the difference between criminology and criminal justice?
To put it simply, criminology studies the anatomy of a crime. More specifically, it explores the causes, costs, and consequences of it. Criminal justice is different from criminology in the sphere it covers. It is the system established for dealing with crimes: the ways of detection, detention, prosecution, and punishment. In short, think of criminal justice as a part of law enforcement.
This chapter just touched on the differences between criminal justice and criminology. If you wish to learn more about the topic, go to chapters IV, and V. Now is the time to move on to criminology research topics!
🔬 Chapter II. 110 Criminology Research Topics & Ideas
Here are 100 criminology research topics ideas organized by themes.
👓 General Criminology Research Paper Topics
- Criminology as a social science.
- Criminology and its public policies.
- History of criminology.
🔪 Crime and Victimization in Criminology
- What crimes are typical for what ages?
- How does the type of crime correspond with the level of exerted aggression?
- What is the connection between citizenship (or lack thereof) and law violation?
- How does education (or lack thereof) correspond with crime level?
- Does employment (or lack thereof) correspond with law violation?
- What is the connection between family status and law violation?
- Does gender affect on the type of law violation?
- How does ownership of firearms correspond with law violation?
- Does immigrant status correlate with law violation?
- Is there a connection between mental health and law violation?
- Does the crime rate depend on the neighborhood?
- How does race correspond with the type of crime?
- Do religious beliefs correspond with law violation?
- How does social class correlate with crime rate?
- How does weather correspond with law violation?
📝 Topics on Criminology Theories
- Biological theories of crime: how do biological factors correspond with law violation?
- Classical criminology: the contemporary take on crime, economics, deterrence, and the rational choice perspective.
- Convict criminology: what do ex-convicts have to say on the subject?
- Criminal justice theories: punishment as a deterrent to crime.
- Critical criminology: debunking false ideas about crime and criminal justice.
- Cultural criminology: criminality as the product of culture.
- Cultural transmission theory: how criminal norms are transmitted in social interaction.
- Deterrence theory: how people don’t commit crimes out of fear of punishment.
- Rational choice theory: how crime doing is aligned with personal objectives of the perpetrator.
- Feminist Criminology: how the dominant crime theories exclude women.
- Labeling and symbolic interaction theories: how minorities and those deviating from social norms tend to be negatively labeled.
- Life course criminology: how life events affect the actions that humans perform.
- Psychological theories of crime: criminal behaviour through the lense of an individual’s personality.
- Routine activities theory: how normal everyday activities affect the tendency to commit a crime.
- Self-control theory: how the lack of individual self-control results in criminal behavior.
- Social construction of crime: crime doing as social response.
- Social control theory: how positive socialization corresponds with reduction of criminal violation.
- Social disorganization theory: how neighbourhood ecological characteristics correspond with crime rates.
- Social learning theory: how (non)criminal behavior can be acquired by observing and imitating others.
- Strain theories: how social structures within society pressure citizens to commit crime.
- Theoretical integration: how two theories are better than one.
📏 Criminology Research and Measurement Topics
- Citation content analysis (CCA): a framework for gaining knowledge from a variety of media.
- Crime classification systems: classification of crime according to the severity of punishment.
- Crime mapping as a way to map, visualize, and analyze crime incident patterns.
- Reports and statistics of crime: the estimated rate of crime over time. Public surveys.
- Drug abuse warning network (DAWN): predicting trends in drug misuse.
- Arrestee drug abuse monitoring (ADAM): drug use among arrestees.
- Edge ethnography: collecting data undercover in typically closed research settings and groups through rapport development or covert undercover strategy.
- Experimental criminology: experimental and quasi-experimental research in the advancement of criminological theory.
- Fieldwork in criminology: street ethnographers and their dilemmas in the field concerning process and outcomes.
- Program evaluation: collecting and analyzing information to assess the efficiency of projects, policies and programs.
- Quantitative criminology: how exploratory research questions, inductive reasoning, and an orientation to social context help recognize human subjectivity.
📑 Criminology Topics on Types of Crime
- Campus crime: the most common crimes on college campuses and ways of preventing them.
- Child abuse: types, prevalence, risk groups, ways of detection and prevention.
- Cybercrime: cyber fraud, defamation, hacking, bullying, phishing.
- Domestic violence: gender, ways of detection and prevention, activism.
- Elder abuse: types, prevalence, risk groups, ways of detection and prevention.
- Environmental crime. Natural resource theft: illegal trade in wildlife and timber, poaching, illegal fishing.
- Environmental crime. Illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances, hazardous waste; pollution of air, water, and soil.
- Environmental crime: local, regional, national, and transnational level.
- Environmental crime: climate change crime and corruption.
- Environmental crime: wildlife harming and exploitation.
- Hate crime: how prejudice motivates violence.
- Homicide: what motivates one person to kill another.
- Human trafficking: methods of deception, risk groups, ways of detection and prevention.
- Identity theft: methods, risk groups, ways of detection and prevention.
- Juvenile delinquency: risk groups, prevention policies, prosecution and punishment.
- Organizational crime: transnational, national, and local levels. Ways of disrupting the activity of a group.
- Prostitution: risk groups, different takes on prevention policies, activism.
- Robbery: risk groups, ways of prevention, prosecution and punishment.
- Sex offenses: risk groups, types, prevalence, ways of detection and prevention.
- Terrorism: individual and group activity, ways of detection and prevention.
- Theft and shoplifting: risk groups, ways of detection, prevention policies, prosecution and punishment.
- White-collar crime: types, ways of detection, prevention policies, prosecution and punishment.
🌚 Criminology Topics on Racism and Discrimination
- How systemic bias affects criminal justice?
- How discriminatory portrayal of minority groups in the media affects criminal justice?
- Racial profiling: targeting minority groups on the basis of race and ethnicity.
- Racial profiling: what are the cons? Are there any pros?
- How discriminatory is the UK Court System?
- How discriminatory is the US Court System?
🔫 Other Criminology Research Topics
- Corporate crime: the ruling class criminals.
- Genetics: illegal research and its dangers.
- Hate crime: the implications in criminal justice.
- Serial killers: risk groups, ways of detection and prevention.
- Serial killers: portrayal in media.
- Organized crime: how does it affect criminal justice?
- Crime prevention programs.
- Street lighting: does it reduce crime?
- Terrorism prevention technology.
- Identity theft: risk groups, ways of deception, prevention policies.
- Due process model: procedural and substantive aspects.
- Crime control in criminal justice administration.
- Types of drugs: how do they affect the users?
- Smart handheld devices: their function for security personnel.
- Social media: its impact on crime rate.
- Public health: how does criminal justice affect it?
- Psychometric examinations: what is their role in criminal justice?
- National defense in the US.
- National defense in the UK.
- Sexual harassment: the role of activism, ways of responding, prevention and prosecution.
- Substance abuse: military.
- Criminology and criminal justice jobs: a full list.
💂 Chapter III. 116 Criminal Justice Research Topics & Questions
Here are some of the most typical and interesting criminal justice issues to dazzle your professor.
- Prison system: the main problems and the hidden pitfalls.
- The question of gender: why are there more men who receive capital punishment than women?
- Kidnapping and ransom: common features, motifs, behavior patterns.
- Crime prevention: key principles.
- Firing a gun: what helps professionals understand whether it was deliberate or happened by accident?
- Cybercrime: the legal perspective.
- Internet vigilantism: revenge leaks.
- Hate crime on the Internet: revenge leaks, trolling, defamation.
- Crime and justice in mass media.
- Parental abduction laws.
- Sex offender registry: pros and cons.
- The deterrence theory and the theory of rational choice: are they relevant in the modern world?
- Sexual assault in schools and workplaces.
- Jury selection: how is it performed?
- Experimental criminology: the latest innovations.
- Wildlife crime: areas of prevalence, ways of prevention.
- Felony disenfranchisement laws: when do they apply?
- The relation between organized crime and corruption.
- Victim services: what help can a victim of a crime get?
- Prison rape and violence: the psychological aspect, ways of prevention.
- Juvenile recidivism: what are the risk groups?
- Forensic science: role and functions in modern criminal justice.
- Shoplifting: how to prevent theft?
- Witness Protection Program: who is eligible and how to protect them.
- Date rape: what are the ways for the victims to seek legal assistance?
- Substance abuse and crime: correlation or causation?
- Identity theft: dangers and consequences in the modern world.
- Online predators: what laws can be introduced to protect kids? Real-life examples.
- Civil and criminal cases: how to differentiate?
- Domestic abuse victims: what laws protect them?
- Elder abuse: what can be done to prevent it?
- The strain theory: the unachievable American dream.
- Ethics and criminal justice: the unethical sides of law enforcement.
- The top problems to be solved by law enforcement today.
- Information sharing technology: how has it helped in the fight against terrorism?
- Serial killers: types.
- Drug use and youth arrests.
- Aggressive behavior: how does it correlate with criminal tendencies?
- Community corrections: are they effective?
- Sentencing: how does it take place?
- Punishment types and the established terms.
- Unwarranted arrest: when is it acceptable?
- Human trafficking in the modern world.
- The role of technology in modern forensics.
- Similarities and differences between homicide, murder, and manslaughter.
- Types of offenders: classification.
- The role of crime mapping in modern criminal justice.
- Male crimes vs female crimes: are they different?
- Prisons: the problems of bad living conditions.
- Victimization: causes and ways of prevention.
- Rape victims: what are their rights?
- Problem-solving courts: what underlying problems do they address?
- Mandatory sentencing and the three-strike rule.
- Criminal courts: what can be learned from their history?
- Hate crimes: what motivates people to commit them?
- Youth gangs: what is their danger?
- Fieldwork: how is it done in criminology?
- Distributive justice: its place in criminal justice.
- Capital punishment: what can be learned from history?
- Criminals and prisoners’ rights.
- Campus crime: what laws and precautions are there against it?
- Criminal trial process: how does it go?
- Crimes committed on a religious basis: how are they punished?
- Fraud in the scientific field: how can copyright protect the discoveries of researchers?
- Prosecution laws: how are they applied in practice?
- The classification of crime systems.
- Cyberbullying and cyberstalking: what can parents do to protect their children?
- Forgery cases in educational institutions, offices, and governmental organizations.
- Drug courts: how do they work?
Want your work to be unconventional? Consider choosing one of the controversial topics. You will need to present a number of opposite points of view. Of course, it’s acceptable to choose and promote an opinion that you think stands the best. Just make sure to provide a thorough analysis of all of the viewpoints.
You can also stay impartial and let the reader make up their own mind on the subject. If you decide to support one of the viewpoints, your decision should be objective. Back it up with plenty of evidence, too. Here are some examples of controversial topics that you can explore.
- Reform vs. punishment: which one offers more benefits?
- Restorative justice model: is it the best criminal justice tool?
- The war on drugs: does it really solve the drug problem?
- Criminal insanity: is it a reason enough for exemption from liability?
- Juvenile justice system: should it be eliminated?
- Drug testing on the school ground.
- How to better gun control?
- Pornography: is it a type of sexual violence?
- Jack the Ripper: who was he?
- The modern justice system: is it racist?
- A false accusation: how can one protect themselves from it?
- Concealed weapons: what are the criminal codes of various states?
- Race and crime: is there a correlation?
- Registering sex offenders: should this information be in public records?
- Juvenile delinquency and bad parenting: is there a relation?
- Should all new employees be checked for a criminal background?
- Are delinquency cases higher among immigrant children?
- Restrictive housing: can it help decongest prisons?
- Homegrown crimes: is there an effective program against them?
- Eyewitness testimony: is it really helpful in an investigation?
- Youthful offenders in boot camps: is this strategy effective?
- Predictive policing: is it effective?
- Selective incapacitation: is it an effective policy for reducing crime?
- Social class and crime: is there a relation?
- Death penalty: is it effective in crime deterrence?
- Extradition law: is it fair?
- Devious interrogations: is deceit acceptable during investigations?
- Supermax prisons: are they effective or just cruel?
- Zero tolerance: is it the best policy for crime reduction?
- Marijuana decriminalization: pros and cons.
Now that you have looked through the full list of topics, choose wisely. Remember that sometimes it’s best to avoid sensitive topics. Other times, a clever choice of a topic will win you extra points. It doesn’t depend on just the tastes of your professor, of course. You should also take into account how much relevant information there is on the subject. Anyway, the choice of the topic of your research is up to you. Try to find the latest materials and conduct an in-depth analysis of them. Don’t forget to draw a satisfactory conclusion. Writing may take a lot of your time and energy, so plan ahead. Remember to stay hydrated and good luck!
🔦 Chapter IV. What Is Criminology?
Now, after we looked through the topic collections on criminology and criminal justice, it is time to turn to the specifics in each of the fields. First, let’s talk more extensively about criminology. If you are training to be a criminologist, you will study some things more deeply. They include the behavior patterns of criminals, their backgrounds, and the latest sociological trends in crime.
In the field of criminology, the specialties are numerous. That’s why it’s difficult to pinpoint one career that represents a typical member of the profession. It all depends on the background of a criminologist, their education, and experience.
A criminologist may have a number of responsibilities at their position. For example, they might be called forth to investigate a crime scene. Participation in autopsies is unpleasant yet necessary. Interrogation of suspects and subsequent criminal profiling is another essential duty.
Some professionals work solely in research. Others consult government agencies or private security companies. Courts and law firms also cooperate with criminologists. Their job is to provide expert opinion in criminal proceedings. Some of them work in the prison systems in order to oversee the rehabilitation of the convicted.
Regardless of the career specialty, most criminologists are working on profiling and data collection. A criminologist is another word for an analyst. They collect, study, and analyze data on crimes. After conducting the analysis, they provide recommendations and actionable information.
A criminologist seeks to find out the identity of the person who committed the crime. The time point of a crime is also important, as well as the reason for it. There are several areas covered by the analysis of a criminologist. The psychological behavior of the criminal or criminals is closely studied. The socio-economic indicators are taken into account. There are also, of course, the environmental factors that may have facilitated the crime.
Some high-profile cases require a criminologist to correspond with media and PR managers extensively. Sometimes criminologists write articles and even books about their findings. However, it should be noted that the daily routine of a professional in the field is not so glamorous. Most criminologists do their work alone, without the attention of the public.
The research a criminologist accumulates during their work is extensive. It doesn’t just sit there in a folder on their desk, of course. The collected statistics are used for developing active criminal profiles that are shared with law enforcement agencies. It helps to understand criminal behavior better and to predict it. That’s why a criminologist’s work must be precise and accurate for it to be practical and useful. Also, criminology professionals must have a good grasp of math and statistics.
Thinking of a career in criminology? You will need to, at the very least, graduate from college. There, you’ll master mathematics, statistics, and, of course, criminology. An associate’s degree may get you an entry-level position. But the minimum entry-level requirement is usually the bachelor’s degree. The best positions, though, are left for the professionals with a master’s degree or a PhD.
Just having a degree is not enough. To succeed as a criminologist, you will require all your intelligence, commitment, and the skill of analyzing intricate situations. An aspiration to better the society will go a long way. You will need to exercise your creative, written, and verbal communication skills, too. An analytical mind will land you at an advantage.
📊 Criminology: Research Areas
Times change and the world of crime never ceases to adapt. The nature of criminal transgression is evolving, and so do the ways of prosecution. Criminal detection, investigation, and prevention are constantly advancing. Criminology studies aim to improve the practices implemented in the field.
There are six unified, coordinated, and interrelated areas of expertise. Within each, the professionals are busy turning their mastery into knowledge and action.
The first research area is the newest worry of criminology – cybercrime. The impact of this type of crime is escalating with every passing day. That’s why it’s crucial for the law enforcement professionals to keep up to date with the evolving technology. Cybercrime research is exploring the growing threat of its subject at all levels of society. Cybercrime may impact people on both personal and governmental levels. Cybercrime research investigates the motivation and methodology behind the offenses and finds new ways to react.
The second research area is counter fraud. Crimes that fall under this category include fraud and corruption. The questions that counter fraud research deals with are many. How widely a crime is spread, what method is best to fight it, and the optimal courses of action to protect people and organizations.
The third research area is that of forensics. The contemporary face of justice has been changed by forensic science beyond recognition. Nowadays, it’s much harder for criminals to conceal their activity due to evolved technologies. The research in forensics is utilizing science in the identification of the crime and in its reconstruction. It employs such techniques as DNA recovery, fingerprinting, and forensic interviewing.
What is forensic interviewing? It helps find new ways to gather quality information from witnesses and crime scenes. It also works on developing protocols that ensure the protection of this human data and its correct interpretation by police.
The fourth research area is policing. Police service is facing a lot of pressing issues nowadays due to budget cuts. At the same time, police officers still need to learn, and there are also individual factors that may influence their work.
The fifth research area is penology. It’s tasked with exploring the role of punishment in the criminal justice system. Does punishment aid the rehabilitation of perpetrators, and to what extent? The answer will help link theory to practice and thus shape how criminal justice practitioners work.
The sixth research area is that of missing persons. Before a person goes missing, they may display a certain pattern of behavior. The study of missing persons helps to identify it. The results will determine the handling of such cases.
👮 Chapter V. What Is Criminal Justice?
Now that we know what criminology is, it’s time to talk about criminal justice.
While criminology focuses on the analysis of crime, criminal justice concentrates on societal systems. Its primary concern is with the criminal behavior of the perpetrators. For example, in the USA, there are three branches of the criminal justice system. They are police (aka law enforcement), courts, and corrections. These branches all work together to punish and prevent unlawful behavior. If you take up a career in criminal justice, expect to work in one of these fields.
The most well-known branch of criminal justice is law enforcement. The police force is at the forefront of defense against crime and misdemeanor. They stand against the criminal element in many ways. For instance, they patrol the streets, investigate crimes, and detain suspects. It’s not just the police officers who take these responsibilities upon themselves. There are also US Marshals, ICE, FBI Agents, DEA, and border patrol. Only after the arrest has been made, the perpetrator enters the court system.
The court system is less visible to the public, but still crucial to the criminal justice system. Its main purpose is to determine the suspect’s innocence or guilt. You can work as an attorney, lawyer, bailiff, judge, or another professional of the field. In the court, if you are a suspect, you are innocent until proven guilty. You are also entitled to a fair trial. However, if they do find you guilty, you will receive a sentence. Your punishment will be the job of the corrections system.
The courts determine the nature of the punishment, and the corrections system enforces it. There are three elements of the corrections system: incarceration, probation, and parole. They either punish or rehabilitate the convicts. Want to uptake a career in corrections? You may work as, including, but not limited to: a parole officer, a prison warden, a probation officer, and a guard.
📈 Criminal Justice: Research Areas
The research areas in criminal justice are similar, if not identical, to those of criminology. After all, those are two very closely related fields. The one difference is that criminal justice research has more practical than theoretical applications. But it’s fair to say that theory is the building blocks that practice bases itself on. One is impossible without the other unless the result you want is complete chaos.
So, the question is – what topic to choose for the research paper? Remember that the world of criminal justice is constantly changing. Choosing a subject for research in criminal justice, consider a relevant topic. There are many pressing issues in the field. Exploring them will undoubtedly win you points from your professor. Just make sure to choose a direction that will give you the opportunity to show off both your knowledge and your analytical skills.
Not sure that your original research direction will be appreciated? Then choose one of the standard topics. Something that is widely discussed in the media. And, of course, make sure that you are truly interested in the subject. Otherwise, your disinterest will translate into your writing, which may negatively affect the overall impression. Also, it’s just more enjoyable to work on something that resonates with you.
What can you do with your research paper? Literally anything. Explore the background of the issue. Make predictions. Compare the different takes on the matter. Maybe there are some fresh new discoveries that have been made recently. What does science say about that?
Also, remember to backup all your arguments with quotes and examples from real life. The Internet is the best library and research ground a student could hope for. The main idea of the paper, aka the thesis, must be proven by enough factual material. Otherwise, it’s best to change your research direction.
And, of course, don’t put it all off till the last minute. Make a plan and stick to it. Consistency and clever distribution of effort will take you a long way. Good luck!
🤔 Criminal Justice Research FAQs
Criminological and criminal justice research are the scientific studies of the causes and consequences, extent and control, nature, management, and prevention of criminal behavior, both on the social and individual levels.
Criminal justice and criminology are sciences that analyze the occurrence and explore the ways of prevention of illegal acts. Any conducted personal research and investigation should be supported by the implemented analytical methods from academic works that describe the given subject.
There are six interrelated areas of criminology research:
- Cybercrime research makes law enforcement professionals keep up to date with the evolving technology.
- Counter fraud research investigates cases of fraud and corruption.
- Forensics research utilizes science: DNA recovery, fingerprinting, and forensic interviewing.
- Research in policing investigates individual factors that may influence the work of police officers.
- Penology explores the role of punishment in the criminal justice system.
- The study of missing persons helps to identify patterns of victims’ behavior.
There are seven research methods in criminology:
- Quantitative research methods measure criminological and criminal justice reality by assigning numerical values to concepts to find patterns of correlation, cause and effect.
- Survey research collects information from a number of persons via their responses to questions.
- Experimental research assesses cause and effect in two comparison groups.
- Cross-sectional research studies one group at one point in time.
- Longitudinal research studies the same group over a period of time.
- Time-series designs study the same group at successive points in time.
- Meta-analysis employs quantitative analysis of findings from multiple studies.
The basis of criminological theory is criminological research. It influences the development of social policies and defines criminal justice practice.
Criminological research doesn’t just enable law students to develop analytical and presentational skills. The works of criminal justice professionals, scholars, and government policymakers dictate the way law enforcement operates. The newest ideas born out of research identify corrections and crime prevention, too.
Here is a step-by-step instruction on how to write a criminal justice research paper:
- Choose a topic
- Read the materials and take notes
- Come up with a thesis
- Create an outline for your work
- Draft the body
- Start with a cover page, an abstract, and an intro
- List the methods you used, and the results you got
- Include a discussion
- Sum it up with a conclusion
- Don’t forget a literature review and appendices
- Revise, proofread, and edit
The most common types of methodologies in criminal justice research include:
- Observation of participants.
- Surveys and interviews.
- Observation of focus groups.
- Conducting experiments.
- Analysis of secondary data and archival study.
- Mixed (a combination of the above methods).
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