Research Paper

The research paper component of this course is worth 25 per cent of your final grade.


The body of the paper must be a minimum of 10 pages and a maximum of 15 pages (excluding the title page and reference pages), double-spaced and word-processed, using standard Times New Roman 12-point font. Your paper and references must adhere to APA style, sixth edition. (Note that your textbook adheres to APA style.)

Use a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 10 primary research articles. Research articles can be from a reputable journal like the Canadian Journal of Criminology. Many journals are available online in Athabasca University Library’s journal databases. References from mass media are sometimes acceptable, but keep these to a minimum and do not give them the weight that a scientific journal article would have. Be wary of online resources such as Wikipedia. Such websites may lead you to reputable scholarly research articles; however, many online resources, themselves, are not peer-reviewed, which is a standard scientific benchmark for reliable research.


Your research paper is expected to demonstrate (a) balanced knowledge of the subject derived from scientific literature; and (b) personal reflections and opinions derived from this effort. You must demonstrate knowledge beyond what is surveyed in the textbook.


Your research paper must be written on a topic that is relevant to the course. You must acquire tutor approval for your topic before you begin working on the paper.

Avoid the tendency to choose too broad a topic. A broad topic makes it difficult to properly cover the subject and focus your personal views within the length specified. Consider putting your topic title in the form of a research question. For example, a broad topic might be, “child molesters” (on which whole books have been written). You could narrow the topic to the question, “Do child molesters change with treatment?” This focus allows you to examine the effectiveness of treatment and the follow-up statistics on reoffending for this population.

Your research paper should demonstrate an understanding of the latest research in the field in summary form. You will also need to (a) critique the controversies that exist; and (b) critique any fundamental conclusions of various points of view on your topic. Additionally, you are expected to offer personal views on the topic, following your literature survey and analysis. Many students in this course have professional experience in the criminal justice system. You can use these experiences, as well as personal ideas. Point out questions in the research material that await further study.

Postpone choosing a topic until you have done a bit of research into an area that interests you. This does not mean that you should do extensive research on numerous topics and then choose the one that works best for you. Choose something that interests you, as this will help you maintain motivation throughout the assignment. Scan the chapters in the textbook, and go into further depth on a topic that is covered in the course. Discuss possible topic ideas with others to see what reactions and insights they have to offer. Then, follow up with an email to your tutor, who may offer additional insights or guide you to specific resources. You must have your tutor’s approval before you begin writing the paper.


Your paper should have a predetermined structure. You must decide beforehand whether to arrange your paper logically, chronologically, or according to another sequential scheme. The easiest way to decide on an arrangement for your paper is to prepare a brief, one-page outline. While preparing an outline may take a little more time in the beginning, it will save you valuable time (and energy) when writing the paper.

Athabasca University has a number of excellent resources to assist you in writing papers. Please see the Library Services site for additional information. The Write Site is also a valuable AU writing resource.

Refer to the Marking Guidelines for Research Paper for details on how your paper will be graded.