How to Write a Research Proposal in Criminal Justice: Why Is It So Important?

Writing guide
Posted on April 12, 2021

Students have to cope with many academic writing assignments like reports and essays. Nevertheless, almost all of them have difficulties with performing Ph.D. and Master’s papers. These papers need patience, thorough research, much time, and the ability to compose a logical and worthy work. There are several stages a student has to complete. One has to search for the topic, study related sources, make a plan, write a proposal, get permission to write a research paper, interview people, do tests or experiments (if necessary), write a paper, and, finally, hand it in.

What is a research proposal in criminal justice and why is it so important? As far as you can see, one has to investigate the existing problems and choose a topic that can fit the purpose. A research proposal aims at providing a professor or college committee with core information about the topic a student wants to discuss in the paper. It is like asking for permission to do something. Some proposals are rejected because of several reasons. How to avoid mistakes and persuade the committee to confirm it and let you write a paper? We have interviewed experienced writers and students to provide you with relevant pieces of advice and help you write a compelling research proposal in criminal justice.

How to Write a Research Proposal in Criminal Justice: Topic Selection

First students write a research proposal and only after its confirmation they proceed to the writing of a research paper. That is why it is essential to create a brilliant proposal and not to let someone doubt the importance of the planned research paper. Experts say that professors pay attention first to the title of the paper and only then to its content. Consequently, the first step a student has to take is to find a catchy topic.

Where should one look for ideas? Today people spend many hours on social networks and various websites. It is a perfect source of updated information. People share their preferences and want to find something useful. Some posts tell about real-life cases in criminal justice and the legal ways for their solution. Social media and thematic websites are the most useful sources. These are topics in criminal justice that students can chalk up.

  • Is Corporal Punishment Legal or Should Children Sue to a Law-Court for Redress?
  • Civil Murders and War Murders: Is There Any Difference and Why?
  • Discrimination at A Workplace: How to Recognize it and What to Do?
  • Cyberbullying: What Punishment Must Bullies Expect?
  • Can Democratic Country Guarantee Just Punishment? Is There at Least One Impartial Country?
  • Can Cruel Treatment of Animals Be Punished the Same Way a Criminal Is Punished for Murders and Humiliation of People?

Investigate online, printed sources and real-life cases connected with criminal justice to find a topic that needs updating or new approaches for the solution of existing problems.

How to Write a Research Proposal in Criminal Justice: How to Start?

After a person finds a topic to write about, it will be necessary to collect good literature. ‘Good’ means ‘trustable’. Trustable sources are always updated, provide personal and contact information in About Us and Contact pages, and give links to the cited sources. Yellow press, personal blogs, and posts can be discussed but not cited in the paper. For example, someone states that a famous politician steals something and remains unpunished. A researcher can take the case and look for the information in trustable sources like official web pages of countries where they discuss criminal cases. If the information is veritable, students can speak about the article. After that researches have to present trustworthy sources to support it but false statements (wrong, exaggerated and not precise) are to be disclaimed.

Reliable Online Literature

These are some sample sources students can cite in their research proposal and research paper.

Experts also recommend jotting down citations and attach sources where students have taken the information. Later it will be easier to create and format the bibliography section and avoid blaming for plagiarism.

Create a Plan

A research proposal just like a research paper needs an outline. Brainstorm to reveal the most valuable information and try to create a plan that will reflect a structure of an outline, supporting literature, required budget, time, value, and outcome. You should definitely know what you are going to present in your research paper because a research proposal is like a promise one makes and has to realize.

How to Write a Research Proposal in Criminal Justice: Structure

A research proposal must have the required structure. It must be logical and explain the choice of methods, objectives, and goals. A research proposal includes a title, an abstract, an introduction, a literature review, the importance of the research, applied methods, results, discussion, and sources (citations).


‘Drug War: Zero Punishment for U.S. and Mexican Authorities in the XXI century’. This is the title of a research proposal in criminal justice. It corresponds to the rules and is catchy for the target audience. A title is the name of the paper. It must be no longer than 75 characters and include key expressions. The given title has 67 characters and includes keywords ‘drugs’, ‘crime’, ‘punishment’, ‘Mexican’, and ‘American’. Readers can guess that a researcher will discuss the problem of drug abuse in the U.S. and Mexico, criminal cases, punishment, and possible suggestions for the solution of the existing problem.

A title must be distinct, logical, and winning. To make it winning it should express an urgent problem. Moreover, it is better to make it provocative to raise arguments and attract attention.


One needs only 100-200 words to write an abstract. It is a brief presentation of the paper that includes QHMR, which states for Question, possible Hypothesis, required Methods, and Results.


Those, who want to find out the context or background of the core problem, read this part of the proposal. It must be striking and convincing. The best way to involve the audience is to ask a tricky, controversial, and puzzling question.

‘What if the US legalizes drug business for Mexican families?’
A question must be concrete and significant. Otherwise, the whole research proposal will be unimportant. Trying to frame a question, a student should answer the following questions.
Why do I want to write about it?
What is the background of my problem and why is my solution significant?
What question can puzzle me and my target audience? Who is my target audience?
A good introduction highlights key issues of the study and existing ideas concerning the chosen problem.

Literature Review

Sometimes a college demands to discuss literature in the introductory part. Others demand a separate section for the review. Thanks to that, a student can provide a detailed background of the problem and sound more convincing. A literature review helps students create an effective research question, critically investigate issues related to the researched topic, and convince the target reader that their research paper is worth paying attention due to its indisputable benefits and contribution.
Common mistakes students make when dealing with the literature review section:

  • insufficient organization and connectedness
  • no well-thought structure
  • improper formatting of the cited sources
  • zero information about the latest research on the topic and, consequently, lack of ‘updated’ sources
  • copy-pasting instead of deep analysis and interpreting

In case a problem has several solutions or contradictory information, it is better to add subheadings to make the review structured, logical and readable. Students should try to make it engaging but not boring. Readers often regard this part as a dull enumeration and description of someone’s works. Professionals advise to interest them by disputes, arguing, and adding visual materials (tables, diagrams, etc.).

When investigating the problem, it is better not only to cite sources but also to compare, contrast, critique, and connect the existing topics, arguments, theories, approaches with your suggestions and offers.

Importance of the Research

Just like in the abstract and introduction, one should provide information about the value of the paper and support it with more details. It is important to sound convincing and underline your contribution to the possible variant of the problem solution.

Methodology Section

This section describes in what way you are going to conduct your research. A student has to enumerate methods and explain the reason for their choice. This section is of great importance to students. When you know how you are going to reach your goal, you will have no problem with writing because this will be your step-by-step guide. This section must have enough information in case somebody else would like to check results or data and implement it.
There are two types of methods one can use.


Things to compare Qualitative Quantitative
Focus inspecting ideas and formulating hypothesis and theories checking out hypothesis and theories
What does it analyze? summing up, dividing into categories, and interpretation of data statistics and mathematical analyses
Way of expression words graphs, numbers, tables
Requirements no need in many respondents needs many respondents
Types of required questions open-ended closed or multiple choice
Keywords and key terms context, realization, understanding, subjectiveness, complexity measures, tests, objectiveness, replication

Quantitative methods demand questioning, experiments, content analysis, and observations.
Qualitative methods involve interviewing, review of literature, case studies, and studying focus groups.

It is very important to consider ethics. A researcher must respect participants, preserve confidentiality (if they ask about that), and do not harm them. For example, if you decide to interview criminals or police officers, it is better not to mention their names unless they let you do it. Otherwise, you can publish confidential information and harm somebody.


Nobody can predict the outcome of the research. That is why one should discuss here the research question. In case a person has a hypothesis, experts also recommend presenting it here. One can say what he or she expects to achieve at the end of the research.


This section describes the potential positive influence of the paper. One should not exaggerate the value but just suppose benefits. It is also important to say what budget you expect to spend, how much time you need, and what sources and information are not available to you.


This section is often called ‘citations’. It is essential because nobody wants to be blamed for plagiarism. This part of the research proposal gives all sources a person has used to compose a research proposal. A person can cite literature in 2 possible ways.
Bibliography: enumeration of literature used in a proposal and research paper
Reference: presentation of sources one has used to create a proposal
Professors appreciate the first variant more because it gives them a full picture of the intended research.

How to Write a Research Proposal in Criminal Justice: 5 Don’ts

Students often get surprised when professors reject their research proposal. Why does it happen? Read 5 basic reasons to avoid typical mistakes.

  1. A proposal is not coherent and precise.
  2. Research lacks uniqueness and value.
  3. A proposal is plagiarized.
  4. The section with a literature review is poorly formatted and incomplete.
  5. The quality of the content is low and insufficient.

One should proofread the paper before handing it in. Proofreading helps students find mistakes, fill in the gaps, and improve the paper. Online grammar checkers can point to the basic mistakes and SEO text analyzers show keywords and the density of the words. Online plagiarism checkers analyze the text and show the percentage of its uniqueness.

One of the best ways to create a perfect research proposal is to study A-level samples. One can find them online because writing agencies and some universities publish their best works. It is also possible to turn to a professor, a tutor, a research proposal writer, or students who have already succeeded in this task.


  1. Wong, Paul. “How to Write a Research Proposal.” Articles, 2013,
  2. Streefkerk, Raimo. “Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research: Differences & Methods.” Scribbr, 13 Mar. 2020,
  3. Gertz, Marc G., and Susette M. Talarico. “Problems of Reliability and Validity in Criminal Justice Research.” Journal of Criminal Justice, Pergamon, 29 May 2002,
Upgrade your essays with these FREE writing tools!
Get started now