area paper guidelines prior to fall 2011
Area Paper as a Comprehensive Exam
Effective January 2002, Master of Science in Criminal Justice students who are required to take the comprehensive examination, may choose to complete an "area paper" which is equivalent to the traditional exam. The following guidelines are designed to assist students in the preparation of an area paper. Each student who chooses the area paper option should study the guidelines and work closely with a faculty advisor.
Although those who choose the area paper option will be using a different format, this is still a comprehensive examination and students are expected to demonstrate a mastery of specific types of knowledge and skills. For example, a student who focuses on a crime prevention policy of program should demonstrate an understanding of the criminological theory that informs the policy. He or she should also be able to locate, present, and critique related crime prevention research results. Similarly, students are expected to demonstrate they can write in a scholarly manner and at a level faculty consider satisfactory for the completion of the graduate degree requirements.
Other guidelines for the successful completion of the area paper are about choosing a topic, formatting the paper, and demonstrating mastery of other types of knowledge and skills. A detailed description of these guidelines follows. Students choosing this option should study the guidelines and, early in the degree program, make contact with the faculty member with whom they want to work.
Choice of Topic
The topic for the area paper should be chosen in consultation with a Criminal Justice faculty advisor. Students are encouraged to focus on topics that are of a personal interest and may be of benefit to the criminal justice agency in the South Georgia region. For example, someone with police administration career goals might want to focus on recruitment and retention. The only limitation to choosing a topic is that it must be broad enough or otherwise sufficient to allow the student to meet all of the guidelines, especially those having to do with a comprehensive, critical analysis of related theory and research.
Preparation of Reading List and Deadlines
Before the last semester in which the student plans to graduate, he or she should make a final decision on a topic for the area paper and provide a related reading list of at least ten academic publications to the faculty member who has agreed to provide guidance on the area paper. This faculty member may add related materials to the list and/or may ask the student to do additional library research.
At least three weeks before the end of the semester in which the student plans to graduate, a finalized version of the area paper must be submitted to the faculty member who has been providing guidance. This person will coordinate the grading with other faculty readers and will inform the student of the results (see grading/evaluation section).
The area paper must be written in the American Psychological Association (APA) publication style. This publication is now in its fifth edition and can be purchased at the university bookstore (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 2001, Fifth Edition). The paper must also be written in a 12-point such as Courier or New Times Roman and must be double spaced. Pages should also be formatted with one inch margins at the top, bottom, and sides. Substantive format issues should be discussed with a faculty advisor; however, a sample outline is included in these guidelines. Click here for a sample cover sheet
- Title page
- Abstract (100-150 word limit) page i
- Introduction (unnumbered page 1)
- Statement of Problem (a full discussion of the problem, topic, or issue to be addressed)
- Review of the Literature (this should be a comprehensive discussion of all relevant research and scholarly opinions).
- Critique and Analysis of the Literature (in this section, students are expected to demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to critique both theoretical and methodological aspects of the literature.
- Recommendations (the review and critique of the literature should support these policy, operations, or law-related recommendations).
- References Cited (see APA guidelines for reference pages)
- Appendix or Appendices (if applicable)
Grading/Evaluation of the Area Paper
Faculty will use the following guidelines to grade the area paper. A ten point scale will be used. A passing grade will be a grade of seven or above.
- Is the title concisely stated?
- Does the title convey the content of the paper?
- Does the introduction expand of the title in a significant manner?
- Does the introduction relate closely to the content of the paper rather than wander around the problem, discipline or topic?
- Does the introduction include introductory remarks about the nature of the problem, topic, and related question(s)?
Statement of Problem
- Is it clear that the problem is significant and warrants investigation?
- Is it clear to the reader what aspects of the problem are going to be researched and discussed?
- Is the problem too big or too small for a comprehensive examination?
- To the best of the reader's knowledge, has this problem already been solved? If so, what is the purpose of the area paper?
- Is the problem appropriate for this field of study?
Significance of Problem
- Are the reasons for conducting this research clearly and forcefully stated?
- Is the reader convinced that finding the answer to this problem will make a difference to anyone other than the researcher?
- Does the writer identify and group(s) that might benefit from the research?
- Does that discussion show an understanding of the history surrounding the problem?
Review of Related Literature
- Is the literature review focused on the problem?
- Does the literature review include all of the significant research related to the problem?
- Is the previous research integrated with the student's work or merely enumerated?
- Is there a logical sequence to the reporting of the literature?
- Is the reader convinced that a comprehensive literature search has been conducted?
- Are the findings discussed adequately and meaningfully?
Critique and Analysis of the Literature
- Has the student demonstrated the knowledge required to identify, discuss, and critique the theoretical aspects of the literature (e.g. criminological theory, administrative theory, policy development or planning theory, etc.)?
- Are the implications of findings discussed?
- Has the student demonstrated the knowledge and skills required to discuss and critique the methodological aspects of the literature?
- Are research limitations recognized?
- Are suggestions offered regarding avenues to extend research in this area?
- If applicable, are clear legal, policy or program related recommendations made?
- Are the recommendations clearly supported by the literature?
- Is the conclusion concise, intelligent and well thought-out?
- Does the conclusion incorporate all aspects of the paper (i.e. literature review, research data, findings, and recommendations)?
- Does the conclusion logically conclude the paper?
- Are the references written in accordance with APA standards?
- Are all references on the reference page cited in the text and in accordance with APA standards?
- Has the student demonstrated a mastery of the topic?
- Has the student demonstrated a graduate-level writing ability?
- Has the student communicated effectively?