This is an exciting time and final chapter of your criminal justice undergraduate journey. The only thing that stands between you and graduation is your final capstone project/paper.
Selecting a Topic
Hopefully you have done some pre-planning before the class and have a general idea or topic you wish to study further.
One of the factors to consider and this is a critical piece to a successful capstone project is to make sure that the topic you select has a good amount of current peer-reviewed literature to support your capstone project. This means at least twenty (20) current (less than five years from publishing) peer-reviewed journal articles that you will need within your paper.
The capstone project is not the time for the passionate and eager student to reinvent the wheel and research and write on a current trend or problem within criminal justice that does not have current research to support your analysis. As much as you might be tempted to research and write on a current trend, unless there is enough supporting academic evidence from credible peer-reviewed journal articles then do not select this topic for the capstone project.
After graduation you can explore topics that need current research and add to the criminal justice pool of knowledge; however, now is not that time. The goal of the capstone project is to demonstrate original critical thinking and synthesizing scholarly literature into the content and direction of your paper.
The capstone project is most likely the largest academic paper you have attempted to write. Do not be intimidated by the length of the project.
Start with selecting a topic. Redefine the topic so that it is narrow in focus and avoid broad topics that will hamper your ability to demonstrate command of the content. Once you have the area of interest you wish to focus on start your literature search for current peer-reviewed journal articles. What type of studies are the researchers/scholars reporting? What are their findings and recommendations? By answering these questions, you can define your topic and title of your capstone project.
The capstone project will take effort and planning. Time management skills are critical to produce a product on time that meets or exceeds the project instructions and expectations.
As you find articles that are helpful and you can use, start building your reference list and saving the articles for additional evaluation as you work on your draft.
Create an outline of what you want the communicate and accomplish.
Editing your work and being a mature scholar to accept critical feedback is part of the process. Stay away from asking questions in your work. You are not conducting research and have no way of answering research questions. Use the scholarly literature to structure your paper and add credible to your analysis.
The capstone project is designed to be an intensive writing project and you must bring all the academic skills that you have learned throughout your studies.
Stay positive, submit your best work because this represents you as a scholar, and stay focused on the big picture of finishing your criminal justice undergraduate studies.
Good luck! I have the confidence you can hit the capstone project out of the park.
About the Author
Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 33 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. Mark has a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is currently an associate professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.