As adult learners with real world career experience working in the criminal justice system it is easy to interject personal experience and knowledge rather than framing your academic writing from the analysis of scientific research that is published in current scholarly literature.
I know as an undergraduate criminal justice student and working adult LEO, I struggled with this concept at first. How can I separate my police experience when writing my academic papers?
Academic writing is different from professional police report writing.
Academic writing requires analysis of the scholarly literature and to give credit to the sources that inspired your thinking. Academic writing is building on the knowledge of others and acknowledging those that came before you by citing the sources and giving credit. Academic writing avoids bias and making assumptions that are not based on the scientific evidence. Personal opinion and experience should be avoided in academic writing that are not grounded in the academic evidence. Academic writing is the process of analyzing and synthesizing current and relevant scholarly literature and demonstrating critical thinking through the writing process. Good academic writing addresses different perspectives and evaluates opposing viewpoints.
Police Report Writing
Police reports are first person accounts of what the officer observed and actions taken. The who, what, when, where, why, and how tell the facts of the incident. Police reports are accurate, honest, thorough, and clear articulation of the facts as known to the officer writing the report. A good police report paints a picture with words so that the reader can clearly understand what happened through the officers firsthand storytelling of the incident.
Both academic writing and professional police report writing are skills that are learned through doing. The academic writing process and professional police report writing is David Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning theory in action. You only get better with practices, feedback, reflection, and building upon your gained knowledge of the writing process.
In your academic writing you need to cite the source/s within the sentence and not wait to the end of the paragraph, and then include an in-text citation that encompasses all six sentences. This is not the proper way to cite sources within the body of your work. In your academic papers anything that is not common knowledge needs to be cited. For example, if your analysis or conclusion was inspired by the work of others, then you need to give credit to the source/s that inspired your thinking on the topic. There might be several sources cited within a single paragraph and this totally normal in academic writing.
If your original academic writing was inspired by others, you must give credit to that source/s.
Learn to use your professional criminal justice experience to enhance your academic writing by embracing the current scholarly literature and using this as the foundation for your academic writing.
Avoid using personal experience in lieu of academic evidence that is published in the scholarly literature (current peer-reviewed journal articles) in your academic writing.
About the Author
Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 30 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 with high honors, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. Mark holds a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.