Methodological Contribution

The purpose of this assignment is to choose a topic that you will develop into your final 7-11 page Research Paper for this course. The topic you select must be germane to the field of human  services or your major Criminal Justice. It must be an original topic; no previous papers or assignments may be used. Additionally, Research Papers may not be completed on Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. You should not write about  a subject in which you possess a bias, or a desire to prove a preconceived notion. It should be a topic to be examined objectively as it will be written in third person and should not reference personal experience. You should perform preliminary research utilizing  the Library’s databases to help identify a topic and ensure that sufficient research is available to support your paper.

The Research Paper Topic Submission should be comprised of 2-3 short paragraphs (first person) that includes your topic and explanation of why it was selected. 

IMPORTANT: Be sure to read the  items below and watch the videos as well  before selecting your topic. It will provide you with  a good understanding of the project as a whole and what the instructor is expecting.

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a scholarly paper, which reviews current knowledge, including substantive findings, and may include theoretical and methodological contributions on a particular topic—the topic you picked.  Your paper is derived from the content of your sources. 

In a scholarly paper you do not use personal narrative. The paper is not written in first person, where you would discuss at length your own experiences regarding the topic at hand. This is not a paper about you.  It is a paper where you demonstrate your ability to read professional peer reviewed research articles (six from the online databases) and synthesize the findings.

The entire purpose of the paper is to analyze and summarize the literature on your topic. Your entire paper is a literature review (as opposed to just one section of a research article). Here is an outstanding video  on what a literature review is: the link provided below is to the video the teacher requires you to watch.

What It Is Not

Literature reviews are not research reports. Often students try to write this assignment using the research report format which most text books provide. You will not use headings/sections such as:

  • Results 
  • Methods

Research reports are actual research projects doing original research, whereas literature reviews are a review of the scholarly literature on a given topic (which are usually research reports). Literature reviews  are considered secondary sources as they do not report new or original experimental research. 

Helpful hint. It is always helpful to let the literature lead you. You won’t know what is specifically there until you start reading what has been written  about your topic. You can start out rather narrow as long as you focus the scope of the paper as you explore what the articles you are using have to say about the topic you picked.

Writing a Literature Review

This is the method that works well, and many students have agreed. It is especially helpful in the eight week format, and it is a method where the organization, and the outline, of the paper emerges organically.  Pay special attention to steps 4-6 which you’ll be using to create your Thematic Outline. 

  1. Select your topic. Refer to the Topic Dropbox for guidance on the requirements for this course. 
  2. Select your sources. You are required to use peer reviewed sources from the online library databases at our college. Web pages, books, etc., may be used to supplement those sources if they are appropriate, but should not be relied  upon. I advise against using them unless they are absolutely essential, and you cannot make your case without them. They are supplementary and complementary for this assignment only. Generally, such supplemental sources (web pages, books, etc., not from the  online database) are not that useful. 
  3. Select current articles. New is better unless there is an older “classic” article that is essential for your topic. Generally articles from the last four to five years are best; you can go back a little further if you need to  but they should be no older than 10 years. 
  4. For each article go through and read, highlight, and markup the article. Look for themes. You will be writing your paper thematically. 
  5. Generate a list of between 4 and 6 themes. This should be themes which are shared by one or more of your sources. You can combine themes and edit them until your short list of themes seems to accurately portray what the literature  had to say. 
  6. Make a list of those themes. These are your subtopics! 
  7. Arrange the themes in order. This is the order of your paper. Write a transition sentence or paragraph between one theme to another. You now have the structure of your paper, and it will be thematically and logically ordered.  HINT: Never write about one article, then another, and then another. Use this system to write thematically. Your first theme, then the next, etc., 
  8. Write your introduction and your conclusion. 
  9. Write your abstract 
  10. Prepare your References page

Research Paper Outline

Title page with running head


Body of paper

  1. Theme a
  2. Theme b
  3. Theme c
  4. Theme d


    References page

    Writing Tips
  • Avoid first person.
  • Avoid contractions like “it’s,” or “shouldn’t.” Use “it is” and “should not” instead.
  • The star of the paper, and the focus, is on the information from your sources. Not your personal experience or opinion.
  • Do not use articles or information you do not understand.
  • Do not write about one article, then another, then another. Write the paper thematically, as outlined in your Thematic Outline. 
  • Have others read your paper, and revise. Quality papers go through two or more revisions
  • Paraphrase and use direct quotes. BOTH. Not just one. Also make sure that the author and date are used, and a page number for all direct quotes.

    APA Style

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