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SOC 442: Analysis of the Justice System and Criminal Law (Professor Poole) [Spring 2021]

SOC 442 Final Paper Overview

During this course we analyze the criminal justice system as a system of social control, paying special attention to the social justice implications that this system has on the population of the United States. For this paper you will choose one social issue and evaluate how the criminal justice responds to that issue. The objective of this specific paper is to develop a theory-based critical analysis that explores a social issue. The paper should consider practices within and outside of the criminal justice system and include information on funding.

This topic can be linked to the processes of reform that have been implemented California through realignment and decarceration. The social issue can also address the general call for reform and “defund the police” including the responses by specific communities, states, or the federal government.


Focus on the adult criminal justice system and populations over the age of 18. Topics of focus can include but are not limited to unsheltered populations of people in our society; substance abuse; behavioral health (this is the common nomenclature of how mental health issues are framed in the systems); and the implications for shifting populations from prisons to local jail systems.

Final Paper:

The Final Paper will be between 8 – 10 pages long, with an informed and well-structured Literature Review, theoretical analysis using theory from our class, valid data from good sources, and suggestions that springboard from your findings and analysis for future research, policy, or programming.

Peer-reviewed Research:

Recent research will be from peer-reviewed academic journals mostly from the social sciences including sociology, criminology, social justice-oriented journals, and critical theory-based journal. This will be available through the CSUSM library databases.

As always, please consult Cougar Courses and your professor for full assignment guidelines.

SOC 442: Literature Review & Final Paper (Professor Poole)


Introductory paragraph that provides a short description of the issue & a hypothesis with a research question. Identify five peer-reviewed (5) articles from academic journals through the CSUSM library databases that have information about your issue. One article can be from our class.

Complete a short annotation for each article as follows:

  • A formal citation (APA or ASA)
  • One sentence on the research question/focus of the article
  • One or two points from the article including the findings pertinent to your research question (cited)
  • A brief description of the authors including potential biases by discipline, funding, theoretical
  • How the article works w/ other article(s) to build your paper

Part 2. Literature Review Outline

Developing an OUTLINE for the Literature Review is an important step in this process as it sets up the content for the rest of the paper and, if you were doing ‘original research’ it would inform your methods.

A Literature Review provides the background info on a topic and sets up the questions for original research. An example of literature reviews can be found in any original research article published in an academic journal that you have read in your classes. To reiterate, the immediate purpose of the Lit Review is to find out what is known about a topic so that you can make a cogent argument that builds on previous research and theory. Even if you begin with a well-formed hypothesis/ research question, you must review the current literature to determine if the hypothesis or question has been investigated and to establish its practical and theoretical importance. In other words, approach this paper with curiosity and questions as opposed to assumptions about a subject which makes the difference between writing a Literature Review in preparation of original research vs writing an essay compiling existing information.

Your Part 2 submission must: 

  • INCLUDE Introduction Paragraph and hypothesis and research question.
  • IDENTIFY 10 articles (five of them can be from Part I) that provide information on existing research that addresses your research question.
  • CREATE three (3) THEMES from the information presented in these articles.

As you read the articles, look for similar information/words/concepts/problems noted across two or more articles and that stand out as important to exploring or answering your research question.

Each article included in a THEME should include the same info as in Part I:

  • A formal citation (APA or ASA)
  • One sentence on the research question/focus of the article
  • One or two points from the article including the findings pertinent to your research question (cited)
  • A brief description of the authors including potential biases by discipline, funding, theoretical
  • How the article works w/ other article(s) to build your paper & the THEME


SECTION TITLES must be included in your paper.

1. Title page (Not part of page requirement)

2. Introduction w/ the statement of the problem/research question, and justification for the Research (one long or two paragraphs no more than one page): Here you would describe the issue, problem, or thesis statement (what you are going to argue). Then, you would convey to the reader why this problem is worth investigating (what impact this problem has on society or a subset of society). At the end of this section, the reader should have a clear understanding of what you are arguing in your paper.

3. Review of the Literature (No more than 5 full pages; Ten (10) PEER REVIEWED articles w articles in total can be from class material): This is a critical part of your paper that reviews relevant literature on your topic in a way that frames your current argument. After your literature review, you need to tie the literature to your current argument. In other words, you are setting the stage to show the reader how you came to the thesis of the paper. What do we already know about the world that leads us to make the argument we are making? At the end of the literature review you should again state your thesis statement or argument.

  • Described another way, the literature review sets up the context for your study. A properly executed review of the literature in an area lays the foundation for a successful piece of research. In other words, you are using the research that has come before to frame your current argument. So, keep the following in mind:
    •  A literature review is a piece of discursive prose, not a list describing or summarizing one piece of literature after another. Rather than thinking of it as a book report or summary of the literature, you are synthesizing the literature.
    • By reading the literature on a topic you can understand it, and then present that information to a reader in an organized manner that helps build a theoretical, methodological, and compelling framework for your research question.
    • Literature reviews are not organized by specific pieces of literature (i.e., a different paragraph for a different article), but rather they are organized by themes. These themes can be theoretical, methodological, etc. This is a key to synthesizing the literature; you understand the literature and then present it to readers in a thematic way that makes them understand the key issues that relate to your research project/question rather than giving them a broad overview of a topic.
  • The literature review is the most time-consuming part of this paper. Plan on it accordingly as it takes time to find the information, request the information, read, and digest the information, and synthesizing it into discursive prose as the final step.

4. Theoretical Analysis (1 – 2 pages): In this section you should present one of the critical theories from our class to analyze the problem at hand. Begin with a general discussion of the theory (introduce the theory) then apply the theory to the problem. Consider macro/micro level issues.

5. Suggested Future Research, Public Policy, or Programming changes to increase social justice (3 pages): In this section you should make specific suggestions for social change. These policy changes should come specifically from the problem you are discussing and should be mindful of the theoretical framework you are using to analyze/explain the problem. In this section, be as specific as possible and discuss what the implications of these changes might be including how shifts in funding could work. You can use additional scholarly articles or articles from the Lit Review in this section to support the discussion.