Course Syllabus

Overview | Objectives | MaterialsCourse Requirements and Grading | Academic Integrity | Disability Access | Other Policies | Course Assignments

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This course provides an introduction to the fundamental concepts of social science research. Students will learn the principles of scientific inquiry, research designs, hypothesis construction, measurement, sampling, and data collection in criminal justice.


This course will be delivered using a blended format. In this course, we operate on the principle that you will learn best when you are actively working on a task rather than passively listening. Both passive listening and active work have their places in the learning process. In class we will focus on introducing concepts and discussion and deeper explanation than could be provided outside of the classroom. Your outside-of-class time will largely be spent applying the material learned during lecture. Generally, these outside-of-class applications including reviewing a brief power point slides introducing a specific topic before engaging in an assignment that will require you to apply the material. These applications will take different forms throughout the semester, including designing research questions, generating hypotheses, and understanding how to read research literature.  This format enables you to work at your own pace and engage with the material. Please be assured that you are not being asked to “teach yourself” the course material. In fact, you will be receiving a much higher quantity and quality of professor help in this format than you would in a traditional format, because the professor is available in the same room as you exactly when you are encountering the hardest concepts. 


At the conclusion of CRIMJ 250W, students should be able to:

  1. Understand the process of research in social science;
  2. Appreciate ethical issues and standards in research;
  3. Describe advantages and disadvantages of qualitative, quantitative, experimental, quasi-experimental, and mixed-methods designs;
  4. Explain critical issues in research design, including causation, validity, and causal inference;
  5. Critically read and evaluate criminal justice research; and
  6. Design a research project including identification of a research question/hypothesis, selection of an appropriate research design, operationalization of key variables, and describe the research methodology.


    • Maxfield, Michael G. and Babbie, Earl R. (2018). Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology, 8th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. ISBN 9781337091824
    • Additional readings as assigned and posted to Canvas

Course Requirements and Grading


Students are expected to have completed prerequisite courses (CRIMJ 012) before taking this course. Course materials will be presented and discussed with the understanding that you have received this previous knowledge. This course is structured around a lecture/discussion format. Keeping up-to-date with the reading assignments is essential. Any questions you may have about the readings should be brought up during class time to facilitate discussion. Students are expected to attend all class meetings on time and are responsible for all material covered in class and required readings.  Lectures will cover some material not discussed in the book and this material may be included on the exams. If you must miss a lecture, I advise you to get the notes from a classmate; I will not share my lecture notes or slides with you.


There will be three exams delivered via Canvas.  The exams will have true/false and multiple choice questions. The exams will be non-cumulative and will cover material presented in lectures and readings. Each exam is worth 60 points. The exams will open on Canvas at 12am on the scheduled Exam Day and will remain open until 11:55pm on that same day. Note that Canvas will lock the exam at 11:55pm even if you have opened it before that time; please plan your time accordingly.

Research Proposal Assignments ("Assignments" #1-4)

Four assignments (each worth 25 points) will be due throughout the semester. Students are to post assignments to Canvas before class on the due date. The purpose of these assignments is to prepare you for writing the research proposal.

Application Assignments ("Application")

There are 10 application assignments delivered via Canvas during our outside-of-class days. These are 10-point application assignments that allow you to engage with the material and practice application of what is being discussed in class and your readings.

Peer Scoring 

At the end of the semester everyone in class gives an oral presentation of their research proposal. During this time, if you are not presenting, you will engage in peer scoring of your peer’s presentations. These scores are intended to provide CONSTRUCTIVE feedback on content and style, and will not be considered in your peers’ final oral presentation grade. Instead, your participation in the presentation process will count toward your class participation grade; 5 points per presentation day for a total of 20 points. 

Final Research Proposal

The research proposal is comprised of eight parts:

  1. Statement of the problem / objective
  2. Literature review
  3. Research question / research hypothesis
  4. Study participants
  5. Measurement issues
  6. Research design and data collection methods
  7. Ethical considerations
  8. References and formatting

The research proposal will give you the opportunity to develop a research project based on a criminal justice topic of interest to you.  You will be expected to apply the material covered in this course to your research proposal.  Research proposals will be graded according to the rubric distributed in class. Your grade for the research proposal is based on the accuracy and depth of content, clarity of presentation, appropriateness of selected literature to the paper topic, and proper style (e.g., citations, grammar, etc.).  Please note that this is a research proposal – you will NOT collect data, you will only propose a potential research project.

The research proposal should be no more than 10 type-written pages using Times New Roman 12 point font, have 1 inch margins, and follow APA guidelines.  More details about this assignment will be provided in class. Your paper is due to Canvas by the beginning of class on April 15, 2019.  Papers not received at this time will receive a zero.  Late papers will only be accepted in the case of a documented emergency. 

Oral Presentation 

The oral presentation is based on your research proposal.  The presentation should be no longer than 10 minutes.  You are encouraged to use Power Point and any other method (e.g., handouts) that would enhance your ability to communicate the material to the class and instructor.  The date of your oral presentation (and the order in which you will present on that day) will be randomly assigned.  Oral presentations will be graded according to the rubric available on Canvas.

Final Assessment

A final course assessment worth 30 points will be due during finals week.

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Grading Scale

Attending weekly lectures and keeping up with the reading assignments are both key to your success in this course.  Your final grade will be determined by your performance on the three exams, research proposal, oral presentation, and 4 assignments.  Exams will cover material from lectures and the readings (i.e., the lectures will include information beyond what is discussed in the readings).  The assignments will assist you in preparing your research proposal and will be discussed in class the day they are due. 


Point Allocation

Exam 1:                                                

60 points

Exam 2:                                             

60 points

Exam 3:                                                

60 points

Research Proposal  Assignments:         

100 points (25 points each)

Application Assignments:                       

100 points (10 points each)

Final Research Proposal:                       

100 points

Oral Presentation:                                

60 points

Peer Scoring:            

20 points

Final Assessment:

30 points

Total Possible:                         

590 points


Final grades will be assigned as follows:   





















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Academic Integrity

Academic dishonesty is not limited to simply cheating on an exam or assignment. The following is quoted directly from the "PSU Faculty Senate Policies for Students" regarding academic integrity and academic dishonesty: "Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception and is an educational objective of this institution. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating of information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students."

All University and Penn State Harrisburg policies regarding academic integrity/academic dishonesty apply to this course and the students enrolled in this course. Refer to the following URL for further details on the academic integrity policy of Penn State Harrisburg: Each student in this course is expected to work entirely on her/his own while taking any exam, to complete assignments on her/his own effort without the assistance of others unless directed otherwise by the instructor, and to abide by University and Penn State Harrisburg policies about academic integrity and academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty can result in an assignment of "F" or "XF" as the final grade for the student. (Note: Indicate if you plan to use Turnitin ( as a plagiarism detection tool.)

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Disability Access

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University’s educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Disability Services at Penn State Harrisburg is located in SEC 205. The Disability Services Coordinator, Alan Babcock, can be reached via email at or phone 717-948-6025.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

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Other Policies

Late Policy

Assignments are expected to be completed by the due date. Assignments submitted after the due date and time designated on Canvas (e.g., 11:55pm EST) are subjected to will receive a 10% reduction for each 24-hour period that the assignment is late. The first 24-hour period begins one-minute after the assignment deadline.

Religious Observances

By September 2, 2019, students must provide me in writing a request for a make-up exam if I have indicated a date on this syllabus that you are unable to make due to a specific religious observance on a specific date. Please refer to the Undergraduate Catalog Policy on Religious Observance.

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Students are expected to attend class and should be prepared to participate in class discussions.  Students are responsible for materials missed when they cannot attend class. 

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Make-up Policy

I have a strict policy regarding makeup exams and assignments. Makeup exams will only be given in cases of excused absences and official documentation is required.  Excused absences are: illness with a doctor's note, death in the immediate family, religious holiday, required University activities, and required court appearance. If a doctor will not write you a note, you will need to get a copy of your medical record from them to verify your illness. By law, you are entitled to get a copy of this and it is your responsibility to do so. Documentation must contain the specific dates for which you are unable to take the exam, and you are expected to take the exam immediately after the circumstances have passed. Thus, for an illness, you will need a doctor’s note that indicates exactly which days you were seriously ill, and you should plan to take the exam the next day after this time period. Makeup exams will be essay in nature. I must be notified (by phone, email, or in person) PRIOR to missing an exam for me to consider giving you a makeup.  I will respond to you by e-mail. Do not assume that I have received your e-mail until I have responded. If you know in advance that you will be absent for an exam or an assignment due date with an approved absence, you will be expected to take the exam or turn in the assignment prior to the exam/assignment due date.

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Counseling Services

Students may face a variety of concerns over the course of their time at PSH- depressed mood, anxiety, stress, family concerns, body image, substance use, sexuality and many others- that may interfere with their ability to focus on their studies. Counseling Services provides FREE mental health and social support for all currently enrolled students. Staff follow strict legal and ethical guidelines concerning the confidentiality of counseling. Counseling services is located in SEC 205 and can be reached by phone at (717) 948-6025. You can find more information at the Counseling Services webpage,

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Learning Center Writing Tutoring and Other Academic Support

The Russell E. Horn Sr. Learning Center provides tutoring for writing assignments as well as for other aspects of the academic experience. You can make an appointment in one of the four ways listed below. An appointment is recommended, though not required.


Online Scheduler


In Person


SEC 201


The Learning Center provides tutoring support for writing assignments in this class. Do you need help developing your thesis and ideas? Do you need objective feedback when you’re drafting or revising your papers? Do you have questions about MLA, APA, or Chicago styles? Do you want to improve your academic writing skills? The writing tutors at the Learning Center are experts at helping students improve their writing. Writing handouts are available at and in print in SEC 201.

Other Academic Support

Is English an additional language for you and your home language is “getting in the way?” Are you spending excessive amounts of time trying to finish your assigned readings? Are you nervous about participating in class and presenting speeches? American & Academic Literacy (AAL) appointments support international and other multilingual students with their transition to the U.S., and can help all students with their speeches. Our Academic Skills Consultants can also help with time management, organization, and study skills.

Like us at and follow us on Twitter @PSUHLC.

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Canvas will be used in this course.  For general help with Canvas, see Canvas Student Orientation.

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Use of Technology

In this class, students will be allowed to use their personal computers to take class notes.  If a student is found to be using personal technology devices in any way that is not related to taking class notes, the student will lose the privilege of using any personal technology device for the duration of the semester. All other technological devices are prohibited in this class including MP3 devices, smart phones, cell phones, calculators, gaming devices, etc.  If these devices are seen and/or used during class, the student will be asked to leave the class immediately. 

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Notice of Copyright

The lectures that I deliver in this class and the course materials I create and distribute are protected by federal copyright law as my original works.  My lectures are delivered from written lectures in order to ensure copyright protection.  You are permitted to take notes of lectures and to use course materials for your use in this course. You may not record my lectures or reproduce or distribute notes of lectures or my course materials or make any commercial use of them without my express consent.

Inclement Weather

Class will be canceled if campus is closed. The college's Web page will carry a message about the status of classes and local news stations will also provide a list of closings.  If you are registered with the College to receive texts, text messages will be sent via PSUTXT, the University emergency cell phone text messaging system.

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Education Equity

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff.  Acts of intolerance, discrimination, harassment, and/or incivility due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated and can be reported through Educational Equity at the Report Bias site:  

Direct all inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policy to our Penn State Harrisburg Office of Student Affairs at the following link

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Mandatory Reporting

As an instructor, one of my responsibilities is to help create a safe learning environment on our campus.   I also have a mandatory reporting responsibility related to my role as an educator. It is my goal that you feel able to share information related to your life experiences in classroom discussions, in your written work, and in our one-on-one meetings. I will seek to keep information you share private to the greatest extent possible. However, per University policy AD85 (, I am required to share information regarding sexual misconduct or information about a crime with the University including incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation). While faculty are ethically bound to report any information as it relates to University policy, we are also a resource and want to be sure you are aware of the services available to you. 


The first resource that should you should contact is Felicia Brown-Haywood Penn State Harrisburg Title IX Office E131 Olmsted Building – 717-948-6180


Course Summary:

Date Details Due