Library Subject Guides

Criminal Justice: Assignment Research


This page gives you tips for finding information for assignments.  If you need help finding information for your assignment, please contact the Criminal Justice Subject Librarian.

1. Define your topic and develop a search strategy

Develop a search strategy

Identify the key ideas for your topic

These words will form the basis of your search. To do an effective search, consider what words a variety of authors writing about your topic might use.   

You will find information more effectively by asking the following four questions about your key search words:-

What synonyms or related words might usefully be included in my search? e.g. offender/prisoner  race/ethnicity  women/female  juvenile/youth/adolescent

What about search words with variant endings?
This is important for finding both the singular and plural of search words. In most databases you can use an asterisk at the end of the root word to find other endings, e.g.victim* will find victim, victims, victimology.  If in doubt, check the help screen of the database for the correct symbol to use.

What about search words with different spellings?
This is important when searching international sources. You will need to incorporate both British and American spellings, e.g. behavior/behaviour.  Sometimes you can use a wildcard in the middle of a word to replace a character e.g. behavio*r to find both British and American spelling.

How do I connect my search words?
Use either AND, OR or NOT to connect your search words: 

AND - searches for information that contains all of the search terms e.g. crime AND youth

OR - searches for information containing either term (use for synonyms) e.g. domestic violence or family violence

NOT - excludes a phrase e.g. child abuse NOT sexual abuse - use sparingly otherwise you might omit articles that could be relevant.

If you need to use more than one connector in your search, you will need to put brackets around words connected with OR, e.g. youth and (crime or violence)

More information about connecting search words

Experiment with combinations of search words to find the ones that retrieve the best information for your topic.

2. Gather background information

ReferenceUse dictionaries, encyclopaedias and course recommended readings to find definitions and background information.

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3. Find books

booksSearch the UC Library catalogue to find books on your topic

Recommended Reading may be in the High Demand collection.

  • Use Title and Keyword searches to find additional material.
  • When you find a useful title in the Library Catalogue, click on its subject headings to find books on similar subjects.
  • Browse the library shelves in the classification sequence for criminal justice (HV 6000-9960 - level 8 & KM 500-800 level 7)
  • Use Reference Lists in recommended reading to find additional material.

4. Find journal articles

Journals publish the latest academic research on a topic. Find journal articles by using the recommended databases for Criminal Justice. Read more on:

MultiSearch lets you quickly search across a range of the Library’s resources in one place, including books and journal articles. 

Watch a video on how to search MultiSearch.

If you need help searching databases to find journal literature, please contact Kerry Gilmour, Subject Librarian for Criminal Justice. 

5. Find information on the Web

internetThe Web has a lot of information, but not all of it is reliable or appropriate for academic research. Government web sites can be particularly useful to locate reports, statistics and policy information.   

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6. Evaluate your sources

References recommended on reading lists will already have been evaluated for quality. You'll need to evaluate sources that you find yourself. Think critically about the information you find. The quality of your information has an effect on the quality of your assignment.

Read out more about evaluating information

7. Cite your sources

citeAvoid plagiarism by citing all the sources of information you use in your essay using APA style.

Watch a video on Plagiarism and how to avoid it

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8. Write your assignment

If you need assistance with academic writing, visit the Learning Skills Centre for workshops and/or personal help.