Criminal justice research paper – where to look for reliable sources?

The backbone of any research paper is the research itself. Your sources make (or break!) your paper – and therefore, make your grade. It is important to put thought and consideration into the search for quality sources.

Where to Look

After you have decided to write on a certain topic, you need to start finding sources. A paper is nothing without reference and source material.

Reliable sources can be found:

  1. Department: Check with your Criminal Justice instructor – or the program chair. Is there a department library open to students? Do they have source material on-hand for lending? What sources do they recommend? Often, your professor will have current resources to recommend or even lend. Just ask!
  2. Library: The library should always be one of the first places you look for reliable sources. Books are great options --- as are journals and magazines. And with online material databases, libraries make source location extremely easy.
  3. Online: Search for scholarly sources online. Criminal Justice Departments often have their own webpage and source information listed on the school site. And if they don’t? Search for other schools that do. But remember, online sources must be double-checked to ensure their quality and reliability. Try to limit your source material from the internet to “.edu” pages.
  4. Peers: Ask peers and colleagues for suggestions. Is there an effective and interesting book that they have recently used? Do they have textbooks at home from previous classes that might have what you are looking for?


When you’ve chosen your sources, make a list of their bibliography information so that you can properly list them at the end of your paper. Not sure what you are going to use? Write it down anyway. It’s better to have to pare down information than have to search for it later.

Always use the format listed on the assignment for proper citation both within the text and on the works cited pages.

Writing the Paper

When you find interesting and relevant information, jot it down on your outline for later inclusion in your paper. Having notes that detail which quoted information, sources and relevant facts should be included will make the writing process much easier. And if you don’t include it, oh well. Again, it is better to have more and pare it down than to have less and go searching at the last minute.