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Welcome to the CRIM 1100 research guide for Mark Vardy's students

Guide created for library research workshop for students in Mark Vardy's CRIM 1100 classes in June 2023. 

Before the workshop: Students must complete two short library tutorials before the workshop. One is called "What are Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journal Articles?", and the other is called "How to Choose an Appropriate Topic"Links to these interactive tutorials are posted in Moodle. Each should take less than 15 minutes.

During the workshop:

  • You will be using resources on this guide during the workshop, and it will remain available until the end of the semester.
  • You will work on a library assignment during the workshop and complete it at home. It involves narrowing a broad topic, locating 2 peer-reviewed journal articles on your more focused research question, and citing these articles in APA style. 

During the workshop you will learn to:

Developing your topic

During this workshop, we will practice ways that you can use library resources to help you get from a very broad topic, to one that is focused enough for your final assignment. Here is an example, so you can see the difference.



BROAD topic

“Domestic Violence” 





“Are teen girls who witness domestic violence more likely to perpetrators of violence in teenage dating relationships?”

Note: You saw this video in your class on June 12th. It is also in the "How to Choose an Appropriate Topic" library tutorial that you completed before class.

VIDEO: Picking your topic IS research (3:10)

You will almost always need to tweak and focus your original research topic. You will likely have to do this several times as you explore the published research to craft a topic appropriate to the length of your essay.

North Carolina State University Libraries. (n.d.). Picking your topic IS research [Video]. Youtube.

  • Video transcript (Word file)
  • Note: You saw this video in the "How to Choose an Appropriate Topic" library tutorial that you completed before class.

    VIDEO: Developing a Research Question (6:25)

    This video walks you through five steps for narrowing a broad topic to a more-focused research question which will guide your research and writing.

    Laurier Library. (2017, December 20). Developing a research question [Video]. Youtube.

  • Video transcript (Word file)
  • WORKSHEET: Research Question Worksheet: practice applying the video's tips to your topic

    Types of information sources

    image shows types of information sources and highlights scholarly encyclopedias and scholarly journals

    Using scholarly encyclopedias

    Encyclopedias are usually the best place to start finding information about a topic.

    You've probably used Wikipedia as a starting place for research before. But you need to use caution with Wikipedia. See "A Note about Wikipedia" in our Doing Research tutorial for tips on using Wikipedia wisely.

    An even better option is to use some of the scholarly encyclopedias available in the KPU Library. These contain entries written by experts which can help you to:

    • get a basic understanding of a broad topic
    • get ideas for how to narrow down a broad topic
    • find useful search keywords 
    • get citations for other useful sources

    Find scholarly encyclopedias using Summon

    Use the KPU Library's search tool called Summon to search (almost) the entire KPU Library collection, all at once. I've created a simple graphic showing what types of information Summon can find.

    Summon is the big search box on the library's homepage, but I've plugged in a quick search box below.

    1. Enter your broad topic into the Summon search box below and click on "Search Summon"
    2. When your search results display, use the Content Type filter in the left-hand menu to limit your results only to Reference sources.
    3. Use the Publication Date filter to limit your search results to reference sources published in the last 5 years



    See the screenshots below for an example search for the broad topic of domestic violence.

    screenshot of Summon search for DOMESTIC VIOLENCE showing option to filter results to Reference content type

    screenshot of Summon search for reference content on DOMESTIC VIOLENCE showing option to filter results by publication date

    screenshot of Summon search for reference content on DOMESTIC VIOLENCE from last 10 years showing option to view full text

    Sometimes Summon will take you right to the exact entry you need in the encyclopedia, like in this example, which is really handy. But sometimes it does not. Every publisher's e-book platform is different. You may have to navigate to the specific section in your encyclopedia.

    Scan through the encyclopedia entry for ideas on how you could narrow your topic. 

    Starting to narrow down the topic

    At this point, I am going to narrow my topic down to focus on the impact of being exposed to domestic violence as a child with later teenage dating behaviour.

    Always look at the sources that are cited at the end of the encyclopedia entry. You might find some useful-sounding journal articles.

    Learn more in these scholarly encyclopedias

    Credo Logo

    Use this box to search hundreds of full-text dictionaries, encyclopedias, and more related to Criminology and Law. This is just part of the full Credo Reference database.

    Peer-reviewed articles

    Before the class, you completed a library tutorial on "What Are Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journal Articles?". Please answer the poll question below to check your understanding.

    Instructions for the poll question below:

    1. Click on each link (e.g. Article 1) to view the description for that article.
    2. Scan each article to see if it has the characteristics of a peer-reviewed journal article.
    3. Click in the radio button (circle) for the correct answer to "Which of these items is a peer-reviewed article?". 
    4. Click "Submit" button to cast your vote.
    Please only vote ONCE. We'll review the poll results to see if we need to spend class time refreshing your understanding of these types of articles.

    Which of these items is a peer-reviewed journal article?

    Article 1: 0 votes (0%)
    Article 2: 31 votes (88.57%)
    Article 3: 1 votes (2.86%)
    all: 0 votes (0%)
    Both Article 2 and 3: 3 votes (8.57%)
    none: 0 votes (0%)
    Total Votes: 35

    What is a peer-reviewed journal?

    Peer-reviewed journals are often called scholarly or academic journals. They are different from popular magazines. Articles in peer-reviewed journals:

    • are written by experts for other experts
    • usually report on research
    • always cite their sources: there will be many in-text citations and a list of references or works cited
    • most importantly: have been rigorously critiqued and reviewed by experts for quality before being published. This is called peer-review.

    VIDEO: Understanding Peer Review (2:35)

    Describes the peer-review process and why such articles are important for university assignments. Accompanies Module 2 in the KPU Library's Doing Research Tutorial.

  • Video (YouTube)
  • Video (Kaltura)
  • Video transcript (text file)
  • Research databases usually include an option to filter results to "peer reviewed" or "scholarly" journal articles. This is very handy, but this filter is NOT 100% reliable. And often peer-reviewed journals will include some articles -- such as short book reviews or letters to the editor -- that have NOT been peer-reviewed. 

    VIDEO: Scholarly Journal Articles (04:37)

    Distinguishes the different types of materials that you will find in scholarly journals, and demonstrates how to spot the scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles.

  • Video (YouTube)
  • Video (Kaltura)
  • Video transcript (text file)
  • Always double-check that the article has the features of a peer-reviewed article such as an abstract and extensive in-text citations. If the article is under 5 pages, it probably isn't a peer-reviewed article. 

    Here's a handy interactive visual tool that shows what to look for:

    Still not sure? Ask yourself the questions in this PDF:

    KPU Library subscribes to over 200 research databases covering different subjects and types of information. Most of these databases help you to find journal articles on specific topics. The Summon search tool searches most of the library's database, all at once.



    But sometimes, Summon doesn't find the results you want. In that case, try searching within a specific database. Each database covers a different set of journals (and other sources), and has its own search tools. It's a good idea to search in more than one.

    Please see the "Journal Articles" tab on this library guide for a list of recommended databases for Criminology. Here is a quick search box for just one of these databases, called Criminal Justice Abstracts:

    search CJ Abstracts now

    Basic Summon search for scholarly articles

    Start with a Summon Search

    Use the KPU Library's search tool called Summon to search (almost) the entire KPU Library collection, all at once. Summon is the big search box on the library's homepage, but I've plugged in a quick search box below.

    1. Enter your somewhat-narrowed topic into the Summon search box below and click on "Search Summon"
    2. When your search results display, use the filters in the left-hand menu to limit your results only to Scholarly & Peer-Review Articles.
    3. Then use the Topics filter to limit your results to those related to Criminology. 


    screenshot of Summon search for DOMESTIC VIOLENCE showing option to filter results to scholarly/peer-reviewed journal articles

    screenshot of Summon search for scholarly articles on DOMESTIC VIOLENCE showing option to filter results by topic

    Planning your search

    After scanning the Summon search results for scholarly encyclopedias and peer-reviewed journal articles, I've decided to focus on the effects of the exposure to domestic violence as a child on later teen dating behaviour.

    This topic is still TOO BROAD, though. There are lots of ways I might narrow this down further:

    • WHO: girls versus boys? specific community (e.g. South Asian)? 
    • WHAT: perpetration versus victimization? type of behaviour (e.g violent)?
    • WHEN: during COVID? comparing two time periods?
    • WHERE: specific country/region? urban versus rural?

    I have highlighted the KEYWORDS that I will use to search for articles on my narrower topic in Summon. I will use the same filters as before, and add some more sophisticated techniques using the Advanced Search mode in Summon.

    VIDEO: From Question to Keywords (1:41)

    Short video helps you pick the keywords in your research question that will get the best results in a library research database.

    Credit: Lloyd Sealy Library at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY).

    Practice it yourself!

    screenshot of Search Planner example for the topic" Are girls who are exposed to domestic violence more likely to be perpetrators of violence in dating relationships?"

    Advanced Summon search for scholarly articles

    Advanced Summon Search

    The Advanced Search screen in Summon (and any research database) will give you more options to control the way that Summon handles your search. You can build much more precise searches. 

    For tips on how to put together a good search strategy in any database, see the "Planning your Search" box on this library guide. You should expect to try out many combinations of keywords. Look at the first 5-10 results that you get from each search. You may want to add in new concepts to narrow the focus of your topic further. You may also discover synonyms (words with the same meaning), or different spellings of words, that you want to include in your search. 

    To see the details of each search strategy in the Summon Advanced Search that I demonstrate in the workshop, please see this PDF:

    1. Enter the keywords for your narrower topic into the basic Summon search bar:
      • domestic violence exposure teen dating
    2. Select these two filters, if they are not still activated:
      • Scholarly & peer-reviewed articles
      • Topic: Criminology & penology
    3. Clck on the "Options" link to the right of the search bar to open the Advanced Screen in Summon

    screenshot showing how to open Summon's Advanced Search screen from the Options link


    screenshot of Summon search results filtered by topic, showing article abstract and subject terms in the "Quick Look" display

    Use the AND command to narrow your search

    Enter DIFFERENT concepts in SEPARATE search boxes, connected with the AND command. 
    • The AND search command between each box tells Summon to show only items that mention ALL of these terms. 
    • Each time you add a new concept in a separate search box with the AND search command, you will DECREASE the number of results you find.


    Use the OR command to broaden your search 

    Enter synonyms or related terms into the SAME search box, joined with the OR search command. 
    • The OR search command tells Summon to match ANY ONE of the terms that you entered in the box. This will expand your search leading to more results.
    • OR = MORE. 

    Use search tricks to improve your results

    See the Search Planner handout for details on each search trick. These can really improve the precision of your search and bring back more relevant results. See the Search Planner tab on this box for details. A couple of examples are shown below.

    screenshot of advanced Summon search showing the use of quotation marks to keep words together as a phrase, and the asterisk symbol to search for all words beginning with the same root

    How to take a screenshot

    For Part E of the library assignment, you will need to take a screenshot of your final search strategy and paste it into the assignment. The screenshot should show all of the search terms you used and how you combined them, and the number of peer-reviewed articles you found. See the instructions below on what to do if your screenshot does NOT include all of this information. 

    If your screenshot does not show all the search terms and how you combined them:

    If your screenshot does not show the number of peer-reviewed articles you found:

    APA citation

    For Part G of the library assignment, you must use APA format to create references for two peer-reviewed journal articles on your topic from the field of Criminology. 


    Library guide to APA citations for journal articles

    Video tutorial on APA references for journal articles

    Video credit: Western Sydney University Library. (2020). APA style, 7th edition: Referencing an online journal article [Videorecording].

    Examples of APA references for journal articles

    3 APA citations for journals articles: 1) standard, 2) no DOI but freely-available online, 3) no DOI and not freely-available online

    Most library research databases have built-in citation generators. These are handy tools to create a rough citation, but you ALWAYS need to double-check them. Here is an example from Summon:

    Key takeaways

    • You must narrow your broad topic 
    • there are several ways to start to narrow your topic:
      • brainstorm some ideas with WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE questions
      • use a scholarly encyclopedia
      • scan first 10 peer-reviewed articles in Summon
    • You can improve your search results by using simple filters built into Summon
    • You can improve them even more by using the Advanced Search screen in Summon:
      • include synonyms in the same search box with OR to expand your results
      • combine your concepts with AND to narrow your results
      • use the wildcard symbol (*) to match words with the same root
      • keep phrases together using double quotation marks
    • Searching is NOT a one-and-done thing. You will need to try several approaches, and learn from each one as you go along
    • You can use the citation generator in Summon to get a rough APA citation