CJ 101 Introduction to Criminal Justice (Williams)

For students in Michelle Williams' CJ 101

Why Start with Reference Sources

Use Background Info as a Starting Point

Build your background knowledge:

An overview of your broad topic area helps you understand...

  • What the key issues are 
  • Definitions of key concepts and terminology in the field
  • Who the stakeholders are (the groups or individuals this topic concerns)
  • A context to how your topic relates to larger societal issues that surround it
  • A historical perspective on your topic
  • Specialized vocabulary or search words that are used in your field (you will use these words for searches later in your research process)
Sample Topic: Restorative Justice 

Read a reference article on the topic of restorative justice to build your basic understanding of:

  • What restorative justice means
  • Who the stakeholders are. Who participates in it? Who does it impact?
  • Settings in which restorative justice is used
  • Why it is being adopted/ what the issues are
  • Key language and concepts in restorative justice
  • Debates
  • Laws and policies 
  • (and to find leads to other articles)

The image below is from the beginning of the article "Does Restorative Justice Really Work?"

(click on image to enlarge)

does restorative justice really work

Further Reading & Works Cited Lists
  • provide leads to other sources

Further Reading

To find a focus: 

Use two strategies in reference databases:

1. Do a general search in Gale eBooks and look over the results for subtopics you could focus in on.

2. Read through background articles and look for a subtopic to focus in on. 

Example: Restorative Justice 

You can just search for articles using the keyword phrase "restorative justice." 

If you know a little about a topic before you search, however, you will be able to focus in on areas that interest you.

In the excerpt below, which is from the opening to an article on restorative justice, I highlight words that capture different dimensions of the topic, from what restorative is, who it addresses, where it is practiced, what its goals are, synonyms to restorative justice, and ways in which it is enacted. 

The article provides different aspects of the topic, and suggests ways I could focus my topic. I could, for instance research:

  • restorative justice AND accountability
  • restorative justice AND healing

(click on image to enlarge)

Restorative Justice Keywords

Reference Databases