Thesis Guidelines & Procedures


  1. The student should have completed the Application for Candidacy form and the candidacy must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.
  2. When the student is within two semesters of completing the program, he/she develops a brief proposal, which serves as the preliminary document for approval. See guidelines for a thesis proposal.  This five to ten page document is submitted first to the chair of his/her committee. The student and the chair of the committee select a second committee member from the department.
  3. The student obtains the Topic Approval Form from the Graduate Office, which is signed by the two committee members. The proposal, the topic approval form and the names of the two committee members are sent to the Graduate Dean for appointment of the third committee member.
  4. Upon appointment of the third committee member by the Dean of the Graduate School, the student should arrange a meeting of the committee to discuss and approve the proposal. After this meeting the Topic Approval form is signed by the department chairperson, the third member of the committee, and the Dean of Graduate Studies.
  5. If the research proposal involves human subjects, a proposal must be submitted to the College Human Subjects Committee. The Graduate Coordinator has copies of the cover page form and format for this proposal, and they are available here.
  6. The student can then register for thesis through the Graduate School.
  7. During the first semester of the thesis the student enrolls in CJ 694, and in a subsequent semester CJ 695. The student will conduct a study and write a thesis consisting of the following components: (1) introduction; (2) literature review; (3) method; (4) results; (5) discussion; and (6) bibliography. Appendices are optional, depending on the nature of the study. Prior to enrolling and developing the study, the student must have the permission of the committee chairman.
  8. When conducting the study and writing the thesis, there are certain pitfalls that a student should avoid. First of all, page numbers should appear on all rough drafts.  If the pages get out of order, it is difficult for the faculty member to get them back in order, or to refer the student to places where changes need to be made.  Faculty refuse to read anything that is submitted without page numbers.
  9. The student should consult with his/her chair and committee membersfrequently. As a guideline, a student should be in touch with the committee chair at least every other week, even if he or she has been unable to work much on the thesis.  Each time a chapter is completed, the student should give it to the committee chair to read, and in the meantime can be writing the next chapter. Do not write the entire thesis and turn it in to the chair. It has happened that a student has written an entire document, and turned it in, and expected to have the thesis orals in a few days. No one is successful who attempts this strategy.
  10. It is usually the case that a thesis will be revised several times. The student should anticipate that writing a thesis would take several months after the collection of the data. Most students will need at least two semesters to complete a thesis.
  11. During the semester that the student anticipates completing the thesis, he/she should enroll for GR 699, Oral exam, through the Graduate School.
  12. The paper should be in its final form and acceptable to the committee chairperson two or more weeks prior to the date of the oral examination. The second and third committee members do not normally receive the paper until the chairperson authorizes its release. A University cover sheet and acceptance sheet should be obtained from the Graduate Office.  The forms are available online.
  13. The oral exam is scheduled for two hours. The deadline for orals is listed in the schedule of classes each semester. At the conclusion of the oral exam, the student is responsible for obtaining the committee members’ signatures on the acceptance sheet. The acceptance sheet must be received in the Graduate Office by the deadline stated in the schedule of classes for that semester.
  14. At least two weeks prior to the end of the semester (one week in the summer), the student must give the original copy of the thesis and the approval form to the Dean of Graduate Studies. It is the responsibility of the student to make sure that the thesis is in final form, and take it to the graduate office.  The original and one copy of the thesis will be bound and placed in Kent Library. Students may have additional copies made for themselves and their advisors. The student pays the binding and copying costs.

Content of the Thesis

Some General Comments About Writing

The thesis should follow the rules for scientific writing generally.  Journal articles follow this style, and the thesis should be patterned accordingly.  Please note the following:

  1. Scientific writing uses the third person.  Do not use I, we, or you.
  2. APA style should be used.  All students are required to obtain a personal copy of the APA manual, 5th edition.
  3. Avoid the use of slang (for example, refer to children or youths or adolescents, NOT kids, which is a slang word).  Writing is more formal than speaking.
  4. Do not use contractions (can't, don't , etc.)
  5. Never start a sentence with numerals (i.e., "100 subjects will be used"   is not correct.  One hundred should be spelled out if it is at the beginning of a sentence.  Numbers (numerals) can be used if they appear within the sentence.
  6. Watch paragraph length.  A paragraph should develop a theme, and should have only one theme.  A paragraph would never have only one sentence.  A paragraph that is more than 3/4 of a page is probably too long and has more than one theme.
  7. Do not use the word "prove" in scientific writing.  Also, research does not "reveal" anything. Research "indicates" or "suggests."
  8. A sentence should not end with a preposition (in, on, at).
  9. Verbs that end in a preposition are frequently incorrect, or there is a better verb.  Consider the following examples:
Poor Wording Better Wording
look at examine
send back return
give out administer
fill out complete
see, find out determine
do research conduct research
picked selected
ask for request
set up develop, establish
made up of composed of
bring about implement
amount number
break down into classify, categorize
make up


The committee chair should not have to make these types of editing changes.  It is the student's responsibility to edit.  If the thesis is not well-written, the committee may require the student to seek assistance from the Writing Center.  They may verify that the appointment with the Writing Center has been kept.


A paragraph summarizes the study. It should be about one-half to three-quarters of a page in length, and is often written last, even though it is placed at the beginning.

Chapter 1

This chapter should describe the problem to be studied, and should be about 10 pages. The following sections should be used: (1) introduction; (2) problem statement and purpose(s) of the study; (3) hypotheses; (4) assumptions and limitations of the study; (5) conceptual framework; (6) significance of the study; and (7) brief summary.

Introduction: The introduction should discuss the general topic to be addressed. For example, if the study concerns battered women, the introduction would discuss domestic violence in general, perhaps providing some pertinent statistics to catch the reader’s attention, or provide a brief historical overview. This section should be 1 1/2 to 2 pages.

Problem statement: Once the topic has been introduced, the writer can ease into the specific problem that will be addressed in this particular study, and what the study will try to accomplish. If a particular agency is involved in the study, some background on that agency should be provided.

Hypotheses: Statements about the expected or predicted relationships between two or more variables. They must be specific and use variables that can be measured.

Assumptions and Limitations: Assumptions are premises which are assumed to be true, but which cannot or will not be tested. For example, in a survey we assume that people will be reasonably truthful as long as the study is designed appropriately and there is not evidence during the course of the study to determine otherwise. (An assumption of science is that there is a pattern, that nature is not chaotic, and that we can understand the phenomenon under study. Obviously we cannot prove this). Limitations of the study should also be addressed. A common limitation is the nature of the subject pool. For example, if you use a subject population in Cape Girardeau, the results might be different from those in a major metropolitan area.

Conceptual Framework: This should briefly describe the theoretical background behind the hypotheses. For example, if you were doing a study of patrol, the proper theoretical background would be deterrence theory.

Significance of the Study: This section should indicate why the study is important. What questions will be answered? How might the findings be applied?

Summary: A brief summary of Chapter 1 (please note: a summary should not contain new material).

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 is a literature review, a summary of the relevant theory and research related to the research question. It should be a scholarly review of the literature, and should meet certain requirements.

  1. Most of the citations should be recent (i.e., probably in the last five to seven years). Earlier studies should only be cited if they appear to be classic, landmark studies. When conducting the literature search, start with recent sources and work back.
  2. To review literature, use the Criminal Justice Abstracts and computerized databases such as SADIE, PSYCHLIT, and those on the Internet. Remember that you may have to try a variety of key words to access works that are relevant. Committee members will be most skeptical if they are told that there is not research on the topic. If the journal or book is not in our library, and you think it is important, you can obtain a copy through interlibrary loan (MOBIUS) online, which usually takes a few days.
  3. Literature reviews should cite works from journals, books or government documents. They should not extensively cite work from agency manuals or popular magazines or newspapers. Journal articles are usually the most common source of information.
  4. A quick way to locate sources is to obtain a recent textbook on the topic, which will often summarize the research and provide references in the footnotes. Of course, this will not provide the most recent information, as there is a publication lag. Recent journal articles will often have a summary of research in the introduction section.
  5. Students frequently want to know how many sources they should have. A thorough review of literature could easily have fifty or more. For purposes of the thesis, a minimum of twenty-five is expected. Ordinarily, most of these sources would be scholarly journal articles.
  6. When reviewing the literature, organize the articles under subheadings (i.e., if one were reviewing alternatives to juvenile institutionalization, one might have subheadings under "history of institutions" "problems of institutions" "de-institutionalization and diversion movements" "alternatives" "evaluation of alternatives").
    Be sure to summarize the review. It is desirable to include a discussion section at the end of the literature review, in which the implications of the previous studies are described, and the direction you will be taking in the third chapter is indicated. This chapter should be a minimum of 15-20 pages.
  7. Any studies cited in the text should be in the bibliography, and all bibliographic information should be cited in the text. The student will need to check to make sure that the text and the bibliography match. When Chapter 2 is turned into the committee chair, the bibliography should also be turned in.

When citing studies, APA style should be used.  Last names of authors and year of publication are cited in the text.

For example:
Hunter (1994) has described the similarities between modern boot camp programs and the regimen used at New York's Elmira Reformatory in the late nineteenth century.


Studies that compare their expectations and perceptions are thus important from a policy perspective (Skoler, 1976).

If several studies are cited:
Such studies suggest that the results are inconsistent across the states (MacKenzie, 1994; MacKenzie, 1995; Zhang, 1998).

Chapter 3

This chapter describes the methods that were used in the study. It includes the following sections: (1) subjects; (2) instruments; (3) procedure; and (4) data analysis.

Subjects: If human subjects are used in the study, this section should describe the sample. This description should include the number of subjects used, and how they were selected (i.e., random sample? All the individuals working at a particular police department? volunteers at a specific drug rehabilitation center? Etc.) There should be a description of the subjects, including age, sex, geographical location and all other vital demographic data accumulated for your particular group. The sample must be adequately defined.

Sometimes a table or tables are used in subject description.  Each table should be numbered (1, 2, 3, etc.) and have a descriptive title.  The text should appear first and refer to the table by number and then the table follows.

Instruments: A description of any paper and pencil measures used (if any). If the instrument is well known, such as the MMPI, it can be briefly described. If you have developed your own survey or test, the procedures used to develop it should be described, and you should include a copy of the questions in an appendix.

Procedure: This should describe how the study was implemented. For example, if a survey of battered women was done, you should indicate how the questionnaires were distributed to the subjects, i.e., did they answer the questions as a group in a room, or did they take it with them with instructions to return it at a later date? In short, this section describes the details of data collection.

Data analysis: This section should indicate the statistical tests used to test the hypotheses.

Chapter 4

Descriptive statistics (percentages, means, standard deviations) should be presented first, and then inferential statistics (chi-squares, t-tests, ANOVAs, etc). The order of presentation of inferential statistics should follow that of the order of the hypotheses in the first chapter. Each hypothesis should be briefly restated, and the results then presented. Tables and graphs can be used to illustrate the results. As the results are presented, the text should refer to tables and graphs as appropriate. There should not be any discussion of results in this chapter.

Tables should be numbered, and each table should have a descriptive title.  Since most tables will be in chapter 4, each table should be numbered as 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, etc. The results for a table should be presented in the text, and reference made to the table using its number. The table should follow after this text. Microsoft Word has an excellent table function, which provides a variety of table formats and lines up the numbers.  In the example below, the right hand column is centered, which gives the table a nice look.  An example follows.

As can be seen in Table 4, certain stressors had occurred for over one-third of the DWI-arrested individuals, including arrest, job loss, and unemployment (40%); financial difficulties (38%); divorce or separation (35.5%); illness or death in the family (35.5%); and conflict in the home (32.9%).

Table 4.  Percentage of DWI Offenders endorsing a Psychosocial Stressor Within the last year.

Stressful Life Event Percent Endorsement
Arrest 92.2%
Job loss 40.0%
Unemployment 40.0%
Financial difficulties 38.0%
New job 37.0%
Serious illness/death of family member 35.5%
Separation, divorce, or breakup of relationship 35.5%
Conflict in the home 32.9%
Other stressor 29.7%
Accident victim 19.5%
Problems at work or school 13.0%
Injury or illness--self 10.2%
Pregnancy 6.4%
Birth 4.8%
Loss of a friend 0.6%
Injury to family member 0.6%
Death of a friend 0.4%
Leaving home 0.2%
Crime victim 0.0%



This table is provided to assist in selecting appropriate statistical tests.

Level of Measurement One Group Two Groups More than 2 Groups
Nominal Chi-Square    
    Independent   Mann-Whitney Kruskal Wallis
    Related (paired)   Wilcoxin  
Interval or ratio      
    Independent   t-test for independent samples analysis of variance
    Related   t-test for related samples  

Chapter 5

This chapter involves discussion and conclusions. It should generally be seen as the most difficult chapter to write. The results that were obtained should be described and analyzed. What do they mean? The chapter should discuss what was observed during the course of the study, and what the writer concluded from those observations.

This chapter should then tie observations or results and conclusions to the literature review in Chapter 2. Were the observations and conclusions similar to those in the literature? Were they different, and if so, how? How are the results typical and/or different from other similar studies described in the literature?

The discussion should then address any obstacles encountered, and whether these could have impacted results. In short, what were the limitations and shortcomings of the study?

There should then be discussion of the implications of the study—for the agency, the field, for theory, etc. What overall conclusions and recommendations would you make? What directions should future research take?

Finally, there should be an overall summarization. This chapter should be a minimum of 12-15 pages.


All studies cited in the text should be included in the bibliography, and everything in the bibliography should be cited in the text. Most of the references will be cited in Chapter 2. APA style should be used.

APA style begins at the left margin, and then the rest of the lines are indented.  Citations are listed alphabetically by the last name of the first author.

For a journal article, the sequence is as follows: author's last name, first and middle initials, next author last name, initials, etc., then the year of publication in parentheses and a period, then the title of the article, then the journal (italicized) then a comma, volume number, comma, pages.

Veneziano, C.A., Veneziano, L.C., Bourns, W., Fichter, M. & Summers, K. (2000).   Differences in expectations and perceptions among criminal justice officials concerning boot camps. The Justice Professional, 13, 377-389.

Note:  indent the 2nd and 3rd lines.

For a book, the sequence is: author's last name, initials, next author, year of publication in parentheses, period, title of the book (italicized) and a period, city of publisher, colon, publisher, period.

Zimring, F.E. & Hawkins, G. (1997).  Crime is not the Problem:  Lethal Violence in America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Note: indent the 2nd line.

To cite a chapter in a book of readings, the sequence is: author last name, initials, next author, etc, year of publication in parentheses, period, title of chapter, in title of book (italicized), comma names of editors, comma, eds in parentheses, city of publisher, colon, publisher, comma, page number of the chapter.

Tremblay, R.E. & Craig, W.M. (1995).  Developmental crime prevention, in Strategic Approaches to Crime Prevention, (M. Tonry & D. Farrington, eds).  Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 151-236.

Note: indent the 2nd and 3rd lines.


Brandt 329
Department of Criminal Justice & Sociology
One University Plaza, MS 7950
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701