Criminology and Criminal Justice (CRJ) 380

Taught by: Sarah Goodrum, Ph.D.

Course Description: This course provides a general introduction to the process of social research and data collection in a criminal justice setting.

The goal of the class: Students learn how to examine research reports, review and synthesize the research literature on a topic, and construct a research proposal.

Reading Material: Maxfield, Michael G. and Earl R. Babbie. 2015. Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology, 7th Edition. Stanford, CT: Cengage. ISBN-10: 1-285-06784-3.

Sarah Goodrum, Ph.D., teaches Criminology and Criminal Justice (CRJ) 380, “Justice Research and Statistics I.” The course introduces students to research methods in criminology and criminal justice.

“CRJ-380 provides students with insight into the process of research, including topic section, hypothesis development and data collection,” she said. “Much of the material helps students see how social scientific data is collected in criminal justice agencies and on criminology topics. We’re helping students understand and apply the steps of the research process.”

The research process applies in much more than just the academic world. Students in CRJ-380 focus on the process of locating high-quality references and using research evidence and statistics to support their requests for resources in criminal justice agencies, such as additional counselors for a domestic violence shelter, new body camera equipment for law enforcement officers or expanded addiction treatment services for a county’s drug court.

Throughout the course, students’ grades rely on four major homework assignments, which are scaffolded to build to the final research proposal. The structure helps students develop the project in stages over the course of the semester; this approach models the research process.

Goodrum also uses clickers—handheld remote devices that allow students to respond to quizzes electronically—every Thursday in class. “Sometimes, I’ll have them work in groups, and if it looks like they’re a little wobbly on a concept, I’ll have them discuss the answers before I close the quiz question,” she said. “I don’t want it to be a ‘gotcha’ type of quiz. I want it to be a way to enrich their understanding of difficult concepts.”

Goodrum strives to help her students get to know herself and the rest of the CRJ faculty in a unique and effective way: CRJ-380 is predicated on research, so she uses research articles produced by other UNC faculty members as course material. “I want the students to learn what UNC’s CRJ faculty have produced,” she said.

While the course teaches students these skills that are vital to their success in criminology and criminal justice, it can cover weighty topics, such as sexual assault, homicide and school violence. Goodrum works to lighten up the classroom atmosphere so students feel at ease and ready to work.

Every day, the students in this class walk in to hear a new song playing that sets the tone. “What’s nice about the music is that …students are more likely to talk to each other while I’m setting up for class, if music is playing. It’s a much friendlier classroom environment,” Dr. Goodrum said. “I don’t just want to be playing music I like; so [I ask each of] them, what is their ‘walk up’ song?” From Eminem to The Beatles, she plays students’ song selections each day before class starts, helping them get ready.

It’s an approach that Goodrum uses to help her students succeed. In a class that takes an in-depth look at research and weighty topics, a little levity goes a long way.

–By Debbie Pitner Moors

Dr. Sarah Goodrum uses many of her colleague’s and other articles in this class about research strategies:

Goodrum, S., Thompson, A. J., Ward, K. C., & Woodward, W. (2018). A case study on threat assessment: Learning critical lessons to prevent school violence. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 5(3), 121–136. doi: 10.1037/tam0000104

 Evans, M. K., Clinkinbeard, S. S., & Simi, P. (2014). Learning Disabilities and Delinquent Behaviors among Adolescents: A Comparison of Those with and without Comorbidity. Deviant Behavior, 36(3), 200–220. doi: 10.1080/01639625.2014.924361