Criminal Justice Research Topics

This collection provides overviews of nearly 100 key criminal justice research topics comprising traditional criminology and its more modern interdisciplinary outgrowths. These topics are divided into six thematic parts:

  1. Criminology
  2. Correlates of Crime
  3. Criminology Theories
  4. Crime Research
  5. Types of Crime
  6. Criminal Justice System

Criminology and Criminal Justice Research Topics

Research Topics in Criminology:

Research Topics in Crime and Victimization:

Research Topics in Criminology Theories:

Research Topics in Criminology Research and Measurement:

Research Topics in Types of Crime:

Research Topics in Criminal Justice System:


The study of criminal justice and criminology has experienced tremendous growth over the last years, which is evident, in part, by the widespread popularity and increased enrollment in criminology and criminal justice departments at the undergraduate and graduate levels, both across the United States and internationally. An evolutionary paradigmatic shift has accompanied this criminological surge in definitional, disciplinary, and pragmatic terms. Though long identified as a leading sociological specialty area, criminology has emerged as a stand-alone discipline in its own right, one that continues to grow and is clearly here to stay. Today, criminology remains inherently theoretical but is also far more applied in focus and thus more connected to the academic and practitioner concerns of criminal justice and related professional service fields. Contemporary study of criminology and criminal justice is also increasingly interdisciplinary and thus features a broad variety of research topics on the causes, effects, and responses to crime.

Because just listing suggestions for criminal justice research topics will be of limited value we have included short topical overviews and suggestions for narrowing those topics and divided them into 6 parts as in the list above. If you’re interested in some topic in the list follow the links below for more information.

Example criminal justice research papers on these topics have been designed to serve as sources of model papers for most criminological topics. These research papers were written by several well-known discipline figures and emerging younger scholars who provide authoritative overviews coupled with insightful discussion that will quickly familiarize researchers and students alike with fundamental and detailed information for each criminal justice topic.

This collection begins by defining the discipline of criminology and observing its historical development (Part I: Criminology). The various social (e.g., poverty, neighborhood, and peer/family influences), personal (e.g., intelligence, mental illness), and demographic (e.g., age, race, gender, and immigration) realities that cause, confound, and mitigate crime and crime control are featured in Part II: Correlates of Crime. The research papers in this section consider each correlate’s impact, both independently and in a broader social ecological context. The sociological origins of theoretical criminology are observed across several research papers that stress classical, environmental, and cultural influences on crime and highlight peer group, social support, and learning processes. Examination of these criminological theory research papers quickly confirms the aforementioned interdisciplinary nature of the field, with research papers presenting biological, psychological, and biosocial explanations and solutions for crime (Part III: Criminology Theories).

Part IV: Criminology Research provides example research papers on various quantitative and qualitative designs and techniques employed in criminology research. Comparison of the purposes and application of these research methods across various criminal justice topics illustrates the role of criminologists as social scientists engaged in research enterprises wherein single studies fluctuate in focus along a pure–applied research continuum. This section also addresses the measurement of crimes with attention to major crime reporting and recording systems.

Having established a theoretical–methodological symmetry as the scientific foundation of criminology, and increasingly the field of criminal justice, Part V: Types of Crime considers a wide range of criminal offenses. Each research paper in this section thoroughly defines its focal offense and considers the related theories that frame practices and policies used to address various leading violent, property, and morality crimes. These research papers also present and critically evaluate the varying level of empirical evidence, that is, research confirmation, for competing theoretical explanations and criminal justice system response alternatives that are conventionally identified as best practices.

Ostensibly, an accurate and thorough social science knowledge base stands to render social betterment in terms of reduced crime and victimization through the development of research–based practices. This science–practitioner relationship is featured, advocated, and critiqued in the research papers of the final section, Part VI: Criminal Justice System. Here, the central components of criminal justice research paper topics (law enforcement, courts, and corrections) are presented from a criminology–criminal justice outlook that increasingly purports to leverage theory and research (in particular, program evaluation results) toward realizing criminal justice and related social policy objectives. Beyond the main system, several research papers consider the role and effectiveness of several popular justice system and wrap-around component initiatives (e.g., specialty courts, restorative justice, and victim services).

See also: Domestic Violence Research Topics and School Violence Research Topics.