Fall 2015 UTRGV: Department of Criminal Justice

Graduate Pro-seminar

Instructor:                                          Dr. Joseph A-Gyamfi

Office:                                                319A (SBS)

Phone #                                              665-7061

Meeting Days and Times:                 Mondays 4.40-7.10PM

Classroom:                                         SBS 106

Office Hours:                                     Mondays 11AM-1PM; Wednesdays 11AM-1PM

Or by Appointment

Email:                                                 joseph.appiahenegyamfi@utrgv.edu


This theoretical and practical graduate-level (seminar-style) course, perhaps the first at UTRGV, is a “confidence-building” course that is devoted to assist the incoming criminal justice graduate student to transition from undergraduate studies to graduate studies. A core for all UTRGV CJ graduate students, the course is in at least two phases. First, it provides a brief overview of criminological thought (the phenomena/nature of crime and delinquency) and the total criminal justice system or administration of justice – the total system and process. Second, and perhaps, most important, the course seeks to guide the new CJ graduate student through a process by which s/he may be able to build detailed roadmaps for h/is academic/research career, interests and future specialty and/or goals. We examine or learn about the skills and nuances required for writing good quality term papers, short essays, research papers, thesis proposals and the actual thesis. We will be exposed to a series of approaches, directions and styles that have direct practical value to making graduate education productive. The directions include scholarly book reviews, writing research papers, thesis proposal, and developing sustainable scholarly practices to succeed in graduate school; identify area(s) of interests and build the confidence needed to explore career opportunities over a lifetime. Thus, the course will prepare the student in a theoretically-informed self-conscious and critically on how to improve or succeed, and practically, in hands-on research and conversations about academic pursuits – writing logically and skillfully, and preparing for conferences and seminars, etc.

FORMAT: The course is the traditional lecture and seminar formats and presentations; critical reviews and discussions of book chapters and group discussions etc.


Course goals:


Student Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

Required Course Textbooks:

1.      Belcher, W. L. (2009). Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Sage

2.      Goodson, P. (2013). Becoming an academic writer (50 exercises for paced, productive, and powerful writing). Sage

3.      Reynolds, P. D. (2007). A primer of theory construction. Pearson (Allyn & Bacon Classics)

         Book review – Reynolds, P. D. (2007). A primer of theory construction. Pearson (Allyn & Bacon Classics)

Supplementary materials and information will be assigned


Important dates

Aug. 31st Classes begin

Sept. 7th Labor Day Holiday

Sept. 16th Census day

Nov. 18th Drop/Withdrawal deadline

Nov. 26-27 Thanksgiving Holiday

Dec. 10th Study day

Dec. 11-17 Final Exams


Assignment due dates

Book Review                                                                          Monday October 26th

Portfolio Inspection                                                               Monday November 2nd

Portfolio Submission                                                             Monday December 8th


Course Evaluation:

1.                  Seminar Presentations/participation                                                                10%

2.                  Book Review                                                                                                  10%

3.                  Belcher Exercises                                                        =                                  30%

4.                  Goodson Exercises                                                     =                                  30%

5.                  Four exercises (see Appendix of Reynolds pp. 172-175) @              =          20%

*Final examination                                                                                          No final exam


Student Tasks & Responsibilities:

         Each student will develop/create a folder/portfolio that will contain all the weekly exercises from Belcher & Goodson, three thesis/research topics, a thesis/research proposal, the four (4) exercises from Reynolds (see Appendix), and at least one-and-half (1) pages summary of class presentation.

         Students will “grade” (evaluate work) of fellow students bi-weekly – comments & assign grades on a separate paper (This is kept by the student & handed in to me together with the portfolio at the end of course).

         Students will have the opportunity to redo & edit work after each class discussion

         Thesis/research project proposal guidelines will be supplied

         Book review – Reynolds – at least six pages. Will be discussed

         *One-page essay on your aims for coming to grad school & expectations of grad education

         Portfolios will be turned over/in to me on December 7th for final evaluation and grading.


SCHOLASTIC INTEGRITY: By choosing to attend UTRGV, the student has accepted the expectations of the Academic Misconduct Policy. Therefore, when confronted with choices, always take the ethical path. Academic integrity is a legitimate concern for every member of the campus community; all share in upholding the fundamental values of honesty, trust, respect, fairness, responsibility and professionalism. As members of a community dedicated to Honesty, Integrity and Respect, students are reminded that those who engage in scholastic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary penalties, including the possibility of failure in the course and expulsion from the program and the University. Scholastic dishonesty includes, but not limited to: cheating, plagiarism, and collusion; submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person; taking an examination for another person; any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student; or the attempt to commit such acts. Since scholastic dishonesty harms the individual, all students and the integrity of the University, policies on scholastic dishonesty will be strictly enforced (Board of Regents Rules and Regulations and UTRGV Academic Integrity Guidelines). All scholastic dishonesty incidents will be reported to the Dean of Students.

FINAL GRADE POLICE: You must complete every course requirement including attending classes in order to receive a final grade. Defaulters in any one requirement will fail the course regardless of grades received so far.

ATTENDANCE POLICY: This is not online course. Your physical presence or class attendance is mandatory. UTRGV’s attendance policy excuses students from attending class if they are participating in officially sponsored university activities, such as athletics; for observance of religious holy days; or for military service. Students should contact the instructor in advance of the excused absence and arrange to make up missed work or examinations. Two absences will be considered as withdrawal from this course. That is, if you absent yourself two times and do not withdraw, you will fail the course no matter your current grade. Responsibility to withdraw/drop is the students’.

COURSE DROPS: According to UTRGV policy, students may drop any class without penalty earning a grade of DR until the official drop date. Following that date, students must be assigned a letter grade and can no longer drop the class. Students considering dropping the class should be aware of the “3-peat rule” and the “6-drop” rule so they can recognize how dropped classes may affect their academic success. The 6-drop rule refers to Texas law that dictates that undergraduate students may not drop more than six courses during their undergraduate career. Courses dropped at other Texas public higher education institutions will count toward the six-course drop limit. The 3-peat rule refers to additional fees charged to students who take the same class for the third time.

CELLPHONE POLICY: It is said that courtesy costs nothing, but pays much. Those who are in the habit of leaving their cellphones on should know that it is not only a nuisance to me, but also distracting to the other students. It is unacceptable. Please turn or mute your cellphones, pagers, etc. when in class. Two points will be deducted from your final grade if your cellphone, pager etc. rings in class.

“TALKING” IN CLASS POLICY: Class participation is encouraged, but talking, scribbling notes around, making signs, gestures and sometimes laughing aloud to the hearing of the class when lecture is in progress is not. Two points will be deducted when caught and the culprit asked to leave the classroom.

“SLEEPING” POLICY: Do not “sleep” or “burry” your head/face on your table/desk, etc. while class is in session/progress. You will be asked to leave the classroom and two points deducted from your final grade if found to be sleeping, dosing or inattentive.

DECORUM POLICY: Do not leave and return unceremoniously while lecture is in progress, it is distracting, as well. You will be asked to leave if this becomes persistent.

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: If you have a documented disability (physical, psychological, learning, or other disability which affects your academic performance) and would like to receive academic accommodations, please inform me and contact Student Accessibility Services to schedule an appointment to initiate services. It is recommended that you schedule an appointment with Student Accessibility Services before classes start. However, accommodations can be provided at any time. Brownsville Campus: Student Accessibility Services is located in Cortez Hall Room 129 and can be contacted by phone at (956) 882-7374 (Voice) or via email at accessibility@utrgv.edu. Edinburg Campus: Student Accessibility Services is located in 108 University Center and can be contacted by phone at (956) 665-7005 (Voice), (956) 665-3840 (Fax), or via email at accessibility@utrgv.edu.

MANDATORY COURSE EVALUATION PERIOD: Students will be required to complete an ONLINE evaluation of this course, accessed through your UTRGV account (http://my.utrgv.edu) from Nov. 18 to Dec. 9, 2015; you will be contacted via email with further instructions. Students who complete their evaluations will have priority access to their grades.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT, DISCRIMINATION, & VIOLENCE: In accordance with UT System regulations, your instructor is a “responsible employee” for reporting purposes under Title IX regulations and so must report any instance, occurring during a student’s time in college, of sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, or sexual harassment about which she/he becomes aware during this course through writing, discussion, or personal disclosure. More information can be found at www.utrgv.edu/equity, including confidential resources available on campus. The faculty and staff of UTRGV actively strive to provide a learning, working, and living environment that promotes personal integrity, civility, and mutual respect in an environment free from sexual misconduct and discrimination.


CJ Mission Statement: A Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice prepares students interested in criminal justice careers like law enforcement, parole and probation, corrections, and youth services. While students will learn about the inner workings of the justice system, our courses are also designed to develop skills that will make their careers more successful, like critical thinking skills, good communication skills, problem solving skills, and an ability to grow and learn after college. Finally, the degree prepares students interested in pursuing a graduate degree by providing a strong academic foundation in criminological theory, research methods, and statistics.



Student learning objectives

1. Demonstrate knowledge of the structure, operations, and practices of the major components of the criminal justice system which include police, courts, corrections, and laws.

2. Explain the fundamentals of research methods and statistical techniques used in criminal justice research.

3. Apply critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and communication skills through classroom assignments.

4. Demonstrate knowledge of criminological theory and crime control techniques


Belcher, W. L

Introduction: Using This Workbook                                                               xi

Goals of the workbook. History of the workbook. Philosophy of the workbook. Pedagogy of the workbook. General instructions. Using the workbook according to your temperament, discipline, or career stage. Using the workbook by yourself, with a writing partner, in a writing group, with coauthors, or to teach a class. Feedback to the author.


Week 1: Designing Your Plan for Writing                                                             1

Instruction: Understanding feelings about writing. Keys to positive writing experiences. Designing a plan for submitting your article in twelve weeks.

Exercises: Selecting a paper for revision. Choosing your writing site. Designing your writing schedule. Anticipating and overturning writing obstacles.


Week 2: Starting Your Article                                                                                 43

Instruction: Types of academic articles. Myths about publishable journal articles. What gets published and why. Abstracts as a tool for success. Getting started on your article revision.

Exercises: Hammering out your topic. Rereading your paper. Drafting your abstract. Reading a model article. Revising your abstract.


Week 3: Advancing Your Argument                                                                      67

Instruction: Common reasons why journals reject articles. Main reason journal articles are rejected: no argument. Making a good argument. Organizing your article around your argument.

Exercises: Drafting your argument. Reviewing your article for an argument. Revising your article around your argument.


Week 4: Selecting a Journal                                                                                     99

Instruction: Good news about journals. The importance of picking the right journal. Types of academic journals: non-recommended, questionable, and preferred. Finding suitable academic journals.

Exercises: Searching for journals. Evaluating academic journals. Matching your article to suitable journals. Reading relevant journals. Writing a query letter to editors. Making a final decision about which journal.


Week 5: Reviewing the Related Literature                                                             139

Instruction: Reading the scholarly literature. Types of scholarly literature. Strategies for getting reading done. Identifying your relationship to the related literature. Avoiding plagiarism. Writing about others’ research.

Exercises: Evaluating your current citations. Identifying and reading the related literature. Evaluating the related literature. Writing or revising your related literature review.




Week 6: Strengthening Your Structure                                                                  171

Instruction: On the importance of structure. Types of structures. Article structures in the social sciences and humanities. Solving structural problems. Revising for structure.

Exercises: Outlining a model article. Outlining your article. Restructuring your article.


Week 7: Presenting Your Evidence                                                                         189

Instruction: Types of evidence. Writing up evidence in the social sciences. Writing up evidence in the humanities. Revising your evidence.

Exercises: Discussing evidence in your field. Revisiting your evidence. Shaping your evidence around your argument.


Week 8: Opening and Concluding Your Article                                                    201

Instruction: On the importance of openings. Revising your opening and conclusion.

Exercises: Revising your title. Revising your introduction. Revisiting your abstract, related literature review, and author order. Revising your conclusion.


Week 9: Giving, Getting, and Using Others' Feedback                                         221

Instruction: Types of feedback. Exchanging your articles.

Exercises: Sharing your article and getting feedback. Making a list of remaining tasks. Revising your article according to feedback.


Week 10: Editing Your Sentences                                                                           235

Instruction: On taking the time. Types of revising. The rules of editing. The Belcher diagnostic test. Editing your article.

Exercises: Running the Belcher diagnostic test. Revising your article with the diagnostic test. Correcting other types of problem sentences.

         N/B                 Eg. Wordiness, verbiage, run-ons, syntax, tenses, etc.


Week 11: Wrapping Up Your Article                                                                     267

Instruction: On the perils of perfection. Finalizing your article.

Exercises: Finalizing your argument, related literature review, introduction, evidence, structure, and conclusion.


Week 12: Sending Your Article!                                                                              271

Instruction: On the importance of finishing. Getting the submission ready.

Exercises: Writing the cover letter. Preparing illustrations. Putting your article into the journal's style. Preparing the final print or electronic version. Send and celebrate!


Week X: Responding to Journal Decisions                                                             287

Instruction: An exhortation. Waiting for the journal's decision. Reading the journal's decision. Types of journal decisions. Responding to journal decisions.

Exercises: Evaluating and responding to the journal decision. Planning your revision. Revising your article. Drafting your revision cover letter. Requesting permissions. On the importance of persevering.



End Notes                                                                                                                   321

Works Cited                                                                                                                327

Recommended Readings                                                                                            337

Index                                                                                                                           341

About the Author                                                                                                       351



Chapter One-Get Ready to Practice                                                                       1

The POWER Model                                                                                                   3

         The Theory Behind POWER                                                                          3

         The Research Behind POWER                                                                       4

Talent Development and Elite Performance:

         The Psychology Literature                                                                              6

         Talent Development and Elite Performance: The Neuroscience Literature    7

Practicing Academic Writing                                                                                      9

Notes                                                                                                                           10

Electronic Sources                                                                                                      10

References                                                                                                                  10


Part 1. Practice Becoming a Productive Academic Writer

Chapter Two-Establish and Maintain the "Write" Habit                                    15

Think About It …                                                                                                       16

Seeing Yourself as a Writer                                                                                        17

         STEP 1: Embrace the "Write" Attitude                                                          17

         STEP 2: Manage the Contingencies                                                               18

         STEP 3: Practice                                                                                             19

EXERCISE I-Schedule Your Writing Sessions                                                         21

EXERCISE 2-Increase Your Writing Time in No Time                                            23

EXERCISE 3-Write Quickly, Edit Slowly                                                                25

EXERCISE 4-0rganize Messy Drafts                                                                                    28

EXERCISE 5-Keep and Share a Writing Log                                                           31

EXERCISE 6-Read About Writing                                                                           34

EXERCISE 7-Document Your Writing Projects                                                       36

EXERCISE 8-Write to Learn (Anything, Including How to Write)                         39

Notes                                                                                                                           42

Electronic Sources                                                                                                      42

References                                                                                                                  42


Chapter Three-Practice Building Academic Vocabulary                                     45

Think About It                                                                                                           46

EXERCISE 9-lncrease Your Vocabulary One Word at a Time                                 51

EXERCISE 10-Use New Academic Words                                                              54

EXERCISE 11-Build Your Own Professional Dictionary/Glossary                              57

Electronic Sources                                                                                                      60

References                                                                                                                  60


Chapter Four-Polish the Grammar                                                                          61

Think About It …                                                                                                       62

EXERCISE 12-Learn From the Masters                                                                     65

EXERCISE 13-ldentify Patterns of Problems                                                             67

EXERCISE 14-Practice Grammar Rules                                                                     69

EXERCISE IS-Copy                                                                                                  71

Note                                                                                                                            74

Electronic Sources                                                                                                      74

References                                                                                                                  74


Chapter Five-Get Feedback                                                                                     77

Think About It                                                                                                            78

Types of Feedback                                                                                                      80

EXERCISE 16-Get Feedback on Early Drafts                                                             82

EXERCISE 17-Get Feedback on Middle Drafts                                                          85

EXERCISE 18-Get Feedback on Final Drafts                                                             87

EXERCISE 19-Get Feedback Regularly                                                                     90

EXERCISE 20-Schedule Reading Appointments                                                         93

References                                                                                                                  94


Chapter Six-Edit and Proofread                                                                              95

Think About It …                                                                                                       96

EXERCISE 21-Tighten the Paragraphs                                                                       98

EXERCISE 22-Make It Flow: Organize                                                                     102

EXERCISE 23-Clear Out the Clutter                                                                         106

EXERCISE 24-Use a Thesaurus and a Reverse Dictionary                                         114

EXERCISE 25-Pay Attention to Word Placement                                                      118

EXERCISE 26-Cut It in Half

EXERCISE 27-Read Aloud

EXERCISE 28-Copyedit: Proofread Line by Line


Electronic Sources



Part II. Practice Writing Sections of Journal Articles, Research Reports, and Grant Applications

Chapter Seven – Exercises for Writing Introductions, Purpose Statements, or Specific Aims Sections                                     133

Think About It …                                                                                                       134

EXERCISE 29-Map                                                                                                   137

EXERCISE 30-Dump                                                                                                 140

EXERCISE 31-Craft the Purpose Statement                                                             142

EXERCISE 32-Develop the Rationale                                                                      146

EXERCISE 33-Present the Literature Review                                                          149

EXERCISE 34-Lay Out the Theoretical Framework                                                 150

EXERCISE 35-Check It                                                                                            152

Checklist for Introductions                                                                                         152

Notes                                                                                                                           153

Electronic Sources                                                                                                      154

References                                                                                                                  154


Chapter Eight-Exercises for Writing the Methods Section                                   155

Think About It …                                                                                                       156

EXERCISE 36-Practice Describing                                                                           158

EXERCISE 37-Describe the Research Design                                                          160

EXERCISE 38-Describe the Sample                                                                         162

EXERCISE 39-Describe the Measures                                                                      163

EXERCISE 40-Describe Data Collection and Data Management Procedures          165

EXERCISE 41-Describe the Data Analysis                                                               168

Note                                                                                                                            169

References                                                                                                                  169


Chapter Nine-Exercises for Writing the Results/Findings Section                       171

Think About It …                                                                                                       172

EXERCISE 42-Picture the Findings                                                                          174

EXERCISE 43-Describe the Most Important Findings                                             176

Checklist for Results/Findings Sections                                                                     177

EXERCISE 44-Summarize the Least Important Findings                                         179

Note                                                                                                                            179

Electronic Sources                                                                                                      180

References                                                                                                                  180


Chapter Ten-Exercises for Writing the Discussion or Conclusion Section          181

Think About It …                                                                                                       182

EXERCISE 45-Question the Results/Findings                                                          185

EXERCISE 46-Connect the Dots: Other Research                                                   187

EXERCISE 47-Connect the Dots: Relevant Theory                                                 189

EXERCISE 48-Guide Your Reader Into the Future                                                 192

EXERCISE 49-Confess Limitations                                                                          195

Notes                                                                                                                           198

References                                                                                                                  198


Chapter Eleven-Exercise for Writing Abstracts                                                    199

Think About It…                                                                                                        200

EXERCISE 50-Write an Abstract in 20 Minutes                                                       203

References                                                                                                                  205


Afterword                                                                                                                   207

Appendix: Additional Resources                                                                               209

Author Index                                                                                                              213

Subject Index                                                                                                              217


A Primer of Theory Construction

Assignment 1: Empirical Generalization and Empirical Support

Assignment II: Explanation of an Empirical Generalization

Assignment III: Testing a Theory 

Assignment IV: Application of Theories to Natural Phenomena