Objective: Students are to locate, download, and summarize six peer-reviewed journal articles based on one topic (Gangs). This should be one of the three topics from Writing Assignment 2. Four of t

Objective: Students are to locate, download, and summarize six peer-reviewed journal articles based on one topic (Gangs). This should be one of the three topics from Writing Assignment 2.  Four of these articles must be empirical, one must be a review, and one must be a position. Each summary is at least one page long. Minimum page length: six pages or at least one page per summary. Feel free to write more. Include a bibliography page in APA format in addition to writing at least six pages.

Topic: Gangs

Empirical articles – When the author(s) of the paper produce an original analysis and discussion of a particular topic or data set. For instance, a researcher is interested in the extent that gang members experience violence and interviews 60 of them throughout Los Angeles and reports on her findings. Empirical articles may also analyze the extent an intervention is effective (e.g. studies examining ‘what we do’ about crime in general or certain crimes), or how many minorities are incarcerated on drug charges compared to whites (e.g. studies examining conviction rates). This is the most common type of article that students will be expected to obtain.

Review articles – When the author(s) of the paper examine previously published data. Here, they might summarize other researchers’ findings and offer recommendations. The point here is that the authors do not collect original data or conduct any original analysis, but rather ‘review’ what other researchers produced. The key word here is ‘original analysis.’ If the authors of a paper use another data set (i.e. one they did not collect), but then produce their own analysis of that data, that would be an empirical article.

Position articles – When the author(s) of the paper state their opinion about a certain topic. Often these topics are related to policies (e.g. what is the most effective way to tackle gangs?). These papers are normally short 5-10 pages and appear towards the beginning of the journal. The journals Criminology and Public Policy and Criminal Justice Policy Review have many of these types of articles.

How to spot the difference? In most cases, the name of the article or the abstract gives away the type of article. If the title, for instance, says something like ‘A partial test of social learning theory towards explaining gang delinquency’, then this is a strong clue that the article is an empirical one. What gives it away here is the idea that the author(s) are testing a particular theory. If the title of the paper does not reveal anything, go to the abstract. Here, if you see numbers, the likelihood is that the article is an empirical one. These numbers likely represent people or locations (or gangs) that are part of the data. Look also for phrases like ‘we tested’ or 2‘we examined the extent that [x] could be explained by [y]’. Those are also likely empirical articles. If the abstract has the phrases ‘we review previous studies’ and the like, then it is probably a review article.

Not all articles are peer-reviewed. This means that what the authors say and how they collect data have not been verified by a panel of other experts and professionals. Generally speaking, students want to avoid these types of articles. A major reason is that such information might not be true. Articles published on websites can be particularly troubling as anyone can essentially say anything – regardless of how true or current the information might be. Websites with the word ‘wiki’ in their name (as in Wikipedia) have been proven to supply false information (There was an empirical study done on this. You can look it up!). Again, avoid using such information when constructing your work (e.g. papers, reflection exercises, projects, writing assignments, posters, presentation

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