One way to approach a criminology research paper project involves exploring topics prompted by criminology's underlying themes, such as those listed in the University of Washington course outline. Combining a thematic concept with something of individual or local interest can lend a project a strong personal connection. For example, you might look for a way to combine local school bullying problems or domestic violence in your family or neighbourhood with one of the thematic concepts that underlie criminology studies.
Within the deterrence theme, consider a topic such as the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of one or more types of deterrence society currently applies. You can research the degree of effectiveness of long-term prison sentences, for example. Life imprisonment without any parole option and capital punishment clearly deter the individual who committed the crime from future offences, but you can research the degree to which such deterrent approaches do or do not deter others from committing similar crimes. Another research project related to the deterrence theme could involve examining whether restraining orders deter individuals from repeated violence or stalking activity. Such a project should examine the reasons for the failure or success of restraining orders.
For the poverty theme, you can research such topics as whether an impoverished circumstance indicates a greater likelihood of criminal activity. If it does, you can research additional factors that can either increase or decrease that likelihood in individual instances. Examples of such factors include employment potential, population density and family background.
The subcultures theme within criminology might suggest research projects such as whether those of common ethnic backgrounds maintaining indigenous practices can decrease or increase likelihood of criminal conduct in comparison to other ethnic groups with differing values. Peer groups among school age children also quality as a subculture, perhaps suggesting a research project about, for example, how subcultures within school communities affect the likelihood of bullying behaviour.
The incarceration theme, particularly consequences of incarceration, could prompt a research project on the internal value system that operates in prison environments. Prison populations overall regard certain particularly heinous crimes as so objectionable that the perpetrator becomes unfit for survival. A research project could examine the consequences within a prison setting for those guilty of paedophilia or the murder of a pregnant spouse, for example. The consequences of incarceration in terms of release and re-entry into society affords another research topic: such a project might examine potential differences between those who emerge from minimum security versus maximum security prisons. Another research topic related to this theme could consider the consequences to the incarcerated person's family during their term of incarceration, even the family of an unmarried person such as the impact on parents or siblings. Such consequences could include isolation from the community or financial hardship resulting from a family member's imprisonment.