Forensic psychology, according the American Academy of Forensic Science, entails using professional psychology in the study of crime and law. Forensic psychologists help law enforcement officials solve crimes through their expert analysis of how the criminal mind works. Students pursuing studies in forensic psychology at the collegiate level usually perform research in a number of areas. Finding a topic of research can sometimes be the most difficult task.
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Building on Existing Research
One way to perform research in any subject at the college level is to read the existing literature in the field and find an area that interests you. From there, you can determine which areas of research have the most literature and resources, and which areas need to be expanded on. Look at the major forensic psychology and other psychological association websites such as the American Psychological Association. Several areas that could provide interesting research topics include crime, violence, trauma and law, and psychology. You can contribute to the field of research by choosing the work of one researcher and opting to agree or disagree with their conclusions.
Various ethical and legal questions arise when using the insights of psychologists to prosecute criminals. Examining these legal issues can be one research topic on its own. For example, some legal professionals question whether psychology is a hard science, and therefore question the insights of those who practice forensic psychology. Study the ethical issues that arise in using psychology to study crime. Look at specific cases from a historical perspective to examine their impact on the legal system. For instance, in the 1979 case of "Addington v. State of Texas" the Supreme Court ruled that "clear and convincing" evidence could replace the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt." The question that would arise here is: How did this change attitudes towards psychological evidence?
Combining Fields of Study
By combining the field of forensic psychology with other fields like developmental or community psychology, you can examine forensics from a new perspective. For instance, developmental psychology may indicate that people who experience childhood trauma are more likely to commit violent crimes than those who do not. This insight could play a role in creating criminal profiles in future cases where forensic psychology may be needed to solve a case. Salisbury University suggests several areas of research that could prove to be fertile ground for new research such as developmental and community psychology, clinical psychology, environmental psychology, social psychology, school psychology, experimental psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, and counselling psychology.
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