DEADLINE TO APPLY TO THE MCJC PROGRAM: MARCH 1
The MCJC program does not accept spring applications. All supporting documentation including transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statement must be received by APRIL 1. However, it is best to apply early!
In order to be eligible for admission to the MCJC program students must have at least a 3.00 GPA in their undergraduate degree, and a 3.00 GPA in their social science major. Prospective students must also have a combined score of at least 297 (verbal and quantitative) on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). If the test was taken prior to August 2011, the MCJC program target score was 1000 (verbal and quantitative). Writing samples may be requested on a case by case basis.
The Master of Criminal Justice and Criminology admits students from a variety of backgrounds. We look for evidence of knowledge and/or experience in the following areas.
For students who do not have a background in all of these areas the graduate adviser will make specific recommendations after admission to assist you in making up these deficiencies.
In addition to the above application process, International Applicants for admission whose education has been in a foreign country must file an application for admission, official certificates and detailed transcripts of record from each collegiate institution attended. All documents, transcripts, and test scores must be received by Graduate Admissions no later than April 1st. The CSU Mentor On-Line Application and fee must be submitted by March 1st. Effective the Fall 2013 application cycle, all transcripts, including those with international coursework, will be evaluated internally at SDSU. International applicants are required to take the TOEFL (target score of 550 paper/80 iBT) or the IELTS (score of 6.5).
For information on Graduate Admission Requirements click here
Students are admitted to this program with a status of Classified or Conditionally Classified. Conditionally Classified students must meet the conditions noted on their program admission letter. When conditions are successfully met students must file a Change of Status form and submitted to the SPA Department office (PSFA 101).
This 33-unit masters is designed to be completed in 2 years of full time study. Students must research and write an independent thesis in their final semester. The following is a typical course sequence:
First Semester (Fall)
Second Semester (Spring)
Third Semester (Fall)
Fourth Semester (Spring)
Students need to submit a Master in Criminal Justice and Criminology Official Program of Study Form in consultation with the graduate adviser. The OPS should be submitted as early as possible but no later than the semester prior to anticipated graduation. The OPS can be submitted following the successful completion of at least 12 units of graduate course work and have at least a 3.0 GPA. With the successful submission and approval of the OPS students will Advance to Candidacy. Students cannot advance to candidacy and graduating in the same semester. You must be advanced to candidacy before you will be allowed to submit your thesis or comprehensive exams.
In order to graduate from the MCJC program students will need to:
Additional graduate program forms required can be found at the Division of Graduate Affairs.
The MCJC comprehensive exam (comp) is a written exam, which is administered on-site (in the SPA computer lounge: 100 PSFA). MCJC students who opt not to complete a thesis, must take this exam instead.
The comp enables students who are nearing program completion to engage in a systematic review and application of key concepts from their coursework, and promotes a deeper understanding of core literature in the field of criminal justice and criminology. The MCJC comp exam is designed to evaluate a student’s ability to: (a) integrate and apply key concepts from their coursework (i.e., criminological theory; research methods; and policy); (b) engage in critical and independent thinking; and (c) demonstrate mastery of the subject matter. The exam provides faculty the opportunity to assess whether students have achieved mastery of the field and deserve to be awarded with a Master’s degree. A passing examination would demonstrate adequate and appropriate application and integration of core criminal justice/criminological subject areas (i.e., theory, research, and policy), appropriate organization, sophisticated writing competency, critical analysis, and accuracy of documentation.
Students must have successfully completed at least 24 units of graduate coursework, have filed an Official Program of Study (OPS).
and have been Advanced to Candidacy before being eligible to register for the exam. Students are not permitted to count the courses for which they are registered during the semester of the exam toward the total units required for candidacy.
Students who withdraw from the exam will not receive credit for the course. Students who do not pre-register/sign-up for the exam or do not register for the Comp Reading Course will not be allowed to take the exam. Students who have 30 graduate units in their program can request exemption from CJ 797 (the 3 unit readings course).
The comprehensive exam will be offered once a semester, typically during the 12th week (usually November and April; the exact comp date will be announced at the beginning of each semester so students can plan accordingly). Students will have eight hours to complete their exam in the School of Public Affairs Computer Lounge (100 PSFA). The exam will be held from 9 am to 6 pm (with a 1 hour mandatory lunch break from 1-2). Once again, students intending to take the exam must have already advanced to candidacy, enrolled in the Comps Reading Course (CJ 797) and pre-registered for the exam with Nancy Flitcraft (see above) at the start of the semester that it is offered.
On exam day, students are provided an envelope and identification number with their exam. This ID number must be included at the top of the first page of responses. The student’s name should not be included anywhere on the test. Students must return their exam answers in the envelope provided. This will allow graduate faculty to grade exams without knowing the identity of the candidates whose exam they are grading, known as “blind grading.”
Exam answers must be typed, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins all around and a 12-point font. Each response should be clearly numbered. Students are responsible for printing their exam at the end of the test period and ensuring the printed copy is fully legible. No disks or emailed copies will be accepted; PSFA staff or faculty will not print a student’s exam.
Answers should be written in essay format (i.e., no outlines or bullet points for answers) and should be thoughtfully conceived (logically structured and articulately argued) and reviewed for technical errors (i.e., proofread and spell checked). Citations and references should be in APA or ASA style.
With the exception of a sheet of paper with a maximum of 10 citations on it, students are not allowed to bring any notes, books, or files with them on the day of the exam. Any materials/belongings brought will be checked in with Nancy Flitcraft, the test administrator. The computers being used for test-taking will not have internet access.
Students may write a maximum of 20 pages (double-spaced), including references. Plagiarism or any form of academic dishonesty will result in failure. In completing their exams, students are expected to work completely independently from each other. See the library’s plagiarism tutorial for more information on what constitutes as plagiarism. Getting help from others in crafting answers is unethical and grounds for failure of the examination.
Exams will be graded by graduate faculty on a pass/fail basis. Each student’s exam answers will be read, assessed and graded by at least two faculty members. This joint reading and anonymity of the number system is designed to eliminate bias in grading, to provide a check on the system, and also to ensure the grading is completed in a judicious and timely manner. Exams results will be available and disseminated within 3 weeks of the test date. To successfully complete/pass the exam, students must receive a passing grade on all four sections. If a student passes only 3/4 sections s/he will have an opportunity to revise and resubmit the failed question/s. Exam retakes will take place in the SPA computer lounge (100 PSFA) 48-72 hours after the exam results are distributed to students (the date for re-takes will be announced at the beginning of each semester); students will be allotted 3 hours to re-write the failed section. If a student fails the re-take, then they will be considered to have failed the comp.
If a student failed more than one section, then s/he is ineligible for an immediate re-test, but may re-take the entire comprehensive exam the next semester; a student who failed the re-take would also be eligible to re-take the entire comp the following semester. Under either of these circumstances, students will need to re-register for the exam at the start of that semester. Students may take the comp exam a maximum of two times. If a student fails both times, s/he will not be eligible for re-examination and will be deemed to have failed the program. A student who has failed the comp is ineligible for the thesis option.
The exam requires students to integrate and apply their knowledge of 3 criminology/criminal justice core areas—theory, research methods and policy—to a particular problem or issue. These core areas were explicitly covered in several required classes, and either directly or indirectly addressed in the other MCJC program courses. In preparing for the exam (and earning the 3 units for the Readings Course), students should focus on understanding, integrating and illustrating the connections between criminal justice/criminological theory, research methods and policy. Students are given topic choices at the beginning of the semester in which they’ll take the exam. They select a topic and have approximately 10-12 weeks to prepare their comprehensive exam answers/proposal. For the Spring 2009 exam, the following topics were offered: a) school violence, b) hate crime, c) corporate crime. These topics will vary every semester and will be announced at the beginning of each one. On the day of the exam, students are asked to address the following issues in the form of a research proposal (note: while topic choices will change each semester, the research proposal questions/outline below will remain the same).
Frame a research proposal including the following components:
Recommended Readings to Prepare for Exam (it is recommended that you read additional scholarly articles/books in each area (theory/methods/policy) + the topic you choose)
San Diego State University defines a thesis as the written product of a systematic study of a significant problem. It identifies the problem, states the major assumptions, explains the significance of the undertaking, sets forth the sources for and the methods of gathering information, analyzes the data, and offers a conclusion or recommendation. The finished product evidences originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate organization and format, high level of writing competency, and thorough documentation.
To read about SDSU requirements/expectations for thesis, please go to the Graduate and Research Affairs, Graduate Division website. You can also visit Montezuma Publishing for thesis and dissertation services.
Be sure to read about university deadlines, policies, procedures and the template to be used for thesis formatting. Before beginning your thesis you will also need to print out and read through the Dissertation and Thesis Manual, now available through the above website. . It is also recommended that you obtain and read “A Thesis Resource Guide for Criminology and Criminal Justice” by McShane and Williams (you may have purchased this for your CJ 601 class).
Choose a Topic
The most important things to consider when choosing a topic are: (a) that you are interested in—and even passionate about—the subject matter, (b) that the topic and research you will do on it is relevant/meaningful, and (c) that the research and writing you will be doing is of appropriate size/scope for a Masters’ thesis (e.g., there are many interesting and important topics that are simply TOO big for a thesis, and which you would not be able to complete in a timely and satisfactory manner, while others are too small and more appropriate for a course paper).
You should use your first year to narrow down your ideas to one well-specified topic. Finding/creating a topic which is ‘do-able’ is a big challenge and usually takes time (plan on this—it is somewhat unlikely that your thesis adviser will approve your first topic choice—it usually undergoes redevelopment and modification). Remember that your and our goals are the same—for you to successfully finish the program (in a timely manner); doing so requires that you demonstrate mastery of the topic you selected. We will work with you to try to make sure that your topic choice and research plan will allow for timely completion. Most students will need at least one year (from start to finish) to complete a thesis (18 months is more common); the students who have finished a thesis in less than a year typically have not had jobs or other obligations which required much of their time. Bear that in mind as you begin to think about a realistic timeline and schedule for your thesis (and the rest of your life). Your topic should not be overly broad, but it also cannot be too narrow—this is why it’s important for you to talk to faculty about your research ideas, so that you can figure out what’s too broad and what’s too narrow, and what’s just right.
In Your First Year
You should use your first year of classes to learn more about topics that interest you, and further explore potentially interesting research questions. You can accomplish this in several ways:
Read about your topic, or potential topics…a lot. Pay particular attention to material in scholarly journals. After identifying topics of interest, do library research and reading on that topic, so that you can better determine if it might be thesis-worthy (and if you can come up with a research question on it). When you speak to faculty about your ideas, you can let them know what you’ve already read and discovered; this will help them to further guide you towards a thesis. Reading now will save you time later, when it’s time to write your literature review! As you read, create an annotated bibliography.
Don’t be a lone ranger! As you’re thinking about a topic, you’ll want to discuss your ideas with faculty members, even if those ideas are not quite fully developed. Keep a journal or running list of ideas that excite you (e.g., if there was an issue discussed in class that piqued your interest). Think about why those issues excite you (what about that topic is of interest to you; why?). It’s important to ask yourself that question and begin to figure out why you’re in this field, what your particular interests are, what you are passionate about, and what you hope to learn and accomplish through further researching those interests. So, analyze your interests, read more about your topic area, and then discuss your ideas/insights/passions with other students and faculty members. Discussions with faculty members can help you to: (a) point you in the direction of relevant literature, (b) focus your research and develop your research question, and (c) determine if your research ideas and methods are feasible per your time schedule and resources. Consult with several faculty members with different perspectives – remember, eventually you’ll have to work with a committee of three faculty. As you get to know faculty members, bear in mind that you’ll eventually need to identify one professor to serve as your Thesis Committee Chair (note: you should have a backup choice in case your first choice is unwilling/unable to serve as Chair). You will work closest with your chair as you prepare your project, but your other advisers/members will be involved as well.
Take Advantage of Your Classes
Use class assignments to write about your topic (so long as it fits within the parameters of the assignment). In research methods classes, as you learn about hypotheses and methodologies, think about how to narrow your topic to a realistic hypothesis and what methods would best serve to investigate that hypothesis. If possible, use research methods assignments to develop a possible research design. This will help you think about your topic and you will be given feedback about your ideas.
Become a scholar. As a graduate student, you will be critically examining the criminal justice system, the field of criminology and issues of justice. Get involved with any of the major professional organizations – the American Society of Criminology (ASC), the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), or the Western Society of Criminology (WSC) – by participating in their annual conferences. At the very least, you should get into the habit of perusing the major scholarly journals in criminal justice on a regular basis, including Criminology, Justice Quarterly, and so on. (Note: The ASC and ACJS offer special student membership fees that include organizational membership and subscriptions to the organization’s respective journals and newsletters).
Choosing Committee Members and a Chair
By the end of the first year of classes, or the beginning of the second (at the latest), you should have an idea about what faculty you would like to chair and serve on your Thesis Committee. Ideally, you will have previously discussed ideas with these individuals. As you put together a committee, it is important to consider personalities and schedules (e.g., you probably wouldn’t want a professor who is on sabbatical or leave to be your thesis chair). Aside from your chair, you will need 2 other faculty on your thesis committee. One of the faculty must be a MCJC faculty member (see the list in the Graduate Bulletin; the other must be a non-MCJC faculty person (e.g., Psychology, Women’s Studies, Social Work, PA, City Planning, etc). Confer with your chair about possible candidates for both of these positions.
The Proposal or Concept Paper
Before agreeing to be your thesis chair or committee member, most faculty will require you to submit a concept paper or brief proposal, outlining your thesis plans. Each faculty member may have different expectations for this, so check with them, but plan on providing them with some sort of formal outline of your research question/s, methodology, and preliminary bibliography. Your proposal should provide a detailed explanation of what your project is about, what questions you will try to answer (and why they’re important), and how you will gather and analyze data. As you get a little further along in the process your adviser may require you to submit a full proposal, which essentially would include Chapter One (Literature Review) and Chapter Two (Research Methods) of what will become your final thesis. Check with your thesis chair and committee about whether they expect this and work with them to create a timeline for completion of this and subsequent thesis tasks.
NOTE: Your literature review should be focused on that body of theory, research and scholarship that has direct bearing on your topic and should be organized such that you’re able to identify a gap in the existing research and note how your research will help to fill that gap. The Research Methods chapter should provide a detailed explanation of how you will collect and analyze your data. Remember to be realistic about the scope of your thesis and the resources and time available to you (e.g., can you really afford to send a survey to a 1000 police officers across the country?). Your research design may include quantitative and/or qualitative methods.
Expect revisions! It is important that you do not start gathering and analyzing data until your committee has approved your proposal! You don’t want to be in an uncomfortable situation of collecting data that will be useless (because your chair/adviser did not approve of your data gathering strategy).
The importance of working closely with the faculty on your committee, and especially your committee chair, cannot be over-emphasized! A thesis is a collaborative project in which the student, as an apprentice, is guided by the faculty, as mentors. As you prepare your proposal, seek the advice and counsel of your faculty mentors!
Ongoing communication with your chair is essential. As you complete sections of your proposal and thesis, run them by your committee chair for feedback. After making revisions, you may also want to run them by the rest of your committee (confer with your chair about the appropriate level of involvement of your other readers; it will vary by committee member). Do not wait until the very end to give the thesis in its entirety to your chair or committee! Ongoing communication is essential and will allow you regular progress updates instead of massive revisions at the end! Have realistic expectations of your committee. It takes at least 1-2 weeks (possibly longer, depending on circumstances) to review written drafts. Do not expect overnight service for reviewing drafts! And remember, your professors are on a 9-month schedule/contract, meaning that they are not required to work in the summer months (so they may or may not be willing to read theses and/or meet with students during Summer Break—if you are planning to need assistance/advising during Summer, check with your Chair and committee members about their availability and willingness to work with you during that time).
Expect that you will have to do re-writes, probably several rounds of them, as you prepare your thesis. This is normal—do not be offended or intimidated by it. A thesis is a continuous learning activity in which drafts are circulated and ideas are exchanged. The purpose is for you to produce a solid and sound piece of research, generally suitable for publication consideration. Be assured that your professors had to do rewrites when they wrote their theses and/or dissertations (and still do as they write academic journal articles, etc)! Be prepared to do extensive editing of your thesis! Making revisions will help you fine-tune your writing skills, as you work to express your ideas as clearly and powerfully as you can.
Human Subjects Review
If you plan to gather data by interviewing, surveying, or observing people (really, by any method involving any form of interpersonal contact), you must seek approval from the SDSU Institutional Review Board (IRB). It may also be necessary to seek approval from other institutions’ review boards for human subjects research, such as the Department of Corrections, a court, police department, etc. Information on the SDSU IRB is available on the web at Institutional Review Board. Work with your advisor to submit your proposal and gain IRB approval. In some cases (such as survey research) it may be possible to qualify for an abbreviated review process or even an exemption. Review the template/guidelines on the IRB website; essentially, your IRB proposal will include an overview of your study and a thorough description of your research methods. Your methodology/design will be examined to ensure that you will not be causing harm to any of your subjects. As you budget your time, be advised that the IRB meets only once a month and you may not begin your data collection until the Institutional Review Board has approved it! As such, it’s best to submit your project for review as soon as your committee has approved your research design.
You can save yourself many headaches by properly formatting your thesis from the beginning. The university graduate division has a thesis preparation guide (available on-line; see page 1), containing details about such things as margins, tables, etc. Students who have tried to convert their thesis to this format at the end were shocked and dismayed by the difficulty/stress of doing so. Please use the approved format from the start. There are classes offered through BATS that explain the formatting process (see page 1).
Work with your chair/adviser to establish a timeline for completion of your thesis. It is very important that you allow enough time to get through all the steps of this process. It is not realistic to allot only a couple of months to do a thesis. Establish a reasonable time schedule, from start to finish, and do your best to follow it! It’s important that you maintain momentum - if you find yourself thinking “I can do it tomorrow,” you may be on a slippery slope to procrastination and delayed graduation!
Here is a suggested general timeline:
Consult the graduate bulletin and/or graduate division for SDSU specifications—this is a standard outline to organize your work but they may have specific requirements that may differ.
The introduction is a statement of the problem which you will examine in your thesis; it would include your research question.
Review of the Literature/Background
The review of the literature should provide a discussion of the important studies previously undertaken on your thesis topic and/or criminological theories that have been used to analyze it. It would also include information on the scope (prevalence/incidence) of the issue on which you’re reporting (these statistics may be from the UCR, NCVS, local courts, etc). In the completed thesis, the review is the means by which the reader learns of earlier studies and their relation to the topic of the thesis. The review should be sophisticated, focusing upon the present status of the literature, noting patterns of findings, and strengths or gaps in research. The review is more than a listing of books and articles. It ought to be a truly insightful description of the present state of a particular field of study.Your literature review is full of citations. Every time you present and explain the previous research that has been done on your topic, you will need to cite the author/s and publication year (your bibliography will then include the full citation).
This chapter is usually the most difficult to develop. It describes the procedures which will be used to complete the project. The following is a summary of suggested sections.
Hypothesis or Research Question
This section should precisely define what the student intends to assess, prove or discover (this was previously stated in the Intro, but will be more fully discussed here). You should define the scope of the project, and the range of applicability of findings. You can’t learn everything about a given topic in your thesis; note what you’re able to offer and what you’re not.
This section should describe how the project is organized so as to yield valid and reliable findings. You should explain why the particular method was chosen, and the specific sequence of steps taken to implement it. You will include cites on why/how this method is appropriate for the type of research you’re doing. This applies to all types of methods—an experiment, evaluation, case study, policy analysis, ethnographic research endeavor, or any other method to be employed.
This section should discuss the measures (the data) which you will use in your study, indicating what they are, how they are constructed, and how you will collect and/or code them (e.g., in the case of existing data). This may include a discussion of a sampling strategy.
Techniques of Analysis
This section describes the approach used in the analysis of measures or evaluation of source documentation used in the project. It should demonstrate how the student will analyze the data to arrive at findings. If you’re doing a quantitative/statistical analysis, describe which techniques/tests you’ll be using (e.g., ANOVA, chi-square, regression analysis); if you’re analyzing qualitative data, describe the procedures you will use (e.g., will you use any sort of qualitative data analysis software?).
No design is perfect/flawless. Each has inherent limitations (in terms of reliability, validity, generalizability). Identify the weaknesses/limitations of your approach (while also pointing out the overall strengths and appropriateness of your design).
What did you learn? Include tables and charts as appropriate, in addition to text summarizing your significant findings. Many students struggle with this and the following section but it is critically important to be able to explain what you have learned (and what it means; see below).
Implications and Conclusions
How/why do these findings matter? Discuss the implications for theory, practice, and/or policy.
Appendices and Bibliography
Appendices—any important documentation, not included in the text, e.g, IRB approval form, your consent form, your survey instrument, etc.
Bibliography: This should include all of the references used. Consult the university thesis guide with regard to the citation style to be used.
It is highly recommended that you read or at least look through some of our department’s successful theses, so you have a better sense of the scope and organization of the project. These are available in the library or in Dr. Kaplan’s office.
Also, the next time you read through a criminology/criminal justice journal article, note the organization of the material. A thesis is basically a larger version of a journal article. The general format/presentation of a thesis is the same (purpose, research question, lit review, methodology, findings, implications), just more detailed (thus, longer).