CJ 8305/605 Spring 2018:
Introducing Your Project: Problem Statement

course: home


updated: 1/19/2018


This document provides an initial written orientation to your semester-long project.

It is NOT your full introduction with all the literature review.

Although your project could have later elaborations it is extremely important that you write up at this point what is DOABLE within the constraints of this semester. This document just provides HIGHLIGHTS of what your project is about. It serves as in introduction to the important components of your project.


This is one of those "interim products and tests" mentioned in the syllabus that gets graded.


I have written this assignment as a grading rubric. There is one point for each item mentioned below (each row).

1 Typed, double spaced, 12 pitch font, page numbers at bottom, and uses row numbers 3-14 as paragraph sub-headings.
2 No less than one page typed double spaced, and no more than three pages typed, double spaced.
3 Opening statement saying what the outcome of interest is, and what is the population being examined.
4 Statement about why this outcome is important for this population. Could be a couple of sentences - NO MORE! In essence, establish theoretical or practical or policy relevance for this outcome broadly.

Statement about the "gap" in current research that will be addressed in this investigation. Could be a couple of sentences - NO MORE! NOTE - this is NOT your specific research question, but rather tells the reader broadly why this outcome needs to be examined in the way you are doing it here. Parts # 9 and # 11 in the "to esablish that this has not yet been addressed ...." portion gets more focused.

As has been discussed in class, the criticism you seek to avoid from the jaundiced reviewer of the article you submit are: "what is interesting here is not new, and what is new here is not interesting.

Also as discussed in class, there are basically four types of "new and interesting" questions your project (or anybody's) can target.

a. There is a gap. Here is something that people have overlooked. The oversight may be on the outcome side, or it may be on the predictor side. AND the gap is important for at least a couple of reasons.

b. There are one or more flaws to be fixed. People have looked at the effect of A B and C on Y, but the studies that have been done are either incomplete (explain), seriously flawed (explain why), misleading (explain why) and you are going to fix this (explain how).

c. There are two (or more, but be careful as you expand) theoretical perspectives on how/whether/why A B and C affect Y. But the work to date has failed to pit these two (or more) theoretical frames against one another to see which one provides a more adequate explanation of the variation in Y. Yourstudy is designed to provide this test of the competing theoretical perspectives while being fair to both of them. This is called a "strong inference" setup. See: Platt, J. R. (1964). Strong inference. Science, 146(3642), 347-353.

d. There is some type of intervention or program or policy that has been implemented, and it is important, and we do not yet know whether it is working or if it is working how or how well it is working; therefore we need to evaluate it. My study will do this.

6 Identify the data file that is to be used, and the source from which these data were obtained. If these are ICPSR data, provide study number. If from another institution or agency or source, state. Be clear enough that someone could find this source if he/she wanted,
7 For the purposes of this course, state whether the problem you are investigating is one of longitudinal data or nested data.
8 Specify n of cases, n of and nested/longitudinal units and location; if you can be exact great (e.g., 405 heads of households residing on 50 streetblocks in 50 neighborhoods in Baltimore, MD, in 1987; 24 years of crime counts for 277 neighborhoods in Baltimore from 1970 - 1994) but if not that's ok for now.
9 First specific research question. Be as clear as you can about this. Note: this is probably going to be some type of random effects / null model / variance decomposition type question. This is the Submodel 1 under "you do this so you can" in the SUBMODELS SUMMARY PAGE which WILL be posted on Canvas. In other words, this can involve no more than you would get from an ANOVA model. (To establish that this has not yet been addressed, you MAY cite a couple of relevant studies and what they miss; see 5.a. above. Could be a couple of sentences - NO MORE!
10 Statement about why - on theory or policy or practice grounds - it is important to get an answer to this question.
11 Second specific research question. This needs to focus on just one key predictor. Although you may have a multivariate model with many predictors, I just want you to focus here on the net impacts of one key predictor. To establish that this question has not yet been addressed, you MAY cite a couple of relevant studies and what they miss. Could be a couple of sentences - NO MORE!
12 Statement about why - on theory or policy or practice grounds - it is important to get an answer to this question.
13 List of predictors you will include in your model. Do NOT need details like variable names and so on, just a list.
14 Short closing statement - no more than a couple of pretty short sentences - about why a multilevel/mixed modeling approach is needed here.


Upload to CANVAS; look under the link Project Intro Draft


On or before Friday 2/12, midnight [You will see that Safe Assign says 2/8, ignore that]


Your advisor reads over your draft before you submit. Take it to him/her and get him/her to read it and give you comments before you submit.

If you are REQUESTING DATA from ICPSR, attach the IRB submitted form as well.

You can find more info on that at