The effect of education on the likelihood of Using Excessive Force.

  1. Hypothesis: Officers who are more educated are less likely to use excessive force during arrest.
  2. Independent Variable: Officers’ education level
  3. Dependent Variable: likelihood of use excessive force



  1. Lead-in to the topic that is interesting.
  2. State the hypothesis.
  3. State why the results may be important.

Literature Review:

  1. State why you expect to get a particular result based on theory, not evidence/observations.
  2. State why you might be wrong and get the opposite result.  Again, based on theory, not evidence/observations.
  3. State why the two variables may not be related very strongly at all again based on theory, not evidence/observations.
  4. State what previous researchers found – their results – (evidence/observations) that support the particular result you expect to get (see 1).
  5. State what previous researchers found – their results – (evidence/observations) that support the particular result you do not expect to get (see 2).
  6. State what previous researchers found- their results – (evidence/observations) that supports that the two variables many not be related very strongly (see 3).


Trap for the unwary:  When one does a good literature review, it often reshapes your topic somewhat.  Don’t be afraid to modify the topic in view of what you find.  It happens more often than not.


Example:  Often one finds that the topic has been thoroughly researched and the answer is known.  One does not have to abandon the topic totally in most cases if it can be justified.

Justifications for conducting the study:


  1. Previous research was on a different population.  You may want to replicate it on a new population.
  2. Previous work was done on the same population, but a long time ago.  Since culture and people change over time, it may be valuable to see if the relationship still holds today.
  3. The research has never been replicated – and needs to be.
  4. If all of these conditions have been met, one may add a second variable (control variable) and see how that changes the results.

Literature Review (APA)


Quickest method-college textbook, find chapter or section that deals with the topic.  It will tell how the variables are related, what research has been done in the past on them, any disputes about their relationship.  Look up the references in the index that are peer review articles.


Read the introduction/literature review and bibliography of each article.  From this information, one decides which other research articles may add to your topic and whether to get a copy or not.


What to look for when reviewing an article:


  1. The hypothesis must be related somehow to your topic – if not move on.  At least one of the variables must be your variable (specially your dependent variable).
  2. Look at the sample which was tested.  You preferably want the sample to have been from the same population in which you are interested.  If neither the sample nor either variable in the hypothesis are what you want, the article is not what you need.
  3. Findings.  Either the variables are or are not related.
  4. Look at how they measured their variables.
    1. Assess how good their measurement was on each variable.  To be good, the measurement must accurately measure the values of the underlying variables.
    2. This measurement of their variables is called the operational definition of the variables, i.e., it is a SET OF PROCEDURES WHICH DETERMINES THE VALUE ANY VARIABLE WILL TAKE ON A UNTI OF ANLAYSIS.
    3. If you like their measurement, you may choose to use their operational definition in your work too.  If you do not like it, you need to create a better one.
    4. The author often suggests how others might create a better operational definition in their section entitled “Discussion/Suggestions and Limitations”.
  5. Look at the design and determine what type it is.
    1. Experimental
    2. Quasi-Experimental
    3. Survey
    4. Field Research
    5. Content Analysis

Know the weaknesses of each type of design.

  1. Look over the discussion/suggestions and limitations section. If may contain ideas for better operational definitions, better designs, or better samples.
  2. Look at the literature again and make sure you did not miss any other article that may be important.

Last Updated on March 16, 2020