Data Project

Please note there is an attached approved list of sources not outside sources can be used only the ones on the list. Also, references and in-text citations must meet ASA guidelines.

The purpose of this assignment is to provide you with an opportunity to explore existing California criminal justice data and attempt to answer a question that is of particular interest to you. You will present this data (visually with tables and charts) and discuss it (briefly in writing) within the context of the social, political, and legal/policy contexts we have discussed in the course. This assignment requires you to think about what we “know” from the data and, perhaps even more importantly, what we don’t know.

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The data sources you can use for this assignment are described near the end of this document. Elizabeth will schedule optional data workshops for those who want additional support on this project.

For full credit, follow the instructions outlined here and complete each part of this assignment in full.

Part 1: Develop a question that you will address using existing criminal justice data.

1A. Clearly articulate the question you developed.

Do not get frustrated if it turns out that your initial question cannot be answered with existing data. This happens frequently in research, practice, and policymaking, especially with criminal justice data. This process will likely be iterative as you become more familiar with the data, learn more from class, and refine your question.

Issues to consider in developing a question: You should NOT attempt to draw causal conclusions from the data (i.e., you should not attempt to determine whether or not something caused something else to happen). Instead, you should focus on patterns or descriptions that you can see in the data you analyze. For example, you could explore questions that describe differences across groups and/or differences over time.

· If the data does not “answer” your question, in other words, (e.g., you cannot find any interesting patterns or differences based on the question you asked), you have a couple options:

o You can revise your question based on what you see in the data

OR

· You can keep your question, visually present the data that you reviewed from a variety of perspectives, and discuss what you had hoped to see in the data and what you actually saw.

1B. Explain your process of developing a question.

Explain in Part 1(b) how you got to your final question. Did the question evolve as you reviewed available data? Explain this process in 3-5 sentences.

Part 2: Identify at least one data source from the options provided (see Attachment I).

Clearly specify all the data source(s) you are relying on for your project.

You must use at least one of the data sources provided, but if you wish to use an alternative data source (not on the pre-approved list), you may request approval before 5pm on Wednesday 11/11/20. Please send Elizabeth and Matt the link to the data source you wish to use and specify which data elements you will be reviewing. She will respond to you via email.

Part 3. Identify the specific variables within your selected data source to analyze

Specify which variables you analyzed. Provide data definitions as necessary.

Identify the primary data element(s) that you selected to analyze to answer your question.

For example, you may choose to look at trends over time and/or a comparison between different subpopulations.

Before you go any further, make sure that consistent data is available. (Is data available for every year you need it? Did data definitions or population groupings change over time?) Any inconsistencies in your data must be addressed in your analysis.

Depending on your question and what is available in your data source(s), you may choose to focus on: 1) statewide data, 2) one county’s data, 3) one county compared to statewide trends OR 4) comparing one or more counties. (Please keep in mind when making comparisons, particularly across counties, that there may be many complicated reasons for county trends to differ. Use extreme caution in drawing conclusions when using limited data—even if you are just comparing trends.)

The data elements you select may be broad (eg. total arrests in California) or relatively specific (eg. female felony drug arrests in Alameda county).

Consider how your question is best answered. For example, are you going to use numbers or rates?

Consistency is key. Some of the data sources provided above will ask you to select a specific month or quarter within each year. Make sure you consistently select the same quarter or month for each year you review. Criminal justice trends can differ in the summer vs winter, etc.

Part 4. Create data tables to clearly present your data.

Display your data table(s) in a visually clear manner.

Some of the data sources have the option of downloading information to an excel table. For others, you will have to type it in yourself. Please be careful during this step to make sure you capture your data accurately.

Do not forget to note the source on your table and to provide definitions where necessary or helpful.

Part 5. Create charts illustrating your data analysis.

Provide visually clear charts to illustrate your analysis.

Use the data in your table to create charts that illustrate your data. Depending on how you analyze your data, you will likely have multiple charts to present your data from different perspectives, e.g., as percents, number, trends over time, etc.

Decide which type of charts best illustrate your analysis, eg. line charts, bar charts, etc.

At a minimum, make sure your charts have accurate titles, are well-labeled, have a clear legend (if necessary), and that the data source(s) is clearly indicated.

You must create your own chart even if there are charts available through the data source you selected. You may not submit charts created by other people or copied from other reports.

Part 6. Discuss the findings from your data and explain any “answers” you can provide to the question you explored.

In 350 – 500 words, discuss any findings you can draw from your data.

In this section, you should articulate, within an organized structure, as many interesting findings as you can identify. Be sure to consider whether the data is conclusive or suggestive and articulate your “findings” accordingly. (Keep in mind that the next section is where you will go into more detail about the limitations of your data and analysis.)

As part of this section, you should also consider the social, political, or legal/policy changes (we have discussed in this course) that might affect this data. Discuss ways in which the data is consistent and/or inconsistent with these trends. (Remember that you should only be describing the patterns or trends in the data—not assuming any causal relationships.)

Part 7. Discuss the limitations of your analysis and identify questions that need further exploration

We rarely have adequate information to fully understand the questions we want answered. In 350 – 500 words, discuss, in an organized manner, the limitations of your analysis as well as your recommendations for further exploration.

Specifically, explain, in your own words, any limitations to the data you analyzed.

Also, thoroughly consider additional information you would want in order to draw more accurate or meaningful conclusions about the pattern or trend you analyzed. The most thoughtful assignments will consider what society or public leaders would want to know about the trend and how we might measure it from various angles.

Note: For this section, you do not need to know whether or not the data you are recommending actually exists, but you should consider and discuss the practicality of gathering such data. In other words, you can use your imagination, but acknowledge that AND include practical recommendations as well.

When you are finished, your project must include each of the following parts:

1A. Clearly articulated question. (approximately 15 – 35 words)

1B. Brief explanation of your process for developing the question (approximately 100-150 words)

2. Clearly specified data source(s)

3. Clearly specified data elements

4. Visually clear data tables

5. Visually clear charts

6. Written discussion of “findings” (350 – 500 words), discuss any findings you can draw from your data.

7. Written discussion of limitations and recommendations for further analysis (350-500 words)

For full credit, follow the instructions and complete each part of this assignment in full.

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