This research focuses on the question: “What variables impact sentencing decisions of judges in drug offender cases?” this study is classified as secondary research as no direct information will be collected from the concerned population (Rassel and O’Sullivan, 1999). Special attention in the research design needs to be given to the key variables, population, and secondary data to be used.
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Definition of key variables
The key dependent variable will be sentencing decisions in drug offender cases. Sentencing decisions in the country’s criminal justice system are enacted by judges. Juries often decide whether a person is guilty or not, but the judge is the one to choose the penalty according to the accused. Elements of sentencing decisions that will be analyzed are the severity of the sentence, the type of sentence chosen, and the favorability of the sentence. The key independent variables in this analysis have not been explicitly stated; they will be investigated. Tentative or possible variables include demographic factors like age, gender, race, and ethnicity; community factors such as poverty status in the judges’ community; characteristics of the offender; mandatory sentencing guidelines and legal issues in the case.
Study population identification
The study population will not be decided directly in this research. Instead, a thorough analysis of previous research on the topic will be done to assess whether the right study population was used. Only studies that focus on drug offender cases in the United States will be assessed. The paper must specifically dwell on judges and the sentencing process.
Secondary data to be utilized
The paper will focus on scholarly journals, technical reports made by government-affiliated institutions or independent research institutions, and reference books. These materials will be found in the institutional library, public libraries as well as scholarly websites on the internet. When selecting the data sources, the following matters will be analyzed: whether there is a methods section (It must be well written), date of the publication (current sources will be preferable), intended audience (only publications intended for specialized audiences will be considered), primary sources versus secondary sources (preference will be given to primary sources) and the referencing of data will also be analyzed. Finally, it will be critical to make sure that the figures used in the data sources make sense. There will be a greater need to focus on percentages rather than actual numbers because cases may be affected by the population of the community under consideration (Rassel & O’Sullivan, 1999).
If it has been found that certain research papers disagree on a certain variable, then the one that uses primary sources will be given greater consideration. Quotation of certain statistics without actual research will not be tolerated. If too many data sources disagree, then a wide selection of journals on the topic will be examined so that a general view on the matter can be deduced. For example, when analyzing race as a variable that impacts judges’ sentencing decisions in drug offender cases, some journals may state that there is no relationship between these two variables while others may state that race influences sentencing decisions. To decide on the right resources, a consensus will be sought in the area of race and sentencing decisions and sources that propagate the widely held conclusion will be used in this research.
Rassel, G. & O’Sullivan, E. (1999). Research methods for public administrators. London: Longman.