Aug 08, 2022  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog

Criminal Justice and Criminology, Ph.D.

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Return to: 2105 Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology  

The mission of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology is to generate and disseminate knowledge and information that is theoretically driven and policy relevant for the fields of criminal justice and criminology. This is accomplished by engaging in research and scholarly activities to address issues of crime and justice affecting diverse populations in urban settings; producing students who are critical and ethical thinkers, knowledgeable about the issues of crime and justice, and prepared for leadership positions in the public and private sector that address crime and justice problems; and collaborating with communities, including public and private agencies through education, training, and research ventures that enhance our understanding of, and response to, issues associated with crime and the administration of justice. Through these activities, the Department promotes excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service that enhances the criminal justice profession and benefits the community at large.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program in Criminal Justice and Criminology provides in-depth training in criminological theory as well as advanced statistics, qualitative methods, and research methodology. The Ph.D. program prepares students for careers in research, teaching, management, and community service.

The development of the doctoral program is a response to several areas of societal need, including a growing need for policy-relevant, theoretically-driven research on crime and criminal justice, the need for individuals with the requisite training and expertise to conduct such research, and the need for individuals to teach in the expanding number of criminology and criminal justice degree programs offered in institutions of higher education. Graduates of the doctoral program find employment in academic, government, non-profit and private research. Universities are a leading employer of scholars, and virtually all assistant professor positions in the field require a Ph.D. Opportunities for doctoral-trained researchers are also available outside of higher education, including research or management positions in government and non-profit agencies. Some doctoral-trained researchers find positions in think tanks or private research firms, where they utilize their expertise in survey design, data collection, and statistical analysis.

Program Objectives

By completing the requirements of the doctoral program, students become knowledgeable of both the substantive areas of criminology (knowledge about the extent and causes of crime) and the criminal justice system (society’s response to crime). In addition to general knowledge of these areas, it is expected that they will also acquire advanced knowledge in one or more areas of specialization within criminology or criminal justice (e.g., policing, victimization, criminological theory). Students also learn to apply appropriate and sophisticated analytical techniques necessary to conduct original research in criminology and criminal justice. In addition, our doctoral students are socialized into the related roles of scholarship, teaching, and service. At the time of graduation, students who successfully complete the doctoral program will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate scholarly expertise in one or more specialty areas within the field of criminal justice or criminology.
  2. Develop and apply advanced conceptual and technical skills to conduct high-quality, independent research.
  3. Teach graduate and undergraduate courses in criminology and criminal justice.

Degree Requirements

The doctoral program in criminal justice and criminology requires completion of a minimum of 54 credit hours beyond the Master’s degree. This includes 24 credit hours of required courses, 12 credit hours of elective courses, and 18 credit hours in directed work, including dissertation credits. Semester hours are shown in parentheses after each entry. Special topics and issues courses marked with an asterisk (*) can be repeated for credit only if the section topic is not also repeated.

Entering Doctoral Program Without Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Students matriculating into the doctoral program in criminal justice and criminology without a terminal Master’s degree in Criminal Justice or closely related discipline must complete a minimum of 72 credit hours of coursework beyond the baccalaureate degree. This includes 36 credit hours of required courses, 18 credit hours of elective courses, and 18 credit hours in directed work, including dissertation credits. Semester hours are shown in parentheses after each entry. Special topics and issues courses marked with an asterisk (*) can be repeated for credit only if the section subtopic is not also repeated.

Graduate Assistantship

Please note, graduate assistants are required to enroll for a minimum of 12 credit hours each semester. These credit hours consist of courses required for the prescribed 72-hour program of study, as well as additional hours of CRJU 7980 - Research Practicum . Research Practicum includes supervised research as an assistant to faculty members. 

Outside Credit/Courses

With approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, doctoral students can take no more than a combined total of 12 credit hours outside of regularly scheduled classes in the department, including (1) classes from other GSU departments and colleges and (2) transfer credits. Transfer credits are allowable for courses (1) corresponding to a required or elective course in the program, (2) that were restricted to graduate students only, (3) completed within the previous five years, and (4) in which the student earned a grade of B or higher. Students requesting transfer credit must submit a course description from the catalog of the institution, a syllabus or course outline, and written justification stating why the course is relevant to the program of study.

Program of Study

A program of study plan must be completed by the student in consultation with and approved by the department’s Director of Graduate Studies. The program of study plan lists the required and elective courses to be taken by the graduate student to meet the degree requirements of the doctoral program. The program of study must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and submitted to the Office of Academic Assistance by the end of the second year or after thirty-six (36) semester hours of coursework have been completed. The Program of Study form is available from the Department.

In addition to coursework, students must successfully pass a written area examination and a dissertation proposal defense, write a dissertation, and successfully defend it.

Area Examination

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph.D., doctoral students complete an examination paper in a substantive area within criminology or criminal justice. The purpose of the examination paper is two-fold: (1) to assess students’ knowledge and understanding of the theoretical foundation from which the student’s specialty area arises, including an assessment of the key conceptual and methodological approaches used, critical issues and debates in this theoretical area; and (2) to assess the student’s ability to formulate a compelling research question which is narrower in scope, derived from this theoretical foundation, and which reflects the student’s understanding of this specialization and the big questions that push it forward.

The format of the area examination is normally that of a review essay of thirty to forty pages (maximum excluding title page, references, and tables/appendices) that discusses the theoretical foundations, key concepts and methodologies, findings, and controversial issues or debates within the student’s chosen area of specialization. The essay should follow the format of a critical review of the literature (for examples, consult recent editions of Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research or Annual Review of Sociology). In part, the essay should reflect a synthesis of the literature that highlights key points rather than discussing individual studies in great detail. It should also display the student’s analysis of this literature. See below for specific evaluation criteria.

Although the essay should facilitate the eventual development of a dissertation proposal, it is not intended that the essay duplicate the first half of a dissertation. Rather, the purpose of the essay is to establish the writer’s command of a relatively broad literature in a recognized sub-area within criminal justice or criminology. “Offender decision-making” would be an example of such an area, whereas the student’s dissertation might focus more narrowly on “The meaning of punishment: the influence of street culture on offenders’ perceptions of, and response to, official sanctions.”

The area examination committee is comprised of three Crimal Justice and Criminology (CJC) faculty members, selected by the student and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. The student and the examination committee determine the precise area covered by the examination. Before beginning to write the first draft of the examination, the student shall submit an outline (in thesis statement format) that identifies the theoretical foundation, key conceptual issues, methodological approaches, and critical debates of the specialty area, culminating in a tentative research question(s) that he or she plans to address in the paper. This draft outline shall also include a tentative bibliography of key sources. The student’s course work should provide a useful starting point for the bibliography. In most cases, however, the student will need to go beyond the course work to master his or her area of specialization. The outline should be submitted to the examination committee for revision and final approval.  Once approval has been given, the student is able to begin writing the paper. At this point, the student should work independent from the committee except a) to address logistical issues or b) to address questions regarding breadth and depth of paper (not specifics and committee should not read drafts).

Expected progress in the program is defined by completion of the area paper by the semester following the completion of all required coursework. Students generally take the Readings in Area course the semester before they turn in their area paper. Failure to make such progress can result in the loss of funding and/or dismissal from the program. The faculty will grade the paper within three weeks of receiving it from the student. It is up to the committee to determine if a formal presentation and defense of the area exam before a final decision is made is warrented. Formal written notice of the committee’s decision should be provided to teh student and the Graduate Director. Papers will be graded as “Pass” or “Major Revise and Resubmit” will be determined by a majority vote of the committee. The determination of “Major Revise and Resubmit” should be made if the paper needs substantial, substantive revisons based on the grading criteria listed below. If the exam is not acceptable to a majority of the committee, the student has no more than four months to submit a revised version. Failure to submit the area exam by the above deadline results in failure of the exam. The committee will again evaluate the exam and determine a grade of “Pass” or “Fail”. An area exam not successfully completed at this time will result in dismissal from the program. Students must pass the area examination before they will be permitted to defend a dissertation proposal.

Grading of the exam will be based on the breadth of knowledge, the creativity or innovation of the approach taken, the depth of the critical analysis, and the ability of the student to write well. Additional details are provided below. The examination committee evaluates the manuscript on its success in meeting these four objectives. In particular, exam papers will be judged on an overall assessment of the following areas:

  1. Breadth of Foundational Knowledge. The essay should demonstrate that the writer is familiar with the literature in the selected area of specialization. It is essential that the student cite and summarize the most influential publications in the field (both classic and recent publications). The student must remember to summarize or explain key ideas.
  2. Creativity/Innovation. The essay should demonstrate that the writer is not only familiar with the readings but has integrated the literature and can identify the big questions that push the area forward. What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of relevant theoretical perspectives? What are the key conceptual issues, debates, and questions on the cutting edge? Which claims have been substantiated, and which remain speculative? What key questions have yet to be answered? What new lines of empirical research are required to answer these questions? What type of study would the student design to answer one or more of these questions? Students should highlight the degree of innovation in their proposed line of research.
  3. Critical Analysis. This manuscript should convey to the reader the existing body of knowledge; a successful area exam not only sorts the literature in terms of importance, centrality, and research generated, but also expresses the unique scholarly voice of the writer. The author must provide his or her own assessment of the current state of the literature (or of key perspectives or debates) and clearly distinguish personal views from those of existing sources. The author should take a position and clearly identify where and why he or she agrees or disagrees with existing sources (while properly citing these sources).
  4. Written Communication. Fourth, this manuscript should demonstrate the author’s ability to write well. In addition to proper grammar and sentence structure, the paper should be well-organized and ideas should flow logically, with strong transitions from point to point and from one section of the paper to the next. The paper should reflect a tone that is appropriate for doctoral-level work, with an emphasis on critical thinking rather than simple summary or description.

Dissertation Requirements

For the student, the Ph.D. degree program culminates in the writing and successful defense of the doctoral dissertation. The dissertation must demonstrate mastery of the research process and should be based on an original investigation. When developing an idea for the dissertation, and when executing the research project, it should be the goal of the student to provide a significant and original contribution to the existing knowledge base in the selected topic area.

  1. Dissertation Committee. Initial deliberations regarding an acceptable research project for the dissertation may begin in the early stages of the student’s doctoral training and should involve the student’s major advisor. Following successful completion of the area exam, students assemble a dissertation committee in consultation with their major advisor (subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies). The dissertation committee is comprised of three faculty members from the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology (all must hold graduate faculty status) and one outside member. The outside member typically represents a department at the university other than Criminal Justice and Criminology but can be from another university. Following the formation of the dissertation committee and the identification of a mutually acceptable research project, the student submits the dissertation committee form listing the committee chair and members to the DGS, requesting that they be officially appointed. Once a committee has been appointed, any changes to the committee must be approved by the DGS and all members of the new committee.
  2. Dissertation Proposal and Proposal Defense. The next step toward the production of a dissertation involves the development of a defensible dissertation proposal or “prospectus.” Students entering the program with a Master’s degree must defend their dissertation proposals no later than 8 semesters after the start of the program. Students entering the program without a Master’s degree must defend their dissertation proposals no later than 11 semesters after start of the program. The dissertation proposal typically includes an introduction and problem statement, a review of the relevant literature, hypotheses section, and a data and methods section that details how the student will execute the proposed research and how s/he plans to address any potential limitations of the project. For detailed guidelines, visit To obtain approval, the student must successfully present and defend the proposal before the dissertation committee. Other faculty members and graduate students in the school are invited to attend this oral defense. To document a successful defense, the dissertation committee chair submits a Record of Proposal Defense form to the Director of Graduate Studies and the Office of Academic Assistance. Following a successful defense and pending requested revisions, the student must obtain approval from the university Institutional Review Board (IRB) for projects involving research with human subjects before any data collection or analysis can begin.
  3. Three-Paper Dissertation. The traditional dissertation includes five chapters - Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, and Conclusion. This format may not be best suited for your research. An alternate format may be used, the three-paper dissertation. If you would like to use this format, you must consult with your dissertation chair and make the decision to do so together. Please consider that the three-paper format may not be suitable for you. If may take longer to prepare and defend and may take more work than a traditional dissertation. Instead of five chapters, the three-paper dissertation will include three separate, publishable papers (as deemed by the dissertation committee) of normal journal article length that are logically linked together. See for specific guidelines on structure and format.
  4. Final Defense of the Dissertation. The oral defense of the completed dissertation will be heard by the dissertation committee and will be open to other faculty and graduate students in the college. Following a successful defense, the dissertation committee chair will ask the committee members to sign a Pass Sheet provided by the Office of Academic Assistance, and the Acceptance Sheet that the student provides for his/her dissertation. Signatures on these forms acknowledge that the dissertation has been successfully completed and defended. The chair should submit these forms to the Office of Academic Assistance for the student’s permanent file. If any changes to the dissertation are requested as a result of the final oral defense, the chair may hold the Acceptance Sheet until s/he believes the dissertation is in final form. For scheduling and other procedural details, and to obtain the relevant forms, the student should visit the following website:
  5. Dissertation Formatting and Style. The thesis must comply with current AYSPS format, style, and procedural instructions available here:
  6. Submission, Reproduction, and Publication of the Electronic Dissertation. To be cleared for graduation, the dissertation format must be approved by the Office of Academic Assistance and electronically submitted through the Georgia State University Library. See for additional instructions.

Standards of Performance

Students in the doctoral program must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 to remain in good standing and for graduation. It is expected that all required courses will be completed with a grade of B- or above. If a lower grade is earned in a required course, it must be retaken. No more than three semester hours of elective coursework with a grade of C may be counted toward the degree. Only in a course in which a grade of C+ or lower is earned may a student repeat the course and only one such course may be repeated, one time. When a course is repeated, both grades count in the student’s cumulative grade point average. A grade lower than a B- in any required course will prohibit registration for dissertation credits until the required course has been completed with a grade of B- or higher. Students may not register for dissertation credit unless all required courses have been completed successfully.

If a doctoral student’s cumulative GPA drops below 3.0 at the end of a semester, the student will receive a warning from the college. If a 3.0 cumulative GPA is not achieved within two consecutive semesters, the student will be terminated from the graduate program. A student with a doctoral program GPA below 3.0 is ineligible for a graduate assistantship appointment. Additionally, to continue in the program, a student must make reasonable and timely progress toward the degree in terms of coursework, examinations, and dissertation work. If a student fails to make reasonable and timely progress, either the department or the Director of Graduate Studies may withdraw funding or terminate the student from the program. A student who has been terminated from the doctoral program will not be permitted to reapply or reenter the program.

The determination of a student’s reasonable and timely progress is to be made by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the student’s faculty advisor. All requirements for the degree, including the dissertation, must be completed within seven years from the semester of entry into the doctoral program. Failure to do so will result in termination from the doctoral program. Students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies to extend this clock given extenuating circumstances. Based on a three-semester cycle (Fall, Spring, Summer), benchmarks for reasonable and timely progress for doctoral students who matriculated with a Master’s degree include the following from the semester of entry: (1) complete coursework by Spring of Year 2 (5 semesters), pass area exam by Summer of Year 2 (6 semesters), defend dissertation proposal by Spring of Year 3 (8 semesters), and defend dissertation by Summer of Year 4 (12 semesters). Similarly, benchmarks for reasonable and timely progress for doctoral students who matriculated without a Master’s degree include the following from the semester of entry: (1) complete coursework by Spring of Year 3 (8 semesters), pass area exam by Summer of Year 3 (9 semesters), defend dissertation proposal by Spring of Year 4 (11 semesters), and defend dissertation by Summer of Year 5 (15 semesters). Part-time doctoral students should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies on a plan to complete the program within the seven-year time limit.

Where a student believes that unusual circumstances invalidate any of the regulations or requirements relating to the degree in his or her case, the student may write to the Director of Graduate Studies and request exemption from or change in the policy. The petition by the student must be submitted with accompanying justifications. If the Director of Graduate Studies supports the request, he or she will write a letter of support for the student and submit the material to the Office of Academic Assistance for a decision in consultation with the associate dean.

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