Advanced Undergraduate Seminar: Statistical Research in Criminal Justice
M, W, 3:35 – 4:50pm, Graham Memorial Hall, room 083
Fall 2019

Prof. Frank R. Baumgartner
313 Hamilton Hall, phone 919-962-0414
Web site: http://fbaum.unc.edu/
Office hours: M, W, 2:00-3:30pm and by appointment

This course will focus on hands-on quantitative research projects conducted in close consultation with the instructor, either individually or in small groups. Topics will include statistical questions about the criminal justice system, with datasets and research questions provided by the instructor. Some projects will deal with the death penalty, updating and extending research previously conducted for the book, Deadly Justice: A Statistical Portrait of the Death Penalty (Oxford, 2018). Others will relate to a database made available from the NC Administrative Office of the Courts, consisting of millions of records of arrest throughout the state over the past five years. Others may relate to research on traffic stops, with an emphasis on racial and gender disparities in the outcomes of those routine citizen-police encounters.  Students will gain hands-on experience in: a) data collection and management; b) data analysis; c) technical writing; d) oral and written communication; and e) speaking truth to power on controversial subjects of public policy.

Click on the links below to see some of the excellent term papers students wrote in Fall 2019:

Click here to see the syllabus.

Click here for a template for formatting your term paper.

General links for useful information about three substantive areas of criminal justice research: Traffic stops, Death Penalty, and NC Arrest records:

  • Useful fragments of Stata do-files and other computer code that may come in handy
  • The US Department of Education provides data on all US schools. Some of them are named for Robert E. Lee or other leaders of the confederacy. I have a dataset in progress where the goal is to identify all such schools and evaluate any potential differences for students attending them, or in school districts including them, compared to students in other schools or school districts. This is another research possibility for those interested, and I can make the working dataset available.
  • Week 1.  Aug 21 Introductions and overview of the course
    Wednesday: First day of class, Aug 21

    Week 2. Aug 26. Traffic Stops Research projects
    Monday: Read through the summary, main findings, and overview of Chapter 8 here.
    Wednesday: Read this paper with students from last semester, currently under review. See the open-data portal for the City of Charlotte, where we got this data.

    Week 3. Sep 2. NC Arrests data
    Monday: Happy Labor Day, no class
    Wednesday: Review of the Aministrative Office of the Courts database and resources listed above. Additional slides

    Week 4. Sep 9. The US Death Penalty
    Monday: Read over the basics about Deadly Justice here; explore the page fully.
    Wednesday: Read this short article on why so few counties account for the bulk of executions. Also see this blog post exlaining the results to a wider audience.

    Week 5. Sep 16. Establishment of research teams and discussion of possible projects
    Monday: Open discussion of possible topics, data sources, theoretical questions, feasibility of answering the questions.
    Wednesday: Continued discussion and establishment of teams.

    Week 6. Sep 23. Training sessions # 1 and work session
    Monday: Database management in Stata; do-files; dta files; data types; Merging / joining databases / collapsing / re-configuring; FIPS codes and adding new datasets. NOTE: Sept 23 class is in Davis 219. Bring a USB stick.
    Wednesday: Working sessions, discussion of technical skills you will need for your projects.

    Week 7. Sep 30. Group work
    Monday: Short informal presentations by each group explaining their question and approach to answering it.
    Wednesday: Group meetings in class time, Baumgartner consulting with each group one at a time.

    Week 8. Oct 7. Training session # 2
    Monday: Graphing in Stata NOTE: Oct 7 class is in Davis 219. Bring a USB stick.
    Wednesday: FB out of town; group work on your own or in class time.

    Week 9. Oct 14. Training session # 3
    Monday: More computer / stata coding, based on student needs and demands. NOTE: Oct 14 class is in Davis 219. Bring a USB stick.
    Wednesday: Short informal group presentations about the relevant literature associated with your research question.

    Week 10. Oct 21. Working sessions
    Monday: Working session
    Wednesday: Working session

    Week 11. Oct 28. Working sessions
    Monday: Working session
    Wednesday: Working session

    Week 12. Nov 4. Working sessions
    Monday:Working session
    Wednesday: Working session

    Week 13. Nov 11. First presentations
    Monday: First Draft, Group A: School-to-Prison; Drug Crime Punishments; LA 911 Calls; Over-long Prison Terms; Stop-and-Frisk
    Wednesday: First Draft, Group B: Prior Points; Car Brands and Search Rates; Violent Crime in Raleigh; Media Coverage and Time-to-Execution, Harshess of Punishment for Sexual Crimes

    Week 14. Nov 18. Final Presentations (20 minutes each + Q & A)
    Monday: Final presentationt, Group A
    Wednesday: Final presentation, Group B

    Week 15. Nov 25. Working Sessions
    Monday: working session or catch-up on final presentations
    Wednesday: No class, happy Thanksgiving break.

    Week 16. Dec 2. : Last presentations and discussions
    Monday: working session, final presentations (5 minutes) updating corrections and highlights, for those who are ready
    Wednesday: Last day of class. Final short presentations and discussion of what to do next with your papers.

    ***Final papers due to me in class on Wednesday Dec 4. In addition to the paper, which should be one per group, each student should also give me a single sheet of paper explaining: a) which group you were a part of; b) what part / share of the group work you participated in; c) what technical skill you mastered; and d) what substantive knowledge you gained.***

    Last updated December 7, 2019