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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Category: Student post

Student Post: My Ten Most Important Tips for successfully completing your dissertation!

Nickie Phillips

Most students in their last year write a dissertation, this is more than just another assignment or essay, it is a piece of work that requires a substantial amount of time for preparing, researching and writing. It is also a piece of work that you should be proud of.  I have just recently submitted mine and wanted to share with you some of the lessons I have learnt along the way.  

 

Choose carefully

Each student will take a different approach when planning their dissertation, as they will be doing something totally different especially as it is intended to be an original piece of work. As there is an unlimited amount of topics in which you can choose from, I would recommend choosing a topic that you are highly interested in and believe needs addressing in the future, perhaps it could be good to choose something that has possibly affected you in some way too or relates to an organisation that you may want to work for after graduating.

 

Small chunks

The importance of making small and regular goals, or deadlines, will become very clear when writing. I found this very useful when writing mine as it kept me motivated and on track. Despite this though, I often found myself pushing back deadlines because I came unstuck or had hit a wall in my work. So you do need to be flexible when making these deadlines and not get too down when goals are not first met.

 

Working with your supervisor

Overcoming the difficult times was something I found easier to do when helped by my tutor. This sounds like common sense, however some of my friends did not work closely with their tutor during writing their dissertation. You need to know what your tutor expects from you and what to expect from your tutor. I regularly met up with mine for reassurance, or for guidance, and soon whatever I was having trouble with had gone.

 

Take on board your feedback

Working closely with your tutor also ensures that you receive feedback regularly, whether this is positive or negative. It is also worth pointing out that criticism needs to be taken well. This can be a difficult skill, but I often expected criticism rather than hearing a positive piece of feedback, so I never reacted badly to this. You just need to realise that all feedback whether positive or negative, helps.

 

During the course of writing your dissertation there will definitely be times when you want to quit and throw it away, just keep at it and breathe. Remember what you’re doing and what it is for. Like I said at the beginning, you should see it as something to be proud of.

 

 

Write small draft chapters

I would say it is best to write up a draft copy of each chapter rather than write up a full draft of a dissertation to show your tutor. This allows your tutor to specify the feedback on each chapter, plus this gives yourself a better chance of understanding what the feedback means because it’s broken down.

 

Ask others for help

There is nothing stopping you from asking someone other than your tutor to look at your work as well. Ask a couple of friends or family to read through it, as a fresh perspective and a fresh mind will pick up on slight mistakes you have missed and give you advice on things.

 

Read, read, read!

Read lots of books, journals, articles etc. Anything that is relevant read it. There is probably something in there that you can relate to or use. It help inform your thinking and ultimately what you write.

 

Recreate & give yourself mini rewards

Don’t forget about giving yourself time off, as long as it is at the right times. You cannot write your dissertation in one sitting, nor a chapter. Reward yourself when you have made an argument or filled x amount of tables in. Remember that you need time away from your dissertation to socialise, relax, eat etc. The standard of your work will benefit from this. However, don’t take too long a break so that you lose the motivation to carry on working later. You have to complete it sometime and don’t keep pushing it back and back.

 

Hard choices

There will be times when your friends are going off to do something exciting and in reality you just can’t afford to join them – accept this and crack on. This is your dissertation; you need to put more effort and commitment in to this than any other piece of work to date. Deliver something worthy of the hard work your putting in.

 

 

Allow time for editing & printing

Finally, give yourself enough time to edit, print and bind, don’t be falling at the last hurdle. It will take you much longer than you think!

 

Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate!

 

Question:

 

  1. If you have completed your dissertation, what advice would you add to this?

 

 

 

 

By Jordan Winter

 

Image courtesy of freedigitalimages.net by

Student Post: Should We Lock Children Up? – A reflection from a trip to East Moor Secure Children’s Centre

Nickie Phillips

There has been debate over recent years about whether or not it is acceptable or effective to give custodial sentences to children and young people under the age of 18. Earlier this month I had the privilege to visit East Moor which is a local Secure Children’s Centre and only one of twelve in the United Kingdom. The visit taught me a lot about children in custody and it was completely not what I had expected.  

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The site at East Moor is unique in Europe due to the fact that it has three custodial centres from past to future all on the same site. There is an old reformatory from the 1800s still present very close to the current centre which was built in the 1970s and refurbished in 1997, although it is not in use anymore but it gives us an insight into the history of custodial centres for young people.  As well as this, they are presently in the process of building a brand new centre for September 2014 which will house both boys and girls and be an improvement on the facilities in use today. One thing that was mentioned that was significantly negative was the presence of pillars throughout some of the communal areas which meant that the children were not always visible to the members of staff, and they said that pillars would not be built into the new facility for this reason.

East Moor is a male only centre and has a school on site that teaches things from Maths to Design Technology and Art. The classes tend to be with two teachers/members of staff and usually two pupils but no more than four at a time. The centre has incident alarms that can be set off by any member of staff by something attached to their belt at any time, and this was set off during our visit – it is certainly an effective alarm sound! This is so that the members of staff can sound this if any incident happens that means that they require assistance or presence of another member of staff. The centre has both a new and old ‘block’ in which the bedrooms are situated, and part of the old block is not in use at all except for one room which is used as a segregation room when needed.

The average length of stay at East Moor in 2013/14 was 107 days for a detention or training order, 42 days for remands, and 353 days for those serving long term sentences. In the past few years there has been a decline in youth custody and this is partially due to judges becoming more comfortable with giving community options to the young offenders, and at East Moor they have seen a decline in the amount of offenders staying there which is why the new centre will have even less bedrooms.

Reasons for locking children up:

  • For their own safety.
  • To prevent crime.
  • As a last resort if no other options have worked when a crime has been committed.
  • Breach of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order.
  • Access to education which they may not have outside.
  • To encourage attitudinal change and not behavioural which should prevent reoffending.
  • To give them positive role models and influences which they may not have outside.

Reasons against locking children up:

  • Imprisonment may damage children both emotionally and psychologically.
  • Mental health issues – imprisonment could make these worse.
  • They are held too far away from family home and society.
  • Expensive option.
  • Centres not always a good enough standard according to Ofsted and HMP.
  • Bad to put kids together – may be bad influences on each other.
  • Violence from other children and also possibly staff.
  • Short lengths of sentences are more damaging for the child and not long enough to help.
  • Criminal record could mean they cannot get jobs in the future.
  • Institutionalisation.
  • Suicide rates can be high in custody.

 

There are many alternatives for locking children up in these kind of custodial sentences. These alternatives will be for their own good and the good of their families as well as saving the government a lot of money as places at East Moor can cost between £200k and £220k per person per annum. Some of the alternatives have focus on the families as well as the offender themselves in order to tackle the cause of offending as the family often have an influence on this.  90% of the admissions to East Moor in the past three years have a family history of reoffending and 39% of admissions to custody had been on the child protection register or had experienced harm, abuse or neglect.

Alternatives:

  • Community options.
  • Counselling for both children and their families.
  • Preventative methods e.gg youth centres.
  • Restorative justice.
  • Don’t prosecute them in the first place – is our criminal age of responsibility right?
  • Community penalties e.g. litter picking.
  • Tags – cheaper and less emotionally and psychologically harming.

 

Questions:

  1. What do you think about locking children up?
  2. Do you think that custodial sentences for children and young people are a good or bad thing?
  3. What do you think should happen in the future?

 

Post by Zoe Cox

Image Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Naypong

Student Post: 10 tips to help you on the day of the group presentation

Nickie Phillips

The actual group presentation can be very daunting – trust me, I know! When I do a presentation I get so unnecessarily nervous, even though I know everyone that I’m presenting to. Because of this, I’ve developed a few little tips and tricks that can help everything run smoothly.

 

group presentation image

  1. Preparation is key – failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Therefore, knowing you have everything prepared, under control, and completed to a high standard should stop you from being so nervous and make it easier for you.
  2. Before the actual day, make sure you fully familiarise yourself with the whole presentation as this will make it a lot less nerve wracking for you – ignorance is not always bliss!
  3. I always turn up to a presentation with a piece of paper that has prompts for what I’m going to say – I keep these very short, sometimes only key words, as I feel that the less there is written down the more natural it will come across and it is far less likely that you’ll jumble up your words (it’s happened to all of us!).
  4. Do a full run through of your presentation with your group in your last couple of meetings. This is important to ensure everything is in a sensible order, and also lets you time it which is vital as you will often have a strict time limit.
  5. Relax! It’ll all be over soon. Try to keep yourself as calm as possible and remember that everyone is probably just as nervous as you are. You are all in the same boat!
  6. Do not rush the presentation as your audience will not be able to appreciate all your hard work. So remember to speak at a steady pace.
  7. Sometimes, you will have a video clip in your presentation – think about where you place this. If you feel like your section leaves you speaking for a length of time that you are uncomfortable with, place the video clip somewhere in the middle (if this is a relevant place) as this will give you a quick breather before going on to speak again.
  8. Do not read word for word off the slides for the whole time. This is unnecessary as the slides are there for the audience to look at, and it doesn’t let you present all your information effectively. You will achieve far more if you speak naturally and out to the audience.  “It’s really obvious when someone hasn’t done proper research and is just reading off the screen. It’s really boring to watch!” Gemma – Criminology student.
  9. Add some good quotes to your slides and some key points, then use your prompts and expand on these vocally – this shows your depth of knowledge in the particular subject, and believe it or not you will come across a lot more confident than you think.
  10. Finally, take a drink of water if you feel it might help your nerves, and more importantly breathe!

I know that presentations are not everyone's cup of tea but the more you practice now in a safe environment the better prepared you will be if you have to do it in a job interview and eventually in your job.

Good luck!

 

 

Student Post: Tackling the Group Presentation!

Nickie Phillips

During your time at university it is inevitable that you will have to take part in at least one group presentation, and having a good idea about what to expect will be very helpful. Image

Sometimes, you’ll be able to choose who you work with, but on other occasions it will be decided for you – in this situation it is paramount that you try your very best to get on with (or at least tolerate!) your group members, for the sake of your marks! Working in groups can be fun and very beneficial if you do things the right way, so here are my five tips on a positive and organised group presentation.

1.       Take a Register I can’t recommend this enough. There’ll be at least one occasion that a member of your group is unable to attend and this can make completing the task in hand a lot more difficult – therefore, keeping a register allows all of you to see if someone isn’t pulling their weight.

2.       Be Calm and Considered Stress won’t help any of you. Make an action plan from the start, this way you’ll be able to set deadlines together and delegate work efficiently.

3.       Distributing Work Although sometimes the topic of your presentation may be dictated by your lecturer, you will almost always have scope to expand this topic in ways that interest you and the rest of your group. In your first meeting, you should discuss each others personal interests and areas of expertise in the topic you are working on. This allows you to then create sections of your presentation and choose who works on which part and it also ensures that each group member is happy with what they will be focusing on.

“In my first presentation at uni, other people in my group sorted out what work people were doing. This made it so much harder because I wasn’t working on the parts I was really interested in” Gemma – Criminology student.

4.       Time Management We’ve all been known to leave things to the last minute, but there’s nothing more awkward to watch than a presentation that has obviously been thrown together an hour before. It isn’t too difficult to put together a really great presentation if you make sure you follow your group’s deadlines as well as setting personal ones for when to complete your own research and slides before meeting up with the group. This way everything will run much more smoothly and you will achieve better marks.

“It is important to get started on producing the presentation early and spend time putting it together and rehearsing it so that it isn’t rushed. I think it’s also important that if it’s a group presentation that you work with people who have a similar way of working to yourself or problems can develop” 2nd year Criminology and Psychology student.

5.       The Presentation Itself In terms of the actual presentation, there are a few tips that I have from doing and being part of the audience for a lot of presentations over the last year and a half. Whatever you do, do not copy and paste huge chunks from the internet onto your slide – this is so obvious to everyone in the room (most importantly who’s marking it!). It’s fine to use quotes from relevant sources, but say where you got them from and try not to use quotes that are too lengthy.

Keep the slides brief as it is far better if you have a page of notes in your hand that prompt you on what you are going to say – people can read the slides themselves so tell them things that aren’t on the presentation.

Following on from this, one really important point is to not read everything off the slides. The whole point of a presentation is to present information, so do not just read large paragraphs from the screen. Your presentation should usually be a mix of relatively short points, pictures, videos, graphs, and whatever else is relevant to your topic – you should then vocally expand on what is on the slides in order to really put across your information to your audience. Let other people speak – interrupting people is unfair and won’t get you better marks.

“Another member of my group interrupted me in a presentation once and it completely threw me! I lost my train of thought and found it really difficult to get back on track”

Gemma – Criminology student.

Another thing that I have seen done is people giving out hand outs during their presentation – this gives the audience even more information on your topic. These hand outs could be anything from a factsheet, to government legislation, to a newspaper article, and as long as they are relevant they could be a very useful tool in your presentation. Keep the slides brief, relevant, and thought provoking – good luck!

Questions:

  1. What other tips would you add to my five?
  2. What have your experiences been when working on a group presentation at Leeds Met.

Blog post by Zoe Cox

Photo courtesy of freedigital photos.net - artist: ddpavumba

Student Post: Time Management and Stress of Deadlines.

Nickie Phillips

One thing that most students seem to find difficult at times is managing our time effectively, as a result, this can lead to much stress when deadlines are approaching.  When I was at college studying an Access Course, I was a last-minute 'panicker', convinced that “I performed better under pressure” and left everything until two days before the deadline. However, upon starting university, I realised this way of working was not going to be effective for me anymore! Image

As a mature student living alone and 20 miles away from campus, this leads to further pressure. Travelling to and from uni during rush hour can take up to an hour and a half each way. Alongside this, work commitments and the demands of occasional care responsibilities means that 2 weekends a month I have to be in Nottingham caring for an elderly relative. As a result, time often feels scarce! Therefore, for me, organisation and early preparation is essential for meeting deadlines and managing the stress often associated with them. To help combat this, I find that being organised is the only way I can manage.

At the start of each term, I familiarise myself with the assessments for each module and their deadlines which are often close together. Once I am familiar with these, I make a list of the assessment methods and deadlines and stick it on the wall above my computer. After that,  each time I go on the computer to check 'Facebook' or otherwise waste time, I am reminded that I do not have time to procrastinate! After making this list, I establish the time demands of each assessment; for example, a 3,500 word essay is going to involve significantly more preparation than a 2,000 word essay! This means that rather than waiting until a month before the deadlines and panicking, I effectively have a whole term to complete each assignment. Another benefit of early preparation is that it is much easier to find the books you require from the library before everyone else on your course wants the same books later in the term only to find they are all out on loan already!

Once I have the books, I begin reading around the subject. Some modules reveal the essay questions at the beginning of the term which proves advantageous as you can promptly decide which one you are going to attempt. This means, effectively, that as soon as the questions are released, the rest of the term can be used to prepare and complete assignments.   I also find it helps to break down essays- for example, a 3,000 word essay due in 10 weeks equates to only 300 words a week - which feels much less demanding! By tackling a proportion of the work each week, it seems more manageable and prevents panicking in in the weeks immediately approaching the deadline.  Working in this way also allows plenty of time to discuss things with lecturers if you are having problems or struggling to understand anything.

I also find that by spending time to work on things each day or week, the assignments are normally completed ahead of the deadlines.  Even if you don’t want to submit the work early, it allows time to proof-read your work and look over the assessment criteria (normally outlined in the module handbook) to ensure that you have covered the learning outcomes.  It also allows time to make alterations if necessary.   Also, once the work is done, you are then free to focus on exam preparation without the distraction or added stress of the other work.

On a practical level, each week or fortnight I go through my diary and identify what time I have free each day to study and devise a suitable study timetable.  I usually stick to this rigidly which can be difficult, and at times I fail- as we all do! It involves a lot of discipline, motivation, and sometimes - sacrifices too.  Let’s face it, an evening in the pub with friends usually seems more appealing than a mountain of textbooks!  It is easy to procrastinate and for things to sometimes seem tedious but for me, when these thoughts or procrastinating takes over, I begin to feel overwhelmed and my stress levels rise, particularly when I think of the demands of my other commitments.  This is why this way of working works for me.  Yes, I make sacrifices and at time wish I was out doing other things, but ultimately I get the work finished promptly and keep the stress levels to the minimum level possible!

Questions:

  1. How do you cope with the stress of deadlines? 
  2. Are you a ‘last-minute panicker’ or do you prefer time to plan and prepare?

By Rebecca Baird Parker

 

photo courtesy of free digital photos.net - Michal Marcol