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Writing in the Formal Third Person Style

The capstone study is a formal document and must follow traditional conventions accepted in formal writing including:

  • Do not use personal pronouns, such as I, us, you, etc. Use the third-person.
  • Do not use contractions such as don’t, shouldn’t, didn’t, etc.
  • Use abbreviations sparingly. Commonly-accepted abbreviations are Mr., Mrs., etc. You may also abbreviate discipline-specific titles such as “The Global War on Terror” (GWOT). The proper convention is to spell out the title completely on first use followed by the appropriate abbreviation in parentheses. You may use the abbreviation alone and sans parentheses thereafter..
  • Avoid clichés and colloquialisms, such as: crystal-clear, out-of-the-box, etc.
  • Write in the active voice (see “Web Resources” in your classroom for a PowerPoint presentation on this topic).



Nonrestrictive modifiers require commas. Nonrestrictive modifiers do not change the meaning of a sentence if they are omitted. The opposite holds true for a restrictive modifier.

Restrictive: All the books that were stolen in the night were never accounted for. (Implies some books remained in-stock).

Nonrestrictive: All of the books, stolen that night, were never accounted for. (Implies no books remained on-hand).

For a more detailed discussion of grammar and punctuation (150 + pp)

Spelling Errors and Proof-reading

Remember that while Microsoft Word and most other major word-processing programs contain a spell-checking function and a function which identifies, and can correct, some grammatical errors, they do not identify all such errors. If a word is incorrect within a sentence but is spelled correctly, it will not be identified as a problem. For example, consider the words, “not and knot.” You must proofread your work manually as well as electronically in order to ensure a quality product.

A free utility you may find useful for proofing is “ReadPlease.” This is a software program into which you upload a document. ReadPlease then reads it back to you as you listen.

Do not forget your research effort is oriented from the general to the specific.

Literature Review Section

This section contains only peer reviewed research that is related to your particular topic. I want to make it very clear, you should choose a topic that has many peer reviewed research articles for you to use. Do not choose something abstract where you cannot find anything. This is VERY important. It is very important that you check this out in advance using the online library. You have to make sure of this or you will struggle with the class. Peer reviewed research articles are those that appear in criminal justice or public policy related journal articles that have passed a rigorous review process to validate the research contained in the article. The review process for these journals involves forwarding the research study to several researchers associated with the journal and these researchers review the study for reliability and validity, bias, proper research policies and procedures, ethical treatment of research subjects, ethical practices of the researchers, etc. If all of these and other criteria are met, the study can then be published in that journal. I encourage you to ask the library for help if you are still confused. The AMU library staff are very helpful in this area. Most journals on the inside cover describe the submission process for researchers. This is where if you see what is described above, the article has been peer reviewed. This process is what sets peer reviewed articles apart from those found in magazines, agency publications, books, etc.

These journals can be found in the library. If trying to find these online, instead of the inside cover, you need to go to the journal’s web site and review their submission process to determine if it meets the criteria. On occasion a government document may be included in this section if, and only if, it is the premier publication on the topic.

This section is expected to be very thorough and substantial.


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