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The Importance of Collaborative Research in the Criminal Justice Field

Editor’s Note: In March, Drs. Beshears and Weiss will be presenting during the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ (ACJS) annual meeting. Learn about other AMU criminal justice faculty presenting during this conference and further benefits of attending professional conferences.

By Drs. Michelle Beshears and Dena Weiss, Faculty Members, Criminal Justice at American Military University

As college-level educators in today’s educational environment, we often need to wear many different hats. In addition to teaching, professors are often involved in research, professional networking, and publishing. In each of these areas, collaboration can greatly enhance our work.

The Value of Collaboration in Research

While academic research is critical in all fields, due to the current political and social climate, strong research is especially needed in the field of criminal justice. One way to ensure strong research is for researchers to collaborate with others who have a different professional expertise. One of the advantages of such collaboration is that individuals with different law enforcement backgrounds can bring more innovative analysis to the research (Lemke, Johnson, & Jenks, 2014). For example, a researcher with a history of military experience may offer a more unconventional view of the motivation for rape than a researcher with a background in juvenile probation. A researcher who has years of experience in crime analysis may have a stronger background in statistical analysis. Collaborating with a researcher who has a strong forensic background on topics such as the accuracy of DNA results will only enhance the quality of the study.

[Related: Explore Your Intellectual Curiosity as an Academic Researcher]

One way to find other researchers is through networking. Technology such as email, virtual conferences, and online professional networks like LinkedIn, allows us to reach across borders to find other scholars interested in our research specialties (Kyvik, 2013). Expanding our professional networks and establishing strategies with diverse scholars enhances our approach to researching topics and exploring theories that may result in new knowledge.

Benefits of Publishing and Reviewing Professional Articles

In addition to conducting research, professors also contribute to the academic research base by acting as “gatekeepers” or research evaluators for peer-reviewed journals and books written by colleagues (Kyvik, 2013). Reviewing articles for publication in scholarly journals are beneficial to not only college professors but also for the universities they represent. Employing well-rounded instructors engaged in the research and editing of peer-reviewed journals promotes the strength of the school’s academic program. When students see professors listed as an editor or an author in journals or chapters in textbooks, they feel more confident that they are learning from an instructor who stays up-to-date on current events in criminal justice.

 [Related: Research Will Investigate Ethics of Criminal Justice Students]

Academic research is now more important than ever to provide knowledge and analysis about changes happening in the criminal justice field. Thus, it is increasingly important for researchers to find others with similar research aspirations and passions. As academics, we must continue to ask ourselves why things happen and what causes them to happen. Such academic curiosity will only make us better researchers and better instructors. We look forward to enriching the literature base in criminal justice for many years to come and collaborating on research projects with future APUS graduates as well.

About the Authors:

Michelle L. Beshears earned her baccalaureate degrees in social psychology and criminal justice and graduate degrees in human resource development and criminology from Indiana State University. She most recently completed her Ph.D. in Business Administration with a specialization in Criminal Justice.Michelle served in the U.S. Army for 11 years. She obtained the rank of Staff Sergeant prior to attending Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia where she earned her commission. As a commissioned officer she led numerous criminal investigations and worked with several external agencies as well. As a civilian, she has worked with the local sheriff’s department, state drug task force and FBI. Michelle is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at American Military University and is full-time faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies. You can contact her at Michelle.Beshears(at)

Dena Weiss is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at American Military University and is full-time faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies. She has been a crime scene investigator for more than 20 years and is currently a fingerprint expert for a central Florida police department. Prior to that position, she was a serologist for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Her court experience includes testifying in more than 200 federal and circuit court cases in over 15 Florida counties. Dena has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and sociology from Mary Baldwin College and a master’s degree in forensic science from Virginia Commonwealth University. She recently earned her Ph.D. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Criminal Justice.


Barrineau, S., Schnaas, U., Engström, A., & Härlin, F. (2016). Breaking ground and building bridges: A critical reflection on student-faculty partnerships in academic development. International Journal for Academic Development21(1), 79-83.

Kyvik, S. (2013). The academic researcher role: enhancing expectations and improved performance. Higher Education65(4), 525-538.

Lemke, R., Johnson, L. M., & Jenks, D. (2015). Perceptions of the trend of collaborative publications: Results from a survey of criminal justice and criminology department chairs. Journal of Criminal Justice Education26(1), 1-21.

Leischen Kranick is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. She has 15 years of experience writing articles and producing podcasts on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, private security, and national security.

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