I am a sociology major who is about to graduate with a BA. As a part of my major, we are required to write a senior thesis about a research topic of our choosing, and then, for a year research our topic and present our findings at Academic Excellence week, which is coming up on May 29th. Our presentations are short, TED like talks where we present the topic, research question, data analysis and recommendations to an audience and panel of professors as a part of our grade. My classmates and I have prepared for this moment for about a year now.
My specific project is about Oregon's Measure 11, a mandatory minimum sentencing law that was passed here by ballot initiative in November of 1994, to go into effect in 1995. My research question specifically was whether or not the mandatory minimum sentencing law changed the nature of prosecutorial power in any way, and if it did, how did it change prosecutorial power. My research design was based (very roughly) off of a study done by Margareth Etienne entitled "The Declining Utility of the Right to Counsel in Federal Criminal Courts: An Empirical Study on the Diminished Role of Defense Attorney Advocacy Under the Sentencing Guidelines" In her study, she asked several lawyers questions to get at the heart of the transfer of power away from defense attorneys and how that diminished power has effected those defense attorneys abilities to vigorously defend their client.
The data collection technique in her study was far more advanced, her data analysis was far more sophisticated, and her sample size was far bigger, but my data largely confirmed hers: that there has been a shift in power away from judges, juries, and defense attorneys in favor of prosecutors in the era of mandatory minimum sentencing. It is clear from the interviews that were conducted from my interviews, and from hers, that this shift in power toward the prosecutor has started to have an effect on the adversarial system in criminal trials.
This is the culmination of a year of hard work, 2 years of focus in sociology and 5 years of schooling all together. I have worked so hard over the past couple of years to attain just a four year education, and I am so afraid that I am going to fail now. There is still so much that I could have done for this project given the time, resources, knowledge, prestige. I am worried that maybe my project went in the wrong direction somewhere, maybe I didn't cover enough. I am nervous to turn in this first full draft.
Its weird to get 2 years of hard work in my major and 1 year of research evaluated by 3 people. They are my professors and mentors, and I respect each and every one of them, but its just weird that they hold so many of my hopes in dreams in their hands. I guess it is up to them now to guide me through the rest of the process (editing and grading).