For students of criminal justice, research and writing papers need not be boring. With the right tools, conducting data research can be fun. Best of all, a few simple tricks can transform a dull research paper or justice website into a visual delight. On this page, we offer up two videos along with a written guide to
- first, creating customized data sets using the FBI UCR Data Tool and
- second, creating snappy charts (pie, line, bar, etc.) using Microsoft Excel
Once your charts and graphs are created, they can be included in supporting documents for research papers, added to PowerPoint presentations, or to your own website (and, if you follow our guidance and add these to your website, let us know so we can link back to you — or comment below and let readers know about your site).
Creating Customized Crime Data Sets Using the FBI Uniform Data Report Tool
The FBI has a tool connected to the Uniform Crime Report which allows researchers, students, or anyone else with an interest in crime data to create customized spreadsheets. Here is the link directly to the UCR Data Tool. For those interested, to get to it from the FBI home page as of July 2017, follow these steps:
- Go to>FBI.gov
- Go to>Resources
- Go to>Crime Statistics
- >Under “General Resources” go to “UCR Data Tool”
- >Under “Find Data” Click” go to the table building tool”
Of course, a quicker way would be to follow the direct link above and bookmark the page, which the FBI provides a quick link for. Alternately, bookmark this page and enter from here — You know you will be returning to Criminal Justice Law, so this is probably the best option.
In any case, once you have found the FBI UCR Data Tool, you can create your own customized crime data spreadsheets. Once created, you can quickly and easily download a spreadsheet to your PC and manipulate the data however you need to more closely examine the information, develop theories, test hypotheses, create pie charts, line graphs, bar charts…whatever.
Here are the steps to take to create the custom data spreadsheets using the UCR Tool.
Choose the data you seek.
- National (1060 – 2014)
- By State Agencies serving Populations between 10K and 100K (1985 – 2014)
- By State Agencies serving Populations more than 100,000 (1985 – 2014)
In each instance, the data can then be sorted by “Table Type”
- Single location set, multiple crime variables, multiple years
- Multiple locations, a specific crime, multiple years
- Multiple locations, multiple crime variables, single year
To build the table desired, click the tiny red “Go” button in the upper left of the Table Type displayed.
The next page displays three drop-down menus: “A” “B” and “C.” These correlate to the data options as follows…
A = the location(s) desired for the custom chart
B = the crime variable (type of crime) desired for the custom chart
C = the year(s) desired for the data pull
NOTE: If multiple selections of a variable are wanted, hold down the ‘control’ key (Ctrl) on your PC and left click each desired variable.
Once the options have been selected, simply click “Get Table” in the lower left corner.
The next page will display your customized data chart. To download a copy to your computer, simply click the link “Spreadsheet of this table.” Once downloaded, if using Microsoft Excel, you will have to authorize changes to the spreadsheet, which Excel will prompt on a thin line above the data. Other spreadsheets such as Open Office, Google Docs, and others will allow the data to be manipulated from the start. In any case, once the data is had, much can be done to enhance Presentations, Reports, Papers, Essays, Websites, and more. Have fun.
Some people are visual learners. The following video was created by CriminalJusticeLaw.org to help students learn to use the FBI UCR Data Customization Tool.
Creating Crime Data Charts and Graphs Using Microsoft Excel
A spreadsheet is just a collection of data. Most people get little from raw data. Instead, the data has to be translated into words and images. This is one of the points to a research project at university or college.
A growing trend is to present students with projects involving PowerPoint or similar presentations. At times, college students are asked to include appendices and graphics pages along with essays and reports. Masters and Phd. students especially must include visual aids in their Theses papers.
The FBI UCR Data Tool allows for the use of expansive crime data collected over decades and can be an important source of information when creating a thesis. But without the visual aids to go along with the written word, most people will ignore the findings.
The following video provides information directly related to using the data collected with the UCR Tool in an Excel Spreadsheet to create beautiful and helpful charts. Some do not know just how simple creating these charts really is, but as this short (8-minute) video will show, doing so is very easy: All you need is a spreadsheet and an image processor (i.e. MS Excel and Paint, Google Docs, Open Office, Photoshop). For this example, we use Excel and Paint.
Following the video are written instructions along with some tips not included in the video.
Steps to Creating Excellent Charts Using Spreadsheet Data from the UCR Tool
Once the data has been downloaded from the FBI UCR Tool, the data must be prepped and readied for study and the creation of charts and graphs. Following are the simple steps needed to work with the data in MS Excel and Paint.
- Clear out anything that is not needed such as footnotes, extra columns of data which will not be used, and headers that may be in the way.
- Once all extra information is out of the way, additional columns or rows may be needed to provide identification of the data presented. For instance, in the video, the data to be presented represented crimes reported in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. This data (the city names) appeared in a column to the left of the entire spreadsheet. But we wanted to create separate charts for each type of crime as compared across these cities, so we had to add an extra column between each data set to be presented. This allowed us to create separate charts to compare the populations between the three cities, violent crime between each, murder, etc.
- To create the chart, highlight the information to be presented in the chart, This will be at least two rows and one column or one row and two columns (though such a minimum would make for a very boring chart). In our example, we highlighted the three cities (column) and the three populations represented (also a column), which means we chose three rows of data and two columns.
- With the data highlighted, click the “Insert” tab in the upper left of the spreadsheet.
- Now click either the exact chart desired or choose “Recommended Charts.”
- Recommended Charts will provide a visual list of the charts which will appear best based on the data chosen. This is because some charts lost best with little data, some with more. Too, data that appears as a negative number will not look visually appealing with certain charts.
- Once choosing the chart, click on the Title. In Excel, the Title can be added directly onto the chart or typed into the data line which runs along the top of the spreadsheet data (between the data and the options). In the image shown on to the right, it is the line which reads “Uniform Crime Reporting Statist” and is cut in half by the red arrow.
- Once the title has been rendered, the chart can be transferred to a photo processor and converted into any kind of image needed. We use MS Paint. We right click on the chart, click “Copy,” then paste it into Paint. (use the hotkeys Ctrl-V for a quick paste).
- The chart will likely appear in Paint with a dotted line around it. If you only want the chart, click “Crop” to cut away all else surrounding.
- Now you have your chart. If you want to put a border around it or make any other visual changes, this is the place to do so. Once done, click “File” and “Save As.”
- In Paint, the file will appear as a “untitled.png.” If you want a png image, give it a title and save it to the folder on your PC you want. If you want a different kind of image (jpeg, jpg, bmp, gif, tif), click the dropdown menu where it reads, “Save as Type.”
- Now you have a saved image in the format you desire. Note: If planning to send us the image for inclusion on this site (which we would really appreciate), please create it as either jpeg or jpg. Note too that you can save as each kind of image to your PC if you want simply by repeating the steps starting with “Save As.”
And that’s all there is to creating customized data tables and charts using the FBI UCR Data Tool and MS Excel.
We hope you found this information useful. At CriminalJusticeLaw.org we know that students around the world enter university at different levels of education. Most of the younger students grew up using these data tools and may find this information unnecessary, but we know that there are many non-traditional students (older, that is) who may not know all of this.
The goal of this website is to provide the tools needed by students in an easy-to-use format. Bookmark us and visit often. We are adding new tools daily. Also, be sure to sign up for our free Balance the Scales Newsletter in the upper right of this page. We will provide updates and tips, important announcements and tools for students as they are made available. Best of all, we do not send out tons of emails because we find that distasteful so we are guessing you do too.