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Research Methods in Criminology

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Research Methods in Criminology

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  1. Research Methods in Criminology Experiments Field Studies Surveys Existing statistics

  2. Research • Research is the conscientious study of an issue, problem, or subject • Criminological research is often divided into two forms: • APPLIED • BASIC (“PURE”)

  3. For the sake of scientific knowledge Construction of theories of models that allow for a better understanding of criminal behavior Practical goal in mind Development of strategies intended to address the problem of crime Pure research Applied research

  4. Hypothesis Data are in the form of numbers from precise measurement Theory is largely causal and deductive Replication is possible Analysis proceeds by using statistics, tables, or charts No hypothesis Data are in the form of words and images from observations, and transcripts Theory noncausal and inductive Replication is rare Analysis proceeds by extracting themes or generalizations (although numbers are possible) Quantitative Qualitative

  5. Research Methods in Criminology • Experiments • Field research • Survey research • Existing data research • Comparative research

  6. Classic Experiment • At least two groups (control and experimental) • Randomly assign people to groups • Treat the experimental group by manipulation the independent variable • Observe the effect of the treatment on the dependent variable in the experimental group • Compare the dependent variable differences in the experimental and control groups

  7. The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment (1983) • Goal was to find the most effective strategy • Three groups: two treatment groups and one control • Police officers volunteering to take whatever action was dictated by a random system: instruction in an envelope • Three different instructions: (1) arrest the suspect; (2) separate or remove the suspect from the scene for 8 hours; (3) advise and mediate

  8. Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment • Victims have interviewed every two weeks for the next 6 months, police records have been monitored as well • Most influential policy experiment • Arrest works more effectively in deterring domestic violence

  9. Experiments in Criminology • Not always possible (ethical issues) • Quasi-experiments or natural experiments • Example: Effect of the decision to conduct crackdown on drinking and driving by a local police force (planned interventions) • Occasionally, natural events (catastrophe or tornadoes) might substitute planned interventions

  10. Field Studies • Researcher will typically uncover more variables than statistics can provide • Observations and interviews

  11. Observation • Observation is a research technique in which a researcher directly observe the behavior of individuals in their usual social environments, not in a laboratory • Observational research is often called field research

  12. Different strategies • Complete Participant –researcher goes “undercover” and does not tell people being observed that he/she is doing research • Complete Observer –researcher views things from a distance or one-way mirror • Participant Observer – people know that they are observed

  13. Interviews • Active offenders - hidden population • Criminals behind bars?

  14. Criminals behind bars… • Unsuccessful criminals • Unskilled criminals • Lacking access to “nice” criminal network • Might not be honest

  15. How to locate active and not apprehended criminals? • Snowball sampling • Appropriate when members of a population are difficult to locate. • Researcher collects data on members of the target population she can locate, then asks them to help locate other members of that population. • New cases are sampled until there is no additional information from new cases.

  16. Snowball Sampling

  17. Limitations of the Snowball Sampling • The role of the 1st person sampled is crucial in determining who else get sampled • Bias may be high since people are more likely to mention people that are like themselves, i.e. no variation on the characteristic of interest.

  18. How to identify an initial contact? • Can we use referrals form criminal justice officials (police, probation officer, etc)?

  19. How to identify an initial contact? • If we have referrals from criminal justice system, we have a biased sample consisting of criminals known to the police • Successful offenders usually avoid associating with colleagues known to the police

  20. Main challenge • How to convince the potential subjects to participate?

  21. Offenders participated because • They wanted to help out to a friend (informant) who said that the research is trustworthy • They wanted to talk about “successful crimes” to an outsider • The researchers were honest with subjects • The researchers provided help to the burglars

  22. Burglary arrestees 100% have a criminal record 64% are Black and 36% are White 7% were females Access to juvenile records is legally restricted Snowball sampling 28 have never been arrested, 42% have never been arrested for burglary and 33% have been arrested but not convicted 69% were Black and 31% were White 17% were females 27% were juveniles (under 18 ) Sample characteristics

  23. Statistics • Source: The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) • Ongoing since 1972, this survey of households interviews about 134,000 persons age 12 and older in 77,200 households each year about their victimizations from crime.

  24. Rape: definition • Rape - Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means penetration by the offender(s). • Includes attempted rapes, male as well as female victims, and both heterosexual and homosexual rape. • Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.

  25. Rape Linked to Heavy College Drinking • Rape is more common on college campuses with higher rates of binge drinking – and alcohol use is a central factor in most college rapes (Harvard College Alcohol Study) • Overall, one in 20 (4.7 percent) women reported being raped in college • Nearly three-quarters of those rapes (72 percent) happened when the victims were so intoxicated they were unable to consent or refuse

  26. Rape Linked to Heavy College Drinking • Other significant risk factors for rape were being under 21 years old, white, residing in sorority houses, using illicit drugs and binge drinking in high school.

  27. Life history and case studies • In-depth analysis of one or a few cases • Sutherland’s “The Professional Thief” (1937)

  28. Survey Research • Surveyis a series of questions asked of a number of people and designed to measure the attitudes, beliefs, values, and personality traits • Based on sampling

  29. Unobtrusive Research • Unobtrusive methods are strategies for studying people’s behavior in ways that do not have an impact on the subjects

  30. Unobtrusive methods • Use of existing statistics • Content analysis

  31. We do not need cooperation of people being studied Research does not affect the behavior of people being studied Study social thing only after they have occurred and left traces These traces must solid enough to lat until can be observed If we use secondary data we do not have control over the quality of these data Strengths Weaknesses

  32. Triangulation • Every method has both strengths and weaknesses • Whenever possible researchers use more than one method to obtain data • Triangulation – methods are combined so that the strengths of one method overcome the weakness of another method

  33. Example of Triangulation • Suppose you study the impact of neighborhood problems on youth development • Census information (unobtrusive) about poverty level in neighborhoods • Survey among youth and parents • Observations