Research usually has goals which must be properly adhered to. In criminology as well there are three typical goals of the research carried out. These goals are grouped into the either the exploration group or the description group or the experimentation group. With these groups or classifications is the ability to the researchers to operate at different levels of sophistication and social inquiry. When it comes to researching in the criminal and justice sector there are two basic classification of the kind of research involved .this two categories are known as; first the qualitative category second there is the quantitative category. Qualitative that some time goes by the name of fieldwork involves application of observational techniques and analysis of documents as the primary means of getting more knowledge on the selected groups and persons. It requires the researchers to immerse them selves into the lives of those being researched about. Qualitative is aimed at improving our description of the specific social settings and persons involved.
On the other hand the quantitative mode of approach will involve application of statistical information obtained through the use of statistical techniques such as surveying, interviews and also the questionnaires. The information is then analyzed by used of statistical methods of presentation such as the pie charts and graphs. Most of the articles in contemporary journals are good examples of the quantitative approach
In the current times there are several convection methods used by the criminologists in researching. These methods in a convection sense can be divide into; first there is the survey type, second there is the case study and thirdly there is the classical experimental design method of approach. To start with the survey research method of approach entails the used of gathering a lot of information from a large portion are a selected form portion of the population. The survey method is later divided into two approaches, one being the exploratory and the other being the descriptive type of survey (Mark 2006).
In addition to that, there is another important aspect regarding survey and that is the quality of the information that will be obtained as the end result. The three fundamental points that influence this quality are first there is the size of respondent secondly there is the relevance of the portion that is representative of the population to the whole population and finally there is the reliability of the information collected from the portion representative. Of late there has been a new aspect introduced in the survey type of study work. This new aspect is generally refereed to as panel study. Panel study involves the use of panels as the sample from the population. A panel is simply a specialized sample, specialized in the sense that it has been continually and consistently been proved over time as a reliable representative of the whole population under study. This is a result of the panel being studied repeatedly overtime. By their very nature survey have a tendency to offer information that is superficial which is allowed in generally criminology research given by undertaking survey limited number of social and personal characteristics are solicited from this respondents. In addition to that surveys are not comprehensive since they yield broad conclusions about a large number of persons. Surveys also posses some incredible merits desired in research at times. One of those is the fact that. They posses generalizabitity which is a crucial element encouraged when dealing with large populations for challenges that could not be anticipated are revealed.
The other reputable method in criminology research is the case study method which in technical sense is not a research design method. case study usually involve the through examination of specific social setting whereby the particular details of the psychological and behavarioul aspects of the community is observed and intensely analyzed so as to arrive at the concrete facts. The main difference with the survey type of approach is the fact that the case study involves deeper in-study as compared to the survey which entails examination in a superficial sense. There is a quality that is characteristic of the case study approach which makes it a very important approach while researching in the criminology field. This is the high quality of information that is obtained as a result of the intensive investigation that is a characteristic of the approach. Case studies provide us with an in-depth view of the social scenario in the community or the subject under the study. In-depth information is very important in the criminology field. However as a demerit they have the set back of consuming a lot of time and monetary resources. When it comes to hypothesis studies in criminology the case study method is regarded to be of more use in comparison to the survey approach this is because certain vital aspects in the sense of structural and procedural characteristics which may include mobility patterns and status relations are clearly brought out. But when it comes to utility and relevancy for testing the surveys are of better value on a general note.
The type of research design methods used in a crime and justice study is usually a very key determinant of the conclusion that will be reached. It is an obvious fact that a weak research design method will tend to produce results that can be deemed as biased towards ascertaining the advantages of a treatment or approach and leave out essential elements concerning the demerits. There presents a choice to be made between the types of experimental study even before deciding on which method of research design to be used (Ronet 2003). The strength of a design is clearly indicated by the internal validity that is associated with it .in the criminal justice field the randomized experimental studies seem to indicate a more robust internal validity. The issue in such a case that when selecting the type of experimental study the costs involved are an essential point of consideration.
In the criminology field a lot of research entails an experimental approach. There also is a type of research approach the does not involve experiments per se but is keen on depicting the characteristic of what is observed. This involves a lot of data collection since it descriptive design is characterized by describing ways of the subject under investigation. In addition to that there is a lot of data accumulation about the subject matter concerning the different dimensions of its social and psychological environments. This is especially so in the criminology field of studies.
In experimental types of studies researchers usually apply the approach of variable control. This is a situation that depicts the observing a couple of factors and what the effect of holding one constant or changing it would have on the others. This is especially so in criminological investigations and researches. Before controlling variables one is selected that seems to be key in influencing the outcome of the research. This then becomes the experimental variable. When the experimental variable is controlled by may-be with holding it or putting it in excess or even diminishing it in the control groups the reactions on the other variables are recorded.
An experimental research study in this case refers to the type of research study that controls the conditions which surround the subject of research. On controlling the conditions rightly called variables, the results and reactions are observed. These methods are varied according to their complexities. In classic experimental design methods, there are three essential elements worth noting; first there is the experimental and control groups secondly there is what is termed as an equivalent group and lastly there is the pretest and posttests. The main difference that distinguishes between experimental and control groups in any research is the fact that the control group is the group that has its conditions not exposed to the alteration s that are subject to the experimental group (Ronet, 2003). It’s important to note that the differences that arise at the end of the experiment are recorded and the advantages and disadvantages of the alteration noted.
So as to be of much relevancy to the criminology literature the classical experiment type of research design has been modified and upgraded into various types of research methods. Some types of this variation that are commonly used in the crime and justice studies are the after-only design and the before-only type of design. In the after-only experimental design, the comparisons between a control group and the experiment research group is made way after the variation has been introduced to one group not the other. An example in criminology would be an experiment where a police department is conducting a research on whether police frequent patrols in the neighborhoods do decrease the crime rate in a particular city. Therefore a certain neighborhood is patrolled while others certain neighborhoods are not. In such a scenario the experimental group would consist of the city neighbor-hood that is experiencing patrolling while the control group would be represented by the neighborhood that is not experiencing patrolling.
There are a couple of disadvantages associated either this approach of after-only design. The primary demerit is the fact that the conditions that were characteristic of the initial state of the control and experiment groups were not recorded. This brings the issue of difficulty in making conclusive statements about the two conditions of the groups at the end since some of the differences at the end may be because of non-equivalency that has always existed between the two groups. This entails that another method be used prior to applying the after-only method of research design (Mark, 2006). This method coming before it is to help obtain the existing equivalency between the two groups – experimental and control.
Perhaps an improvement of the after-only design is more applicable in the crime and justice study field. This improvement is the commonly known as the before-after design that consists of the researchers obtaining characteristics of both the control and the experiment groups that are presumed to be the same. These variables are also known as equivalent factors and they are recorded before any experimental variable is introduced. In this approach there lies a possibility to the researcher to be able to pick out extraneous factors that have a tendency to obscure the true results of the experiment. This is attributed to the fact that there are records made before the study is started. These records also facilitate the comparisons that are needed especially after the research is made so as to really grasp the effect of the experimental variable.
There are some factors existing that determine whether a researcher in the crime and justice field will use quasi-experimental approach or a true experiment approach. The main factor is the method that will be used in determining the equivalence between the two groups – experimental and control groups. It is important at this point to obtain the difference between the quasi-experiment and the true experiment. A true experiment involves comparisons of two groups where random assessment was used to obtain their initial equivalence. The slightly different quasi-experiment is a scenario where researchers conduct an experiment that where there hasn’t been a prior assessment on the equivalent factors between the control and the experiment group. Therefore these researchers undertaking a quasi-experimental study will have to utilize matching, frequency distribution, control matching or persons used as their own control during and before-after experiments.
Mark, L. D. (2006), Research methods for criminology and criminal justice, Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett
Ronet, B. (2008), Fundamentals of research in criminology and criminal justice, Los Angeles: Sage Publications
Ronet, B. (2003), the practice of research in criminology and criminal justice Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press