Practical, Ethical and Theoretical Issues In Studying Crime and Deviance

P.E.T. issues that are encountered when using research methids to investigate crima and deviance.

Research methods included are:

  • Experiments
  • Social surverys/ Questionnaires
  • Interviews
  • Observation
  • Case studies
  • Official Statistics

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  • Created on: 29-02-12 10:56
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P.E.T. issues when researching crime and deviance
The Hawthorne effect may occur and some participants may act in a way which they think is socially
desirable; this could result in the finding lacking validity as a true reflection of what was being studied
will not be found. For example, if an experiment is set up to see level of aggression in different
environments, researchers must tell participants the purpose of the study for ethical reason,
participants will know the aim of the research and so act more aggressively and therefore show the
Hawthorne effect.
Also, setting up the experiment to suit the specific `environment' may be very expensive and also
time consuming. This could lead the researcher to question whether there is any point in conducting a
piece of research which would require so many resources.
Social surveys/ Questionnaires:
If a social survey is conducted by using questionnaires in order to find out the rate of domestic
violence within a specific area of a country, the researcher must ensure that the respondents give
fully informed consent and know the purpose of the research, the researcher must also inform the
respondents that their details will be kept private and confidential; this is because some respondents
may have experienced or are experiencing domestic violence and may fear that their details or
information about the abuse they received or are receiving may become public and result in them
being put in danger. Also, as certain topics, such as domestic violence, are very sensitive, the
researcher must ensure that the questions are phrased in a very sensitive way so that respondents
are not offended or upset by any questions.
As questionnaires for social surveys are distributed on a large scale, it is seen as very costly due to
the resources required and it's also time consuming. Furthermore, some respondents may not
complete the questionnaire or bother sending it off, this may be due to the topic it covers, some
topics, such as domestic violence, are extremely sensitive and some respondents may feel that they
would be `reliving' traumatic memories when completing the questionnaire.
Also, as questionnaires are completed in private, many respondents may not complete them
truthfully. For example, if there is a questionnaire about criminal and deviant behaviour and one of
the questions ask "have you ever been involved in any criminal or deviant activities?" many
respondents, who may have been involved in such activities might may answer the question in an
untruthful way. This would result in the findings from the questionnaire lacking validity as they would
not show a true reflection of what is being studied.
As participants are in a face-to-face conversation in an interview, a greater sense of trust can be
formed between the interviewer and interviewee; this is especially important when researching into
sensitive topics, such as domestic violence. As a strong sense of trust in formed, participants are
more likely to be truthful when answering questions which the interviewer may ask; this would
therefore result in the findings having high validity as they would show a true reflection of what is
being studied.
Participant observation:
Participant observation, especially covert participant observation, can particularly good in gaining
rich and valid data. This is due to the fact that the group/ person being studied does not know that
they are being studied, this would mean that very little social desirability bias in the form of the
Hawthorne effect would occur, this would make the findings very valid. An example of this is James
Patrick's covert participant observation in Glasgow gangs offered him a rare insight into how gangs
functioned. However, as it was a gang that he was participating with, it could have been extremely

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Also, in some cases of covert participant observation, the researcher may `go native' this is where
they `permanently' associate themselves with the group/ person that they are observing. This could
be seen as a strength and a weakness; as the researcher has become `one of them' he/she will be
able to provide an in-depth personal account of what they are experiencing and why they act and
behave in the ways which they do.…read more


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