Crime and Deviance: methods in context

  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 14-04-14 19:44

general points

  • must have knowledge of the practical, ethical and theoretical problems of different methods for investigating crime.

Must use the item explicitly:

  • identify variations in the way stated crime is committed, i.e different types of offender with different motivations, as the method may worked better with some than others.
  • elaborate on the strengths and weaknesses identified in the text, demonstrate understanding with appropriate examples. Then add further evaluation points.
  • imagine the reality of investigating this specific type of crime and consider its particular difficulties.
  • think about different types of people that it might be reasonable to research, victims/offenders/police/magistrates/judges/relatives/members of the public
  • prior planning essential - possible variations within this type of crime, different types of people investigated, and three types of evaluation(practical, ethical and theoretical)
  • conclusion needs to be balance, analysing methods in which the method is likely to be more and less successful
  • vital to restrict your discussion of the method's strengths and weaknesses to investigating the type of crime mentioned in the item. 
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Primary Methods

practical aspects

  • interviews/questionnaires/observation entail problems of access. 
  • Criminals not easily identified - unless researcher gets permission, or has criminal contacts i/e a gatekeeper.
  • Corporate/white collar/green criminals hard to research because of their status and hidden nature of the crimes
  • victims not accessible due to data protection, may volunteer via victim support groups or in response to advertisements. Each case the sample may be unrepresentative.
  • victim surveys reveal some crimes not reported though give incomplete picture
  • self-report studies reveal victimless crime. more likely to respond when anonymity kept and part of large group/sample
  • members of CJS will not cooperate in anything likely to damage their career/ bound by rules
  • building rapport with offenders/sensitive victims is time consuming
  • only small % of researchers have native costume suitable for covert participation in a deviant group. Danger if those observed realise the researcher's intentions
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Primary Methods(cont.)

Ethical aspects

  • illegal to be present while offences taking place without reporting them - long-term participant observation impossible.
  • Interviewees promised confidentiality and anonymity, yet researcher recieving info about unsolved crimes or ones being planned ought to report this
  • Researchers should avoid distressing respondents - difficult when interviewing crime victims/relatives of suciide victims
  • participants in investigations should give fully informed consent, making covert observation unethical
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Primary Methods(cont.)

theoretical aspects

  • positivists - favour questionnairs with closed questions, structured interviews and observations using tally charts because these generate quanifiable data. Can be used to compare groups and identify correlations to establish cause and effect. Data representative and reliable.
  • Interpretivists - argue such data reveal little about motivations, self images or other experiences and are therefore invalid. Empathy(verstehen) is encessary to obtain qualitative data through immersion in their lives.
  • look at Anne Campbell's self-report study(1981) and its subsiquent criticisms
4 of 5

Secondary methods

practical aspects

  • offical stats easily accessible, at no cost, present fuller picture than researcher could possibly obtain from individuals. Are a usefeul starting point, allow comparison between groups over time
  • Historical documents allow access to aspects of crime & the justice system that no-one alive may remember.

ethical aspects

  • secondary sources have few ethical issues, unless violent or offensive material is accessed or the content of personal documents is released without permission.

Theoretical aspects

  • positivists approve official stats as they are more representative than individual research.
  • methods of categorising crimes vary over time, making accurate comparisons difficult - 
  • suicide stats may be invalid as they depend on coroners' judgements
  • personal documents likely to be unrepresentative and may be selective/biased
  • methods of analysing media may be positivist or interpretive.
  • Triangulation - several methods to balance shortcomings, often 1 quantitative/qualitative
  • Use Marx&fem perspectives to criticise official stats & contrast with realists defence
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