RM - Methods in context

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  • Created by: Muy
  • Created on: 21-04-13 15:04

Using experiments to study crime

Application - use of field experiments to study aspect such as - crime reduction stratergy used in an area and not in another area - gives the researcher a degree of control

Experiments aren't exactly replicable, however comparing areas of similar features allows it to be repeated similarly

Some experiments use people in real crime situation, thus it could affect the chances of the subject being a victim

Crime is a more sensitive act than other social actions, with ethical concerns regarding violence, inter-personal relationships, becoming a victim... Lab experiments are rarely used because of this

Experiments are small scale, and usually examine one aspect of behavior

Larger scale topics such as offending and class/gender etc. can't easily be studied using experiments as its impossible to replicate in a lab or manipulate variables in a field experiment

Experiments require control of variables, yet many variables affect the behaviour of offenders, victims, officers e.g. age, class, type of prison so it'd be hard to identify the crucial variable

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Using questionnaires to study crime

Are useful for gathering large quantitites of basic info quickly/cheaply from a several offenders, victims, officer

Researchers can correlate factors such as offending with variables such as age or gender

Criminal justice system have ready made sampling frames, theres few for criminals... Lists comprise of convicted imprisoned criminals and disregards those who wern't caught or given non-custodial sentences

Response rates are low, authority can help e.g. prison governor puts their authority behind the research, inmates/officers may feel pressured to comply

Offenders tend to have lower literacy levels, even a short questionnaire can be useless as inmates may be unable/unwilling to complete it

Obtaining a representative sample may be complicated for some groups e.g. victims of domestic violence, response rates vary according to the groups its sent to and the authority behind the questionnaire

Some crimes are sensitive, not having a research present may ease the victim/witnesses into responding, handing a questionnaire after a distressing experience lacks empathy

Victims studies using questionnaires are retrospective and rely on the respondents recalling of a traumatic event, this is often distorted

Questionnaires are less useful for investigating deviances, requiring more intense interactions

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Using structured interviews to study crime

It takes less time than unstructured interviews, its less disruptive to CJS so it may aquire official support... <- increase response rate with authority behind the research

They are easily replicable and therefore reliable, large scale patterns in behavior can be identified e.g. class and types of offending

Young people have better verbal skills than literacy skills, it can help provide valid answers from young offenders/victims...  SIs formal nature however may have the opposite effect

Its difficult to create questions with young offenders in mind, they're linguistic/intellectual skills arent developed... They are likelier to require clarification which SIs lack

Inequality in power and status relating to crime, prisoners may seek authorities approval by providing socially acceptable answers

Researchers formalness may imply authority decreasing validity

The formal nature of SIs may be inappropiate for such a sensitive topic

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Using unstructured interviews to study crime

Unstructured interviews overcome barriers of power/status inquality, its informality establishes rapport encourage interviewees to open up producing greater validity

Crimes studies include experience of inprisonment, racism with CJS, victims of crime

Those involved in crime may be unwilling to have their responses recorded for fear of incriminating themselves, and by writing may seem like an official report

Direct contact with violent offenders raises safety issues, access may therefore be limited

Its complicated finding a venue, inmates may be concerned being seen talking to a authority looking figure e.g. police officer, theres little privary in prisons for conducting inteviews

Some groups have their own vocab/language codes and UIs allow the researcher to explore the meaning of specific language used... It allows the researcher to learn as they go

Offenders/officers are likely to be cautious and defensive, the fear of punishment makes it harder to uncover the real truth and the relaxed nature of UIs help

Interviews can maintain a relaxed atmosphere e.g. smiling, this cant be standardised so different interviewers may obtain different results therefore losing reliability

Larger scale studies generally require more extensive wider studies

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Using observation to study crime

Access may be difficult as areas of CJS are formally closed and strictly controlled, criminals operate in secrecy to avoid prosecution HOWEVER some parts of CJS are easily accessable e.g. courts

Crime/deviances dont always occur in a correlated manner, observers can spend hours waiting for relevant events to occur

The distrustful nature of gangs mean acceptance can take a long time, befriending a key member can accelerate the proccess

Observers may not have social characteristics of those they study, limiting research opportunities or making the observed suspicious

PO can lead to the observer over identifying and going native, for instance Punch observed police work and eventually acted like one himself

Covert observation can include participation of illegal activities, overtly can work in a 'grey area' Vekatesh didnt inform on gangs law breaking and participated to a large extent

Overt observation can lead to the Hawthorne effect, and often unavoidable as officers/gangs may be suspicious of an outsider

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Official statistics to study crime

Huge resources available to the sociologist, it saves them time and money and allows comparisons e.g. offending rates between gender

Statistics allow examining trends over time, however official definitions of concepts may differ from those that the sociologist use e.g. social class

It can be highly representative e.g. police officers required to maintain records of their activities, HOWEVER social processes involved in crime/policing means a large dark figure of unreported/unrecorded crime which COULD undermine representativeness

State uses standard definitions, and the collection process is usually replicated yearly allowing direct comparisons... 

Governments can change definitions and categories for its own benefit

Intepretivist challenge OSs validity of crime statistics, as they're socially constructed e.g. interactions between police and suspects based on labels and influences by priorities

^ Victim surveys/self report studies may produce more valid statistics 

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Using documents to study crime

CJS is run by the state an enormous amount of info about crime is created, some of which are publicly available e.g. policy statements and court records... Others exist such as autobiopgrahies of criminals

Public documents by the CJS have few ethical concerns, though some sensitive material may remain private

Using personal documents e.g. suicide notes, requires greater anonymity due to consquences

CJS documents are in a systematic format, its reliable as researchers can make direct comparisons... Human error may reduce this

Some crimes leave a documentary trail e.g. fraud, however this is sometimes very complex

Some documents are legally required of all elements in the CJS, the material is likely to be representative... Personal documents by offenders/officers are less representative though

Personal documents can provide insight into meanings held by those in the CJS so its validity is high,

PDs however are open to interpretations and theres issues of not knowing what the authors omitted e.g. to avoid self incrimination

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