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Research Methods in Crime and Justice Chapter 10 Survey/Interview Research Methods.

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1 Research Methods in Crime and Justice Chapter 10 Survey/Interview Research Methods

2 Surveys and interviews are one of the most common social science data gathering techniques. They are particularly popular methods among criminal justice practitioners and scholars. The FBIs Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the BJS National Crime Victimization Survey are important surveys in criminal justice.

3 Survey/Interview Research Methods Surveys and interviews are any data collection method wherein individuals or groups are asked to respond to questions and/or statements. An instrument is the actual questionnaire or document that is used to gather information from the respondents. The respondent is the individual or group that is asked to respond to a survey.

4 Types of Surveys There are four general types of surveys. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. – Mail survey – Internet survey – Telephone survey – Interview

5 Mail Surveys Advantages – Low cost – Wide coverage – Anonymity – Avoids interviewer bias Disadvantages – Low response rates – No control of the conditions – Length limitations – Possibility of miscommunication – Data entry error

6 Internet Surveys Advantages – Lowest cost – Worldwide coverage – Reduces data entry error Disadvantages – Possible sampling bias – Lack of distribution lists

7 Telephone Surveys Advantages – Wide coverage – Higher response rates – Better communication – Reduces data entry error Disadvantages – More expensive – Length limitations – No visual communication tools – Not possible to interrupt survey – Sampling bias – Decreased use of landline phones

8 Interview Advantages – Highest response rate – Allows for longer surveys – Control of the conditions – Better communication – Reduces data entry error Disadvantages – Most expensive – Possibility for interviewer bias – Variation among interviewers

9 The Benefits of Survey Research Survey research is useful for; – Developing a community or group profile. – Learning how people behave. – Measuring attitudes, beliefs and opinions. – Determining levels of knowledge. – Predicting future trends and patterns.

10 The Limitations of Survey Research Survey research is not useful for; – Establishing causal relationships between variables. – Measuring complicated or unknown social phenomena. – Situations when respondents may not be truthful. – Assessing whether the questions measure what they purport to measure.

11 The Survey Research Process A Case Study in Survey Research (The Uniform Crime Reports and National Crime Victimization Survey) – The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) are among the most important information sources in criminal justice. – These information in these sources comes from surveys of police departments and interviews of crime victims.

12 The Survey Research Process Asking a Research Question in Survey Research – Surveys are effective for gathering information about how people behave. – Among many other things, the UCR collects data on a limited number of crimes that are officially reported to the police and on crimes that are cleared by an arrest. – The NCVS collects information on victimization using a national sample of households.

13 The Survey Research Process Conducting a Literature Review in Survey Research – During the literature review survey researchers should pay particular attention to; How previous researchers defined concepts, What variables and attributes previous researchers used in similar projects, and The instruments and formats used by previous researchers.

14 The Survey Research Process Conducting a Literature Review in Survey Research – contd – Because the UCR and NCVS are on-going, researchers involved in their administration do not typically conduct extensive literature reviews. – The crime categories in the UCR and NCVS have remained relatively constant for decades in order to allow annual comparisons. – The decrease in the number of landline telephones has recently challenged the NCVS because it relies on a telephone survey.

15 The Survey Research Process Refining the Research Question in Survey Research – Because produce descriptive information, hypotheses are not usually required. – Since their purpose is to produce descriptive data, the UCR and NCVS do not use formal research hypotheses. – The research questions that drive both surveys have changed only slightly over time.

16 The Survey Research Process Defining Concepts and Creating Measures in Survey Research – Conceptual definitions must be consistent throughout the survey research process, and if necessary communicated to the respondents. – There are differences in how the UCR and NCVS surveys define crime. – The UCR focus is on reported crime and it must reconcile differences in how states define various types of criminal behavior. – The NCVS defines crime from the victims perspective.

17 The Survey Research Process Designing a Method in Survey Research – The first decision a survey researcher asks is what format would be most advantageous. – After that the focus should be on developing good research questions that; Avoid confusing, Consider the literacy of the respondents, and Adhere to the rules of mutual exclusivity and exhaustiveness.

18 The Survey Research Process Designing a Method in Survey Research – contd – Beyond the general considerations for developing questions, survey researchers should avoid; Using jargon, slang or uncommon abbreviations, Opinionated or emotional language, Double barreled questions, Prestige bias, Asking questions the respondent cannot answer, and Leading questions.

19 The Survey Research Process Designing a Method in Survey Research – contd – Next, researchers should develop response sets for each question. The options include; Direct response sets Open response sets, Closed or forced choice response sets, Reversals

20 The Survey Research Process Designing a Method in Survey Research – contd – The ordering of survey questions is also a consideration. The most challenging, important or controversial questions should appear at the beginning of the survey. – Instructions come in two forms. How to answer the questions How to return the completed instrument.

21 The Survey Research Process Designing a Method in Survey Research – contd – The length of the survey is of critical concern. Shorter surveys increase response rates. – All survey instruments should be pretested with a small sample of respondents to see if they will work as intended.

22 The Survey Research Process Designing a Method in Survey Research – contd – The UCR instrument began on paper in the 1930s and, with the exceptions of the progression onto a computer format and the introduction of NIBRS, the questions have changed very little. – The NCVS has always relied on a telephone survey instrument. In recent years the survey has added questions on school crime and attitudes about the police and crime.

23 The Survey Research Process Collecting Data in Survey Research – The format of the survey dictates how the information is collected from the respondents and transmitted to the researchers. – It is important for survey researchers to build in systems that will increase the response rate. Choosing the appropriate format for the respondents. Using postcards and reminders. Including coupons or small gifts.

24 The Survey Research Process Collecting Data in Survey Research – contd – Because the UCR and NCVS are ongoing, implementation is constant. The UCR makes use of an extensive network of state repositories and trainers. For all practical purposes participation in the UCR is required. Because crime is a relatively rare even the NCVS must oversample the population.

25 The Survey Research Process Analyzing Data in Survey Research – Unless survey responses are entered directly into a database the researcher will need a system for entering the responses into a database. This process is called coding.

26 The Survey Research Process Analyzing Data in Survey Research – contd – Efficient and accurate coding of survey responses begins during the development of the survey instrument. – Many researchers include subscripts on the survey instrument to guide the data entry process. – After the data are entered into an electronic format the researcher can conduct its analysis.

27 The Survey Research Process Analyzing Data in Survey Research – contd – The most well known statistic available from the UCR is the crime rate, sometimes called the index crime rate. It represents the number of reported crimes per 100,000 residents. – The NCVS calculates similar rates. In addition, the NCVS makes use of its data to describe the contexts of criminal victimization.

28 The Survey Research Process Interpreting the Results of Survey Research – The interpretation of survey data is as much art as it is science. – Calculating a statistic is relatively easy. Explaining what it means is more challenging. – Problems in the instruments design are often revealed at this step, unless the researcher has conducted a thorough pretest. – An honest assessment of the surveys limitations is essential.

29 The Survey Research Process Interpreting the Results of Survey Research – contd – Neither the UCR nor the NCVS is designed to measure crime quickly. There is often a substantial time lag. – The UCR provides a limited picture of crime in that it only includes reported crime. – The NCVS only measures criminal victimization at the national level.

30 The Survey Research Process Communicating the Findings from Survey Research – Survey researchers are often asked to justify their conceptual definition and operational measures. – Often reports on survey results include tables describing the respondents. – The decision about where to report the results of a survey really depend on the intentions of the researcher.

31 The Survey Research Process Communicating the Findings from Survey Research – contd – The UCR publishes an annual reports called Crime in the United States. – This report is widely circulated and often reported in the media. – The NCVS is conducted and published less frequently. – Because of their influence on criminal justice policy, both the UCR and NCVS reports are subjected to extensive internal editing prior to their publication.

32 Getting to the Point Surveys are a data collection method wherein individuals or groups are asked to respond to questions and/or statements. This method involves developing an instrument, which the researcher uses to ask questions and record answers. The individuals or groups that respond to the survey are referred to as respondents.

33 Getting to the Point There are four general types of survey formats; – mail surveys, – internet surveys, – telephone surveys, and – interviews. Each format has its advantages and disadvantages. The format chosen depends on the researchers objectives, the research context and the respondents targeted.

34 Getting to the Point Survey research is effective for; – developing community or group profiles – learning how people behave, – measuring attitudes, beliefs and opinions, – determining levels of knowledge, and – predicting future trends and patterns.

35 Getting to the Point Survey research is not effective for; – determining causal relationships between variables, and – measuring complicated or unknown social phenomena. Surveys should not be used when the honesty of the respondents is important to the research and their responses cannot be independently verified. It is often difficult to determine the validity of a concept or construct measured through a survey response.

36 Getting to the Point Generally speaking, surveys are effective for research questions that describe a particular; – group or sub-population, – set of behaviors and beliefs, and/or – relationship between variables.

37 Getting to the Point In addition to the usual information researchers look for when conducting a literature review, survey researchers should pay particular attention to; – how previous researchers defined similar concepts, – measured key variables, and – designed survey instruments.

38 Getting to the Point Because most surveys are intended for descriptive and exploratory research, hypotheses that predict causal relationships between variables are not usually found in survey research. Instead, survey researchers develop hypotheses that predict relationships between variables and/or refine research questions about particular phenomena.

39 Getting to the Point Defining and measuring concepts is especially important in survey research. Concepts and measures should be consistent throughout the survey research process. More importantly, survey researchers must be sure that the respondents interpret the concepts and measures as they were intended to be understood. This is normally done during a preliminary test of the survey instrument.

40 Getting to the Point In general, survey questions should be written clearly and at a level that is appropriate for the respondents level of education and experience. In addition, survey researchers should adhere to the rules of mutual exclusivity and exhaustiveness when writing response sets.

41 Getting to the Point Survey questions and statements should not contain jargon, slang, uncommon abbreviations, emotional language and prestige bias. In addition, survey researchers should avoid asking double-barreled and leading questions. Finally, survey questions should be answerable.

42 Getting to the Point There are three basic types of response sets. – Direct response sets allow the respondent to enter specific information into a blank space or box. – Open response sets also allow the respondent to write their own responses to questions, but are more open to interpretation than direct response sets. – Closed or forced choice response sets specify a standard set of responses from which the respondent must choose.

43 Getting to the Point Question order, survey instructions, and survey length are critical considerations in survey design. – The most challenging and important questions should be placed at the beginning of a survey. – Surveys should include an introduction to the survey, specific instructions for answering each question, and concluding instructions on how to return the survey. – Shorter surveys improve the response rate.

44 Getting to the Point A preliminary test of the survey instrument in an environment and with a small representative group of respondents is essential for ensuring the success of a survey instrument. The purpose of this step is to determine whether the respondents will understand the survey and whether the survey instrument will produce the kind of data necessary to answer the research question(s).

45 Getting to the Point The response to a survey can be improved by; – appropriately timing when the survey is administered, – asking well designed questions, – sending reminder post cards, and – providing incentives to encourage the respondents to answer.

46 Getting to the Point The use of subscripts on written survey instruments enhances accuracy during the data entry phase. This is known as coding the data. Once data are entered, researchers can use various statistical techniques to analyze survey data.

47 Getting to the Point The interpretation of survey results is often more art than science. The focus of the interpretation should be on answering the research question(s) as comprehensively as possible. To fully interpret survey results, researchers should consider the limitations of their data.

48 Getting to the Point The most important part of a survey research report is the detailed description of the researchers method. Survey research reports also typically include a description of the respondents. The decision about where to report the results of a survey depends on the intentions of the researcher and the audience they would like to reach.

49 Research Methods in Crime and Justice Chapter 10 Survey/Interview Research Methods


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