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Research Methods in Crime and Justice Chapter 12 Qualitative Research Methods.

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1 Research Methods in Crime and Justice Chapter 12 Qualitative Research Methods

2 In the field of criminal justice, many questions can be answered quantitatively. But there are many questions that demand more in-depth and qualitative answers. Some of the earliest criminological studies were qualitative.

3 Qualitative Research Basics Qualitative research is a tradition in scientific inquiry that does not rely principally on numeric data and quantitative measures. Instead, it attempts to develop a deeper understanding of human behavior. It is more concerned about how and why humans behave as they do, and how and why they interpret the world as they do.

4 Types of Qualitative Methods Qualitative research methods include three popular methods in criminal justice research. – Case studies, – Ethnography, and – Grounded theory.

5 Types of Qualitative Methods A case study is a detailed analysis of a single event, group, or person for the purpose of understanding how a particular context gives rise to this event, group, or person.

6 Types of Qualitative Methods An ethnography is an in-depth study of a culture for the purpose of understanding that culture and its inner workings.

7 Types of Qualitative Methods In grounded theory research, a researcher uses the inductive reasoning process to develop a theory that explains observed behaviors or processes. Grounded theory is more of an approach to qualitative research than a specific method.

8 The Benefits of Qualitative Research Methods Qualitative methods are effective at; – Providing a nuanced and in-depth picture of a particular phenomenon, – Understanding how perceptions and meanings influence human behavior, and/or – Developing a theory for unexplained social phenomena.

9 The Limitations of Qualitative Research Methods Qualitative research methods are not effective when; – The researcher wants to generalize the findings of the research to a larger population, – The research is impractical, and/or – The research process could pose ethical challenges.

10 The Qualitative Research Process A Case Study in Qualitative Research (A Study of Crime and Place) – Patricia L. and Paul J. Brantingham, wanted to know whether the physical environment affected criminal behavior. – Their study was based on case study and grounded theory research and helped establish a research agenda known as environmental criminology.

11 The Qualitative Research Process A Case Study in Qualitative Research (A Study of Crime and Place) – cont’d – The Brantinghams made two very important observations at the beginning of their research. – First, they noticed that most of the attention on criminal behavior was devoted to explaining individual motivations to commit crime. – Second, they observed that crime prevention strategies that focused on making changes to physical spaces had a very long tradition.

12 The Qualitative Research Process Asking a Research Question in Qualitative Research – Generally speaking, research questions that get at subjective meaning, individual perception, and cultural context are best suited for qualitative research. – Brantingham and Brantingham set out to understand how crime is related to physical space.

13 The Qualitative Research Process Conducting a Literature Review in Qualitative Research – The basic literature review in a qualitative study is not much different than that required for a quantitative study. – It is important in either case to review both qualitative and quantitative studies on the subject. – Indeed, reviewing quantitative research from a qualitative perspective can uncover research opportunities.

14 The Qualitative Research Process Conducting a Literature Review in Qualitative Research – cont’d The Brantinghams (1993, p. 5) drew on three areas of research in their literature review: – The complex causes or origins (“etiology”) of crime, – Individual crime patterns and how the physical environment influences these patterns, – Aggregate crime patterns and how the physical environment influences these patterns.

15 The Qualitative Research Process Refining the Research Question in Qualitative Research – If the research is intended to produce exploratory or descriptive information, traditional hypotheses that predict causal relationships are not required. – Instead, you may want to simply explain what you anticipate finding in the research and/or outline a set of research questions.

16 The Qualitative Research Process Refining the Research Question in Qualitative Research – cont’d – Because the Brantinghams’ approach was more inductive, they did not formulate initial hypotheses. – Instead, they proposed that a relationship existed between individual crime patterns, aggregate crime patterns, and the physical environment. – Their objective was to create a theory that explained this relationship, which subsequent researchers could test through hypothesis-driven research.

17 The Qualitative Research Process Defining Concepts and Creating Measures in Qualitative Research – Qualitative researchers attempt to define concepts at a deeper and more subjective level. – Brantingham and Brantingham developed conceptual definitions for; Crime, Individual crime patterns, and Aggregate crime patterns.

18 The Qualitative Research Process Designing a Method in Qualitative Research – Case studies require the researcher to do more than merely report what is happening. We already know what is happening; we want to know why something is happening.

19 The Qualitative Research Process Designing a Method in Qualitative Research – cont’d – Ethnographic research attempts to understand social phenomena within the context or from the perspective of a particular culture or group. – Ethnographic research is very similar to field research, which relies on observations of people and places in their natural setting. – Ethnographic researchers move beyond covert observation to become a participant observer.

20 The Qualitative Research Process Designing a Method in Qualitative Research – cont’d – Grounded theory research is a methodological approach whereby the researcher uses qualitative data and inductive reasoning to develop a theory of some human or group behavior. – It is an inductive technique. – Observations are evaluated, compared and analyzed to achieve some theoretical explanation of human behavior.

21 The Qualitative Research Process Designing a Method in Qualitative Research – cont’d – The Brantinghams’ research has elements of both case study and grounded theory research. – They draw their data from the published literature to explore; why and how people commit crime, where crime happens, and whether or not physical spaces affect crime.

22 The Qualitative Research Process Designing a Method in Qualitative Research – cont’d – This approach is consistent with grounded theory in that it all but ignores what we already know about a topic – It develops theory from the observations. – This approach is a legitimate research method in situations where researchers do not want to be overly influenced by the previous research on a topic.

23 The Qualitative Research Process Collecting and Analyzing Data in Qualitative Research – Qualitative data collection requires; keen observational and interviewing skills, a great deal of persistence, and refined notetaking and recording techniques.

24 The Qualitative Research Process Collecting and Analyzing Data in Qualitative Research – cont’d – In most cases, qualitative researchers analyze written information rather than numeric data. – Two popular analytic techniques in this regard are coding, in which the researcher identifies major themes, and memoing, in which the researcher reflects on what the data mean.

25 The Qualitative Research Process Collecting and Analyzing Data in Qualitative Research – cont’d – Using crime data, the Brantinghams looked to see if certain areas were more or less susceptible to certain types of crime. – These data were organized onto crime maps that illustrated community crime patterns. – These visual representations enabled the researchers to analyze where crime happens and what types of crimes happen where.

26 The Qualitative Research Process Collecting and Analyzing Data in Qualitative Research – cont’d – Though the researchers do not provide a great deal of insight into their particular analytical strategies, it is clear that they are using a type of spatial analysis to understand how and where crime takes place.

27 The Qualitative Research Process Interpreting the Results in Qualitative Research – The interpretation of qualitative information represents the researcher’s informed opinion about what the data mean. – Another researcher may interpret the same information quite differently. – The interpretation has to be reasonable and it has to be supported by the data.

28 The Qualitative Research Process Interpreting the Results in Qualitative Research – cont’d – After evaluating the crime maps that they constructed in the course of their study, the Brantinghams arrived at several conclusions. An individual’s knowledge of physical spaces influences their decision on where to commit crimes. Offenders seem to agree on the best places to commit crime. Thus, crime tends to happen in the same place.

29 The Qualitative Research Process Communicating the Results of Qualitative Research – Rather than rely on charts and graphs to describe social phenomena, qualitative researchers rely on written narratives and/or storytelling techniques. – In terms of communicating their major findings, the Brantinghams provide a figure that illustrates the relationship between nodes, pathways and edges to describe where and how crime patterns emerge.

30 Getting to the Point Qualitative research refers to a broad category of research methods that attempt to produce a more detailed understanding of human behavior, including its meaning and its motivation.

31 Getting to the Point Some of the more popular qualitative research methods include; – case study research, – ethnographic research, and – grounded theory research.

32 Getting to the Point A case study is a detailed analysis of a single event, group, or person. An ethnography is an in-depth study of a culture. Grounded theory is a methodological approach that uses inductive reasoning to develop a theory to explain observed behaviors or processes.

33 Getting to the Point Qualitative research methods are effective when a researcher wants to develop a deeper or more nuanced understanding of a particular phenomenon. These methods are effective at determining how perceptions and meanings influence human behavior and for developing theories for previously unexplained social phenomena.

34 Getting to the Point Qualitative research methods are not effective when a researcher wants to generalize findings of the research to a larger or similar population. Some qualitative research may not be feasible because of ethical challenges.

35 Getting to the Point Research questions that require the researcher to probe deeply into social phenomena or to develop new theories for explaining human behavior are best answered using a qualitative research method.

36 Getting to the Point During the literature review process, qualitative researchers should examine both quantitative and qualitative studies. Existing quantitative research could be enhanced by a qualitative look at the phenomenon; existing qualitative research could be enhanced by looking at the phenomenon in a different context.

37 Getting to the Point Grounded theory is distinguishable from other forms of research because the importance of the literature review is somewhat diminished.

38 Getting to the Point If the qualitative research is intended to produce exploratory or descriptive information, traditional hypotheses that predict causal relationships between variables are not required.

39 Getting to the Point The process by which qualitative researchers define concepts is much the same as it is for quantitative researchers, except that qualitative researchers attempt to define concepts at a deeper and more subjective level. In terms of measurement, qualitative researchers do not rely on numbers, focusing instead on subjective meanings and experiences.

40 Getting to the Point Typical case studies focus on cases that are typical or usual. Extreme case studies focus on atypical or unusual cases.

41 Getting to the Point Ethnographic research is very similar to field research, which relies on observations of people and places in their natural setting. A major difference is that ethnographic researchers actually live and socialize within the culture they are studying.

42 Getting to the Point In terms of the actual methods used, grounded theory research is not that different from case study and ethnographic research. It involves archival analysis, observations and qualitative interviews.

43 Getting to the Point Qualitative data collection requires; – keen observational and interviewing skills, – a great deal of persistence, and – refined notetaking and recording techniques.

44 Getting to the Point In most cases, qualitative researchers analyze written information rather than numeric data. Two popular analytic techniques in this regard are; – coding, in which the researcher identifies major themes, and – memoing, in which the researcher reflects on what the data mean.

45 Getting to the Point Qualitative researchers can make any number of valid interpretations of their data, so long as the interpretation is reasonable and supported by the evidence. But qualitative researchers should be careful not to overreach their findings.

46 Getting to the Point One of the key advantages of qualitative research is its ability to describe and interpret social phenomena at a level of detail that numeric measures cannot achieve. As such, qualitative reports are often longer and more narrative than their quantitative counterparts. They tend to ‘tell a story’ about the data.

47 Research Methods in Crime and Justice Chapter 12 Qualitative Research Methods


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