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Research Methods in Crime and Justice Chapter 11 Non-Reactive Research Methods.

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1 Research Methods in Crime and Justice Chapter 11 Non-Reactive Research Methods

2 To capture human behavior in natural settings, researchers have developed numerous non- reactive research methodologies. Non-reactive research is a collection of research methods that unobtrusively gather information from research subjects. Because the research subjects are unaware that they are being observed, they are less likely to change their behavior.

3 Non-Reactive Research Methods Basics One way to observe human behavior indirectly is to study the physical traces that are left behind. – An accretion measure determines behavior by evaluating the things people possess. – An erosion measure determines behavior by evaluating how things are used by people.

4 Non-Reactive Research Methods Basics An unobtrusive observation, involves observing behavior without being noticed. Some researches use archival data, which are data that have already been collected and made available by an individual, group or organization.

5 Types of Non-Reactive Research Methods There are three major types of non-reactive research methods. – Field research – observing behavior in its natural setting. – Secondary analysis – analyzing data collected for another purpose by a previous researcher. – Content analysis – Analyzing existing textual information to study human behavior or conditions.

6 The Benefits of Non-Reactive Research Methods Non-reactive research methods are beneficial when; – Research subjects are likely to change their behavior after learning that they are being observed, – The researcher wants to observe behavior in its natural setting and/or as it naturally occurs, or – The data have been previously collected by a different individual, group or organization

7 The Limitations of Non-Reactive Research Methods Non-reactive research methods are; – Ineffective for studying the internal motivations, beliefs and attitudes that underlie some behavior, – Potentially unethical if it involves breaching research subjects’ right to or expectation of privacy, – Impossible in cases where secondary or archival data do not already exist or are unavailable, or – Often hampered by internal and external validity problems

8 The Non-Reactive Research Process A Case Study in Non-Reactive Research (Economic Conditions and Ideologies of Crime in the Media: A Content Analysis of Crime News) – The tendency of media outlets to focus on crime and violence creates false perceptions regarding crime. – To better understand media portrayals of crime, Melissa Hickman Barlow, David E. Barlow and Theodore G. Chiricos (1995) conducted a content analysis of media content on crime. – They wanted to know whether economic conditions had an effect on how the media portrayed crime.

9 The Non-Reactive Research Process Asking a Research Question in Non-Reactive Research – The method chosen by a researcher should be determined by the research question. – Non-reactive techniques are effective when the data that can answer a research question already exists. – In this case the media reports were readily available to the researchers.

10 The Non-Reactive Research Process Asking a Research Question in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – Barlow et al. (1995) state that their study is exploratory, which would be appropriate for a content analysis. – However, the authors propose that political and economic conditions might help explain how the media portrays crime. – Thus, it appears that there are pieces of this study that are explanatory in nature.

11 The Non-Reactive Research Process Conducting a Literature Review in Non- Reactive Research – Paying attention to the conceptual definitions used by previous researchers is particularly important in non-reactive research. – Previous non-reactive researchers may have developed some innovative ways of measuring concepts in an unobtrusive manner.

12 The Non-Reactive Research Process Conducting a Literature Review in Non- Reactive Research – cont’d – In their review of the literature, Barlow et al. (1995) discovered a rather robust research history. – They found numerous sources that confirmed what we all suspected: “crime news distorts and/or frames crime and crime control in ways that support institutions of power and authority” (Barlow et al. 1995: 3).

13 The Non-Reactive Research Process Refining the Research Question in Non- Reactive Research – In non-reactive methods intended to produce exploratory or descriptive information, traditional hypotheses that predict relationships between variables are not usually required. – Instead, you may simply want to pose research questions and/or general statements about what you expect to find in the study.

14 The Non-Reactive Research Process Refining the Research Question in Non- Reactive Research – cont’d – Barlow et al. (1995) predicted that newspaper coverage of violent crime would not only overstate the problem of violent crime, but that coverage would be most intense during times of unemployment and economic stagnation. – Thus, they presented two sets of hypotheses at the outset of their article.

15 The Non-Reactive Research Process Refining the Research Question in Non- Reactive Research – cont’d – The first set of hypotheses focuses on the depiction of violent crime in news articles. – The second set of hypotheses focused on the “characteristics and images of offenders within crime news articles” (Barlow et al. 1995: 10).

16 The Non-Reactive Research Process Defining Concepts and Creating Measures in Non-Reactive Research – The process by which non-reactive researchers develop conceptual definitions is not different than in other types of research. – The challenge in non-reactive research lies in ensuring the validity and reliability of non-reactive measures.

17 The Non-Reactive Research Process Defining Concepts and Creating Measures in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – Barlow et al. (1995) propose that two elements of crime reporting will vary by economic conditions. the type of crime (violent or non-violent) that is reported, and the characteristics (age, race, gender, social status, employment, marital status, family history, education, friends and religion) of offenders that are highlighted.

18 The Non-Reactive Research Process Defining Concepts and Creating Measures in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – The authors conceptualize ‘economic conditions’ in two ways. the level of unemployment (high or low). the level of economic stagnation (stagnation or expansion).

19 The Non-Reactive Research Process Designing a Method in Non-Reactive Research – Field research involves covert observation of the behavior that a researcher is interested in studying. – It is important to prepare for all possible contingencies that may arise in the field and all possible threats to researchers’ safety.

20 The Non-Reactive Research Process Designing a Method in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – The use of secondary data is appealing to most researchers because of its availability and low cost. – However, the secondary data must be responsive to the researcher’s data needs and research question(s).

21 The Non-Reactive Research Process Designing a Method in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – Content analysis is a technique wherein a researcher uses previously recorded or written information to study human behavior or conditions. – The most important step in designing a content analysis is to create strong conceptual definitions and operational measures for the phenomena that are being studied. – In some cases, this may involve the training of research assistants.

22 The Non-Reactive Research Process Designing a Method in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – To study media coverage of crime at different periods of time, Barlow et al. (1995) decided to study articles appearing in Time magazine. – The researchers chose Time because it was a widely circulated news magazine and “the best available representative of mainstream media as an influence on and reflection of popular consciousness concerning contemporary social issues” (Barlow et al. 1995: 6).

23 The Non-Reactive Research Process Collecting Data in Non-Reactive Research – Unless the data are already collected (secondary analysis) the researcher will have to develop a way to capture it during the research process. – Coding sheets provide researchers with an effective and efficient mechanism for recording information in content analyses and field observations.

24 The Non-Reactive Research Process Collecting Data in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – Recording observations is a central part of field research. – Video- and audio-taping are is the most accurate methods, but these are also reactive and potentially unethical. – Recording observations on paper or a laptop are the least accurate, but also the least reactive. – Researchers must find the appropriate balance between accuracy and obtrusiveness.

25 The Non-Reactive Research Process Collecting Data in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – Barlow et al. (1995) chose articles that were “completely or substantially about crime, criminals, or criminal justice.” – They read each article and collected information related to the variables in which they were interested.

26 The Non-Reactive Research Process Collecting Data in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – The researchers differentiated between articles about violent and non-violent crime, which was relatively easy to do. – Collecting information about the characteristics of the offenders was a bit more problematic because most articles did not contain information relating to all ten of their variables.

27 The Non-Reactive Research Process Collecting Data in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – Although they did not report this it is likely that the researchers read through a few of the articles at first to see if their data collection procedure would work (pretest). – It is also likely that Barlow et. al. (1995) used coding sheets as they read the articles to be sure the collected the data required to answer their research questions.

28 The Non-Reactive Research Process Analyzing Data in Non-Reactive Research – Secondary analysis is nearly always quantitative in nature. – Field observations and content analysis nearly always involve qualitative measures. – There are, however, numerous exceptions to these general practices. Secondary analysis can involved qualitative data Field observations and content analyses can involve counting (i.e. quantitative) the frequency, and intensity of events.

29 The Non-Reactive Research Process Analyzing Data in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – Barlow et al. (1995) do not report how they prepared the information for analysis. – They do report using a statistical technique called Chi- Square, in which the compared percentages. – For example, they compared the percentage of articles that focused on violent crime during periods of high unemployment to the percentage of articles that focused on violent crime during periods of low unemployment.

30 The Non-Reactive Research Process Interpreting the Results in Non-Reactive Research – It is often the case in non-reactive research that there is room for multiple interpretations of the data. – Overall, Barlow et al. (1995) found that crime news is not at all representative of actual crime trends.

31 The Non-Reactive Research Process Interpreting the Results in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – These researchers were somewhat successful in developing a connection between economic conditions and the types of crime stories reported in the media. – However, the causal connection between economic conditions and crime reporting is really not known.

32 The Non-Reactive Research Process Interpreting the Results in Non-Reactive Research – cont’d – This particular study was not without its flaws. One could argue that the sample of articles is not representative of the overall media. The articles were published within a 29 year time frame during which the publisher’s editorial philosophy may have changed numerous times during this time frame. Although the authors show some relationship between economic conditions and distorted depictions of crime, their analysis did not allow them to substantiate why this might be the case.

33 The Non-Reactive Research Process Communicating the Results of Non-Reactive Research – Quantitative results are best presented in tables, charts and graphs. – Qualitative results are best reported as a ‘story’. – Barlow et al. (1995) chose to publish their results in a peer reviewed academic journal. They are university scholars and as such benefit from the publication of their results in this medium.

34 Getting to the Point Non-reactive research is a collection of research methods that gather information from research subjects without their knowledge. Because the research subjects are unaware that they are being observed, they are less likely to change their behaviors. These techniques are effective for observing behavior in a natural setting.

35 Getting to the Point Non-reactive research methodologies have in common their ability to collect information from and about human beings without their knowledge. These methods can include; – evaluating the things people possess (i.e., accretion measures), – studying how things are used (i.e., erosion measures), – observing how individuals or groups behave (i.e., unobtrusive observation), and – analyzing information collected and made available by someone else (i.e., archival data).

36 Getting to the Point Non-reactive research techniques are most effective when; – research subjects are likely to change their behavior when they know they are being observed, – the researcher wants to observe behavior in its natural setting, and/or – the data the researcher needs is already available.

37 Getting to the Point Non-reactive research methods are not particularly effective when; – a researcher needs to understand underlying motivations and belief systems, – research subjects have a right to or expectation of privacy, and/or – secondary or archival data do not exist.

38 Getting to the Point Most non-reactive research is exploratory or descriptive nature. Because it is often difficult to measure the underlying cause of behavior non-reactive methods are less often used in explanatory research.

39 Getting to the Point Reviewing the research methods and mistakes of previous researchers who used non- reactive research techniques may help; – define concepts, – access certain populations, and – avoid detection in non-reactive research.

40 Getting to the Point In non-reactive research that is exploratory or descriptive in nature, researchers may simply pose research questions and/or general statements about what they expect to find in the study. In non-reactive research that is explanatory in nature, researchers will develop more formal hypotheses.

41 Getting to the Point For the most part, the actual process of conceptualization and operationalization is the same in non-reactive research as it is in other research methods.

42 Getting to the Point Non-reactive field research involves covert observation of and, in some cases, covert participation in the behavior that a researcher is interested in studying. In this method, it is important to prepare for all possible contingencies that may arise in the field and all possible threats to researchers’ safety.

43 Getting to the Point The use of secondary data is appealing to most researchers because of its availability and low cost. However, the secondary data must be responsive to the researcher’s data needs and research question(s).

44 Getting to the Point The most important step in designing a content analysis is to create strong conceptual definitions and operational measures for the phenomena that are being studied. In some cases, this may involve training research assistants.

45 Getting to the Point Coding sheets provide researchers with an effective and efficient mechanism for recording information in content analyses and field observations.

46 Getting to the Point Recording observations is a central part of field research. – Video- and audio-taping observations is the most accurate recording method, but these are also the most reactive and, in some cases, they are also unethical. – Recording observations on paper or a laptop are the least accurate, but also the least reactive. Researchers must find the appropriate balance between accuracy and obtrusiveness.

47 Getting to the Point The analysis of secondary data, field observations and content material can be qualitative or quantitative. The type of analysis depends on the research question and the type of data that are available.

48 Getting to the Point The data or information produced by many non-reactive research techniques often can be interpreted in multiple ways. As such, researchers using these techniques should entertain various interpretations. They should also be up front about the limitations of their study.

49 Getting to the Point Researchers may use tables, charts and graphs to communicate the results of their non- reactive research if the analysis is quantitative in nature. Alternatively, if the analysis is qualitative in nature, they may tell a ‘story’ using quotes, examples and descriptions.

50 Research Methods in Crime and Justice Chapter 11 Non-Reactive Research Methods


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